Making Offerings To The Gods

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One of the things that I have added to my practice over the last several years is to give offerings to the spirits, the Ancestors, and the Gods who inhabit my world and who I work with .Before I left for Kaleidoscope gathering in Canada this year, I ‘put my working altar to bed’. I tidied and dusted it, put the skulls away and requested that the spirits rest but be watchful while I was away and in turn promised to bring them back gifts if they would do so.  I did not want my house sitter to feel uncomfortable while she was staying but I also wanted my house to be protected.  Apparently I was so successful at this that my cat, who it could be said, is also a spirit, also spend the entire month in the hall cupboard and only came out when my lovely house sitter was asleep or out of the house.. but I digress

Offerings to spirits, ancestors and gods is not a common practice in New Zealand, and to be honest the first time I came across it in any real form was when I first travelled to Kaleidoscope Gathering, in Canada, in 2011.  At the opening ritual I watched MA and Auz poor mead, honey, milk and offer an apple onto the pile of stones as offerings to the spirits, ancestors and gods.   I was overcome, not just by the weird direction of the casting but also by a strong feeling of rightness. This was a way to honour and in essences feed those spirits, gods and ancestors who have been invoked.  This was also a way to create a relationship with the spirits and god that you work with.  It was about reciprocity, and interacting with the Gods and spirits in a very physical way.

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It was one of those moments where a thing happens, and you know that you must pay attention because there is something here but that something is not realised until later. That realisation did not happen until I was back in New Zealand attending a local Sabbat ritual.  The directional spirits had been invited and had candles lit, the Ancestors had been honoured vocally, and the Gods had been invoked, but nothing had been given in return. No mead, no milk, no honey or wine had been poured onto the ground or left in offering to the land, or the spirits, or the gods or ancestors. And this felt wrong.  It felt like something had been left out.

I know that giving offerings to the spirits was something that I felt compelled to do after attending Kaleidoscope Gathering.  The action itself creates a more conscious relationship between me and the spirits that I work with.  It creates a relationship of give and take, respect and acknowledgement and it deepens the connection I have with the land that I live in and ultimately deepens my spirituality and path.

As we are Witches, Druids, Wiccans and Pagans it would follow that we believe in something bigger than ourselves that is in essences sentient.  Therefore it would be important to create a relationship with these beings, we are after all magical workers, and like I read somewhere, would you ask a stranger to hold you bag while you used a public restroom, or would you ask a friend?  So it would follow that you will get better results in your magic work if you have a relationship with the spirits and gods that you work with.  And to help create this relationship why not give offerings in thanks?

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If you invite one or many spirits, or ancestors or gods to attend you during your ceremony, rite and or ritual that you would in turn honour them, give them thanks by giving them something in kind, to create a reciprocity, one kind act following with a returning kind act, Right?   And that honouring can come in the form of something physical, such as mead, and not a drip of mead, but a good helping, maybe even a bottle because these are sacred beings after all right?

So, I have asked myself,  how much is ok to offer to the spirits, or ancestors and Gods, do the amounts vary, what do we offer them, can we then share or eat what has been offered or is that now allowed. Does it always have an alcohol component, because from what I have observed alcohol is one of the most common things used in offering. So many questions and in and of itself a seemly simple idea can be quite complex.

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At KG this year while Grey a fellow hedgewitch and I were wondering down the path towards the spiral to have a talk with the Horned Lord, the subject of offerings was discussed amongst the other things we were talking about. I was at the time wondering to myself What do you offer if you don’t really drink, as the traditional offerings at KG have been wine mead and beer, something alcoholic in nature, because actually neither of us where huge drinkers. As I was thinking this, Grey commented that she buys alcohol, not so much so consume but instead to offer to the spirits and gods that she works with.  A mind reader that Grey.  But it dosn’t have to be alcohol , with a bit of forethought and research, what is appropriate, and how much would be pretty easy to discern.  For me it depends on what type of relationship I want to create, and what I am honouring the spirits and gods for.

It was also during this year’s Kaleidoscope Gathering that I came to the conclusion that offerings are in many cases a form of sacrifice. Offerings are something that is not causal, not the worst, but something that is the best, or something that you have specifically chosen to offer, or in this case made room for in your budget to buy the required item, in essence a form of sacrifice.

To my mind an offering should be a conscious effort rather than just a passing thought, or something that has no value, as such. Neither should an offering be something that is unachievable, nor something that goes against who you are.  But it should be a something that is worthy of who you are offering it to.  For instance at the Horned Lord Ritual, the participants gave the best wine, Mead that they had made, wonderful flowers and pounamu that had been carried from the other side of the world.  These gifts where mighty and given with intention to honour The Horned Lord, as he is the Witches God and it was a witches ritual

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For me since getting back from KG I have made a conscious effort to make sure that my house spirits are given offerings, of fresh water and the occasional Cider. The cider offering usually happens on a Saturday night when I get fish and chips from the local fish and ship shop, and then I stop and buy a bottle of cider, which I in turn share with my house spirits. I fill the earthen wear goblet that I found for them and the rest I drink. I has become a bit of a family affair as I now have a saucer that lives under the couch, that I use to give my cat little bits of fish with, as she is one of those odd cats who will only eat food that is in her bow, or in this case saucer. In a sense, I am also honouring with the bits of fish I give her as she is a bit of a house spirit to, as it turns out

So do you give offerings to the spirits and gods you work with? And if so what do you give?

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7 thoughts on “Making Offerings To The Gods

  1. Polly, thank you for sharing. I love that you take so much back with you after visiting with us. I look forward to your next visit. You still owe me a visit at my camp for tea!

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  2. In my practice, the offerings I leave depend on the spirits I am making an offering to. When it is a known ancestor, I try to offer something that they liked in life. Otherwise, I try to pause for a moment and see if something comes to mind. Something from the earth or made from something from the earth is common, such as fruit, grain (such as cornmeal, bread) etc. It’s extra special if you leave something you have made yourself. But in a pinch if I don’t have a lot of time, incense is a traditional and great offering. As for eating the offering – if you have actually made the offering and left it on the altar, then do not eat it. Dispose of it preferable by burying it, but I compost it as well. If, for example you make a pie and offer a slice to the spirits, you can still eat a remaining piece of pie. My rule is, if it has been left on the altar, you do not eat it. This is what I know so far….

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  3. I am an initiated Wiccan but when I met some Druids and went to one of their rituals that was when I first came across leaving offerings to the 3. The 3 being Gods,Ancestors and Land Spirits. Like you this just felt right to me. So now I build a fire for outside rituals and put my offering in the fire for Gods and Ancestors but pour my offering for the Land Spirits on the Earth. For the Gods I offer homebaked goods or a chalice of wine, or beer. For Ancestors always beer. Beer being one of the oldest drinks on Earth to my mind anyway.( I think of the Egyptians brewing their beer etc.) Land Spirits always get milk and honey. If weather does not permit outside rituals I light 3 or 4 charcoal disk made for incense in my cauldron and spinkle a portion of the offerings on them but after ritual take and leave the rest of the offerings outside. Blessed Be and thanks for your article.

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  4. This was an awesome read – and turned up at just the right time! I was just wondering what to do with my altar since I’m still such a little witchling I haven’t had a vacation yet since I started making offerings. I mostly followed my gut with my offerings; right now, I offer seeds, cereals, and bits of the breads and cookies I bake (if I bake any that day) to the spirits of our home, and of the land. In the morning I go out with my bowl and I scatter it out for the birds and the squirrels that visit our property and with each handful I try and think of something I am grateful for that day. If the birds and critters are there to feed, often I’ll sit and watch them for awhile. Its come to be one of my favorite daily rituals.

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  5. In my practice, it is important to leave fresh water on the altar for the spirits. For one of my spirits, I leave her offerings of sunflower seeds and honey.

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  6. First up, hopefully it goes without saying that all offerings need to be ecologically friendly (in leave no environmental trace, not as in local wildlife will clean it up). So with that cavaet;

    Some spirits and deities, if you’re dealing with the real thing will have preferences. Chances are if you’re talking Loa, then rums and alcohol are the way to go. If it’s Thor or Odin (or one the many similar named ones) then meads, beers and hearty drinks are going to be appreciated. Just because you might not do alcohol, they are themselves so you offer your guests the best you can – it’s a hospitality thing.

    Next on to the thanks thing. I was taught never to offer “thanks”. Especially to Fae or Nature spirits. It’s considered a termination of a deal and/or a release from work. This is partly because they are working on something specific or in concourse for a particular focal purpose, one which has enough merit and strength/clarity to bring them into this realm; saying “thanks” is /end , it also signifies “completion meme” so if you haven’t set your relationship up properly or given their due or arranged for the bus home then you’ve just made a faux pas, and/or a bored/unfocused being hanging about.

    Which is the pretty much opposite to dealing with some spirits and human dead, whom expect thanks for even showing up as a sign of respect/honor.

    Demon/angelic work, it can be almost random based on the engagement of the individual. Anything from ignoring the thanks as beneath them, to insult at the “offering/bartering for favours”…think of it a hit like offering a cop $100 as thanks for letting you off the ticket…. Your rules and worldview aren’t the same as theirs.

    But I will say one thing that is universal… Expecting that one is entitled to something for nothing, is the absolute best way to offend everything across the spectrum.
    bully, demand, plead, beg, contract, trade, ask … all might work for some, but invite a guest for a visit and not be a good host…phew….it is one of those things that truly shows ones’ character…

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  7. Just remembered another one:
    Reason for not saying “thanks” or giving “thanks” especially to fae, is that it can signify recognition of a service rendered, placing you in their debt – and if that debt is called in (and chances are you didn’t specify it’s boundaries) you better be ready and willing to pay up (or else !)

    That’s why “thanks for coming” is a risky phrase on it’s own, and must if said, be balanced by a limited offering !
    You’ll often see in the Old countries far more vague greetings and turnabouts (answering things with questions, vague observations, routine phrases) all which avoid that “I recognise you’ve rendered me a service” declaration.
    Eg rather than “thanks for coming”, use “I hope your trip was pleasant” and “It’s good to see you” and an ever favourite ‘take this freely given gift” or “let me share this with you”. Far safer.

    Of course if one is dealing with such beings on a regular basis, and they’re the real deal… a good step is to carefully inquire into what is considered polite behaviour (don’t ask what they would want, lest that indebt you to providing it, or for them to provide the answer to you (which would be an open offer to trade, and they may deliver goods before “invoicing” you as often polite folk think if you must declare the price it is an insult to the wealth of the client…. There is no requirement of “informed consent” in many of these places – you are your Word )

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