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 ) But is the practice leaving offerings something that is outdated and what are some of the reasons we might choose to do this?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.