I had a request to talk about offerings to spirits! So, let’s tackle that.
When one does work with other beings, it’s always a good idea to have some sort of exchange, or an offering of good will. When I hike, I like to make three offerings. One at the base of the trail, asking for a safe hike, one at the top of the mountain as a way to honor how majestic it is, and one at the end to thank the mountain for the safe trip. It’s certainly not a necessity. Most people just hike and they’re just fine. I think it’s more polite to offer to the mountain or trail, as well as it sets the mood for the hike. I’m not there just for a walk that I can do anywhere. It’s a pilgrimage, and the mountains are living beings to me.
When doing ceremony, offerings are an important part. Ceremony is usually to honor, or to ask help in something. If you go into that expecting that you deserve help for nothing, or just your presence is honoring enough, is a little short sighted. Offerings give us perspective in our place of things, that we are not the top dog that the universe bows down to. Instead, it creates a give and take.
In short, it begins a relationship.
I believe it’s an important part in communicating with things that aren’t necessarily considered as communicative… or, such as in the case of the mountain, alive. When I began to work with the drum, I was reminded to make an offering to the drum, to warm the drum to me. In the work that I do, everything is assumed to have some sort of spark of consciousness. How we interact with that spark of consciousness can change the way we act in the physical world.
When it comes to what you offer, I find that intuition can play a large part in it, as well as tradition. I usually stick to herbal offerings, but some people use coins, hair, or whatever their specific tradition calls for. We all know about the idea of animal sacrifice, something that has played a role in a lot of cultures. While definitely not something that is considered in our continent, it still does have a place in other parts of the world, where the animal is ritually done in, then eaten usually by the community. If you are a meat eater, and this idea rubs you the wrong way, you might want to take a moment and reflect on the non-sacred killing of animals that happen so that you may have a burger. There’s a lot of weight on that subject, though, and further discussion would take a blog or two on it’s own. I’ll say that I don’t have any animals I’m raising for meat right now, and blood seems to me to be a little too dark to offer to spirits I work with.
The offering I do often use is tobacco. It runs on the idea that tobacco has had its place as a sacred herb to indigenous folk, and the land recognizes it as something that is a sacred gift. People use cornmeal and sage for similar reasons. The intuition comes in when you add herbs to the mix. I had a surplus of Sweet Annie Herb a year back, and it felt right to add that to my offering mix. It had a pleasant smell, and it was something that I grew.
Another offering that I like is one of music, or spoken word. Even singing to a mountain, as silly as it might sound, can be a magical experience. It adds extra vulnerability, and one that I love to mix with an herbal offering.
There is also specific offerings to the spirits, plants, or land formations that you are working with. I was taught that it is traditionally proper to offer white flowers to water spirits. There are great cleansing herbs, like cedar, that are appropriate to offer to a fire. If I’m headed to a specific place to make an offering, I keep what I’m working with in mind, and try to feel out what that space would like. That can begin the conversation, and I like to think that the land appreciates that extra effort.
And that’s all I really have to say about offerings. I’m going to head out an enjoy the beautiful sun that’s poking through the clouds outside, maybe make a little offering to the spring that supplies our house’s water.
Cultivating gratitude for the sun and running water
-The Green Mountain Mage