By Charles McBride
One often talked about hot button topic is offerings and sacrifices. Most people don’t really fully understand what an offering is, lighting candles and incense with nothing else. While others see a sacrifice as requiring the taking of another life. While it is true that a physical component to offerings should exist, and that taking a life can be a sacrifice we must understand these principals deeper to truly understand mystical workings.
Let us then start with Offerings. Offerings are a way of showing dedication, commitment, and expressing connection to a spiritual being. Many people believe that an offering must be of food, incense, or some other particular physical material. In truth these things with nothing else are more bribes than offerings. An offering is meant to help build a connection with a spirit. It must be done in good faith, to forge a bond. It should be done with meditation, focused intent, or prayer of some kind over the offering. The value of an offering is not intrinsic, though the item may be of a preference to the spirit, as the spirit generally does not physically partake of an offering. Instead the offering is a symbol of our time both in the cost it took us to procure it, as well as the time we put in with the empowering of it through meditation, prayer, focused intent, or the ritual around it.
It would be, at best, foolish to believe spirits gain much from an offering of food or incense. While they influence our realm they obviously do not walk upon it in the same way we do. They are not dogs to be trained either. Instead the offering is a kind of dedication to them. It is a sign of good will invested with some of the same energies within us that also make them up. An offering of energy, focus, and intent is more valuable then than a physical offering without those things. The physical part of the offering though instills something from us of a personal nature. When we offer a physical thing we see it as a kind of sacrifice and this sacrifice then has value.
This moves us then into sacrifices. A sacrifice is giving up something of value, or something wanted, to a spirit or being. The act of sacrifice need not be animal, though some do prefer it, and the value of it is found equally in the showing of commitment. In this respect then the sacrifice has as much value as our ability to put value into it. A candle carried around you for a weeks time has more value than a batch of grapes you have decided not to eat anyway. A coin of intrinsic worth has more value then than a stick of incense.
Some traditions preach that a specific offering is needed for certain spirits. This may be more cultural than practical but should be respected within the cultural construct. This means for example if you are raised in a tradition where incense is always used in offerings you should then use that so long as that culture is a part of who you are. If you are culturally aligned with the idea that a particular animal should be used then it is best to use that animal for sacrifice. However the contrast remains true also. If you are culturally not connected to using an animal or specific incense or method as a way of sacrifice then it means nothing to you to do so. Many a mystic has acquired blood from a butchers shop for offering to quickly find out that since to them it has no value beyond the money spent on it, then it too had no value to the spirits. Even more have found that they get the same results with the sacrifice of an animal as they would of a precious jewel. Sacrifice is just that, a sacrifice, a commitment that means more to you than normal. It is the next phase up of offerings in that it has some intrinsic value be it culturally, financially, or in time put in to prepare it.
The understanding of what Offerings are and Sacrifices is important. Offerings are a sign of good will. Sacrifices are giving up something of value or worth. The two overlap greatly and share a lot of commonality. Many offerings include sacrifice, while many sacrifices are an offering. Without the proper will, intent, and focus though these are nothing more than hand waving.