The ritual of leaving offerings to your gods or ancestors is common among many religions and cultures. It can be as simple as ‘pouring one out’ (tipping some of your drink on the ground) to honour lost loved ones when remembering them. Or as elaborate as decorating an altar to a particular deity or family members. This can be seen in Latin American cultures with an Ofrenda, in Bhuddism there is a Butsudan and in India there are shrines and altars in homes and temples dedicated to various gods and ancestors, where people leave a variety of things as offerings.
There are sacred places where people from all over the world leave offerings for example, In my own town there is The Leechwell, people leave offerings to the Goddess, their own deities and the spirit that protects the well. Another example I have visited is a ‘soft place’ known as Madron Well, Penzance, Cornwall. People have been leaving offerings and messages to loved ones past for hundreds of years it had the most ethereal feel, decorated with ribbons, poems and charms hung in the trees around the well itself. They say it looked the same when the Romans found it.
An offering is usually made for one of two reasons. In exchange for having a request met (either before, after or both) or to give thanks and honour in a more universal sense.
They can be any number of things but I have listed some below:
- Natural items such as flowers, herbs, conkers, bones shells, seeds, feathers, bread, and fruit (an apple cut crossways to reveal the star within is a favourite of mine)
- Treasures such as spent charms that have served their purpose, jewellery, ribbon, crystals, stones, spices, tobacco and alcohols.
- A piece from a festival feast if you’ve had one.
- Words, songs and drawings.
Sometimes they are specific to what a deity or loved one is known to like e.g your aunt Mildred loved Gin? Awesome, pour her one and enjoy it together. Sometimes they are broad such as bread and milk sweetened with honey for the fae or ancient ancestors.
A WitchTip for you: When making big requests, make better offerings. I don’t go as far as ritual sacrifice, but in the old days this would have been acceptable. I have given my own blood as sacrifice but I do not condone self harm. A pin prick is acceptable. Blood magic can be a powerful tool to those who know how to use it. (more to come on this later) and is not to be dabbled in lightly.
There is of course some modern day etiquette involved. One must be aware of things like livestock grazing and not leaving anything which could be harmful if consumed(or just generally harmful) . Be aware of the countryside code. And of course, NOTHING PLASTIC.
Reasons to leave an offering
Within my own practice I make offerings often. At Sabbaths and festivals I will spend some time reflecting and collecting items for that time of year and take them to my sacred place to include in ritual practice to the Goddess. I will offer tabacco or alcohol on my alter at home (being sure not to drink it and sticking to my own).
I leave offerings at full and new moons. For me, this is when I am working intentions on my own life either letting go of what no longer serves me, or drawing energies towards me. I leave offerings of bread and herbs, make libations (pouring out alcohol) and speak of all that I am thankful for and what I wish to manifest. I leave three coins and speak one thing of which I am thankful for each coin. I usually have pockets full of pretty stones, shells and feathers etc I have picked up because I was attracted to them only to find the perfect purpose as an offering later.
I always leave an offering of gratitude when I’ve been collecting things like Hawthorn blossoms at Beltane or bones I have come across. I do this to give thanks and to give back. Things like birdseed, and also a piece of silver (a coin) I leave at the base of trees or in hedgerows.
If I feel the need to shed something, negative thoughts, the ill wishes of others, bad habits etc. I visit a running water source (more on this to come) and make offerings too. Asking for aid in ridding myself of whatever it may be. If I can reach the water I will also wash my hands and face (maybe more 😉).
Whenever I receive something to be thankful for or require some magical assistance I will choose the appropriate gift and place then endeavour to consciously take a moment there to set my intentions.
To sum it up: need help? Leave an offering. Received something postive? Give thanks. Leave an offering. Blessed be witches!
I’d love to hear what you use as offerings in the comments below.