While today we must actually take a day off to celebrate the Earth, in Latin America, for thousand of years, indigenous communities had a relationship with their environment in which they continually-- through different farming practices and religious rituals-- celebrated earth every day.
These ancient indigenous civilizations practice nature-based religions, where they evoked and worshippes deities personified with names such as Mother Earth or Mother Nature. For them, Earth is sacred.
Enrique Salmon from the Department of Anthropology at Fort Lewis College wrote in his paper, "Kinetic Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions Of The Human-Nature," that:
Indigenous people view both themselves and nature as part of an extended ecological family that shares ancestry and origins. It is an awareness that life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin. The kin, or relatives, include all the natural elements of an ecosystem.
The result of this relationship with Earth was the preservation of their land. By using techniques that today would be considered "green", these indigenous tribes lived off the land in such a way that didn't disrupt their ecosystem. Instead, they cherished and worshipped the land that provided them with their food supply.
The people were interconnected with the environment and as such, to disrespect the natural world was to disrespect oneself. For the Mayans, Incas and Aztecs their spiritual, physical and mental health depended on the ability to live harmoniously with the natural world.
On this Earth Day, we want to celebrate that idea of living as one with the Earth and respecting mother Nature.
Check out this slideshow where we remember the harmonious relationship between ancient civilizations and Earth:
The Ceiba tree held special religious value and it's believed to be at the center position of all sacred Mayan rituals and spiritual ceremonies. Given it's height, the Mayans honored the Ceiba tree as an energy connection between all the spiritual realms. The tree was believed to be an energy vortex between the Heavens and it's Celestial Gods, the Earth and Xibalba, the Mayan Underworld.
Pachamama, or Mamapacha, is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes in the former Inca Empire. She was the goddess identified with fertility and the deity of harvest and agriculture. Rituals in her honor had to be performed daily to assure a sufficient food supply. In celebrations evoking Pachamama, llamas were sacrificed in her honor. The Pachamama is still venerated by indigenous tribes in South America. In this photo, Bolivians take part with three 'yatiris' (Aymara shamans) in a ritual to the 'Pachamama' during the celebration of the Aymara New Year in Samaipata, 120 km west of Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
In Mayan mythology it was believed that Mayan Gods and Deities created Man out of corn. The Popol Vuh, which is the most important sacred book of the Mayan, says that man was first created from mud and then from wood, without much success. In a third attempt, the gods decided to mold mankind from maize and they were pleased. This generation, which includes the present human race, is able to worship and nourish the gods. The Mayas considered maize a gift from the gods and cultivating it was a sacred duty. Maize was the Mayan's most important food source.
The super-fertile Floating Gardens or 'chinampas' were developed by the Aztec people in response to their surroundings--shallow lakes beds--in order to grow much of their food. They were created by delineating out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the rectangle with a composite building material, usually made of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, eventually bringing it above the level of the lake. Today's farmers at Xochimilco, outside Mexico City still farm using ancient methods - using the the construction of chinampas which the Aztecs were using 1,000 years back.
The Incas invented a way to grow crops in their mountainous terrain without disrupting nature. They created terracing in which they carved steps of flat land up the side of the mountain to create flat land for farming. Terraces are commonly used to farm on hilly or mountainous terrain. Terraced fields decrease erosion and surface runoff, and are effective for growing crops requiring much water, such as rice. The Inca also used terraces for soil conservation, along with a system of canals and aqueducts to direct water through dry land and increase fertility. Nowadays terracing is use also used in drier climates throughout the Mediterranean. Photo courtesy of flickr: Mark Twells
The Tz'ikin is bird that guards all the Mayan lands. The celebration of Tz'ikin day, symbolizes the day when the birds showed the place where the sacred Corn was found. This is the day of the bird of good luck. On this day, the Mayas give offerings to the Tz'ikin to ask for money, simplicity and kindness. In this photo Mayan priests celebrate Tz'ikin day at the archaeological site of Kaminal Juyu in Guatemala City.