Offerings, Not Sacrifices
People have jokingly asked me about what I sacrifice on my altar. Occasionally, the person isn’t joking. While a long involved response is not practical in a social setting, I wish to delve into the topic a bit in this column.
To sacrifice means to give up. In that sense, I sacrifice money when I donate to a charity and I sacrifice sleep to spend late-night hours on the phone with a friend in need.
An older meaning of sacrifice is to make sacred. When our ancestors dedicating something to the gods and goddesses during a ritual ceremony, such as a cow or a deer, it became sacred. They blessed or consecrated it before killing, cooking and eating it as a way to honor the gods. It was given to the gods so that the gods might give something in return.
In my practice, I don’t use the word sacrifice. Rather, I use the term offering. I don’t make offerings to have something granted to me, I do it as a gesture of honor and respect. They are little gifts given with love and gratitude.
These offerings can be many things. Candles and incense are most common – letting them burn out on their own. I have offered flowers, natural finds, seeds, cornmeal, bounty from my garden, coins, bread, milk, honey and crystals.
During some rituals, my offering is a libation poured upon the earth, or into a chalice that is later poured on the earth – typically mead, beer or wine.
Time spent volunteering can also be an offering. Dancing and singing can be offerings as well.
Throughout history, blood has been used in magic. It is primal and powerful. Today, very few traditions incorporate the use of blood. I have used it only on two occasions – a protection spell and in a coven initiation ceremony. The blood of the witch performing the spell is more effective than that of anyone or anything else. A few drops will do. But more often, it is a symbolic representation of blood that is offered.
When an offering has been made, it no longer belongs to the person who gave it. When it comes time to remove the items, they can be left in nature, burned or buried.
And merry meet again.