Spirit Dish: Wallace Awasis

A meme from @superneech (aka Cecil Sveinson) inspired Wallace Awasis to explore the idea of the spirit dish a little further, building on its significance with additional Cree vocabulary. Thanks to both Wallace, and to Cecil, for permission to share both the meme and the discussion:

Wallace writes:

ᒥᔪᓈᑿᐣ ᑮᓯᑳᐤ ᓂᑑᑌᒥᑎᐠ [miyonâkwan kîsikâw nitôtêmitik]: The day is looking good my friends.
ᐘᓂᐢᑳ ᑳᑮᓯᒧᐦ ᒦᓇ ᐲᑳᑌᓂᑫᐠ [waniskâ kâkîsimo mîna pihkahtênikê]

  • ᓇᑲᑕᐢᑫᐤ [nakataskêw]: S/he leaves this world; s/he died.
  • ᐊᐏᔭᐠ ᑳᓇᑲᑕᐢᑫᐟ [awiyak kâ-nakataskêt]: when someone leaves this earth
  • ᒪᒐᐢᑌᐦᐊᒫᓇᑫᐃᐧᐣ [macostêhamânakêwin]: ceremonial offering such as a spirit dish.
  • ᒫᒥᑐᓀᒦᑯᕽ ᑭᐘᐦᑯᐦᒫᑲᓈᐘᐠ ᑳᓃᑳᓅᑌᒉᐠ [mâmitonêyimiwêhkahk kiwâhkômâkaninawak kâ-nîkânohtêcik]: Let’s think of our relatives who have gone before us to spirit world.

Perhaps, you may want to make them a “spirit dish” when you partake in a meal, feast or ceremony. My grandmother and grandfather used to tell me we should feed the spirits of those who have gone on before us when we can and to never forget them.

They said:

  • ᐚᐑᐢ ᒌ ᐸᑖᒋᑫᔭᓂ [wâwîs cî patâcikêyani]: especially if food should fall off your plate, spoon or fork or mouth.

They said this is a sign that they are hungry. Other signs are when you hear the spirits moving around inside your house, especially in the kitchen. The spirits may start rattling things. Things may fall or drop. Cupboard doors my open or shut. Lights may go off and on. Don’t be spooked by this. Get up and smudge. Say a prayer for them as they are probably just hungry.

Sometimes your dead relatives will come to us in in our dreams and this too can be a sign to feed them or make an offering.

When you make a meal, our Elders tell us to go out and buy or get all the favourite foods your deceased relatives loved eating while living. You should also get some animal fat, tallow or lard. The lard is usual mixed with sugar or berries to take away the bland taste and to sweeten it up a bit. This lard is usually eaten first before anything else. This act allows the rest of the food you eat to become spiritual food. In other words, everything you eat after that you are feeding the spirit of the deceased.

Make a “spirit dish” and smudge and pray over it and all the food. After the meal you can place it in a sacred fire, if you have one, or take to clean place where there is very little or no activity and leave it their or bury it. Do not forget to place a cigarette or tobacco on the side of the dish as this is protocol.

Do not just dump the extra food in the garbage if you can’t eat it all. Treat it with respect, dignity and in a sacred manner. You should also never feed the feast food or spirit dish to your dogs as the Creator made dogs to warn us and protect us from all spirits and strangers. This is why they bark when they detect spirits or strangers coming. Dogs were created to chase away spirits to protect us and they cannot distinguish between good spirits and bad spirits.

My grandparents said, if you feed the food to your dog you may very well stop or chase away all the good prayers you have said before, during and after the feast. So, handle all the food in a sacred way and what you can’t eat, take home and feed to your families, friends and relatives. Whatever needs to be disposed of, do so in a kind, gentle and respectful way.

Others may have been taught to do these things differently, but this is the way I have been taught. Do it the way you were taught and won’t go wrong. Do what works for you to appease the spirits.

ᐁᑯᓯ ᓂᑑᑌᒥᑎᐠ: ᒥᔪ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᐠ [êkosi nitôtêmitik: miyo kîsikanisik]: Enough said my friends and have a wonderful day. ay hay!

2 Responses

  1. I truly appreciate the protocol for Spirit dishes. I am from Manitoba and enjoy learning and would like to be a part of your page. I remember when you first taught at Grandview Elementary school you use to sing there, I lost track of you after that but knew you had your teaching degree.

  2. Hi: thank you. This is a good teaching. At Northern Campus, late Elder Wilson used to take time to go to the classrooms and teach students about feasts and spirit foods. I thank you for sharing this. Hiy, hiy. kinanāskomitin.

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