Spirit Plate – Native Ceremony and Ritual
by Andrea Gustafson
A spirit plate is left out for the spirits to receive the nourishment of
our gratitude, and, one way or another, the food almost always seems
Spirit plate is a daily practice when practiced in its pure form, but
can be done at anytime. Anyone can do it, rich or poor, in the city or
Each time you eat you prepare a small plate of food. This small plate
of food is taken to a place near to your home and left there. It is food
for the spirits, for the hungry, for the mystery life. It does not matter
if it is eaten by birds, or dogs, or cats, or whatever might be out there
and passing by. You can take it to the cemetery or our backyard as a
way to remember someone who had died. It's a way of giving
Viewing food as a gift is one reason that most Native ceremonies
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
Many Native ceremonies also include Spiritual food on the altar.
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
• 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.”
Feeding the spirits invites the spirits to respond. Biology clearly
teaches us that nearly every form of life has response capability.
Some people who want to grow and change their lives make a spirit
plate to offer to the spirits of change and renewal.
So over and over again, in their relationship with food, Natives 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.
The energy of this practice is a great meditation on so many levels. It
prospers the ideas of abundance, of sharing, of respecting what you
have been given. It is a small giving back ceremony.