Over the past few weeks the subject of “Offerings” has been on my mind a lot. Various bloggers like Allergic Pagan and The Druids Garden have written on the subject, and Humanistic Paganism has recently done a poll on this issue. I seem to be researching it a lot too so I thought its time for a blog post to sum up what I’ve come across so far and my thoughts on the practice.
Lets start with the obvious question – If we don’t believe in gods and spirits, then who are we giving offerings to? If there is no one there to receive them, then what’s the point? My first answer to this would be that as Naturalistic Pantheists who see Nature as sacred, we are giving to Mother Nature. True, she is not a thinking, personal being who knows what we are doing, but nevertheless we are still offering to her. But why? There are two reasons. Firstly, as with all aspects of naturalistic ritual, it is about changing ourselves (or inner alchemy as the Taoists would say). It is about developing within ourselves greater reverence and respect for nature. It is about showing humility in the face of that which is so much greater than our individual selves and responding with gratefulness towards her. It is about connecting more deeply with nature and expressing our inner values. It is about learning the virtue of generosity. Secondly it is a way of helping Nature.
The next question is….what should we use as offerings? There are many different options here and it really depends on what helps you connect best with nature. However, there are two guidelines from Druids Garden blog that can help us in choosing what offerings to make. The first is that whatever we offer should be sustainable, it should be something that is environmentally friendly and helpful to Mother Nature. Imagining that Mother Nature was a conscious being with desires – what would she want us to give her? If we give her something harmful, not only would she reject it, but it would show us to be uncaring, destructive people (and humanity does enough of that already!) One of the worst and most harmful things we can do is buy something new to give as an offering. Our consumerist and materialistic culture is rapidly depleting resources around the world and we should not contribute to it. There are plenty of offerings we can make without buying yet more “stuff” and taking from Mother Nature. Secondly, the offerings should be meaningful to you. They should involve some kind of sacrifice. As Fiacherry on Youtube points out – without offerings, faith is all talk and no action. An offering should be something that involves you giving up something important to you. For example, when we work, we give up some of our time i.e. our life, in order to earn money in return. If we then give some of that money in an offering, then we are in essence giving some of our own life to Mother Nature. If we spend time creating something like a Poem for the specific purpose of giving it as an offering to Mother Nature, then we are giving up more of our life to her.
There are many possible ways to offer to Mother Nature. It can be biodegradeable foodstuffs put out for animals or it could be libations poured on the ground. It could be a prayer, song or poem you have composed specifically for the occasion as an offering. It could be some foodstuff you have made yourself – something you have put a lot of hard work and creativity into making. It could be something from Nature itself, something you’ve gathered e.g. nuts for squirrels. It could be to actually do something like plant a seed and tend the plant for its life. You could choose to make a lifestlye change e.g. to go vegetarian or to recycle more or to get rid of your car. Any lifesyle change that will benefit the environment and help you live more lightly on the land. Finally, and my favourite type of offering, is to give coins. If you do ritual offerings daily this could be a few pennies, if its less regular you could give bigger amounts. Put the coins in your offering bowl and then afterwards donate the money to a charity that helps the environment. In Christianity and Judaism there is a concept called Tithing. It basically means you give 10% of your earnings to “god.” I am not suggesting that we have to give this much as many people cannot afford to, however it is something to think about, to be challenged by and doing it would certainly show our values.
That’s it for this post. Why don’t you add this into your ritual practice and may your life be blessed and your relationship with Mother Nature enhanced through doing so.