An offering is a sharing. It is when you set something aside to give to whatever persons you work with. There are no strings attached. An offering is shared with the purpose of establishing, maintaining, or deepening a relationship.
If the only time a friend called was when they wanted to borrow money you wouldn’t look forward to their call. When you help someone out, at the very least you expect a thank you. So it is with our gods. Our relationships with those we work with should be no more one sided than our relationships with people.
A sacrifice is something given over to the use of gods that can be the fulfillment of an obligation or have strings attached. Sometimes sacrifices are demanded in exchange for a boon or assistance. It is a transaction, and can be a one time transaction. Morrigan, if I win my court case I will build you a temple.
While a sacrifice should be of value an offering doesn’t need to be. I think our gods are aware of how a capitalist economy works. If this month buying a beloved trickster their favorite type of whiskey would mean not being able to pay rent, they will understand. I don’t think our gods want us to suffer, other than eat your vegetables, face what is blocking you to move on, cut off what doesn’t serve or is hurting you. Offerings that leave a devotee homeless, not eating good food, or not receiving proper care serve no one. If a god demands such a thing, find another god to work with.
However, gods do know when we lie (especially to ourselves). As long as you are sincerely offering what you would give an invited guest, and not hoarding the dessert, it will be well received. But don’t expect to keep the good stuff concealed, they will know.
Share Your Food and Drink
Take a scoop of your generic mac and cheese, sprinkle parmesan on it, and put it on your altar. The act of sharing something you have made to nurture yourself is what matters, not how expensive the dish is or how much effort it took to make it.
If cooking however is your jam, this is the perfect excuse to make tasty recipes that have flavors that your gods enjoy. See if their stories include references to particular foods, research the type of offerings people made to that god in the past, and connect with modern communities to find any share gnosis. Day to day offerings were often simple food and drink, with more elaborate items being reserved for special occasions. Gods tastes do expand and change, so don’t be shocked at European gods who love tomatoes and chocolate.
Personally, when I take the time to cook a dish from scratch I usually get a poke. Especially if it is a sweet item, the message “You know you’re sharing that?” comes through loud and clear. Its only when I cook that it happens, not when someone else in my household cooks.
For drink, you can always offer a whiskey shot or a glass of wine instead of the whole thing. A homemade brew made to the best f your ability will be appreciated.
There are some traditions where food is left on an altar for a period of time, then people are free to eat the physical items because the essence has been absorbed. If that is your tradition or that is a belief that resonates with you, go ahead and incorporate that into your practice. This is not my practice. I am of the belief that once an offering is on the altar it belongs to the gods. My rule is I wait a day before disposing of anything.
If you are sober or can’t have alcohol in the house for any reason, offering special water is a good alternative. You can make moon or sun water. Lay a jar of water to catch the light. Make tea. Or add lemon or lime juice.
To bless the water, take your full cup in both hands. Stand straight and hold it above your head. Ground and center. Visualize the energy you gather from the earth and sky going into the water.
This was covered in the previous post on crafting. If you make something like a scarf, you can agree to place it on your altar for a specified period of time.
This is probably more appropriate for a sacrifice, but a donation to a charity that supports a god’s virtues can be an offering. If one doesn’t come to mind, you can always ask where they would prefer you make the donation to.
Volunteer time and energy if you don’t have money. Examples would be a local library for Brigid, an escort at an abortion clinic for the Morrigan, or a food shelf for Demeter. We are a part of the world, and volunteering is a way to improve it on the mundane level while giving something to our gods.
What physical actions can you offer your gods? Acts of kindness for dedicated to Sigyn? Caring for the forest for Cernnunnos? Or learning a new skill or craft that you intend to use to honor them?
Outside of charitable donations, is there a way to pay it forward to another devotee or fellow pagan?
With offerings, focus on the intent and act. Listen for any insight on what is wanted, or perform divination. But remember, offerings are meant to be frequent and small, and not to be a burden. Save the big stuff for sacrifices and powerful workings. Offerings are day to day exchanges with our gods, and they help us deepen our relationships with them.