I’ve been wild-harvesting some plant bits locally for a new project (which will appear in my Etsy store when it’s completed) and was reminded of a rule I always follow when taking things from the wild, which most of my blog readers are no doubt already aware of, but it bears repeating nonetheless: always, always pay for what you take. Nature is not your personal all-access supermarket or Circle K, BUT even if it were, you would need to go through check-out before leaving with your goodies. When harvesting anything for spiritual purposes this becomes even more important: when you are taking part of (or removing something from) a living being—be it a bush, tree, mushroom, or even a flower—show the proper respect, and leave a gift in return. This is simple common sense spiritual etiquette, but it’s amazing how many otherwise highly evolved people can forget.
This is one of the areas in which my Heathen core shows through most clearly, because landwight (land spirit) worship not only predated worship of the Aesir and Vanir in all of the Germanic countries but also survived it by many centuries. In fact, it’s the closest thing we have to an unbroken tradition, from the little Scandinavian cup formations dating from the Bronze Age, in which offerings were left for the elves, right up until today, when the remnants of a ritual drinking horn are customarily poured out onto the earth or the roots of a tree. Our spiritual ancestors would typically leave milk or cream for the wights, but for those of us who live in North America tobacco and cornmeal may be preferred by many of the local spirits, simply because it’s what they’re used to. However, I always have an assortment of offerings in my spirit work kit, and I have given blood or bone meal (where appropriate; be careful with this one because for some wights it would be an insult, but water wights especially love this kind of thing), honey, dried flowers, some of my saliva or blood, mead or some other liquor, bread, water, and even—in a pinch, when I have nothing else with me—coins. The important thing is to leave something, some kind of reciprocal gesture that you appreciate whatever gift the plant or tree provided for you, and that you recognize it as a GIFT, not something you’re entitled to by virtue of having an opposable thumb. This is in the spirit of Gebo (a gift for a gift), which can be applied to so many things and will take you a long way in your relationships not only with spirits and gods but also with other humans.
Oh and one other thing: ASK before you take, too! Again, that is only polite. And if the answer is no, go away and ask somewhere else; there are other flowers/twigs/leaves/mushrooms/whatevers available, and the plant or tree probably has a valid reason for refusing.