“In our culture, whenever we receive a gift of food – whether someone buys us groceries or makes us breakfast or takes us out to dinner – we say that it extends our life. And as we accept that food, we breathe a word of prayer so that the dividends of that gift might be multiplied into the life of the person who gave it.” Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother
Ceremonial Gift of Food
Viewing food as a gift is one reason that most Native American ceremonies I have attended include a pot-luck afterwards: we are practicing the gift of life extension by feeding one another.
But before the people eat, a “spirit plate” is prepared and offered to either the Ceremonial Fire or Mother Earth. This represents a thank you for all that we have received and a prayer for the continuation of life and that all the nations on earth have enough food and water always.
Many Native American ceremonies also include Spiritual food on the altar. In the Lakota tradition it may be water, corn, berries and meat that are placed on the altar during the ceremony.
They are placed there as a prayer that the Eagle Nation will come and take the essence of that food to the places in the world where there is not enough food or water. So the food on the altar is a prayer that all the Nations have enough to eat.
Teachings on the Daily Gift of Food
- With each meal, be aware that the food we eat was once a life, and to honor it as such.
- Say thank you to the members of the plant and animal kingdoms who have given up their life so we can continue ours: the vegetable, berry, four legged, swimmer and winged nations.
- Pray for their continued abundance and protection
- Try to leave the table before feeling completely full. It increases our will power.
- Also, those organs within us that need to break down the food and carry it throughout our whole system will not have enough room to work if we’re stuffed full of food.
“We were also taught to always leave a little food on the plate as an offering — it’s our way of saying, ‘May this food find it’s way to someone who might be in need, someone we don’t even know.’
“We do it because all people live together on the same planet, breathing the same atmosphere — we are all relatives. We leave an offering as an appreciation for what we were able to enjoy and we want to share it with others who might not have as much. We want this food to find its way to where people of other lands, from the youngest to the oldest, may be provided enough to sustain their lives in good health. “
So over and over again, in their relationship with food, Native Americans set the example of living with the understanding that we are all related and responsible for one another.
So when we eat, let us always say thank you, and say a prayer that everyone, everywhere, always has enough to eat. That’s the least we can do as thanks for our abundance.
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