The Discovery of Horn Clay and Biodynamics

The Discovery of Horn Clay and Biodynamics

By Hugh Lovel


With thousands of lectures and uncounted insights Rudolf

Steiner launched anthroposophy as a study of human wisdom. With

extraordinary learning in both the classics and modern science, Steiner

combined his immense erudition with innate clear seeing gifts to forge a

vision of the world that at once was both spiritual and scientific.

This was an awesome, overwhelming act for others to follow. To date it

would be hard to find a more thoroughgoing response to the need for a

scientific world view with soul, purpose and wisdom.

Unfortunately, it is characteristic of such figures and

movements that a core of orthodox adherents develops which ossifies into

a cult of true believers unable to think for themselves, dependent upon

quotation from scriptures. Biodynamic agriculture, which grew out of

Rudolf Steiner¹s work, has not escaped some measure of this. For one

thing Steiner’s insights, even though more than 75 years old, are still

ahead of our universities.

In lecture two of his agriculture course, Steiner touched on

the importance of clay as a mediator between the lime and silica poles

of nature. He emphasized clay’s primary role in conducting the silica

forces, which develop deep within the earth, upward for plant

development towards fruit and seed. No matter how else clay is described

or what we do to make it fertile–all is of secondary importance. The

important thing is clay promotes the upward stream associated with


Needless to say this is revolutionary thinking. Soil testing

only measures the extent clay acts as a reservoir of nutrients. After

testing the soil, we may apply lime and other nutrients, but the key

question really is how to move these nutrients upward to the fruit. What

moves the nutrients is the silica stream, with clay as the conductor.

Reading Steiner’s agriculture shows he had encyclopaedic

knowledge and insight to share–with very limited time to share them. He

could only hit the high spots, going on to the next insight and the


He said in lecture two that later he would give recommendations

for treating clay to better conduct the growth forces welling out of the

earth. However, later he failed to do so.

We know he meant to give a second agriculture course, but he

fell ill and died without doing this. So for 75 years biodynamic

agriculture proceeded with horn manure (BD 500) and horn silica (BD 501)

but no horn clay. Steiner didn’t give enough indications, so who knew

how to pack the horns or use the finished horn clay? Characteristic of

the paralysis of true believer cults, little was done by experiment.

With changing a light bulb, it is clear that a minimum of one,

though possibly under some conditions more, persons are necessary. And

experiments could determine how many are required under what conditions.

With making and using horn clay things are similarly clear cut.

Experiments could have proceeded at any time. Now after 75 years they

have. The results are most interesting.





“Let me remark here that if we are dealing with a soil that does not

carry these influences upward during the winter as it should, it is good

to furnish that soil with some clay, the dosage of which I will indicate


–Rudolf Steiner



The Discovery of Biodynamic Horn Clay


By Hugh Lovel



My first experience with biodynamic horn clay was at Michael Topolos’

winery in Forestville, California. This merlot vineyard adjoined a busy

two lane highway, with pollution near the road. WE applied

Horn clay here as part of a back-to-back sequence of all of the BD

preps, and a belt of selected plants were established at the boundary by

the road.

More than twenty years of biodynamics makes me aware of subtle

nuances. What I perceived at the roadside was gas, oil, rubber and

asbestos. What I perceived stepping down into the vineyard below the

road was soil, foliage and ripe grapes. Just a couple steps made a

remarkable difference. Up on the road I could see in my mind’s eye a

protective membrane enveloping the vineyard. The difference between

being within this membrane and being outside was like the difference

between life and death.

The horn clay created a dome, like a plastic greenhouse

covering, which enveloped the entire vineyard and protected its

biodynamic energies. All of the BD preps held together and worked in

concert. Though this vineyard was only a few years biodynamic, this was

best interaction of the preps I had ever seen including that on my own



From then on I knew I must investigate horn clay beyond my

philosophical discussions with Hugh Courtney and Harvey Lisle.

We took the contemplation of horn clay into use.

With horn manure and horn silica we only

had the up and down forces with no middle, no coordination holding

things together. Clay is that glue. With horn clay plants not only work

into the atmosphere–they are held there to fruit and ripen. Moreover,

with horn clay the soil is stimulated to better receive what works back

innto it when digestion occurs.




Horn clay goes to the very basis of how and why biodynamics

works. Back when Rudolf Steiner gave his agricultural lectures in 1924

he emphasized the importance of clay as conducting the silica factor

welling up from deep within the earth. This silica factor builds up over

the winter and causes plants to grow strongly in spring. Unfortunately

in his agriculture , despite his promise, Steiner failed to indicate how

the soil should be dosed in regard to clay. When talking about making

the horn silica he mentioned the horn cavity probably should be capped

off with a plug of clay to seal it. Those who worked with him in

Switzerland were taught to make both horn manure and horn silica with a

clay plug sealing the open end. However, since Steiner was not explicit

in his agriculture course that this clay should be incorporated in the

finished horn preparations it became common practice to unearth the

horns, take out the clay and throw it away and use the horn manure and

horn silica without any clay admixture.

The idea of making horn clay was part of biodynamics from the

beginning. In this regard Walter Stappung¹s booklet Die

Dünger-Präparate, published in Switzerland in 2000, cites Voegele

(1926), Lippert (1938) Remer (1980) and Willis (1999). We got the idea of making horn clay from a lecture delivered almost a decade earlier by Gunter Hauk. When asking

Gunter how to make the horn clay the response was ³No one knows. Steiner

didn¹t give any indications.² However, in the process of making

biodynamics work so that it made farms self-sufficient and addressed all

issues of agricultural importance as Steiner clearly intended it to

Willis found he had to make horn clay. Horn clay goes to the basis of

how and why biodynamics works.




Geologists know that silica cooks up out of the Earth’s mantle.

High mountains are thrust up by the rising silica forces within the

earth. In fact it is only through the uplifting, vertical forces of

silica that such heavy elements as gold, silver, platinum, lead and

uranium are brought to the surface. In plants the silica forces work on

the vertical axis driving plants toward fruit and seed. It is through

the uplifting activity of silica that the lime elements such as calcium

are carried up into leaf, fruit and seed. Steiner pointed out that the

outer planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, work upward toward fruit and

ripening through the siliceous substanses of the Earth.

However, the silica forces do not move upward into plants very

well without clay as clay governs the ebb and flow of sap within the

plant. This is why tomatoes do best in clay soils while potatoes produce

better in sandy soils. With tomatoes the silica forces must rise very

high in the plant, while with potatoes it is better if this does not

occur. In sandy soils where clay doesn’t convey the silica forces so

strongly toward fruit and seed potatoes won¹t waste their energies on

flower and fruit. Instead the silica forces stay below the surface where

potatoes form.  For some other examples, Georgia peanuts and

soybeans do ever so well on heavy red clays near Columbus while

onions do much better in lighter soils near Vidalia. There are many

corollaries to this.




As the Sun evolved from a new star to its present form it

converted hydrogen and helium into denser elements. These denser

elements often are ejected from the Sun as ionized plumes called solar

prominances or coronal discharges. When these ions strike the Earth’s

magnetic field they stream in over the poles causing the northern and

southern lights.

Earlier in the Sun’s evolution much carbon was given off. In

later ages there have been more heavier elements like magnesium,

calcium, iron and copper. This is why so many coal deposits are

overlayed with limestone. Our planet has long collected material from

the Sun, laying it down horizontally as sediments. Just as silica

carries vertical forces, lime carries horizontal forces. Every housewife

knows that dust accumulates in her closets, but how much more dust

settles in open fields?

The significance of lime working horizontally is that it fills

things out. So it is of great importance in leaves which spread out

horizontally and catch sunlight. It also is lime that fills out the

apple, grape or watermelon and makes them juicy and fat. And it is lime

that gives legumes like beans or alfalfa the ability to draw nitrogen

from its dead form as an inert gas in the air into the life of the soil.




On the periodic table of the elements berylium, magnesium,

calcium and strontium are group II, alkaline substances which grasp and

hold other elements. On the other hand carbon, silicon and germanium are

group IV substances which are very free in their chemical nature. In

between  groups II and IV are the group III elements of boron, aluminum

and galium. These are the mediators as they both give and take. Clay

basically is aluminum silicates, though, of course, clays can contain a

wide variety of other minerals. Clay is plastic, absorbant, holds and

releases water extremely well and is easily molded into various forms.

According to ancient wisdom man is made of clay, and clay relates to the

heart and circulation, as well as the feelings and emotions which bridge

between the brain and the guts, the thinking and willing parts of the

human being.




Taken by themselves chemical elements in their pure states are

lifeless. This is even true of oxygen, the carrier of life. Diatomic

oxygen gas in the atmosphere is lifeless. But when oxygen combines with

other elements life comes into the picture. Thus in their pure states

calcium and magnesium or carbon and silicon are lifeless. But their

oxides, lime, silica or carbon dioxide provide the basis for life as we

know it.

This is just as true for aluminum, which mediates between lime

and silica. Pure aluminum is lifeless. But its oxide, alumina, forms the

basis for clay and in combination with silica is clay. As such alumina

directly channels the expansive, cosmic, formative, life giving forces

of silica into interaction with lime and all the interplay going on

between the lime and silica. Not that there is much aluminum in our

bodies or in plants. There¹s only a small amount. But it is no accident

that the Bible identifies man as “made of clay.” Truly it is clay that

holds us together, receiving and retaining the forces of order, form and

energy that give us life.


How BD Works


Applying the BD preps establishes patterns that organize the

energies and substances in nature. The patterns of light and warmth

associated with silica bring about photosynthesis, blossoming, fruiting

and ripening in the atmosphere where the elements of air and fire are

organized in plants. The patterns of tone and life associated with lime

bring about digestion and nourishment in the soil where the elements of

water and earth are organized by the soil food web. In between these are

the ebb and flow of sap in plants that brings sugars down from above to

the roots and brings nutrients back up from the soil.

The biodynamic practice of burying cow horns with quartz

powder, cow manure and bentonite in them focuses the cosmic pattern

energies on the materials in the horns and the material within the horn

cavity resonates (inaudibly) like a bell ringing. Ever hold a conch

shell to your ear and hear the roar within? The cow horn does something

similar though it resonates to the cosmos rather than just to the sea.

This imparts a tremendous pattern force to the horn preparations. Then

when these preparations are stirred and sprayed the droplets act as

seeds to establish resonant patterns that, in the case of horn silica

enhance photosynthesis and ripening, in the case of horn manure enhance

digestion and nourishment, and in the case of horn clay enhance the ebb

and flow of sap within the plant.


What Horn Clay Does


It doesn¹t do all that much good to enhance photosynthesis,

fruiting and ripening in the above ground part of the plant and boost

the digestive and nutritive activities in the soil at the plant¹s roots

if there is insufficient give and take occurring between these two

polarities. By itself horn clay doesn¹t do so much. But used in

conjunction with horn quartz and horn manure it works as follows.

As its first activity horn quartz enhances photosynthesis, the

manufacture of sugars which powers all the complex chemistry in the

leaf. The horn manure yields a rich and active soil food web. Yet it is

the horn clay that is so key in boosting the ebb and flow of the plant¹s

sap resulting in a lively exchange between roots and tops. When the sap

in the plant ebbs into the roots sugars and other compounds are exuded

into the soil near the plant¹s feeder roots. This provides energy for

the mycorhyzae, azotobacters and other soil food web organisms so that

nitrogen is fixed and nutrients are elaborated from the soil. As the sap

is sucked back up into the plant and flows back to the growing tips

these nutrients are taken up in abundance.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this relates to the most

mobile nutrient of all, nitrogen. When nitrogen is supplied from

external sources it will be available to plants as salts, whether these

are oxidized to the nitrates, reduced to ammonia or in some intermediary

state such as urea. Nitrogen salts are very soluble and mobile and they

are taken up very readily by plants. If they are abundant they depress

nitrogen fixation by microorganisms and are taken up by plants to

exclusion of more complex nitrogen compounds such as amino acids. This

results in salty, watery protoplasm in the leaves and growing tips and

the plant must expend considerable energy in elaborating these nitrogen

salts into proteins and into its DNA. This can never produce a plant

that fulfills its genetic potential.

However, if the plant is sending sugars to its roots and

feeding azotobacters which are fixing atmospheric nitrogen the plant

gets its nitrogen requirement in the form of amino acids rather than

nitrogen salts. These are assembled without further ado into proteins

and the plant can manifest the full complexity of its genetic templates

so that its cells are turgid, cell structure is dense, brix is high,

protein is high and flavors are out the roof. Then all the toxic rescue

chemistry becomes superfluous if not damaging, weeds lose out in the

race to keep up with larger seeded robust crops, insects and diseases

fall by the wayside and the bottom line is NO FERTILIZER COSTS.

The results obtained with a BD program using horn clay are best

when NO salt fertilizers whatsoever are used, and especially no salt

nitrogen. Compost applications at modest levels may be advisable,

especially on land where silage or hay is cut and the growth is removed.

However, heavy applications of compost are inadvisable because the

nitrogen compounds in the compost will oxidize to the nitrates and

having nitrogen salts present in the soil dilutes the plant¹s sap and

makes its protoplasm salty and watery. The key is to get the exchange

going between sugars from the leaves and amino acids from the soil so

that the plant maxes out and high yields of the finest quality are



Doing Horn Clay


Builder¹s supply stores commonly sell sodium bentonite clay,

which is cheap and makes a very good horn clay. Other clays will do and

some may be particularly superb, but bentonite is one of the classic

clays with good water absorption and release and a good cation exchange

capacity. Getting cow horns may be more of a problem, but if you know of

folks in the slaughter business these too can be obtained. The best

horns are from mature cows living on free range that have had several

calves. It is important that the horns have heavy weight compared to

their volume, because such horns have a stronger resonance or better


Ideally horn clay should span the entire year in the horn, both

summer and winter. Clay functions differently in summer than in winter

and both the ebb and flow functions should be present. This means one

can bury horns filled with (moisten first) bentonite at the spring

equinox and unearth them after the following spring equinox. Or one can

bury them at the fall equinox and go all the way until the following

fall equinox passes. But in case one has the basic patterns of full year

horn clay and one wants to emphasize either just the summer or just the

winter patterns one can bury horns filled with clay from spring equinox

to fall equinox (summer horn clay) or bury them from fall equinox to

spring equinox (winter horn clay).

Application by stirring and spraying can cover 15 or 16 acres

per barrel full. With a stirring rod suspended from a tripod one gets

the water in the barrel moving in one direction, builds it up, puts a

lot of energy into it, gets the vortex really whirling and draws the

stirring rod in to center where it spins up with increased angular

momentum as it nears the axis. And then. . . at the center it comes to

rest with the whole barrel of solution spinning round it. You can see

the etheric vortex lines cut across with the counter vortex lines of

laminate water layers. These vortex/counter-vortex lines form a pattern

like a great sunflower, such as Van Gogh painted so often.

Each cycle grows, matures, senesces and is swept away.

The stirrer takes the pole back out of center, enters in the

vortex in the counter fashion, and disrupts the dying cyclone into

seething . . .chaos . . .Then winds into a new vortex–stoking it with

energy and building to crescendo once again. Generation after generation

goes the dance of life. Vortex/counter-vortex, leading, building,

evolving inexorably to a universe of higher orderedness.

Then the spray is filtered and applied with a spray rig. Horn

quartz is sprayed in the early morning as a mist into the atmosphere. It

is supposed to evaporate upwards into the atmosphere. Horn manure is

sprayed on the soil in late afternoon in very large droplets. It is

supposed to sink in, and if one can disc it in or plow it down it seems

to work better. With horn clay one wants a moderately fine spray in the

afternoon to cover the surface of the soil or the lower trunks of trees

so as to form a skin or diaphragm at the surface to mediate between the

dynamic patterns of the atmosphere and the soil.




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