Remembering Old Ways

One of the reasons I started Primal Derma was as a way of remembering that the way things used to be done have great relevance to our modern lives that often go for immediacy over patience and cost over value. 

Primal Derma is unapologetic in trying to reclaim a thin trail that was walked by people with animals for a long time but has since grown over and largely forgotten.

Recently I was reading about traditional Ukrainian embroidery. If you haven’t seen it, truly there is nothing like it. Powerful, fine, concusussive colors and having a noble carriage. To say nothing of the garlanded wreath crowns!!

During the 20th century the Russian government tried to stamp out this tradition because workers were needed for other things than spending months embroidering fabric.

But what is deeply profound is that every shape in this embroidery aren’t just mere geometric patterning. Each has a meaning that can be read – circles indicate the Sun and divine energy, squares indicate stability of the home or the Earth, diamonds stand for fertility of people and fertility of the fields. There are many, many more.

So why am I sending this to you, good supporters of Primal Derma?

Because of the beauty to be sure. But I suppose that I also want to share with you that when you set your eyes on a tradition like this you can see the living and vital culture having been made and being made still. Can you imagine the understanding of the world that could be shared among the dozens of people who stitched these garments across a table over months? Or how their relationship to place (and belonging to that place) would inform each of their stitches. Truly a beauty-making marvel. If you were from the Ukraine you’d have every right to be proud that you sprung forth, or your ancestors sprung forth, from a place like that that gave rise to beauty in action like this.

In a world where we find the same stores (in the same configuration) are in our uptowns and downtowns and when we get off the plane in a distant city or land, and it’s 72 degrees in our homes, cars, offices and we are far from knowing much about the fertility of the lands nearby…a deep culture is harder to stitch between us.

And there is a real heartbreak there, to be sure, but there is also a sense of great fortune that there is a real place and real traditions that we might participate in to give us the beginning of the sense of rootedness.

If you want to read a bit more about Ukrainian embroidery history and meaning there are certainly books, but this website has a great summary.

While Primal Derma is not embroidery it is an old tradition that we are calling back that is one strand in the deep culture making web.

If you need some more – please, by all means go to and pick some up.

Talk soon enough,


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