Note: Now, this isn’t everything, you guys. Be on the look out for a 301 post to appear some time this week.
Last week for the PBP, I did a kind of offerings 101 post (my first besides Fallow Time discussions!) and realized that I was leaving a lot out. Honestly, with that last post, I wanted it to be a simple and basic. I wanted to be able to say that you can do this and this and this and worry about the rest of it later. This week, I’m going to continue that post with a few things that I either left out because I am forgetful or because I didn’t think it was something a 101 post should have as content. So, this is the next step to offerings.
How much do I offer the OTHERS™?
Honestly, when it comes to how much, we have to rely on what feels like the best at that particular moment. For me, in the mornings, I give drinks to my OTHERS™ to get their days with me going. This is the extent of it unless I’m feeling otherwise. I go this route because it is the simplest thing I can do before I’ve had enough coffee to make coherent thought. However, it also doesn’t leave me scrabbling around every morning, freaking out because I don’t know what to give them so early. (Ha. I’ll laugh at myself here – “so early” is usually equated to between nine and ten in the morning.) And I’ve gone through that, honestly.
Back when I worked shitty shifts at my old job, I would be up some mornings at about five o’clock in the morning. I would scrabble around to give them something to eat until I was just grabbing whatever entered my hand while I was freaking out in my cupboards. While the gods appreciate the efforts we are putting into this, we also have to keep in mind that burning ourselves out via what we’re giving them, how much we’re giving them, and all of that is absolutely no good. What is the point in doing this if we’re going to burn ourselves out? It’s not worth it. So, if you are giving offerings, don’t worry about how much. Your instincts will tell you what you can handle and how much the gods want at that time. Just listen to yourself long enough and trust in yourself, as well as your OTHERS™.
Now, obviously, when it comes to candles and incense, “how much” doesn’t really qualify. The reason being is because, are you really going to inundate your altar with six incense blends all at once? Are you really going to light six hundred tapers for an OTHER™ and possibly start a fire? And again, when it comes to actions as offerings, it’s pretty much entirely up to your guts on this one. So, say you work with an OTHER™ who has requested that you volunteer at a homeless shelter or a woman’s abuse shelter. How much are you willing to give before seeing and hearing all of that could start to affect you in a negative way? Would you want to go ever day? Or would the OTHER™ in question suffice with a once a month, once a week kind of thing? For example, when I donate blood, I have a specific time requirement for doing this. I can only give once every two months, but maybe after that time is up, I feel that Sekhmet is satisfied with this round of blood donations. So, (as I am currently), I wait until the overwhelming need to donate overtakes me again.
As much as it may suck to realize this, when it comes to the “how much” question you have to rely on common sense and your own judgment. There are some things that others who have been in your situation can tell you, but there are some things that are really up to you, and you only.
How often do I leave offerings?
This is one of those questions where it’s time to hit the books and do some research, either on the tradition that you are following, the traditions of the OTHER™ you are giving offerings to, or merely just sitting down and trying to divine an answer from the OTHER™ itself. Your safest bet, especially as a beginner, would be to do the research of the tradition of the OTHER™ or the path that you are on. As much as you may dislike following a recon style branch of practice, it’s the safest basis for a beginner. The reason being is simply this, if it worked so well when these gods and spirits proliferated the earth, why wouldn’t it still work now?
For example, say you have an altar set up for Hestia in your home. On a daily basis, you give her an offering. This is to bless your home and to continue to have her manifest in your life, as I mentioned in the why section on my first post. Also, you give her the first part of every offering. So, let’s say you have altars set up to Hestia, Aphrodite, and Hermes in your home. And it’s time to get them all a cup of tea and a bit of bread to tide them over. Hestia “has the richest portion,” as quoted from Homeric Hymn 5. You can use that particular quotation to denote that she gets first dibs, but that if you are planning a feast for all three examples stated above, she gets the choicest cuts of meat. And as possibly found in the Homeric Hymn 24, “glorious is your portion and your right.” This could be denoted to mean that not only does she get the first bit of the offerings you are apportioning out, but so too, she gets the first choice of every meal. In regards to the interpretation, it’s entirely up to you, what you are willing to do, and how much you are willing to give.
But again, let’s not quite discount ancient practices. As I said, they worked before, so why not again?
What do I do with the offerings when I’m finished with them?
Again, it’s time to hit the books because maybe, the tradition you are following or the tradition around the OTHER™ in question has that answer for you. In a lot of ancient traditions as well as the African diaspora traditions that are so hot nowadays, you would eat the offerings when you were finished with them. But, also, let’s say you’ve left out offerings to the fairies. You don’t want to eat those. So how do you know? Again, it’s time to do the Google-fu and try to figure it out, or pick up a couple of books that are highly recommended by others of said tradition, and get to reading.
Now, in both of the practices that I follow, eating and imbibing the offerings is normal. However, I don’t do this. The particular reason is simply because I just didn’t think eating whatever I was offering at five in the morning was a good idea for me. I am not a breakfast person – I am a coffee person, who then eats her first meal around noon. So, forcing myself to ingest whatever it was that I was offering was draining me instead of fulfilling me. In regards to the offerings, I would actually break up the bread I would leave for the gods and leave it for the birds or squirrels. I went through a phase where I would walk to a particular wooded area in my neighborhood, and I would leave the offerings there.
But, maybe you live in a busy city and you don’t think that animals proliferate your neighborhood – I had this issue, too. I found that when I was leaving bread in my yard, it was just waiting there until I walked my dogs and they would eat it. So, what then? You can do as I did and try to find a wooded area where you think animals will retrieve the offerings – give back to the earth, so to speak.
Or, and this is actually quite common, you can give your leftovers to the “guardians of the trash receptacle and sewers.” I’ll dump the coffee I leave out to Legba in my sink. As far as I know, trees and plants aren’t too keen on coffee. But the water could go to good use, right? And there’s the thing. I have pets so I’ll use it to refill their water dish. You may not have this option or even the plant option, so, if you have nowhere else to revert these offerings to, then it’s time to get friendly with your local sewer system. (And for those of you despairing that you have financial woes and you can’t waste food, I will get to you, in a minute.)
How do I know they’re done with the offerings?
In some cases, you’ll just know because the incense has guttered out or for some reason, the taper you lit in honor of the OTHERS™ is no longer burning. We can safely assume that they’re finished with that particular offering. However, maybe you leave food out to them. How long do you leave it there, right? Do you leave it there to rot? Do you get rid of it after a couple of hours? What works? How do you find out? Well, the thing here is that I rely entirely on gut instinct and common sense.
For example, let’s say you left out some bread and water to your gods and that you ingest the offering after they are done with it: do you really want to drink dusty water and bread that is as hard as a rock? No. So, find a time frame that works for you. But, maybe you left out the bread and the water, but you don’t ingest afterwards. You can pretty much leave it there for eternity if you wanted to and that’s okay because it’s not like you’re going to eat it, right? Well, in that case, how often are you leaving these things? If you change them out daily, as I do, then you’re not going to want to leave them there for more than twenty-four hours. And too, you also don’t want to get an ant problem. So, maybe you should set a time limit how long that bread is hanging out on your altar space. Then revert as you have decided to do and ta da! You’re ready for a new offering the next time you give it.
You mentioned us with financial problems…?
Currently, I am not the richest pagan out there. In fact, I’m far from it. This is part of the reason why I only give the sparing offerings that I do to my OTHERS™. I can give away a cup of coffee in the morning to Legba and water is easily accessible from my kitchen tap. However, not everyone who is in the same or similar financial crises as myself only give beverages as I do. So, what do you do then, most especially if you’re one of those people who isn’t going to eat the pomegranate that Sekhmet asked that you get for her and you went around and did so? Well, again, you can revert to the earth, you can give actions only as offerings, you can give offerings when your financial crisis let’s up or is over, or…
…you can give something like Re-Ment as an offering. Now, this Google image search will show you all the different types of offerings that you could give in idol form. The reason I even know about this is because Devo gives this as her daily offering to her gods. In ancient Egypt, there were a number of idols found in the form of possible food offerings. This substitute was acceptable then, so she thought, why not now? Not only does it stop her from worrying because she has food allergies and so, can’t just imbibe whatever it is she gives to her gods, but she also doesn’t have to worry about what she’s giving out on a daily basis or if she’s having a harder month with bills this month, she doesn’t have to worry about any food she may “be wasting.” And as far as I know, the big huge lot she bought went for fairly cheap on eBay.
You can also go into second-hand stores and get those plastic foods you had as a child when you were playing in your kitchen. They make a lot of different selections out there, so you won’t have to worry about “boring, old offerings.”