15 January, 2013

Offerings (What, and How)

Hey, Readers!

This week on The Pagan Perspective, we got two questions (the text of which will follow) asking about offerings--how we make them, and how to pick flowers/plants to use for offerings. I wrote out notes for this before I recorded the video, so you can read the notes here instead of watching, or as a supplement to watching the video. As you'll notice (from the title and the questions themselves), this covers WHAT I offer and HOW I do offerings. Perhaps another time I will talk about when or why, if there's interest.

The questions were as follows:

--How do you handle and do offerings to the gods, spirits, ancenstors and so forth? furthermore how do you properly handle disposing of offerings in a proper and respectful manner? p.s: this channel has helped me a good bit, in my own spiritual path and growth. :) 
--Hi everyone, Im back with another question lol. This may be silly but i was wondering if you could explain to me how to properly pick a flower (or other kind of plant). i feel so apprehensive when i see a clover or a flower and go to pick it. Do you need to use offering stones? Im making offering stones, but what should you do in the mean time or what should you do if you dont have anything to offer? Thank you so much, you have all been such a great help ^_^ ~ Love and Light!

And now, the response, which varies slightly from the video due to improvisations while speaking, but is otherwise very close.

The first question asks about offerings to gods, spirits, ancestors, etc. but I don't have any major distinctions between them as far as how I make offerings to different energies. My offerings are basically the same for ancestors or for Deity--the variations depend only on what the celebration/working/ritual is for, where I am, and what I have to offer.

Things I've offered:
--Food (fruits, nuts, baked goods, any appropriate food for the ritual)
--Drink  (water, wine, milk, juice, again whatever is appropriate)
--Burning incense
--Burning candles
--Reading of a poem
--Singing of a song
--Thoughts/meditation time
--Heartfelt thanks

Giving the offering:
If it's food/drink, I partake of it myself and then set an equal portion aside for the offering. In most cases it's a simple, take a bite of the apple or sip of the wine, and then leave the rest of it for the offering. If it's something like flowers, I present it and leave it. If song, dance, poetry, etc. or something else non-physical, it just happens and then it's done with. Incense or candles, I just burn throughout my working and state that it's for an offering, and then I dispose of the incense ashes like I would any other offering, which I will get to. Or for candles, if it's a tall candle that doesn't burn down all the way, I will save it for the next time and use the same candle for the same type of offering, like the one candle I always use to represent the Universe, or the two candles for God/Goddess. I don't personally like the idea of burying a candle after you've used it once, I would just use it over and over for the same use, to keep up that energy, until it's gone.

Offering Disposal:
If I'm indoors, I leave the offerings on the altar until I'm done and bring them outside later. I usually just leave them somewhere in the woods for nature to consume, as Rich said he does with his. For Samhain 2011, which I celebrated with a group, we buried the ancestors' portion of the food offerings so it would go back to the earth directly, and we tossed extra apples into the woods for the animal parts of nature.

If I'm already outside, I immediately set the food in an offering place on the ground or in tree branches or on a stone (wherever I'm working, it depends), pour the drink on the ground, or place the flowers. If it's something like a physical object or piece of art, not perishable, I would leave it on my altar indefinitely or otherwise keep it for use. If it's something I did on paper, I would treat it like any other petition spell and burn or bury it, depending. (In the case of the Hecate ritual that I did with my friend's women's pagan study group, we made offerings to Hecate by writing it down, reading it out loud to the group, and burning it in the cauldron.)


On collecting flowers:
When I collect flowers for offerings, I just say thank you as I'm picking them. Sometimes I just say thank you, other times I will offer some water if I have my water bottle with me. Sometimes I go back and leave an offering stone if it's in one specific location, or a single plant that I go back to a lot. Other times I will pick up litter from the area as a thank you to the Earth for its gifts.

Litha 2012
In the above picture from my Litha/Midsummer ritual last year, you can see my natural offering bowl. I built up a bowl shape out of sand to hold the flowers and plants I had collected. It's very near the water, so that after I left, the water would eventually break down the bowl and pull the flowers into the lake.


Bonus Question!

On waste:
Someone commented on Rich's video asking what he thinks about wasting things used for offerings, and as we both said, we put food outdoors for nature so it's not sitting around, but an offering is never waste because it has a purpose. If I ever do feel like "oh I don't want to waste that by offering it to the energies I hold dear" then I'm not really offering it if I feel it's waste. Some people offer jewelry by burying it, for example, and I feel weird about that because I know it won't really go back to the Earth and I think it's impractical for me to buy an object just to bury it or something, which is another reason I tend to use food or other things that break down. What I do think is wasteful is like I said with the candles--I think it's wasteful to burn a candle for an hour and throw the rest away, only to burn another one the next time and throw that out, too. So in that case, I reuse it until it's done so I don't feel like I'm wasting resources. So if you feel like anything IS being wasted, you can probably come up with a way to do it so that you feel like you're using your resources well. Or you can opt to offer things you don't need to dispose of, like your words or actions, song and dance, music, etc.


That's it for me until next week, so let us know in the comments what you like to offer or how you go about it. If you have any new ideas for people to try, we'd all be glad to hear! Thank you very much for watching (or reading, if you're reading this on my blog), and until next time, Blessed Be, and goodbye!


14 January, 2013

Pentacles of Pride

Hey, Readers!

I have a lot of things to blog about, but right now I just want to let you know about something I've recently heard about, called Pentacles of Pride. This is a non-profit organization started by a circle of practitioners based in Arkansas, which seeks to provide free pentacle necklaces for anyone who wants one. Besides this, they also have other community outreach goals, and have begun a scholarship fund for a pagan student. My own local group (the pagan women's study group run by my friend) was talking about doing something like this--not the pentacle part, but raising money for charities we want to gather more support for, collecting scholarship funding for pagan families, and generally creating more of a local pagan presence--so I am really encouraged by this group's efforts, and the fact that they just DID this and made it happen.

I plan to order one of their free pentacles, even though I have access to my own, for two reasons:
1) I imagine they keep track of how many orders they receive, and I'm all for helping numbers!
2) I may wear the pentacle for now specifically to reference this organization, but down the line I plan to pass it along to someone I may end up working with who won't be able to get their own pentacle for whatever reason. Maybe it will be a student type relationship, or perhaps that won't happen and I will end up keeping it in my possession until I have children.

Anyway, there is an endorsement image/button on their site, and I wanted to include it on my blog because one of their members asked (on Twitter) if they could include me as a resource on their website. So of course I want to do my part to let people know about them, as well. I don't know if they plan to include my videos or my blog, or both, because I noticed they have separate categories for each type of resource on their page. But whatever it ends up being, I hope I have earned the privelege of being there, and I hope I continue to help people into the future.

Click the image to go to their website/blog, and click on the tabs at the top of the screen to view the other pages! Some of it is still under construction as of now. And they're on Wordpress, whereas I use Blogger for the Google connection, so I can't follow them on this account. I'm not sure if I have a Wordpress account from the project I did in college, because that project's website is on Wordpress. I'll look into it, though, so I can follow people there, as well.

As for me:
And obviously you're already on this blog. =)
Happy Snipping Blog (t-shirt reconstruction)

Thank you for reading!

06 January, 2013

Neos & Recons

Hey, Readers!

Once again, I opened up Blogger with one intention in mind and have completely forgotten it in favor of discussing (briefly) another topic I had been thinking about a while ago, which was brought up again by my seeing it written about in Chris' blog, My Hellenic Life. I don't always go online every day anymore, so I often skip over some topics I would otherwise write about, and this is not the first time I've been reminded (by his blog) of one such topic.

On Yule (21 Dec. 2012) I recorded a video about Christians "stealing" Yule, and how that type of language--while it comes from grains of truth--is ultimately negative. I admit to being annoyed when people condemn a person's faith without realizing or being willing to acknowledge that it is exactly where their own celebrations come from (how can you call my symbols evil and then decorate your home with them, that sort of thing), but I believe we can handle such things without having to run around waving our arms and screaming, "You STOLE from us!" Because I'm an eclectic practitioner. Some people would say all I do is "steal." We eclectics, however, we know that's not quite true.

Anyway, I had recently seen a post on tumblr where someone said "Stop saying Christians stole Yule. They didn't STEAL it. You still HAVE it." And that triggered a lesson from undergrad, when I worked as a Teaching and Writing Assistant, teaching students the difference between theft and piracy. To steal something is to remove it from its source and have it now as your own. To pirate is to create a copy for yourself, while leaving the original in its place. The latter is moreso what has been done, because while other people have used pagan traditions and symbols for their own ends, pagans do very much still have their own traditions. So can't we just focus on that positive aspect, and have fun celebrating in our way? This was the basic idea of my video, at least.

Several days after the video was posted, I got a lot of negative comments in one big burst. Not only about religion, but about me in general, my crafting skills, my outlook... And it got under my skin. So perhaps had this comment come at another time, it would have held less weight. As it was, this day I got a comment on that video from someone claiming that I could not tell people to be happy we still have Yule, because Yule is not ours to "still have," because unless we are reconstructionists, then we never had it in the first place. Rather, we stole it from those who truly celebrated it long ago. Again, one could argue that we "stole" it, because obviously we're using old ideas and making them our own, just as I said is done with eclecticism in general, to an extent. But I absolutely do not think it's fair or even correct to say that only reconstructionists "have" Yule. And this is where Chris' post comes in. On 29 Dec. he posted a blog about this very recon/neo opposition. We both come from a neopagan standpoint in that we are not recontructionists. We do not attempt to recreate exactly how things were done in antiquity. I think finding out things like that is interesting and helpful, as it is always helpful to know one's past in order to learn from it. However, I don't find the idea suitable for me personally.

I believe that times change, ideas evolve and progress. That traditions are great and meaningful and fun, and that we should not be afraid of change. I think some things that were common practice centuries ago are not suitable today, and that some ideas can still be drawn from without being duplicated. That we ought to know what's come before us, yet we cannot ignore what lies ahead.

I think both paths are valid and meaningful to those who choose to follow them. I don't intend to discredit reconstructionism here at all, only to lend strength to what I have been ridiculed for so many times over the years (and always, of course, by relatively anonymous strangers online). Personally, I am a modern witch. People have thrown that at me as an insult more times than I can count, but I own it. I AM a modern witch, and my path fits into today's world. If you're a recon, you're a recon. That's where you find your meaning, and neos find theirs in another way. But can we both celebrate Yule? Of course. Can we both have our own celebrations and traditions based on the older ways? Yes! Yours may be closer to how people actually did things in whatever year you may cite, and mine may come from the same time period but be updated to what I have now, in this time, in this place. As my friend, Eric, and his friend, Stephen, said in a video they did for us over on Pagan Perspective recently, "If the druids had butane Bic lighters, they would have used them!" (I actually have different colored ones that I switch out according to the moon phase, which I started doing because I already HAD the different colored lighters, rather than going out and getting them for the purpose.) And as Margot Adler says in Drawing Down the Moon, "[...] roots are only one part of the whole tree [...]."

Me as Amiens in As You Like It, 2010
All-female cast, modern dress
To bring in another passion of mine, theatre, this is a lot like Shakespeare being performed today in modern dress. By which I mean, not in Elizabethan garb or whatever else people think "looks Shakespearean." Some people think Shakespeare must only be done in doublets and hose, but others know that his actors only wore that because it was their contemporary attire at the time the plays were first performed. They didn't have a budget with which to costume period dress, so they wore what they had. We merely think of it as Shakespearean now because of the time period in which it was performed. But in following suit today, it makes perfect sense to play Shakespeare in what we have now, whether it be whatever you have lying around the costume shop, or the jeans and t-shirts you wear every day. I see many things about my faith the same way. People performed magick and made offerings and worshiped using what they had available to them. Why then, should not we do the same?

We are all doing great things and making wonderful connections and learning truths. We do it differently because we are different. As people, you and I, we are different people! We have different likes and dislikes, we look different, act differently, think differently. Why should anyone assume that we would believe the same? Or if we did believe the same, who's to say we must practice the same? My path involves nature, which grows stronger for its diversity. Paganism is no monoculture.

So yes, I celebrate Yule and other holidays and festivals that other types of pagans also celebrate. We don't do it the same way. That doesn't mean either of us is wrong or may not say that we have those traditions. No one may say what someone else's path entails, includes, or holds dear. Just concentrate on your own practice, and share with others, that we all may grow. But share not hatred or negativity that will lead to anyone's stagnation. Because as Chris said, the gods care not for denomination the way humans do. And in that example, we should really strive to follow.