On Offerings

Offerings…we all leave them I’m sure, I am however becoming less convinced that people actually think about what and why they are making these offering?

I was especially looking forward to one of my regular visits to the Coldrum Longbarrow yesterday, the sky had finally started to clear, and whilst there was still a strong wind, the air was warm.  It’s not often I get the place to myself, to just sit and watch the world go by undisturbed, watch the swifts dance over the wheat fields, to just be in that place, in that moment.  It is my therapy, my second home!

I do not, however, find it especially therapeutic to spend the majority of my time there clearing up!  I come away feeling nothing but cross, no actually…infuriated.

Over the years I have collected a whole catalogue of junk from this place; dirty nappies, drinks cans, empty candle holders and so on.  Last nights ‘offering’ however was a perfect example of exactly what it is that frustrates me the most.  There, tucked in amongst the stones was a store bought bouquet of flowers wrapped in the original bright pink cellophane wrapper.  Come on people…cellophane??? Do we seriously believe this to be suitable and environmentally acceptable? Having gone to all that immense effort of nipping to the shops, could we not be bothered to spend an extra second or two removing the non-biodegradable wrapping?  

And what about all the crap tied to the fetish tree?! Do we honestly think that plastic string or curly synthetic gift tape is, again, environmentally friendly and safe to the local animal population?  I tell you no lies, there is currently a plastic ornament (a plastic miniature champagne bottle from the top of a birthday cake no less) wrapped again in a plastic bag (I assume to protect it from the elements ironically) and then tied to the beautiful old Beech tree with a nothing more than a bit of old elastic! No expense spared!

On top of all that there’s the crystals…those pretty shiny pieces of rock torn and raped from the earth….the same earth some folks think is suitable to offer these crystals back to! REALLY?? I have no problem with ethically sourced crystals; they don’t rock my world (sorry…it seemed a good time for a pun!) but if people like them so be it…but why in the name of all that’s holy would you want to shove them back into the earth at places of power like long barrows or stone circles?! There is a reason I, and many others I know of, get headaches or feel sick in shops selling lots of crystals, there is a reason the energy at places like Glastonbury Tor and Stonehenge where people frequently deposit ‘crystals’ is changing (for the worse).  Crystals have magnetic fields, they transmit and transform energy, they conduct, and they change energy flows.  The Earth’s power spirals and serpents its way across the land like a current of electricity traveling around a circuit…magnetic fields, like those emitted by crystals en masse change the flow, the pattern, the direction and so on and places of power become sterile, uneasy and turbulent.

SO WHY DO IT?!?

I can almost forgive every day litter, dropped by those who perhaps don’t know any better or at least don’t claim to, but what I am growing increasingly less tolerant of is the crap left by those who on the one hand profess love, light, peace and ‘harm none’, but in the next breath think it’s OK to leave such harmful and ugly dross at our most sacred of places!  Here in the South East of England, where the land is becoming more and more urbanised, places of natural power are becoming increasingly precious and, as I have learnt, we cannot always trust their ‘legal’ keepers (English Heritage, The National Trust and so on) to protect and care for them sufficiently.

Soon it will be the summer solstice, the coldrum longbarrow will be rife with such shit, hippies leaving litter, Pagans leaving litter and lighting fires all over the place.  I shall be there too during the days that follow the solstice armed with my offering…a trusty refuse sack to clear it all up and take it all home to the nearest litter bin!

What has happened to common sense? What has happened to good old fashioned bread, cakes, milk, mead, ale, meat, fruit, wine, honey?  What ever happened to just enjoying a place without having to stamp our mark all over it as if to claim it for our own?!

Don’t mistake me for some sort of stick in the mud, I am all for well-meant offerings and sacrifices made to the spirits by well-meaning people but I do not, actually I cannot understand how or why some people think TRASH, RUBBISH, things you would normally throw in the bin, are acceptable and good offerings to make…no effort, no thought and certainly no consideration given to the environment and local wildlife!  Where is the sacrifice in a bit of old string you happen to have lying around in the glove compartment of your car? Do you tie it to the tree but it seems to be what people do there? Or do you do it because you want to, because you are moved to?

Contrary to this it genuinely pains me to have to interfere with and remove such things from places like this, things that have potentially been left with a well meant, sincere prayer to the spirits or to God, but I simply cannot stand the harm some of these objects, regardless of intent, are doing or could do.

We do not leave offerings because it appears the done thing, or for other members of the human race to see, to prove some kind of point as if to say “I was ‘ere”, or “aren’t I a good little Pagan, leaving a frayed bit of old fishing line bedecked with Christmas baubles tied to a tree?” offerings should not leave a scar and certainly not have the potential to do any harm.  You will not build any sort of relationship with a spirit if your offering is responsible for the death or injury of local wildlife, which is in effect part of that sprit, no more than you could build a relationship with a person if your gift to them was something from the bottom of your own personal scrap heap which ultimately poisoned them! 

I urge people to engage their brains, tread softly…

”Drink the wine, and let the world be the world.”

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9 Responses to On Offerings

  1. June Courage says:

    Thanks for your rant. How I agree with you.
    It seems to me a bit of imagination and thought is needed. The idea of an ‘offering’ is very poorly thought out in many cases. It seems to me that there are at least 3 distinct kinds of offering, and what we offer should should relate to why we offer whatever it is.
    So: 1) We offer to share when we do ritual. We offer, say, wine, at the place where we make our ritual (the back garden, the hearth, a nearby wood.) We offer to local spirits or perhaps particular deities, and this is a way of sharing : ‘I’m here to do ritual, and I hope that’s ok with you, and it would be great if you would share this wine with me.’
    2) We make an offering to honour: we appeal, for example, to our ancestors: ‘grandmother, with this gift I honour and remember you. Watch over and bless your child’ And again, we might pour wine into the earth; but I might perhaps better throw bread for the birds: I remember my grandmother doing just that, and I think she would prefer to have the birds fed than wine poured into the ground.
    3) To cut a deal: ‘Most Holy and beloved Mother, please help me to sell this house for a good price.’ And in this case the best offering is, I know from experience, a donation to a housing charity
    I work a good deal with folk-Catholic traditions. There’s always a saint for a
    particular purpose. And the best offering you can make to get a saint’s help, is to
    donate to a cause close to their heart.
    When it comes to land spirits or ancestors, the same thing applies. Give what you
    know will please whoever it is you are asking for help. The last way to please a land spirit is to clutter up their space with garbage.

    June

  2. I quite agree with your rightful tirade. I left a comment earlier but it seems to have disappeared, so will reblog this if you please and write my comment there. Blessings to the clean-up work you are doing there.

  3. Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    I like this rightful tirade post by Downtrodden about being an environmental witch/pagan/druid regarding one’s offerings at various sacred sites, whether old or the one made in your own back yard. I know in old England, and now being revived, is the practice of tying coloured ribbons and such to sacred trees and tossing what used to be organic offerings into wells at sacred sites like the barrow he (?) refers to here. Back in the past such offerings were in cotton and flannel and such and would organically break down. Nowadays people think those synthetic colored ribbons and Chinese made trinkets (probably tainted with lead) are used. A few years ago a local group of witches, pagans, gypsies and drunks would get together for Sabats at a local stone circle under a huge maple tree, and each time before the next ritual some of us went to clean up the trash like that which had blown off the tree, and plastic bottles thrown into the bale fire. I know people had good intents, but just plain bad environmental practices. Also referring to crystals in his post, nowadays most are raped from the earth by bulldozing down the Amazon rainforest to get to the clay level where they are found, or ripped out of caves. Here in the Appalachians it is not uncommon to find small crystals in our sandstone and the round stones in our conglomerate are quart too, so these make great offerings when charged up with intent. I also prefer offerings of food like eggs, which the possums and raccoons so eat that same night, and a symbolic offering to the Earth Serpent. Speaking of which i recently followed a link from The Wild Hunt to this article Crazy Theories Threaten Serpent Mound, Demean Native Heritage at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/06/crazy-theories-threaten-serpent-mound-demean-native-heritage-149733 which is about the desecration of the Great Serpent Mound effigy in Ohio which speaks of people burying “offerings” at this nationally protected site and confusing even the archeologists.

  4. I find this kind of behaviour thoughtless and, as you have said, based on the rote preconceptions of what some pagans think they should they do at sacred sites, rather than stopping to consider conversing with the powers of place in order to discover whether they desire an offering, or if their presence is welcome at all.

    • I agree. I only do honour to elements who first make their presence known to me first as they are shy like animals that usually flee humans, and smartly so. And a barrow is where an ancient’s body is buried, perhaps a slain warrior/ess, so does one really want to “awaken” them with a crystal and have their spirits follow you home? Not all elementals and sacred places are “good” for humans to push their way into their spaces.

  5. Atreyu Crimmins says:

    Agreed, foliage should be left clean, untainted and uninterrupted. I have removed strings, ribbons and other such ‘ritual rubbish’ many times and have no qualms about it whatsoever. Well done on highlighting an important topic.

  6. Rob Elm says:

    I’m glad I found this blog! It’s nice to find some people that have come to some of the same conclusions I have.

    My solution has been in creating an artistic offering of beauty from the already decaying materials in the land. I realized that just about everything I could bring into an environment as an offering with the exception of water could be seen as some form of pollution. By carving a fallen branch into as beautiful a work of art as I can I’m actually helping the process of decay and showing that I’m willing to give from the heart. It also ensures that the offering is going directly to the underworld since it is still in a state of decay.

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