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.
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?
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.
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
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?