Not porn in the woods
January 25, 2017 3:17 PM   Subscribe

I came across a random place setting in the woods, what gives?

This was off the trail in a county park in Northern Virginia. I've seen this before in the same park but about a mile away, a different place setting next to a basket of plastic flowers.

Is there any cultural or religious practice that would explain this, or is it just a rando putting plates in the woods?
posted by peeedro to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Looks like a general memorial kind of thing.
posted by tilde at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


I would guess just a random thing (and we did a kind of similar thing with a gingerbread house this Christmas just for fun), but can't of course rule out any deeper local significance.
posted by rpn at 3:26 PM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


It looks like a fairy-table to me, a plate you adorn with flowers and food for fairies to eat off of during the night. This could be some sort of variation.
posted by FallowKing at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's a fairy table.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:36 PM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Feeding the spirits is a pretty common practice in various animist traditions.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:02 PM on January 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


Kinfolk/Instagram enthusiast.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


My guess is "someone trying to create some kind of whimsical moment for their significant other." They set everything up in the woods, then go get their schmoopie to just "go for a walk in the woods" and just so happen to bring them by and "wow, look at this, a lovely table setting just sitting here! Let's have a picnic!" And then ten minutes later a team of musicians "just happens" to wander by and serenades them or something and it ends up with a proposal or something wacky like that.

You maybe just happened to come across something pre-set while the dude was running to go get his girlfriend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:19 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I spent a year at a fairly hippyish college, The Evergreen State College in Olympia, and they have a huge forest that runs from campus down to the Puget Sound. I would find wacky stuff just like this all the time in the woods.

I always considered them pop-up art installations.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:50 PM on January 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yeah, my instinct was the same as Empress' - that this is pre-set for an engagement ask (or prom date ask - I hear they go crazy for this these days).
posted by Miko at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Either someone ran away from a wedding reception and took some of the goods with them or this is ceremonial. While the wine glass and teacup made me think it was something 'romantic' that actually happened between 2 people, the fact that these things have been left there suggests otherwise. It does look like an offering - like the milk and cookies you would leave out for Santa. I have a hard time believing this is not something along the lines of the Law of Attraction or spell-making done by a woman looking for a marriage partner. The items are representational.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:38 AM on January 26, 2017


, the fact that these things have been left there suggests otherwise.

It looked to me like the people just hadn't arrived yet, not that they left. The stuff hasn't been touched and there's an unfolded napkin. It looks set for something about to happen, not something that has happened.
posted by Miko at 6:01 AM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sure. Okay, then I think it's either going to be an offering or a romantic situation with a significant other who doesn't drink. Unless they like their wine in a teacup.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:13 AM on January 26, 2017


Okay, to everyone saying this is some romantic proposal -- there's only one setting? If they were doing the picnic or the proposal, shouldn't there be two settings? And where's the picnic blanket? Why are the dishes all dirty? If it's already happened, the dishes would either be gone (if the proposer wanted their dishes back) or more scattered (if the proposer was willing to sacrifice their dishes for the moment)? I suppose there's a possibility that this is a proposal scavenger hunt sort of thing (eurgh) that is about to take place, but the setting seems too dirty for it to have been just left.

I vote that it's either a half-whimsical offering to the fairies or a spell being cast, as above. There's a community of younger witches (mostly on Tumblr, I believe) where this sort of prop-based spell is the done thing.
posted by AmandaA at 6:46 AM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a Pagan, this looks to me like a spiritual offering. It appears that the place setting has been there for a while, given the tree debris and dirt on the napkins, which makes me wonder if this was a solitary Pagan who held a dumb supper (feast with the ancestors, offering to the dead) for Samhain. Or it could have been a holiday offering for Yule, or for any number of other religious reasons. Or it was just some free spirit who thought it'd be neat and quirky to have a pretty little banquet in the woods.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:27 AM on January 26, 2017


Why are the dishes all dirty?

It was really windy on Tuesday, I think the dirt on everything is debris that was blown on. The tree it's next to is big, maybe 30" diameter, I think that it was used as a windbreak to keep the toile and flowers from flying away.

It rained on Monday but there was no water standing in the cups or in the candle, so it couldn't have been out there that long.

It's on a steep slope, downhill is away from the tree, see how the plates are nested. If you were planning a romantic picnic spot, there are much better choices nearby.
posted by peeedro at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not saying it definitely *is* a Pagan offering but if it is, another possibility is that it's placed out a little early in honor of the season of Imbolc which is traditionally celebrated between now-ish and the first week of February, depending on the practitioner's tradition. Imbolc (it may go by other names in various spiritual paths) marks the waning of winter and celebrates the upcoming Spring (renewal, new growth, uplifted spirit, etc.) I only say that because of the white ribbon & candle; white is the color commonly associated with this season. But, again, no one truly knows why it's there except the person who put it there. As a bystander, it's just an opportunity to enjoy a bit of unexpected beauty and whimsy adding mystery to your day.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


My first thought as a pagan was also fairy offering. Thanks for sharing it with us!
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:27 AM on January 26, 2017


My first thought was a child's imaginary tea party, sans child/'companions.'
posted by porpoise at 12:19 PM on January 26, 2017


In the West, we tend to leave flowers on graves. In other cultures, they leave food at graves. Googling suggests that in practice, the offering of food may not actually be left behind because birds will eat it and make a mess.

So, perhaps a memorial.
posted by Michele in California at 2:27 PM on January 26, 2017


I checked in on the forest plates today and they were gone. There was one red rose there in the same spot. Pagan offerings? Fairyland dead drops? Strange picnickers? Artsy pranksters? It's a mystery.

Thanks for everyone's insights and perspectives.
posted by peeedro at 1:32 PM on January 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


« Older Is monthly therapy worth doing?   |   Reverse Mortgage question(s) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.