Tags: god

The Gender of the Creator

I still dunno why people have to ascribe gender to the Creator. Sex is a way for DNA to be exchanged, in order to keep diversity going in order to increase the species' chances of survival under changing conditions.

The Creator doesn't need that.

All the other "feminine" and "masculine" stuff other than reproduction is either secondary sex traits, or personality traits ascribed to one or the other, and tied to hormonal differences, all supported or shaped differently according to what culture one is in.

The Creator doesn't have a penis or a vagina, neither or both. Those are biological things and the Creator is not biological.

So basically if it makes you feel better to say when you pray Father or Mother or both or neither, I really don't think the Creator cares. Just do it. Just pray.

Language, Time, God

In my tribe, the past and the present are the same in a deep way, and both are certain. The future is merely a possibility. My tribal language is Ioway, closely related to Sioux and Crow (both "Siouan" languages), but not at all related to Cheyenne (an Algonquian language) or Flathead (a Salishan language). For example, in Ioway you say "I walk," "I am walking," "I did walk," and "I walked" all the same way: "Hamanyi" (ha = I; manyi = walk). What happened before and what happened now are fact, and in some sense, they are still occurring. To say "I will walk" or "I will be walking" you would say "Hamanyihnye." Hnye just means there is a potential, but uncertain.

Present and future... there are three dimensions in material reality: height, width, depth = 3D. The fourth dimension is time. The fourth dimension is applied to physical reality, just the same as the first three. 4D = height, width, depth, time.

That's also why when it would make sense that eternity means "outside time." It would make sense that if one believes in God and that God is eternal, there would be no beginning and no end to God...BECAUSE GOD IS NOT MATERIAL, and thus the four dimensions that apply to material reality -height, width, breadth, and time- would not apply to God.

Hauntings, Time, Space, God

Hauntings, Time, Space, God

A few things I have learned that were revelatory:

1. Every place is haunted, in some sense of the term, because everything is alive, in some sense of the term. It's just that some places have more power and thus are more evident, some people are more sensitive, and certain times (tides) are "thinner" (seasons, weather, time of day).

2. Everything that is a "place" can be (or perhaps already is) haunted/occupied/possessed. And every location is "a place" (three-dimensional, width, breadth, length= 3D) but there are different scales of place in the physical: universe, world, region, landscape, site, a being/a person/an animal, object, and probably even smaller.

3. The fourth dimension (beyond 3D) is time, and time also is a physical dimension just as the first three, and applies to the physical and only the physical in the same way. Thus the "time-space continuum" truly is a continuum, the same thing. Eternity isn't really "forever," it just means outside time, time doesn't apply because eternity isn't physical. That's why God has no beginning and no end, because God is not physical and therefore time, as a dimension of the physical, does not apply to God.

Lance Foster
Lance Foster

Finding the Path: Who Are You Really?

In my younger years, one of my struggles was reconciling the two spiritual paths I was put on, traditional Roman Catholicism and traditional Native American ways. Over the decades I finally put that struggle to rest and found a way for the two to make peace in my soul. It was about focusing on the common ground rather than the differences, and then giving the differences over to the Creator and putting my trust in the Creator who knows my soul and my fate even better than I do. That was my choice and my road.

But of course there is no such thing as "Native American ways" really, as each tribe had its own, and sometimes even within each tribe, there were elements that were contradictory and mutually-exclusive, such as the purview and rites of certain clans, societies, etc. That is really the issue with becoming an initiate of anything, there is a price and there are restrictions and rules to follow (but then, so it is with life, and in our mainstream society as well).

In Hawai'i, my thinking about such things was clarified by Uncle Butch, who talked about there being three parts one's spiritual life was sourced from and rested on: Ke Akua (God or the Gods, both Christian and pre-Christian), the ʻĀina (the Land), and Nā Kūpuna (the Ancestors). One needed all three in one's spiritual life, like the three legs of a stool- without one leg, you would tip over and fall off. This resounded deeply in my soul.

I am enrolled in the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, but there are no fullbloods left and doubtfully any 1/2 blood Ioways (yes, many 1/2 blood of Indian blood mixed with other tribes, but no 1/2 Ioway only that I know of anyways). Even the 70-80 year olds are mostly 1/4. I myself am 1/8 Iowa by blood, though I also have other the blood of other tribes in me --Sauk, Oto, Omaha, Menominee, Yankton and Santee, Ojibwa and Lenape through my father, and Choctaw through my mother (the tribes I know of anyways).

We Ioways were a small tribe to begin with, and disease killed off most of us in the early 1800s, and intermarriage in the late 1800s dwindled the blood further. I am not dark-skinned or dark-haired, so that even though I was brought up believing Indian ways, I have not often been accepted as Indian by many in my younger years. Yes, those who got to know me, got past my outside eventually, but it took time, and identity for a young person is a crucial issue and a source of much pain and soul-searching.

I remembered one time in 1980 when IAIA took a busload of students from IAIA to the NM state fair in Albuquerque because it was "if you are Indian you get in free day." Of course one by one we go through the gate, but I get stopped and asked suspiciously "you're not Indian..?" Of course I always wondered if I had been Mexican, they would not have stopped me (leaving aside the issue that many/most Mexicans have a predominance of Indian biology in them) but also if I had been Italian or something. That was kind of a turning point in my attachment to my "I'm Indian" only-focus, and made me newly interested in my other tribal ancestors who assumed the Bear spirit and warred on the Romans.

Hey, why would I want to be in a club that doesn't want me? Over and over, through the years, similar things happened, my "Indian-ness" questioned based solely on appearance (some think I might be Mongol!). I noticed that many "pale Indians" end up dying their hair black, and then growing braids, changing their names, or wearing Indian-looking clothes to emphasize to others the validity of their "Indian-ness." I found that pathetic. After a while, it was like "whatever." And so I got turned off of "being an Indian artist" and left IAIA, or going to powwows (although Irma was there at the one we went to at the AIM powwow in Fort Snelling, and saw my right hand transform into a bear's paw complete with hair and claws as I was dancing....as did dozens of other freaked-out onlookers at Fort Snelling). So to this day, I assert and know I am Ioway and I am descendant of Bear (hey I have the card, the ancestors, cultural knowledge,community acceptance, etc. if that's your bag) but I leave it to others with their own prejudices and issues to decide if I am "Indian" or not. To me, I'm just me. That's hard enough.

So beginning in my late teens I had also began researching my Euroamerican roots, the deep roots, as most of my European ancestors were here in America by the late 1600s and early 1700s (only one Irishman came later, in the 1840s), and I found many strains I have begun to connect with as well. The internet has helped make some genealogical connections to the first Dutch settlers in New Netherlands, Pennsylvania Germans, the first French settlers in New France, Scots-Irish ancestors in the Carolinas and Appalachia, Cajuns, and more. So even though I might not have been born in Montana, even my white side is "old American."

God, Land, Ancestors. How does one find one's way, how does one find or build a path, with those three essential elements? I do not believe in "throwing away" parts of oneself, or taking on someone else's ancestral ways simply because it attracts me or appeals to me. It is within you, but it also extends way beyond you. It is not entirely subjective (subject-centered) but it affects many others, those who came before and made you who you are, and those who will come after you. It is a grand narrative, and you are an essential page of that story. But you are only a page. Without you, the story would be different. But without you, the story would continue.

One can be "adopted" by another, but one cannot "adopt out" oneself. It doesn't work that way in life.

So the first step is take account of yourself as you truly are, as you have come to be, not your wishes. What is Fate?

What do you think about God? What do you think about the Gods? Are these irreconcilable in your own soul? If so, you must choose. If not, you must reconcile them. What do you owe each other? What is the relationship? Where do you go from here? What do you do today?

How about your ancestors? Do you know them? What do you know about them as people? Remember they are always in you, they continue through you. The ones you loved, the ones you hate, the ones you forgot or never knew or who are lost to time. They continue through you. How do you live with that? What relationship and responsibilities do you have, to the living and the dead? What is your family "story"? Who are you really? Who or what is "you"?

What do you know about the lands your ancestors took shape in, were born in? The spirits and substance of that land is as much a part of you as your ancestors are, proven in the ancestral stirrings you may receive in going to a place they knew once but you have never been to. And yet, now you are in a new land, a land that belonged to someone else's ancestors. How do you reconcile that? How do you construct an agreement, a new relationship with the new land, and with those who came before and who are merged already in that land? And the longer you live there, eat from it, take care of it, bleed and bury your ancestors' bones there, then you too are "of that land"...and yet...

Finally, beyond this gradual unfolding, this uniformitarianism of erosion and deposition of identity and responsibility, there are also punctuated equilibrium, cataclysmic events.

One's family is destroyed. One is abandoned or adopted or kidnapped or betrayed. One can be chosen or adopted. Migration, warfare, destruction and splintering and shattering. Bad things happen. Rape, incest, murder. Radical shifts from forces outside oneself can occur, tectonic shifts. And then the earth stops moving, the dust settles, and life begins the process of repair.

And how does this all fit into the idea of God/s, Land, and Ancestors? And what Path results? Where does the Journey lead and what Story is unfolding?

Wakanda and the idea of God

Came across this, which you might be interested in reading. People sometimes say the Indians worshipped various gods before the coming of Christianity, or that Wakanda was simply our name for God, the same concept as in religion today. In researching these things, I came across an interesting passage from "The Omaha" by Fletcher and La Flesche, talking about the idea of Wakanda (the Omaha spelling is Wakonda) in a different and more ancient understanding before the white man came. The words in brackets [ ] are my own.

"An invisible and continuous life was believed to permeate all things, seen and unseen. This life manifests itself in two ways: First, by causing to move -all motion, all actions of mind or body are because of this invisible life; second, by causing permanency of structure and form, as in the rock, the physical features of the landscape, mountains, plains, streams, rivers, lakes, the animals and man. This invisible life was also conceived as being similar to the will power of which man is conscious within himself -a power by which things are brought to pass. Through this mysterious life and power all things are related to one another and to man, the seen to the unseen, the dead to the living, a fragment of anything to its entirety. This invisible life and power was called Wakon'da"

[Thus Wakanda is within all things, both visible and invisible, things that are matter/structure/solid and things that are movement/energy/power. Wakanda is like our will, our spirit, and in this way it is similar to when the Bible says God created created man in His own Image, as both God and man have mind/will/spirit, not necessarily both having a physical appearance (two legs etc.) the same. And therefore it is also so that the Indian saying "All My Relatives" that we are all related through Wakanda is also true. We are connected to our ancestors, though they are no longer living. And a physical piece of something is connected to that as well, as when people save a lock of hair to remember people by. This is all connected through Wakanda]

While it [Wakon'da] was a vague entity, yet there was an anthropomorphic [human-like] coloring [aspect] to the conception, as is shown in the prayers offered and the manner in which appeals for compassion and health were made, also in the ethical quality attributed to certain natural phenomena -the regularity of night following day, of summer winter (these were recognized as emphasizing truthfulness as a dependable quality and set forth for man's guidance) -and in the approval by Wakon'da of certain ethical actions on the part of mankind. [So although Wakonda did not look like an Old Man in the Sky, Wakonda still had a human-like ability to listen and respond to prayer and in the expectation that people behave the right way].

Human conditions were projected upon nature, and male and female forces recognized. The Above was regarded as masculine, the Below feminine; so the sky was father, the earth, mother. The heavenly bodies were conceived as having sex; the sun was masculine, the moon feminine, consequently day was male and night female. The union of these two forces was regarded as necessary to the perpetuation of all living forms, and to ma's life by maintaining his food supply. This order or method for the continuation of life was believed to have been arranged by Wakan'da and had to be obeyed if the race was to continue to exist. In order to keep this belief alive in the minds of the people, it was symbolized in religious rites and in social usages and organization." (Fletcher and La Flesche, The Omaha, pages 134-135).

[Thus while the Great Mystery Wakanda was above, beyond, within everything, this is the idea that Mother Earth and Father Sky, Moon and Sun, Night and Day sustained our lives and life of everything on earth that we might live. And our arts, ceremonies, clan structures and all were to remind us of this interrelationship, and keep us connected, and behaving rightly and ethically to each other and everything on this earth that we depend on, so that Life on Earth, including we human beings, would continue to live. -Lance Foster]


PS. I was just sent this article on FB about the Zero Point Field in physics:

Shoot, we Indians knew about this long ago. Remember, "We called it maize?" Well, " an energy field that connects man and matter and continually affects everything and everyone" ...we called it Wakanda :-) Only we went a little further. Wakanda was also intelligent and had will. Give scientific physics a little time. It will get there too ;-)

This also has a hand in why magic can work in many cases. Am I kidding? ;-))

The Most High God and Other Gods

I found this paragraph very useful and I agree entirely. "Many of these spirits are accustomed to being worshiped as gods. Some continue to expect such reverence, others not so much. Bible students will perhaps recall Psalm 82:6 (or John 10:34 for those Christian readers!), wherein the pagan gods are accounted as limited potentates who will, in their own term, be judged by God as are other mortals. In the scripture, they are called gods, and sons of god, but they will ultimately face judgment as men do, presumably to face total destruction or share the common reward."

I think there are gods of peoples, gods of places, gods of offices/functions, etc. The words "god" "goddesses" "angels" "demons" etc. have so much baggage. I like what St. Thomas said about angels: "angel" is an office (function), in this case, "messenger of the Most High" while their nature is "spirit." Daniel speaks of the Prince of Persia contending with Gabriel and others. The Prince of Persia was a spirit of a people (the Persians) and/or place (Persia). Michael was the spirit which was assigned to Israel and as head of the Heavenly Army.

IMHO, gods from Greek, Germanic/Norse, Native American, Celtic, etc. pantheons are the same. Some have never been human. Some were flesh and blood ancestors of an ethnic group who went through apotheosis. Some are anthropomorphized natural forces, elements, rivers, storms, etc. I think ultimate reality is probably even grander than any of us suspect. Some may live for so long that we conceive of it as forever. But others are born, exist and die, like us. Gotterdammerung.

My own evolving theology holds the Most High to be the Creator of All, whether Earth, the Stars, the Gods, the Angels, Human Beings etc. The Most High is beyond our knowing, the Ain Soph. Earthmaker. We only know of the Most High through His works, his creation, and his messengers. We may know of Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through His Prophets like Moses and Mohammed. But my understanding is necessarily human, thus limited. I'm just whistling and kicking a can down the alleyway of eternity :-)

More on Finding Your Own Spiritual Way in the Land You Are In

A question asked: "It sounds like many of you are Americans who draw on the traditions of your non-Native, European ancestors. Do any of you feel in your own practice or that of others that your area or region in the US is developing its own tradition(s)? How much do you feel the area you call home (either where you live right now or where your "heart" is) affects your practice? Are you influenced by Native American practices or things that have arisen in modern times?"

I rest on the three: the Creator (and Helpers), Ancestors (of all my bloodlines), and Land (focusing on the place where I am-- the spirits here, the plants and animals, seasons and phenomena).

So for me, yes, I am informed by the ways of my Ancestors and I honor their culture and wisdom and ways. But those ways dependent on a different ecosystem or seasonal changes, in the Midwest and in Europe. I refer to them but I practice based on the land I am actually in.

For example, there is no sea where I am, so those sea ways I do not follow here. There are mountains and prairies. There are no oaks here. There are Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. There are no megalithic sites. There are buffalo jumps. This land under the Big Sky was shaped by Coyote and Old Man and Sun. The Little People live in the forests and mountains, but here they want tobacco not whiskey. The cycles I celebrate are those of the land itself: this is Berry Moon ending, with the greatest abundance of chokecherries, currants, etc., and soon Deer and Elk will begin the rut, and after that Bear will be returning to the den.

Yet I do enjoy and celebrate Halloween/Samhain/Samhuinn. And Yuletide and Christmas, I celebrate them as one, because FOR ME rejection of Christmas and the Christ, is as silly and blind as rejection of Yule and Mother Holda. I personally need as many blessings as I can get. That's the way the common people were, whether Celts or Saxons during the coming of Christianity, or Native American, before the preachers began saying their beautiful old traditions were of the devil. People respected everything sacred. I venerate Bear and Wolf and Jesus and Mary and Trickster and my Dead Grandparents. I do it all, because I AM it all. I will not slice different parts of my spirit and life away. You have to be ALL that you are. The whole she-bang, your totality, your wholeness.

That's the way I follow, and it is why neither pagans nor the Church seem particularly fond of nor understand me...but Jesus, Thunder, Grandpa, and Bear seem just fine with it.

Adapting Your Spiritual Path to the Place Where You Live

Someone asked this question on a forum I read: "If you follow a European based tradition, but live outside of Europe, how do you incorporate the place where you live into your practice? Or, how do you accommodate your practice to the place where you live?"

I am an American and have developed my own way that works for me. The three legs for me of my own beliefs are:

1. Deity -for me, this means the Creator High-God (most indigenous peoples have a Creator-God, which many consider the same as the God of monotheism), and the Helpers (like Thunder, Earth, Night, Ocean, 4 Directions, Sun, etc.), --but many of the deities are also either place-based -like the river goddesses, or were once human ancestors who went through apotheosis in legend and deed, and sometimes are identified with natural elements like Thunder (ex: Thor, Sango) or offices like the Hearth (ex: Hestia, Brighid).

2. Ancestors -my own bloodlines, my DNA going all the way back from our earliest human ancestors in Africa, through numerous European countries, and several Native American tribes. I embrace ALL my ancestors, I don't pick and choose, because I am ALL of them.

3. The Land where I am, where I live now, and its wights, spirits, sacred sites, etc. I do not follow a cycle of the year that does not hold to this land. I do not really look at Europe very much for these practices, although certainly I enjoy reading about those practices and sites, as they do help illuminate some questions I have. Mostly I follow Native American ways for the place-spirits and nature-spirits here. But here in Montana, I don't even look much at my OWN tribal lore for this, because my Ioway tribe lived in the forested woodlands and tallgrass prairies of the midwest and along the Upper Mississippi and Lower Missouri. Instead I look at the lore about sites and land spirits from the lore and traditions of the tribes here in on the East Slope of Montana, the shortgrass prairies, mountain valleys, coniferous forests, and Rocky Mountains. The lore and spirits ARE different. Generic "Native American" doesn't wash.

My recommendations to someone trying to figure out your own path?

1. Worship the Deity/Deities you prefer or have made oath to.

2. Remember and honor your ancestors and their origins, through altars etc., and at the graves where they are buried. The graves where they are buried are your link to the land here; it is where have become American.

3. Read the ethnographies and folklore of the tribes where you live. If you live in Maine, read up on thethe lore and spiritual folklore of the Penobscot, Abenaki, etc., not the Navajo or Sioux. Don't try and copy Native American ceremonies. That is a no-no. Just read up on the rhythm of the land, the tribal calendars of natural processes and events, and the different animals and nature spirits and sites that were noted by the resident tribes to be important to the land where you reside. And every time you move, do this again for the new place you live.

There are some further ideas in an excellent article at AODA's website, called Wildcrafting the Modern Druid.

On the Origins of Gods and Goddesses

May I recommend to you an article by Aaron Leitch about the origins of gods and goddesses, the actions of spirits and magic, and the example of Santa Claus that I read this morning. Some very trippy and interesting conclusions. I like this essay as it filled in many blanks for me. Leitch has very well verbalized what I have been grappling with for some years. I heartily recommend it:


So where did the old culture gods and goddesses come from? Us. Literally, apotheosis. But they did/do exist, and are higher on the "spiritual foodchain". However they are not the Creator, the Source, the Maker of All. No, not the same as an old man with a beard in the sky, though one can certainly visualize God that way if that is your preference. The Creator/God/Most High has no form, is beyond understanding and form. Not so the Old Gods and Goddesses, though they are beyond merely human.

Leitch does a great job of describing this human to god transformation. They were all humans who died and who, through generations of ancestor worship, and through domination of weaker social groups by stronger, the stronger social group family spirits became gods, and then Gods. But notice: there still exists the supernatural. These are indeed real spirits, not just aspects of the mind. Solipsism and the belief that magic is simply psychological is ignorance.

Leitch does not talk about the other source of gods: Nature itself. The Thunder, the Sun, the Moon, the Wind, the Earth. And how some of these were personalized/humanized by people. This was the other path taken by humanity, especially those who retained the older hunter-gatherer path. Agricultural/sedentary peoples are associated more with ancestor-worship (amalgamated with natural elements) while hunter/gatherers more with nature-worship, especially in regards to animal and nature spirits. This is my observation based on data in the HRAF (Human Resource Area Files).

The gods and goddesses of human origin (the dead ancestors) did later go through human mythic synthesis with some elements of Nature. Thus Shango the ancient Yoruba king was worshipped as a powerful ancestor and then mythically joined with Thunder in West Africa.

Thor, the ancient ancestor-farmer-hero of the Norse, originally a human hero of a strong social group which would become the Aesir, became joined mythically with the Thunder in Scandinavia. Later the Aesir ancestor-deities would battle with the Vanir ancestor-deities, and become dominant, yet the more-"nature"-focused Vanir were strong enough not to be merely absorbed, but be an almost equal group with the more-"culture"-focused dominant Aesir...reflecting the human concern with the split between "culture" and "nature" (no it did not originate with Descartes!)

It was rare to have Gods and Goddesses in this kind of mode among most of the Native American tribes though. Most were of the hunter-gatherer mythic type, that is, there was less "human-god" types and more "natural-force" types. Among the Ioway, there was not a "god of thunder" or "goddess of fertility," but simply the Thunder (which sometimes could be seen in the form of a giant bird) or the Earth (which one sees in the form of an old lady in some of the mythic stories); Rabbit the culture hero is really a Rabbit and Coyote the antihero/trickster is really a Coyote.

I do know that the great Native American civilizations of the south did have "human-gods" like Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca of the Aztecs. That seems to align with Leitch's theory that city-state civilizations evolve those sorts of deities through agricultural sedentism, growth of population, and the subsequent domination of one clan's ancestors through the ancestors of a stronger clan, and then the increasing elevation of the strong clan ancestor-gods to those of National Gods and Goddesses. This certainly helps explains why there are so many gods in Central and South America, and the multitudes of gods among the Hindus.

But do not take this as "explaining away" the gods and goddesses. This is only an examination of their origins as human beings from the most ancient times. It is not saying they are not real, that they don't have an independent existence apart from us, or that they are not more vastly powerful than we are. The Gods and Goddesses of Antiquity are real as we are...because they WERE us, after all.

Wakanda: "Gods" and "Spirits"

Someone in another forum posted they had heard that the Native Americans don't have a word for "God".

There were around 300 Native American (NA) languages north of Mexico at the time of European contact in 1492 (so we aren't counting those of Mexico or South American such as Nahautl of the Aztec or Quechua of the Inca) of which there are perhaps 100 or so left (and some may only have ONE elderly speaker alive). These languages were often as different from each other as English and Arabic or English and Japanese. Much more different from each other than Greek and Irish for example. So one cannot really say there was no NA word for "god" because there was no one NA language. Of course it also has to do with what you mean when you say the word "god."

The word "god" has a lot of baggage. It originated in the Germanic language family (including English) supposedly as meaning "to call or invoke." The words god/gott/etc was chosen as a Gothic translation for the Greek "Theos" in Wulfila's Gothic translation of the New Testament. Lots of translations and baggage with that word "god."

Here's a couple of examples. In my tribal language, we have two words we use, wakanda and Ma'un. Wakanda is something mysterious, a god, a deity, a power. Literally, it means wa- "something", "kan" that which is so old and mysterious it is beyond knowing, and -da "to be located in a place." Thus the Great Mystery. Our language is Siouan and similar to Lakota and their word Wakan Tanka has much the same meaning. Our word for the Creator is Ma'un, which comes from ma "the land, the soil, the earth" + 'un "to do or make": the Earthmaker. So do those words Wakanda and Ma'un mean "god" the way everyone means "god"? Perhaps. At least many modern people in my tribe say "Wakanda" when they refer to "God."

But in our older tales, Wakanda also meant the Thunder. It was applied to Wakanda in the water/ rivers. A man could even become a Wakanda in some instances. There was a friendly Woman called Nunwakanda, "the Fairy of the Woods."

But we didn't "worship" any of them the way Christians/ Muslims/ Jews worship God as a King or something. We made offerings and kept good relationships, and made sacrifices to drive away illnesses or made vows to achieve special favors. We would "thank", we would ask for favors, such as success in hunting, and always be humble and appreciative. But we never praised or glorified or sang "Hosanna."

At best, Wakanda such as the Creator or Grandmother Earth were favorable to us, their children, and we loved them, honored them, thanked them. The model was of children to father, mother, grandparents.

Some Wakanda were random, unknown, such as Wakanda in springs or cliffs, and those we treated respectfully as you would a stranger who you did not know was good or bad yet. You got to know them by what happened to other people who met up with them. If they were nice, you made an offering of tobacco or some such, and tried to gain favor and help. If they were not nice, you avoided where they were located and took the long way home.