Sunday, November 4, 2012

Offerings and Whether or Not I'm Doing it Right

What, if anything do you offer to the Gods or to your Guides or to your Ancestors? What do you do with the offering after the ceremony/ritual/presentation? How do you is your offering enjoyed/received and is this always the same reaction? When do you make offerings? Does your deity/guide/ancestor ever make demands of offerings when you had no plans to give them?

I ask because the concept of offerings fascinates me. It seems like every book or ritual I read right now no matter the source, integrates offerings on the most basic level. Usually the offering is some kind of food/beverage. I understand how this idea came about. Most pagans have some value on hospitality, and when inviting a deity into our home or lives or practice, it seems best to offer them something to eat or drink as we would any other guest. Beyond that, if we are asking something from a more powerful knowing being, it only makes sense we offer up something of ourselves in return. How else do we demonstrate respect if we offer nothing when meeting a deity?

My problem with offering food/items to another being is what do I do with this stuff after the ritual is over. Especially food where it can not sit an indefinite time inside and will attract unwanted critters if it's left alone outside. What do people do with this stuff afterward? It seems disrespectful to throw away a portion of something I've assigned to deity and it seems a waste of the food. In the case of my land gods, I suppose I could ritually release my offering to the sewer system, via the garbage disposal, is that like a cosmic doggy bag?

In the case of items I offer to Gods, am I supposed to hold onto all that forever? I mean if I make an offering for ever ritual have that's a ridiculous amount of stuff to build up. With coin and money offerings, should I be able to donate the money after a certain time and which charities would my Gods accept? Am I just going to have a small dragon's hoard of quarters and dollar coins around my symbols of deity, and do my deities even value a concept of human wealth?

Personally, I think I'd like to offer more to my Gods, guides, and ancestors, but I'm unsure on how to implement it. There's a lot of talk about how to offer in ritual, and very little about what to do with the stuff when the ritual is done that is responsible (I don't think leaving food outside or leaving non-organic material outside is responsible and further I don't think most pagans have access to an outside space to worship so this plan isn't really a feasible premise).

What I do offer is often candles and incense. I like the ritual of dressing the candles, blessing them, charging them, and lighting them. A lite candle can give me a focus point in a meditation and it can feel like opening a door into deity. I like the symbolism of offering my Gods light, power, heat, passion, and hope. I can use the size of the candle to dictate the length or a ritual or period I plan to make offerings. The best part about a candle, is that I can just keep lighting it and enjoying it until it burns out, in which case, I may dispose of the candle.

With incense there is a similar blessing, charging and lighting process. The stick lasts for shorter periods than the candle does, and the scent can correspond to deity, mood, or type of offering. Again the best part about this sort of offering is that when it's used, I can dispose if it. I suppose I could store he ashes for some kind of religious use, but if you can't tell from this post, I don't like to collect things either for myself or my deity.

I prefer to make offerings of my time and energy, in the form of meditation, hiking, or wandering sacredly lands mindfully. Occasionally I've been moved to make an offering of writings or sacred words. Those experiences are entirely different than the experiences I have with objects because they are rarer, more spontaneous, and are clearly required by my deity, they're almost puled from me.

With candle offerings, it's a ritual respect thing, the same way I offer someone a drink when they enter my home. Deity, especially the one which values hospitality wants it but Ze doesn't compel it. I often wonder if I'm offering the right things. When I offer someone something to drink at my home, sometimes I can tell they've picked the least offensive of the choices instead of choosing what they wanted to have. I wonder if deity is ever doing that too.

At the same time, I always strive to be the best host I can be, and sometimes it isn't about what is on offer but that someone made the offer regardless of the cost to them.

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Article copyright Swift Rabbit/ Southern Pagan Muses

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