A Tithe for the Forest
Leaving offerings in the forest as thanks for the botanicals and animal bits I wild harvest is a common practice for me, but now I wish to pay a larger tithe 1-2 times a year as animists of old would have done. I think I will pay a tithe to both the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of spirits each year. Yesterday I gave my first big tithe to the Seelie spirits. I was inspired from watching Beyond Survival with host Les Stroud (a fellow Canadian). He travels all over the world living with indigenous peoples for a week or more to live how they live and document their traditional practices and beliefs before they disappear. In the episode with the Sea Gypsies of Malaysia he documented them paying a large tithe of precious goods to the Sea to propitiate the spirits for all the food and supplies they take from it and to prevent deaths caused by their rough lifestyle. It was simple and beautiful, but not the first such offering he’d documented.
My tithe consisted of mouth-watering fruit cakes soaked in brandy and mead for five months (with “real” cherries, figs, and candied chestnuts), pomegranates, beets, heirloom garlic, a prime rib roast, flowers, a beautiful organic tobacco, and a votive offering of clay mano panteas (Roman House Hands) I sculpted two years ago, but which broke before firing and were irrepairable. I didn’t want to let them go, but a votive offering seemed the perfect way to release something I put so much love and energy into. No matter my talent for it, I don’t think I’m meant to work with clay at this time – the trees are still calling me.
I called to Old Man and Old Woman and all their wild spirits to accept from my hands this offering in return for all they gift to me. I expect the squirrels to find the cakes and beets and the carrion crows to smell out the meat and rip it to shreds off the bone. I covered it all loosely with leaves and forest earth – just enough so people couldn’t see it, but shallow enough the wild spirits can find it.
In return I was gifted with the decaying wood of an ancient red Cedar stump which I’ve been slowly drying in my oven and will powder for incense making. Decayed Cedar wood is food to the local nature and ancestral spirits. If you wander into the otherworld here and are offered food by the spirits, turn it down no matter how delicious it looks as under the glamour it is this insect-infested crumbling wood and the stories say you’ll turn into one of the spirits if you eat it.