For those witches that follow a Hellenic path, February 21st is a significant holiday called Feralia. Feralia is one of the many ancient festivals that actually led to our modern Halloween. Despite the fact that is it celebrated at a very different time of year, Feralia is a holiday dedicate to honoring one’s ancestors which was primarily celebrated with feasting (as is pretty much EVERY holiday everywhere, LOL) and making offerings to the spirits of those who have passed. So, this week I wanted to spotlight the practice of making offerings and some ideas for the types of things used for said offerings.
Listening With All Five Senses
Before we get to my short list of suggestions for things that can be used as offerings I want to talk a bit about the practice of leaving offerings in general. While you could certainly skip ahead, making offerings is a crucial part of any practice that involves working with deity and while there is often long history and lineage of typical offerings that a deity (or ancestor) is known to like, I think there is something extra special about developing a relationship with one’s ancestors and/or patron deity(ies) and determining what they want specifically from you by way of offerings by simply asking and listening.
Everyone experiences this listening differently and more strongly through different senses but it helps to use all of them especially until you begin to recognize which of yours is the most strong. Most importantly, it is vital that before you even do any asking and listening that you learn to discard your self-doubt and disbelief. Deity speaks softly and subtly, often in symbol and archetype rather than in words that way we often all wish they would. (It sure would be a lot easier to understand!) Too often when an image or sounds comes to us in these quiet moments we are hasty to dismiss it as “brain noise” or our “imagination”. But, what if we could throw that doubt away and accept the noise as God? Accept the whispers as magick? (Because, um… they are??) That space is where deity speaks! You only need to learn to listen with an open heart and discard doubt.
Of course, researching your deity or knowing the ancestor that you wish to work with is and can be an important part of your journey of making offerings, too. It can be a good place to start if you’re still learning to let go of your self doubt or as a springboard for inspiration when gleaning for yourself what offerings your deity or ancestor might most appreciate. Of course every deity or ancestor is going to be a bit different in their preferences, but here are some suggestions that you might find they like when you are feeling out what they want for yourself:
Types of Offerings
These are some of the most common. What type of food will your deity or ancestor prefer? Look into myth, stories, and history regarding them. Aphrodite might like apples. Hecate might like garlic. Your great great aunt might like twinkies! There are no wrong answers!
A practice that I’ve seen and love is the idea of a platter with many different types of foods — all the better if you have stiff broad leaf trees that grow around you because you can use a large leaf as a biodegradable and beautiful platter for your offering smorgasboard.
Flowers & Herbs
Most deities (and really anyone — ancestors, you, me, etc.) associate with or love certain flowers or herbs. As usual, you can search mythology and folklore for inspiration. If you wildcraft and work with local, wild herbs and plants this can be a part of developing a relationship with the plants. For example, I live in Connecticut where tobacco is grown in plentitude and I’ve also found that Baba Yaga (Russian folkloric figure) loves tobacco.
Dried or fresh flowers can be lovely, too. I think there’s something extra special about flowers that come from funerary ceremonies, too. (You know, how they let you take a flower at the end of a funeral? Those! — Don’t steal cemetery flowers. LOL That’s bad karma!)
Incense & Oils
This is similar to herbs because most smoke comes from smolderings and burning them, but other burnables can be appropriate such as certain wood fires (ash wood for Odin, apple wood for Fae), resin (Copal for Santa Muerte OR Frankincense for Apollo), or oils (Spikenard for Mary Magdelene/Yeshua OR Sweet Birch for Diana). Rosemary can be a useful offering for any Greco-Roman deity.
Oils can be used to anoint statues or other petition objects or poured directly on the earth or stones.
Time & Energy
Maintaining an altar or outdoor space dedicated to a deity or ancestors can be a beautiful type of offering that requires nothing but time and energy. The idea of working with Spirit is one of reciprocation and giving. That doesn’t need to be something tangible! Working with the land or the spaces you live and worship within benefits not just your relationship to deity and your ancestors, but also your relationship to your Self and your living spaces in a way nothing else truly can.
Do you celebrate Feralia or work with ancestral spirits through the practice of making offerings? What types of offerings do the spirits YOU work with tend to appreciate the most? Tell me about it in the comments below!