(That’s a direct quote from me on a completely unrelated matter, but it fits so there you go.)
I think I’ve really come up with a spot for Monsieur Ghede. I have this entertainment center that serves no function in my small ass apartment. (Since the towers are so heavy and the floors aren’t level…) It’s been home to pictures and knickknacks, mostly, which was its initial intended purpose. I can easily clear these items off and leave a decent home to my space-conscious friend. Besides, I don’t have many of my knickknacks out since a lot were damaged in transit up north and they’ve been relegated to the garbage can in the sky. So, this should solve the space issue… And, also, Papa Legba will be happy again.
I’m planning on this epic move tomorrow since it will be in service to Papa Legba, whose day is Friday.
In the mean time, an interesting post was put up on TC about perishable offerings. I’m all for helping other people who are new to certain areas, so I of course had to add my two-cents. The questioner was inquiring about what to do with perishable offerings because she had done so, for the first time a few nights back, and wasn’t sure what to do with the leftovers. I gave her my opinions based on the experiences I have accrued in serving the lwa and being devoted to the gods. After some back and forth about rot (since I explained that the lwa will tell me when to get rid of the offerings), I finally felt that I explained things adequately to her (and to myself).
Well, firstly, the only beings that want me to leave offerings out for an indeterminate amount of time are the lwa, specifically Papa Ghede. They need the sustenance that I provide in order to manifest. It’s essential to everything that they are to give this offering. This is why it’s around for as long as it is because they’ll take every little particle that they can get from said offering. And since I offer it to them, they also have a tendency to keep things longer than you would expect.
For example, I gave Papa Ghede some peanut butter toast with hot sauce on it. And after a week or more, it still hadn’t started to mold. He was done with it prior to it molding, but still. Now, of course, it’s possible that his altar space just didn’t have the right conditions for molding to start to happen right away, but I’d like to think that it had to do with him and his desire for said offering.
Secondly, I should have been more specific when I said that “beverages just stay there.” What I meant was in regards to hard liquor, not milk or juice. I’ve never offered beer or wine so I couldn’t say what the shelf life is on that. FWIW, the lwa love the hard liquor and my goddess, Sekhmet, is a big fan of tequila. You can always ask Epona if she’d like to try some of the harder liquors out there, or if she’d like to keep up with the wine. If after three days you started to smell something, and since it was Epona who wanted this offering as opposed to a hard-talking, joke-making lwa spirit, then I would think about reverting said offering on a daily basis. The gods of the sewers are your friends.
The only beings who have ever asked me for milk has been the gods and in that, rarely. With the goddesses, I’m given permission to whisk away offerings a lot sooner than I would be with the lwa. Also, I really do try to handle the offerings that I give to each entity in a different context, based on what they want or what they’ve said they want at any given moment.
The gods don’t require the offerings in the same manner as the lwa spirits do, either. It’s more of a “hey, you’re great; lemme show you with this food that I give you” as opposed to “I need this nourishment” kind of a thing.
If I give milk to Hwt-Hrw, she’ll ask me to revert it within a few hours of it being left out and replaced with something else… tea or a girly drink. (She likes cocktails.) Or some other form of service. If I give milk to Sekhmet, the time period is about the same, and I’ll replace it with something like her tequila, or the promise of some form of service. Also, if the gods decide that they want to have milk around on a regular basis, I can use items of the offering to give to them. (I think this is a sympathetic offering… I can’t remember. Darkhawk, Nehet, and Devo are a veritable founts on all of this, if you’re curious.) So, say they want me to give them some milk and then just leave it there. In their cases, if I’m overly worried about rot (and I would be with milk), then I can get a dollhouse scale item of a jug of milk or something and utilize that as the offering.
Like I said, the gods need and the lwa need for offerings are on two different scales. And it’s an odd learning curve.
I was going to edit it down because a lot of it has to do with my responses and experiences with the gods, however, I think the entire response is well worth the read. (Am I tooting my own horn? Er… maybe.) I did bold the two things that I wanted to discuss, in specific.
Before the moment that I had written that response, though, I didn’t fully understand the need for the offerings. I mean, intellectually, I got it: what was being done was an honoring of the lwa. To me, intellectually, it was similar to what I did when I offered to the gods or if I was doing senut for the gods. However, in my heart, I was utterly at a loss. I mean, my gods don’t need daily offerings. They can make due without and have and will. However, the lwa… not so much. They aren’t as far removed from us as the gods and need reminders that they once lived. I think, too, the actual offering itself is needed, as I said, to manifest.
It was in that second in time that I realized a lot of stuff about the lwa and what they need.
“They need the sustenance that I provide in order to manifest. It’s essential to everything that they are to give this offering.”
I know that the Swamp Witch had tried, on various levels and at various times, to impress upon me the need for these offerings (I’m not saying that she beat me in the head with the Knowledge Bat, but she has mentioned the need for the offerings to me a few times in our discussions). And in my head, I understood that it was needed. However, having an intellectual understanding is, as I mentioned above, not quite the same as having an emotional understanding. And after having debated about how to respond to the questions the original poster had been asking me, something just kind of [finally] clicked into place.
Without the offerings, there are no deep interactions in this house. Without the offerings, there is no connection with the lwa. And without those offerings, there is no relationship or service to said lwa.
In all honesty, I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to figure this out. I think a part of it, or a lot of it really, has to do with the fact that I’m coming at this from a gods standpoint. And the way one deals with their gods isn’t the same as one deals with the lwa.
I don’t know if anyone has ever understood or noticed that when I speak of my gods, I talk about what I do for them as a devotion or a prayer. I have not (since I was corrected) mentioned that I am in service to them because I’m not. I’m there with them because I am dedicated to them and because I am devoted to them. Just because that’s the case doesn’t mean that I feel so moved to give them a daily offering, unless asked. However, with the lwa, I am in service to them because they need my help. It’s a little like they’re my boss, they tell me what to do, and I go do it. Whereas with the gods, they say, “Hey… I kind of want this,” and I do it or I don’t, because that is my choice. Again, I don’t have the same choice with the lwa. (They’re persistent little buggers, if nothing else. And besides, I don’t want to anger a lwa spirit!)
And again: without the offerings, there are no deep interactions in this house. Without the offerings, there is no connection with the lwa. And without those offerings, there is no relationship or service to said lwa.
“The gods don’t require the offerings in the same manner as the lwa spirits do, either. It’s more of a “hey, you’re great; lemme show you with this food that I give you” as opposed to “I need this nourishment” kind of a thing.”
I consider the gods as removed from the planet earth and I’m pretty sure that’s true. There are a lot of myths all over the place about how they once ruled on this planet (such as Re during Zep Tepi) but have since retired. I consider them in another plain of existence, but they stop by to take a gander at what all of us are doing in their names. Or, you know, just to sight-see. Or, to pick up new followers. Etc. Etc. So, when I’m doing a devotional to them, such as when Sekhmet has asked that I do senut in her name, then it’s not essential. It’s not tantamount to anything other than the relationship I have with her.
However, the lwa spirit were once living beings. (Again, something that the Swamp Witch has told me repeatedly, but I only got now.) When we give them offerings, it’s also like we’re reminding them that they once lived among us and that they had access to this stuff on a regular basis. It’s pretty fucking important if the spirit in question requires you to give them such-and-such on a regular basis. In particular, I’m thinking about the Old Man requiring that I give him fresh coffee every morning. Without this coffee, he’d have a hard time manifesting (I feel) to me throughout the day or making himself known. It’s like how you get a sugar rush after demolishing a candy bar. You need that extra umph to get shit done.
It’s as I type this up and try to figure out exactly what the hell that I’m trying to convey here that the final statement, “Like I said, the gods need and the lwa need for offerings are on two different scales,” really makes more and more sense. Obviously, it made sense when I was responding to the original poster, but it becomes clearer with every word that I type.
It’s a balancing game, as I wrote about in my last post. And it’s a difficult thing to constantly maintain that balance. Each being wants my attention at any given moment, and as I said, often there is a demand from two separate spheres at the same time. However, conversely, it is also easy to balance between the two because they are on two separate levels. I have a high level for my goddesses who require my attention and a lower level for the lwa who require my attention. I am more in tune with the lwa because they are closer to this level of existence than my gods. I am in tune with my goddesses because I have taken the time to maintain our relationships.
So what am I trying to say here? What is this new thing that I have learned?
I’ve learned that I cannot not give offerings to the lwa.
I’ve learned that I had better get into senut for Sekhmet unless I want to sacrifice that relationship (which I don’t).
I’ve learned that Papa Ghede really needs his own space.
I’ve learned that I can do the balancing act.
And I’ve learned a little bit more about how things work.