A Tithe for the Forest

Bowl of Forest Food

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.

Tithe to the Forest

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.

Close up of the tithe

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.

Decayed Red Cedar Wood

Comments

24 Responses to “A Tithe for the Forest”

  1. Valerianna says:

    HA! That makes my offering of boiled eggs, nuts and apples last weekend look meagre in comparison… a good reminder to really go for it a few times a year. I just posted about my offering, too. I felt the forest calling – and the creatures who’ve spent months foraging in deep, deep snows for nourishment!

  2. zevenster says:

    Excuse me, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but are you leaving alcohol drowned cakes in Nature to be eaten by animals? Have you any idea how poisonous that is to them???

    • I understand your concern, but please chill out. They’re not drowned, it’s more like a max of 3 tbsp. I said “soaked” because I don’t do the method of dipping a cloth in alcohol and wrapping it around the cakes, I just pour on a little bit directly – there was never any submersion.

      • Scylla says:

        Beyond this, and for future reference: In my experience Unless you are doing the “mist it once a day for over a year” method, the alcohol content is incredibly low. Even more so the second it’s exposed to the open air. Beyond that, there are few things a squirrel will go batspit insane for faster than an un-attended, alcoholic, beverage. Though I HAVE seen drunk squirrels, I’ve also seen them sleep it off, and go back to their (drink stealing) antics the next day.

      • I saw drunk bees once, after they had eaten sap from a lime tree, it was adorable…. though i assume he got in trouble with the hive. Nice to know we aren’t the only drinkers in nature lol

    • Kat says:

      Please excuse my interjection, but it is well documented in science that a number of mammalian species (aside from humans) actually do at times seek out fermented fruit/organic matter for consumption.

      Why they do it is up to inferred conjecture, but getting ‘drunk’ is just as good a reason as any.

      • Valerianna says:

        Its common, in the late fall around here, to see bears eating fermented apples… and they definitely get drunk! A friend told me a particularly amusing story of a huge black bear trying to hide from him behind a very skinny sapling, peering around it, but teetering a bit too much. Earlier, the bear had been stumbling around the nearby apple tree picking up all of the apples that had fallen and attempting – in h/her compromised state – to get them off the tree as well. Quite a scene!

      • I think you guys may have just figured out how man discovered alcohol ;)

  3. A gentle reminder that my offerings are overdue. Thanks for that.

    • Melanie says:

      Beautiful that you leave such rich offerings, I feel that is in the spirit of the ancients who would surely have left all they could afford. Mead or wine I’m sure would been a part of it too, so i’m sure a little alcohol won’t hurt (unless you’re a slug- sorry slug)

  4. Melanie says:

    By the way, I’m so happy that I found your blog through Etsy as I have no one to discuss the craft with.

  5. Pombagira says:

    i can highly recommend the cedar, i still have a tiny bit left that i got from sarah ohhh, it smells wonderful, plus it made it through NZ customs.. whee!!

    *smiles*
    Polly

    • Kat says:

      :O

      That’s amazing.
      Glad your cedar made it through!
      NZ customs are akin to a black hole – I lost many botanical items to them :/

      (P.S Hi Polly!? Wellington? I think we know/knew each other…I worked at Cristophers…)

      • Pombagira says:

        yes Polly Wellington.. *waves and beams* oh christophers, i remember that place.. i bet i would remember you, i am terrible with names, but great with faces.. *sheepish grin* but still yay wellington

        gosh i reckon Mistress Sarah must have quite a few kiwi stalkers, err i mean followers..tehehe..

        (also i was going to put Ms, then tryied Miss, but the firt one i find offensive for some werid reason and the second one sounded just to young.. so mistress it is.. *grins*)

  6. Nikkie says:

    Have you ever seen a baboon and elephant (and any other wild creature who happen to come along) drunk on marula that have been lying in the African sun for a few days? That stuff is potent and makes the most delicious alcoholic beverages naturally! LOL They just sleep it off and come back again tomorrow….with due respect, it is hilarious to see! In my experience, animals are more clever than we give them credit for, they would know if the stuff isn’t good for them and avoid it…..lovely Tithe Sarah. I have done my gratitude for the Light Half of the Year tithe about 3 weeks ago….I truly have been blessed this past season!

  7. Amy says:

    You have a knack for posting exactly what I need when I need it. Thank you. Lovely tithe. Now Im off to plan mine!

  8. Groovy! I have a pile of decayed cedar i have been waiting to use and now i have a plan, thank you.

    -Angelina

  9. Geetar646 says:

    If I was walking aimlessly through ye woode, down by ye salley gardens, and I espied this mess all a laying there, you know what?

    I’d be scared shitless.

  10. VirágMező says:

    Great post as always! You somehow always manage to inspire me!
    And now I’ve got something to do tomorrow in the woods….

  11. lancemfoster says:

    There seems to be an interesting difference between Celtic and Germanic/Nordic traditions when the Others offer you something to eat. The Celtic traditions say don’t eat it, as well as the Greek myth of Persephone. Yet in Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry: Vol. I by Kveldulf Gundarsson, he notes the difference between Celtic and Nordic traditions, as the latter show that not only should one eat what the spirits offer, one risks insulting them if one does not.

    Among Native American traditions, it seems to go either way. We have stories of spirits taking care of people who become lost by feeding them and teaching them. But we also have trickster spirits that one should not trust. In any case, I was taught that the spirit offerings left out for the spirits are for them only, as the spirit part of the food or clothing, etc. is taken. However, if one is desperate and it is truly an emergency, it is permitted by the spirits that one can eat or clothe oneself with such offerings. People who have done this though (eaten of the human’ offerings to the Others), note that the food is oddly flavorless and unsatisfying. Probably because the Others have taken the spirit part, where the real flavor and energy is. This always reminds me a little of Stephen King’s “The Langoliers” where the food and matches and gasoline loose their essence once the moment in which they are part of “the active world” is gone.

    • Gundarsson is the only author I’ve ever read who specified which spirits it is okay to accept food from and which you should refuse – it made me realize I need to read even more fairy tales to differenciate. Accepting food from the dead seems to be the biggest taboo no matter the culture. In the local myths here it seems to be certain wild spirits you should refuse – usually monsters and the spirits of the dead. But I’ve read many tales from local tribes where they did eat food when it was offered by nature and animal spirits.

  12. Mina says:

    What a wonderful reminder. I love this beautiful ritual and the bounty you offered from your heart.

  13. Tamsin says:

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder that I need to tithe more often. I think we get busy with our day to day grind and neglect a simple, but incredibly important aspect to our practice. :)

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