The Gods of Tahawus
Written by Makayla Manning
This story is a short tale about a girl on a camping trip with her family. Her family has the tradition of practicing a ritual every morning when they are out camping. Curious about the purpose of the ritual the girl asks her father about it.
Keywords: Family camping ritual, coffee offering, Earth
“How did you all sleep?” my mother asks as we all eat our breakfast and get situated around the campsite.
“I slept like a log. The peace and quiet out here makes it easy for me to sleep,” my brother responds.
I open my mouth to answer my mother’s question, but before I am able to speak my father stands up and walks towards the stove. My whole family goes silent and we direct our attention to him. This is a ritual that we have all become familiar with and now know to pay attention to my father when it starts.
He grabs the coffee pot that was brewing on the top of the stove and walks over to the edge of the campsite. He holds the coffee pot straight out in front of him with his right hand and places his left hand over the lid to hold it in place. He slowly tips the coffee pot so coffee pours out in a thick brown steam and lands on the ground. Father looks up towards the morning sunrise as he continues to pour more coffee out and says in a clear and calm voice “Here’s to the gods of Tahawus.” After the poured out coffee makes its mark on the land as it creates a trail towards the river, my father pours a cup for himself and for my mother.
This is a ritual that I have seen done multiple times throughout my life and have learned that it is something of value to my family. I see it as something that relates us back to our ancestors and is a way for us to give thanks to the land for letting us use it. Although, I have never been sure of the reasoning behind the pouring of the coffee.
“Why do we always pour out coffee during our morning ritual?” I asked my father shortly after this morning’s ritual was complete. “Is it something that your father had taught you and his father had taught him that connects us to our ancestors?”
“No, it just seemed right,” my father replied and when he did my heart immediately sank a little. I had hoped this would be a connection that I had to my ancestors and there was a meaningful reason that we had been practicing it all of these years. I stormed away from my father because I was upset with the answer that he had given me.
I went to the river and sat on the row of rocks that lined the river bed. I slipped my shoes off and let my feet dangle in the mucky water that the trail of poured out coffee had merged with the morning. I had been sitting there only a short while when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see my father looking at me with a peaceful smile.
“You did not let me finish,” my father informed me as he sat down on the rocks beside me. “The pouring of the coffee started out as a way to get the grounds that were stuck in the spout out before we poured our own cup to drink.” Hearing this did not make me any less upset. It was as if he was telling me that everything I have ever known to be true was a lie. I felt like my whole family consisted of frauds.
“But as time went on there were no longer grounds in the spout that needed to be cleared,” my father continued. “It started to become a symbol of respect. A way for us to show our thanks to those who have lived here before and to the land for supporting our ancestors and ourselves. It became our offering to the Earth that has provided us with everything that we need to survive.” When my father finished neither of us spoke for a while. I was trying to comprehend what he had said.
“I thought it was a thank you to the land, but it is more than that isn’t it?” I finally asked after some time of silence.
“Yes, it is a thank you, but it is also an offering. This Earth has given us many amazing things, the least we can do is give it an offering in return.” After saying this my father rose from his spot on the rocks and extended a hand out towards me. “It is getting late, let’s head back towards the campsite.” I reached out, grabbed his hand and helped myself up from the rocks. Then we walked back towards the campsite.
The next morning started as it always does. Mother asked brother and I how we slept, we responded as we ate our breakfast, and paused to watch father as he rose and walked towards the stove. He picked up the coffee pot and began to walk toward the edge of the campsite. Before he reached the edge, he stopped to turn and looked at mother, brother and I sitting by the stove. He looked at me and smiled.
“Would you like to join me?” he asked. Hardly containing my excitement, I jumped up and hurried over towards him. He handed me the coffee pot, I grabbed it with my right hand and placed my left hand over the lid then raised it out in front of me. I began to pour the coffee out of the pot then paused to look at the sun rising in the distance. I looked at father smiling down at me, looked back at the sun and calmly said, “Here’s to the gods of Tahawus.”