Why should you do a full ritual for an offering? Is it ever really necessary?
To be all the way honest, yes, I sometimes do a full-on ritual. I do a daily ritual, anyhow – a “daily devotional” – but it’s nothing like the full-on ritual. It doesn’t feel quite as amazing, either, but it still gets results. (That’s a topic for another post, though.)
My daily ritual is a short one. I …
- Clear space
- Shift focal point
- Bring in the elements
- Say a short prayer to the Gods, usually of thanks, but sometimes a request, as well
- Make a mini-offering of incense, or a lit candle, or something sweet, or maybe some coffee, or alcohol – that all depends on the day, my intuition, what’s happening in my life, etc. (this is an optional step)
- An energetic/non-physical offering
- Another quick thanks
- And a “Hail, and farewell.”
Easy. Simple. Keeps me connected. No worries, anxieties, fears, or crazy troublesome thoughts about it. Just do it and go.
I will say, though, it’s not like I do it out of rote. While I do have the structure of my daily mini-ritual memorized, and I do tend to follow the steps fully, there is a lot of room for variation.
For example, you don’t have to say a prayer at all. The Gods I work with have no problem with a “quickie” if you’re in a rush. Just drop a candle, say a quick “Thanks, you’re awesome, gotta go, chat later,” type of thing.
But, that all depends on the Gods you’re working with, and whether or not They are more accepting of “The Quickie Ritual.” Mine tend to not mind, as long as I stick with my schedule, and make sure the regular “Good Big Magnificent Offerings” get done.
And yes those kinds of offerings require FOCUS. And in order to force myself into that state of focus for the time of the GBMO, I usually do a full-on ritual.
Whaaaaa?! You mean there’s actually a PURPOSE behind doing GBMO’s?! It’s not just some random, arbitrary unverified thought that some old person who used to do magick made up?
Nope. It’s not random, arbitrary, or unverified. Yes, there actually IS a purpose for doing the full-on ritual at times. And frankly, to put it another way: THIS. SHIT. WORKS.
Do you want to know WHY or HOW it works? And why it’s a good idea to do those GBMO’s on a reg? Good, ‘cause I’m gonna tell you, regardless, and if you do a few of them yourself, you’ll discover just how right I am about this …
Ritual. Is. Focus. And when you design a ritual, everything in it should be FOCUSED around a purpose. You do that by making sure to theme everything that your natural senses might encounter.
For example: if I’m creating a ritual to do the GBMO on a full moon Saturday night for the Goddess Cerridwen, I theme everything around Her.
So if I decided to use sound in the ritual, I might use primitive drumming, or a recording of crickets at night. If you’re calling upon the Goddess to ask Her to make Her presence known, you might want to do so in rhyme … She IS a Goddess who enjoys poetry, after all. Write a long, and descriptive evocation/invocation. Of course, if you get the sense that She’s getting bored with your flowery words, cut that shit short. Cerridwen isn’t someone you want to bore or annoy.
I might go with something like:
Cerridwen bright and shining,
Queen of all the worlds,
I ask for Your presence here,
Harken to my words.
I offer unto You
A simple, living feast,
In praise of land, and sea, and sky,
And to honor of every beast.
As they bow to honor You,
Kin of land, and sky, and sea,
So I bow and humbly ask
Your presence be known to me.
Cerridwen of cauldron full
And Queen of shifting shape
I ask to know Your presence here
As we open up the gate.
Hail, and welcome!
(Definitely not my best work, but it’ll do for now. I’d probably come back to it in a day or two, and revise it more properly. You can’t get to awesome poetry instantly, you know, unless you’re suddenly inspired with it. At least, that’s how it is for me.)
I’d definitely use red wine for offering, and for the Simple Feast (a.k.a., “Cakes And Wine,” or, “Cakes And Ale,” for us Wiccans), because I’ve discovered that, for me, Cerridwen likes things associated with blood. I might also use a tiny loaf of Bara Brith for the “Cakes” part of that.
(Side note: “Bara Brith” is a Welsh bread also called “Speckled Bread.” It’s pretty much a fruitcake, except it’s Welsh, and Cerridwen is Welsh, so there’s that association for ya.)
For touch, I think in some way touching the cauldron at the center of the altar is a good idea. Perhaps carrying it into Sacred Space in a sort of one-man procession. (If it’s only one person, is it still a procession?) Of course, in general, you also have other things that go along with touch – your robe (if you wear one), holding the athame, the heat of any candle or flame you light, etc. All of that is optional, of course, as is almost anything in a self-designed ritual.
Ah, the subject of smell. I love, love, LOVE incense. Loose incense, stick incense, cone incense … I don’t give a crap. If it’s incense (and doesn’t smell like a horse’s dirty butthole) I love it. For Cerridwen, I might specifically choose Dragon’s Blood Resin for the blood association, and because (as I’ve experienced before) She loves it. Also, for some reason (maybe a past life memory?), the smell of Dragon’s Blood Resin (the pure stuff, not mixed with anything else) has always somehow “reminded me” of Cerridwen. Any good incense, though, almost instantly puts me in a state of focus. (Maybe that comes with practice, I don’t know.)
Finally, there’s the Big Daddy Sense of them all (arguably): visuals. Here’s how I would do the visual theming for an offering/ritual specific to Cerridwen (keep in mind these are my personal preferences, and may not all be feasible, even for me):
- Black walls spattered with silver metallic paint to symbolize the stars
- A black altar cloth with a triple crescent embroidered upon it, also spattered with silver paint to represent stars
- A cast iron cauldron, the major symbol associated with Cerridwen
- Hawk feathers, hen feathers, and perhaps the hair of a white sow or the fur of an otter; I might also hang pictures of these animals around the room, or do so in lieu of getting the actual animal bits
- An ear of corn
So absolutely everything (except for perhaps the general ritual tools that you might use on a regular basis anyhow) would be themed around Cerridwen. Not only does a themed ritual allow me to focus, but it also shifts the environment, making it more pleasurable (and conducive) for Cerridwen to make Her presence know. Which, as you read in the verse above, is the point of this kind of ritual.
I’d just like to note that not everything I do requires a full-on ritual framework. I like to make my GBMO’s in a ritual context because it feels right to me.
But what about Elders? Do they still do ritual like this? Do they even have to do the GBMO’s?
Of course they do! Just because one gets wiser with time, and experience doesn’t mean we get to sit on our asses and do nothing. Sometimes offering can feel like a chore, but for me, A LOT more often than not, even the ritual for the GBMO feels powerful, and beautiful. If you’re afforded the opportunity to do one, it is NOT something to miss out on.