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Offerings The Energy of Reciprocating

Offerings are often an integral part of practice for many Pagans (of any variety; witches, Wiccans and more -oh my! ) But is the practice leaving offerings something that is outdated and what are some of the reasons we might choose to do this? I stood over the stove this morning preparing an offering of gratitude when the inspiration for this article came to mind. In this, I’ll tell you how I feel about offerings and what I think about them as I’m sure there are varied opinions.

Offerings are an exchange of energy which may be literal or symbolic. When we make friends, we often first begin by exchanging names. Offerings can help us build relationships through the act of reciprocation. The power of offerings functions like that of magic in the sense that it is not really about the food, the art or whatever we are leaving. It reminds me of the old adage: It is the thought that counts. In this case, it is a bit more than that. It is the thought but it is the feeling, the gratitude, and intention.

Do the spirits really eat offerings? Again, sometimes things are taken quite literally which can be a mistake in acts that are often symbolic and heavily meaningful. It could be argued that spirits partake of the energy of the offering or in a literal sense, animals might eat whatever you leave out (consider that carefully.)

Why Do We Do it?

For many Pagans, the offering is truly about giving back. This doesn’t always take the form of food. An offering can be anything meaningful; a specially prepared dish or treat, a carefully composed piece of music or visual art -even dance can be considered an offering. When something fills me with joy and I feel so grateful there are no words, I use that energy to create an offering. I spend time and energy creating them and then offer that up with the feel-good energy in my spirit.

What Kind of Offering

Now this one is a biggie! I think what is chosen should, of course, be culturally appropriate to the deities/spirits you are choosing to work with. When I first started working with the ancestors I was unsure where to begin. I decided to begin by calling my mother on the phone and ask about the favorite things that some of the elder family members loved. I whipped up a list and made sure that I wanted to connect with these energies. Because let’s face it, not every ancestor is one you want to be working with. That being said, who you are working with might have a preference, ask them.  If you don’t know and have issues getting the answer, then offers something meaningful that you appreciate. In my home, we go through honey as fast as a bee can make it (tea problems lol). So, it isn’t unusual for me to feel value about honey and I symbolically associate it with peace, relaxation, joy, and family. I do think the bees would agree!

What Do We Do With Offerings?

The answer to this pondering lies in who you are and what you do. If you are a garden witch you may just compost your organics into a special heap as offerings to the land. It will quite literally give back fertility and nourishment. If you are a hedge witch that happens to love animals you may just spend time and energy creating an animal sanctuary in your backyard or volunteering at a local animal shelter. If the offering is art you may place it above a shrine or exhibit the pieces in a gallery where the beauty or love is projected to those who look upon them. Offerings may also be hung on special trees, buried in the ground or offered to the flames.  The possibilities are many.

The Gift of Giving

Some final thoughts concerning the meaning of offerings regard the message they send.  My daughter began helping me leave out offerings during the full moon by the time she was five.  She loved having a sweet piece of bread with honey and milk too and she knew she could look forward to getting a little for herself (not those on the offering plate of course!)  Leaving offerings presented a unique opportunity to gift my child with something important because the act of doing so became a living illustration to the younger generation about feeling and behaving in a mindset of gratitude and appreciation to all of the wonders around us.

Men Can Be Witches

The ambiguity of the word witch makes many people feel very uncomfortable and yet, that is what makes it amazing. This morning, I woke up to rather unconstructive commentary regarding how people feel about the concept that a man could be a witch. While historically speaking it has been a stereotyped word with the image of a woman taking central focus, I don’t think men were exempt.  Why you choose the word will ultimately have more value to you than the word itself but that doesn’t mean the word choice won’t have an effect on others.

Now you may be reading this and nod in agreement or reading through just to see where it goes, it is important to say that feelings are relative, subjective and ultimately they relate to the person who is expressing them -they go hand in hand with those fantastic things called opinions. Does a man who refers to himself as a witch somehow impact people negatively? No, of course not.  Will people verbalized their disagreement, opinions and most probably justifications for the choice concerning the life path of another -most certainly.  I am grateful for all of these opinions and how very diverse they are -but they shouldn’t divide us completely.

Men are/can be witches. I don’t feel that is mutually exclusive to women only. The terminology might indicate where you focus or how you feel about magical practice. Of course, what follows is my personal perception/ideas only.  Consider this lens for a moment:  warlocks, for me, has always been a term for someone at odds with themselves magically speaking and are engaged in using magick for purposes of conflict in one manner or another. Sorcerer, Sorceress; a magickal focus without religious overtones. Magus or Magician evokes images of ceremonial work, high magick.  The word witch conjures images of cooking, folk magic, animal spirits, ghosts, skeleton keys, knowledge of plants, dream working.  Wizards are the thinkers, the analyzers, the contemplators.  Meaning, those acts take primary focus prior to any magickal work (and may take precedence over magickal acts altogether.) Wizard shapes visualizations of the wise old hermit, the man in the tower with lots of books, the old wise man in a straw hat with a corn cob pipe (an old dream I had.)  Ultimately, I perceive the wizard as focused on the development and mastery of the mind.  Does that mean the witch doesn’t think clearly? Does that mean that all wizards are old men?  That would be laughable!  Of course not! In Wicca, men are considered not only Wiccan, but if they apply magic to their practices they are also witches.  These images paint the associations that I have with the word, they tell me something about the person (and therein lies the challenge and source of some of the apparent conflict.)  As people of varied experiences, we have differing lenses.  If those lenses are overlayed with others -quite frankly they won’t always match.  Suddenly, we find ourselves faced with a completely different idea about a label, idea, group etc.  What makes it more of a challenge is that the labels themselves are simply not just the images and ideas that come to us.  Often, they are a state of mind, a way of life, a matter of being and walking through life.

Don’t choose to adhere to one lens alone, be willing to consider the very varied opinions and ideas that exist.  The advantage is that it broadens the experience of the individual and promotes concepts such as inclusiveness, and diversity for a very beautifully colored community.  The witch is a powerful symbol -that challenges norms, that sees the magic in the mundane and that is willing to stand defiantly in the face of adversity -but there is always more to a word.  So to the men out there walking magical and/or religious paths, who feel aligned with the term “witch,” remember you have no need to justify how you feel and that you shouldn’t feel threatened to either voice your opinion in positive/constructive ways or simply stand tall and walk your path.

Divination More Than Reading the Future

If you look up the definition of divination on Google you get the answer: The practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means.  I’d like to elaborate on that by defining it differently. In this article, divination is the practice and art of obtaining information not consciously known by tapping into existing patterns of energy (through the use of various mediums such as tarot, runes, tea leave etc) that have the propensity of manifesting -or have already manifested.  Does this mean that using divination can tell us the future?  Well, yes and no.  What divination can do is read energy.  Since the future is ever-changing, it depends on not only our own choices but things out of our control, only part of the pattern is often seen.  Simply put, there are a lot of variables in the way the future unfolds.  Another way to look at it is in this scenario:  A person sits down in front of you wanting to know if they are going to get into Harvard.  The first question should be:  Have they bothered to apply to Harvard yet? If there is no energy put forth to set the pattern into motion, it is unlikely that the divination tool can tap into that clear yes and no.  Exceptional readers may lay the cards and with clarity perceive that there hasn’t been enough groundwork laid to make the inquiry in the first place.

My first experience with divination (1999) involved a woman who was able to use her cards to tell me a secret that no one living knew. It convinced me that it worked, that it was real and more importantly -not all people were charlatans trying to take advantage of people.  My mind reeled with questions.  How could a person pull information from the air or was it from the mind?  Unintentionally, I’d set out on a quest to have a deeper comprehension of the forces behind the skill and art of divination.

There are many forms of divination:  tarot, runes, scrying in stones, black mirrors and colored glass or stones.  To find what works requires dedication and practice.  When I first began, I used tarot.  I later discovered that I preferred oracle, simple symbols and runes to work with. Asking what sort of divination is right for you is the same as asking what kind of channel to use to receive energy that is being communicated to you. Perhaps your style of divination will be reading bones, tea or coffee grounds or even looking at cloud patterns. Ultimately, with a little experimentation and practice, I found what worked for me for divination and what didn’t.  Above, I refer to divination as both a skill and an art; it is so because it requires practice.  At some point, it is possible to develop the ability to read energy beyond the use of the tool which echoes the truth that ultimately, the power comes from deep inside -we just need a little help sometimes to tap into the energy.

Keeping It Simple; Early practices that give magick good roots.

Magick is a wondrous thing! We live and breathe magick every single day -in all that people do, feel, think and say.  I’ve written a little about connecting to the magick in the mundane in my article: “With the Flick of my Finger.”  The difference is that a witch knows it, she/he  feels the rise and fall of it in her bones and takes action accordingly.  I look for exercises, meditations and activities that are focused on concentration, imagination, feeling, and movement and mindfulness.  I see these practices as beyond religious.  Yes, a religious label might be attached or incorporated but the exercises themselves can be practiced without religious connotation.  Practices which integrate with daily life are very helpful in helping me to develop the integrity of the magick that I practice. That being said, for example, you might use art to practice magic, perhaps you are a cook -this too can become a magick act; possibilities are -quite limitless.

Beginning the study of magick can be quite overwhelming.  The mind starts to buzz with all the different kinds of magic:  candle, knot, sigil etc.  Then we get into designations like Folk magic, ceremonial (High) magick, religious and not religious…..some with traditional connections some more eclectic…some more appropriated than others….Oh, so quickly it fills the brain!   So where is it most important to begin?  Since much of magick deals in our ability to imagine, feel and connect, the most important place to begin is with the mind.  What does that mean?  I always like to begin simply.  For example, you might choose set goals:  I will watch my thoughts today and then write about all of the things that I noticed.  I like to combine these works with an element approach. Below, I’ve listed helpful exercises and in parenthesis, I’ve noted which element I associate with that particular work. Ideally, it is better to work these in a lunar cycle (doing each for one whole month.)  You might further ritualize these exercises by choosing to observe at a particular time but too much structure tends to impede me -personally speaking of course. The intention is to simply be “aware.”

Try these things:

  1.  Watch your thoughts for a few days (sometimes a month is a lot to commit to starting out!)  and record what kinds of imaginings, inner speak etc. that you notice.  It is important not to judge them, just write them down.  (Air)
  2. Set your intention to observe your own emotions for a week. (Water)  Be aware of their rise and fall, how it feels to engage with others and the flow of your daily feelings.  Be aware of what uplifted you and what felt draining. Again, try not to polarize the feelings as good/bad etc.  Just observe and record them.
  3.  Here the focus in on the action, movement, what you are doing.  As you are focusing on your actions, it is likely that awareness of thought and feeling will come in.  Acknowledge it when it does and return your focus to the action itself.  I found this one very challenging!  (Fire)
  4. Choose to be aware of your body; the way it feels, where it aches, what makes your body feel good.  When you eat, take your time.  You might simply choose to mindfully eat a meal for a whole week.  Think about where the food came from, how it came to sit before you, what work went into it and what it means for the food to nourish your body. (Earth)

So why awareness and observation?  What is the point?  In observing ourselves, we become aware of our desires, strengths, weaknesses, creative spark, -what direction we really want to move in.  As the season turns to Yule (in the northern hemisphere), the time to go within, these exercises can be quite helpful in helping us emerge into the “new light” of the coming year.  For those in the southern hemisphere, you might consider these exercises a focus of reconnecting to your inner power and improving your connection to self for a slightly altered purpose:  What have a learned about myself that enables me to help others in my community?  In that case, you might instead use the exercises slightly different and be aware of how those energies relate and flow to those around you.

Regular practices with exercises that utilize being mindful and that work your imagination, focus, -even curiosity will help you to recognize your own power, develop it, to know which thing to learn next.  Each person will be proficient in a different area -or perhaps several, go with those revealed talents whatever they might be!

Creating A Magic Home (Cleared and Shielded)

Home is the place we laugh, love, gather, a place of security and an essential sanctuary -or it should be.  A wise witch maintains his/her home and space.  Our environment impacts us -that much is sure.  I giggled the first time I saw Howl’s moving castle.  Granny Sophie told a curious patron that she was the scariest witch -the kind that cleans.

Cleaning is an act of magic and it is a good place to start. Before you begin, consider what you have in your home and how it is arranged.  Does it make you feel good?  Does it remind you of old memories you’d rather forget? Get rid of what you do not need and tidy up as much as possible.     A home should first be properly cleared.  The clearing should be expanded to the property if possible.  If you do not own your home this may not be applicable.  After the home and property are cleared, a blessing is done.  Following the blessing are seals and barrier work. It is important to note that these spells build over time; also consider carefully what you are keeping in and out of your space.

The checklist is complete, the house is cleaned and the old rubbish is out.  Now it is time for a good clearing!   What do I mean by that?  Clearing is essentially resetting the energy in your space -it neutralizes the field so to speak.   At least, that is the way that I think about it. Clearing the home can be done in a multitude of ways (keep that in mind as I describe my own method.)  Clearing should be extended to the property but if you do not own your property (or require a certain level of discretion this may not be possible.) The good news?  There are ways around it!

After the clearing, it is important to apply seals and erect barriers. It is important to note that these spells are built and maintained over time.  Also, consider carefully what you are keeping in and out of your space.  That will be addressed a little later.  What follows is my personal house clearing.

  • Herbs:  Rosemary and white sage bundle (these herbs are high vibration and excellent for clearing work.)  If you do not have them; mugwort, basil, frankincense also work well.  If you are very sensitive to smoke I discourage burning them.
  • A white pillar candle that has been anointed with olive oil and blessed for the working.
  • Blessed  water (sea salt, rosemary, basil, and elderberry) I brew this up ahead of time and let it cool (infusion).
  • Tokens for the front and back doors, and the four corners of the property.  (The tokens I typically use are dimes, iron bits, wood with rune work…)  These items are later used to seal the house and property and in my personal opinion, this is a very important step.
  • Bell

I set my items up in the central part of the home. I ring the bell three times and light the candle. I say a personal prayer to begin the house blessing.  I open the doors and windows if possible (at least one should be open) and I prefer this to be the back door.  I light the herbal bundle and I begin chanting:  Cleaned, Clear, Cleansed away. Here harm  cannot stay, out the door away from me, away from home and family -Cleared are the windows, closets, and doors, cleared are the ceilings the walls and the floors.  Clean and clear is this space, my home is a blessing, a sacred space.”  This chant is repeated as you walk the home from the front to the back, top to bottom and back to the central space of the home.  After the entire home is cleared I perform a blessing.  The blessing begins with water and earth and is completed with air and fire.  I ask for the blessing of guardians, guides, and other energies. Blessings are very personal for me, I encourage everyone to write their own but if you have trouble with words, consider these:  I complete the work by sealing my doors and windows with the infusion.  I use an equaled armed cross on every door (internal and external; locks included) and windows of the home.

“May this home be blessed with the sacred gifts of the Fire; may it warm the hearth and hearts of those who live here and serve us.  Let this home be blessed with the prosperity and abundance of the earth -may our bellies be full and our life and works prosperous. When we most need stillness let it be found within this sanctuary.  By water, this home is blessed,  by the gifts of love, joy and connection.  By the air this home is blessed, here is clear communication, inspiration, and beginnings that help us thrive.”

I complete the work by sealing my doors and windows with the infusion.  I use an equaled armed cross on every door (internal and external; locks included) and windows of the home. Finally, I bury the tokens at the four corners of my property while envisioning a barrier akin to the image of the magic circle (or sphere).  Extra tokens are placed inside the home such as above the doors or hidden in the walls, vents etc. Make sure the clearing has been performed prior to placing these or you might inadvertently trap energies that you do not desire in your space.

It takes energy -hence the work.  However, it is important to care for your space, it is the epitome of the labor of love.  You can build on the protections and blessings as the moon waxes.  If you do not own your property, you can erect the barrier on the walls inside of an apartment to keep energies from above or beside you from leaking through.  A protective stone planted inside of a pot with a plant (such as cactus plants, or holly for example) will aid in shielding your space.  If it suddenly starts to die even though you are taking care of it correctly, consider another clearing.