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Taking (and giving) in nature

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  • Taking (and giving) in nature

    I've read countless times about being respectful to "nature" when taking natural objects, or living things such as stones or herbs for use in spells/rituals. So my questions are:
    • How many of you abide by this, or don't and why/why not?
    • Do you ask for a sign to show whether it's okay to take?
    • Have you ever experienced any backlash for not expressing enough humility or taking without asking?
    • Who do you usually ask for permission, the spirit of the object, the nature spirit, a god/goddess?
    • Are there rules for this according to specific traditions, or would you say this has been a development sprung from Wicca or Wiccan-derived practices?

    Also please know that I put "nature" in quotes because I'm not sure who folks are asking for permission when they emphasize "respect for nature." Wish I could give you a good example but I've read this in so many places it's almost become a part of my personal mythology, though parts of me are still skeptical about the practicality.

  • #2
    If I find it on the ground (fallen branch, rocks, etc.), then I feel it's okay to take. I usually don't just take from living things. The one exception being herbs, and even those I cut with care as to not actually hurt the plant I'm cutting from. Frequently, pruning is actually good for the plant. If I've grown it myself, I don't mind cutting it. If it's in the wild, I just kind of feel if it's okay or not, but I'm not sure how to explain it.
    Last edited by RoseKitten; August 24th, 2011, 02:56 PM.
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    • #3
      How many of you abide by this, or don't and why/why not?
      I try to do that and live by my understanding and ethics. Yet I think the issue at hand is the notion of what does being respectful to nature mean? I see many that have romantised "nature" to such an extreme that they don't even know what true nature is.

      Do you ask for a sign to show whether it's okay to take?
      I always do that to. Each thing has a spirit or manitou contained within it, I speak to that manitou and ask which is willing to work with me and allow me to take it, harvest it or give me a gift of itself to use. So out of a field of plants some will stand out and I know those are the ones I can use to work with. Many tree's will drop something that you can use or guide you to something you can use. It's like needing acorns lets say but the ground litter is not what you need but you follow and come across a large clump of acrons still attached to the branch. SO there was no need to injure the tree by tearing or breaking.

      Have you ever experienced any backlash for not expressing enough humility or taking without asking?
      Backlash yes but not because of not being humble. Mankind is but another animal in the forest and the forest does not ask us to be humble before it. Mostly it desires us to be aware of it and its positives and negatives and exist with it. It's not the taking that causes issues to me its the taking of more than we need for our usage.


      Who do you usually ask for permission, the spirit of the object, the nature spirit, a god/goddess?
      That depends upon what I am gathering and many times where I am gathering. If I walk into a field I speak to the beings to be found there. Yet if it is an area that I sense is protected or watched by a greater landspirit or Spirit of place them I speak to that spirit and the plants and tell them of my need and ask for thier help in choosing. Then I find that many times while what was before me would help I just get the urge to move and usually wind up in a spot that provides what I asked for without harming anything.

      Are there rules for this according to specific traditions, or would you say this has been a development sprung from Wicca or Wiccan-derived practices?
      There's always rules for it that derive from local practice and custom. Farmers still leave the last offering in the fields many times though they may not known exactly why anymore. Those who work with the land or on the land follow a lot of custom's and practices that go back through time. You see it at plant nurseries, tree farms, wildlife reserves, orchards, etc where you are close to the land.

      To say or even speculate that it derived from Wicca or Wiccan influenced practices is really foolhardy.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by MonSno_LeeDra View Post
        There's always rules for it that derive from local practice and custom. Farmers still leave the last offering in the fields many times though they may not known exactly why anymore. Those who work with the land or on the land follow a lot of custom's and practices that go back through time. You see it at plant nurseries, tree farms, wildlife reserves, orchards, etc where you are close to the land.
        Until one really looks into it, they never realize how much ancient customs/folklore practices have influenced many of the things we do today.

        Originally posted by MonSno_LeeDra View Post
        To say or even speculate that it derived from Wicca or Wiccan influenced practices is really foolhardy.
        Seeing as these practices predate circa 1950's C.E. (when Gardner developed Wicca) by hundreds and/or thousands of years, that would be extremely foolhardy.
        Last edited by Myrddyn Emrys; August 24th, 2011, 08:44 PM. Reason: posting error, correcting quote parse
        "Cattle die, kinsmen die, one day you yourself must die.

        I know one thing that never dies:
        the dead man's reputation."


        Havamal- Sayings of the High One

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        • #5
          Novimarra,
          I would like to respond from a lukumi (Santeria) perspective. I have talked to Huichol Indians, Panamanians and Malaysians and they do similar things.
          How many of you abide by this, or don't and why/why not? We do it because we prefer to show via our actions as well as our prayers.
          Do you ask for a sign to show whether it's okay to take? Most of the time it is determined through divination or some form of spiritual communication.
          Have you ever experienced any backlash for not expressing enough humility or taking without asking? Not personally, but it is our belief that without proper respect, asking for and "paying" for what you take, the spells can be rendered ineffective.
          Who do you usually ask for permission, the spirit of the object, the nature spirit, a god/goddess? The owner of the forest and Orisha of herbs - Osain and the spirit of the tree, plant, etc.
          Are there rules for this according to specific traditions, or would you say this has been a development sprung from Wicca or Wiccan-derived practices? Definitely derived from established traditional practices, each with their own respective rules.

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          • #6
            1. Living things I only pick up what has fallen. Pulling branches, leaves, etc from plants before they're ready to be removed can open the plant to infection and dehydration. It must work quickly to repair. Non-living things like stones, etc. I don't really ask permission.

            2. I don't wait for a sign. If my eye is drawn to it and its appealing to me -- that's a good enough sign to me.

            3. Just guilt.

            4. Usually, I'm just thanking them and it would be the spirit of the object. If I know its special to a particular deity, I may thank them but most of the time I'm focused on the individual spirit.

            5. I've heard of making offerings and turning it into big elaborate things but ya know, if you respect nature and you're doing it out of the goodness of your heart with good intentions I don't see it needing to be a big deal. I thank nature, I offer things back when I can and do what I can to not to pollute/harm nature in my day to day life.

            In my opinion, it would be getting caught up in the little stuff and it depends on the situation. If I saw the most perfect branch that I needed for a tool still attached to the tree, then I may spend some time asking for permission, making an offering or something. But, that's not happened, so right now.. its just not a big deal to me.
            I am... Witchy Woman Incognito
            “Although only breath, words which I command are immortal.” - Sappho


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            • #7
              I used to ask for permission all the time, but I found I was letting my desire for the object color my hearing of the answer. I find fairly often that people who claim they ask for permission also never seem to mention times when they've been denied that permission. Of course, that might be selection bias rather than real deafness to a negative message: if someone is telling the story of the beautiful wand they made, they might say, "I saw the perfect branch, asked the tree for permission, and after I receive it, I..." If the tree had said no, there would be no wand, and no story.

              When I did used to ask, I asked the tree or plant itself. Even when I believed in deities, I would no more ask them for permission to take from a particular plant or rock formation than I would ask my boss if I could borrow my coworker's stapler. If I want her stapler, I ask her. If I want a branch from this tree, I ask this tree.

              As for what is meant by "nature", I mean the biosphere as a whole, which guides me in terms of what's okay to take and what's not. Picking a single spray of blossoms from our crab apple tree won't harm it; picking every blossom from the tree could harm it quite a bit and deprive its pollinators, and cutting it down would kill it. There are gray areas in between: the tree could recovery from my cutting a branch for a wand, but it would be weakened and more susceptible to infection at the cut site. If I can make the commitment to sealing the cut site or taking extra care to repel insects and viruses, then I'm OK taking the branch. If it's a tree in the middle of a park that I'm probably never going to visit again, I'll skip the cutting and look for a branch that's already fallen.
              If you're lucky you'll find something that reflects you,
              helps you feel your life protects you,
              cradles you and connects you to everything.
              Dar Williams, "The Hudson"

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Windsmith View Post
                ... I find fairly often that people who claim they ask for permission also never seem to mention times when they've been denied that permission..
                Just my own opinion but most people in the "I want it now" mentatility do not want to hear those. They want immediate gratification and think that is the way it is for everyone. Unfortunately within or beneath the Pagan umbrella that is becoming more and more the dominante mindset one encounters. I don't mention the numerious "No's" for i've found out over the years that most do not even read that facet when it is included. So why waste time, energy and purpose on something that will not be read or trully acknowledged.

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                • #9
                  I don't necessarily ask, but I go with what I feel and sense around me. If it feels wrong to take a stone from somewhere, then I will leave it even if I really, really, want it. But usually, I only take what calls out to me - I might be walking and then take a few steps back to pick up a stone I'd seen. I always thank the area I'm in, and tend to view what comes with me as a representation of the entire area. But then, I don't believe in spells or god(s)/goddess(es). I view the objects as part of the whole world around me, and having something with me from an area reminds me of the energy I felt while there, and I am grateful for that.

                  I never, ever, take things that are alive. That always feels wrong.

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                  • #10
                    I think if one is going to be taking a branch from a living tree to make a staff or something, that an offering should be made. Permission isn't necessary...but reciprocation is. You take something, you give something back.
                    "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common:
                    instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views,
                    which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering."

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                    • #11
                      I don't have a tradition to guide me, but I feel I can communicate and understand the nature spirits around me. So I am left with a choice. What kind of an individual do I care to be?

                      I am a part of nature, one way or another. Either I could be a destructive, uncaring force, that brings death and destruction with me wherever I go. I can cut down my trees, and trample the plants of the forest when I take a walk. Or I can be caring and helpful, communing with the spirits and understanding their cares and concerns.

                      I find it impossible to be completely unhurtful to my environment. I have hundreds of little saplings growing on my property. I've recently had a notice from the fire department to trim branches away from my chimney. I can't afford to ask the trees' permission before I do what must be done.

                      The best I can do is tell them what I'm doing and why. I feel they understand. It also seems to contribute to my reputation in their world. I have had trees ask me if I would stand them back up when they have fallen in the woods. And I've had to explain to them that this is beyond by capabilities... at least practically because I'm not interested in renting a crane and driving it onto national forest land to attempt a rescue! Mostly I have just been a voice of reason to them to tell them that it is time to give up and let go, and move on to tree heaven (or wherever it is that trees go when their time has come!)

                      To some extent, the power of death and life is in my hands when it comes to plants and trees. They understand this, and my reputation is built based upon what I do with this power. Similar I suppose to how we as humans might respect those who have power over us. Those who take this power and abuse it, are feared. Those who use it for good whenever opportunity presents a chance, are respected. And those who feel it is their responsibility to go all nut-so trying to save the environment, and nursing every damaged plant or tree back to health, are probably appreciated by those they help, but not given as much respect as they deserve.
                      Tobias



                      Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

                      -Dwight D Eisenhower

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                      • #12
                        My view is that if you follow a path that makes a point of asking such things then follow them because it is your chosen way. If you are asking if such a thing is a hard and fast rule found everywhere then: no it is not. Do I personally follow it? No and yes. Somethings I might divine for and spellwork for and then I give appropriate thanks as I have asked...if I find something by stumbling across it then i am thankful I did but I don't loudly ask the "nature/spirits" permission. Some places that have a strong presence and have history and may indeed be protected or occupied then yes I ask. Sometimes the answer is no....If your worth your salt you will understand that. Psychologically, I feel that this practice both culturally and historically was an attempt to remind people that we are all in this together and in reality we are all connected and we come from "nature" and we shouldn't forget that.

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