I've gotten many requests to write about offering in their many forms and meanings. I will attempt to cover a bit about it in this entry.
Food offerings are something basically unheard of here in America and, surprisingly, they are seldomly used in the Pagan practices here. With all of the emphasis our beliefs place on reaping and sewing, planting and harvest, the cycles of life, we don't offer any of this harvest to our deities or guides!
Food stuff offerings are commonly practiced in Buddhism, the Navajo, Hinduism, Bali, Africa and, honestly, much of the world. Why, we here in America (a place where we have much more than the majority of the world), do not adopt this practice, I do not understand. Some of the poorest areas of the world understand the concept and practice of offering.
Offerings are a physical form of gratitude. As many of you know, from reading my blog, gratitude is the fundamental principle in my beliefs and practices. Without gratitude, one will never be fulfilled.
As humans we have emptiness of want. We eat, and buy things, and indulge to fill it. Finding that once we have obtained what we coveted, we are still empty because there is always something more to want.There's more food, the newest phone, the hottest gadget, the most "in" clothing.
"If I only had ___, I'd be set!". The want is the problem, not the lack of means to obtain it. If we can not learn to be happy and grateful for what we already have, our want to obtain what we do not have will chase us forever. One will never be full if they have not emptied themselves of wanting.
This is a very large part of why "magic" or "spells" don't work for people. If they don't get exactly what they want, when they want and how they want it, then they see is as a failure. That the gods did not listen to them. We live in a time where if what we have or what receive doesn't please us, or fit us exactly, or work perfectly, we throw it out and get a new one. I can promise you, we do not control deity or spirit. We will not decide what we get no matter how specific or hard we work that gris gris. By thinking that we will determine the goal, we are throwing out everything we have been given that we just couldn't see. We were too consumed with our own idea of what the answer would look like that we turned the answer away.
After too long of doing this, we may find, we don't hear our guides like we used to. We may find that, to them, it seems as if we've been crying wolf all along. They keep showing up and we keep looking right past them...
Although offerings should be made for NO reason at all, other then to give, they are often made as a gesture. A gesture of "I am giving you what is valuable here on earth in exchange for your blessings". If you haven't made a physical offering before, you will probably start out here, because there is a set give and take, a "reason" to do it. Over time, you will find you leave offerings from the heart, not to receive something in return...which is when the REAL magic begins...
You can find many lists of correspondences by searching the internet that will pertain to the deity you are making an offering to. Then is it just a matter of finding or purchasing the foods, drinks, colors, that are sacred to them. You then arrange them nicely on a serving plate and in a vessel which are reserved only for offerings, then set these on your indoor or outdoor altar. Speak from your heart about why you are doing this. Don't read incantations or prayers from a book. The heart if what speaks and is what they hear.
Think of the finest restaurant you've been to. Think of the atmosphere, ambiance, and presentation of the meal. What please you, pleases your guides, for the divine is also within you.
If you work with an indoor altar you will want to remove the food after it begins to show decomposition. After all, you are to offer the deities what would please you-and few of us enjoy rotten food and spoiled drink. If you leave it outside, like I do, you let the bugs and animals come to claim it as they are part of this earth and divine in their own rights. Sometimes you will get bugs inside when you leave offerings. Get over it. When the offering is ready to be rid of, take it outside to a corner of the yard, compost, wooded area, or bury it. Return the gift to it's Mother.
The items I always have hand that will work for most deities or spirits are fresh baked bread, fresh flowers, fruit, rum, water, a candle, some incense, and perhaps money or joss paper depending on the spirit or deity.
Water and oranges are important. Many cultures believe the dead love citrus and are always thirsty so at the very least, offer these. Most of us can provide a candle and some incense as well. I set out one stick of incense each day for each person and household I pray for in my community and life. I stick them in the cracks where the wood joins together to form our fence. The smoke is carried throughout the neighborhood, blessing all who smell or see it. You can leave offerings for humans too:) After all, many of our deities and guides were once human. The best friend you have now, may one day be a saint:)
What if you have no way to purchase an offering? Many of the items I offer are foraged for; fresh wild flowers, nuts, berries, stones, sacred woods, etc.These are even more valuable because of the effort, time, and journey taken to obtain them.
It is not about WHAT you are offering but THAT you are offering. Make an effort, actually make a practice your spiritual practice. The world is run by those who show up. So show up and give your deities a reason to show up with you.