Offerings and Dedications

Moving on from No Sacrifice, what does a modern Druid do? I’m going to wave a couple of concepts here today. Offerings are something I have strong opinions about, and where my take does not match what I’ve seen Druids and Pagans generally doing. So, this is not authority, it’s my banging on about personal preference. Obviously, if I convince you all of my superior argument, that would be lovely, but I’m not expecting anything of the sort!

Offerings and dedications are things that we might do for gods, or spirits, that are also things we do for ourselves. Not unlike giving a gift or making a vow to a human companion, we do it for the joy of doing it, and for the subsequent strengthening of bonds, and knowing it will encourage them to feel benevolent towards us. It’s a friendly exchange, it’s not supposed to hurt.

I have an animist world view. I think everything has spirit. Not all pagans are animist and that’s probably key for how you think about offerings. It confuses the hell out of me when people turn up at rituals with offerings that basically consist of having uprooted a bit of spirit from where it was living and plonking it down in front of another spirit with a ‘there you go’.  Wildflowers from the hedgerow, feathers and other gleanings are popular. What makes this ours to give? When some of your own creativity has gone in the mix, it makes a degree more sense. What does the spirit of a tree need with a few fragments of sea shell offered to its roots? (seen that done). Why do all the dark places need offerings of tea lights? Often, the offerings become litter, or there’s a pile of stuff for the celebrant to take away and sort out at the end. Think about what happens to your offerings, after you leave them behind. Also think about what the spirits you were offering to might have a use for. I’d rather take water to plants in times of need, or, more usually, take in a dustbin bag and clear up the litter. Making a temporary altar out of what is in the space, an improvised art working with what lives there, seems a far more fitting offering than a thing bought in a shop or uprooted from where it was happily being a spirit of place in its own right.

Dedications, especially those made in ritual with human witnesses too, are ways of offering ourselves to the gods. They also serve to reinforce community bonds and help us develop in shared intentions together. Pledges to greener living are good. If one person says ‘from now on I shall grow all my own herbs’ other people may be inspired to have a go too. If the newbie dares to say ‘I’m going to recycle, diligently’ recognising that they are just starting out on a path, we can cheer them along. We dedicate to reducing consumption, to better sourcing, to making more of our own. We dedicate to living in more creative ways, giving more, being compassionate, upholding the values of a specific deity. During rites of passage, we dedicate to each other, as partners, parents, welcoming life in, waving it goodbye. We may dedicate as teachers, celebrants, bards – these human roles can be put before the gods too. These are things we can offer to the gods, to ourselves, to our communities and our planet. By formalising that intent into a ritual statement, we strengthen it.

Such efforts as these are not simple, one sided things. We are not giving something away for nothing, and it is not simply an activity which costs us. We are interacting with other things – divine, human, aspects of place, of our own lives. In this kind of undertaking we may be recognising all kinds of relationships. We make them conscious, choose how to conduct them, offer our intentions. By offering we affirm, we inspire others, we share the journey we are making. By offering, we nourish those around us, and when we hear their offerings and dedications, we can be inspired in turn. This is about how we craft our own lives, how we understand ourselves in relation to all things. It creates a focus.

When I make an offering or a dedication, the goodness of that action for me is something I am always conscious of. This undertaking will make my life feel cleaner and more honourable. This will strengthen me, give me purpose, focus me on the work my hands need to be doing. This will invite my community to support me in a new venture, to see me in a new way. This will keep me straight, I’ve pledged in public and will not lose face by then failing to follow through. But equally, if we just did it for personal reasons, it wouldn’t be worth much, and so these dedications are also for the good of the land and its other inhabitants, to honour the ancestors, to guard the future generations and so forth. The reality that everything we do is connected to everything else becomes clear, and that’s essential Druidry in itself.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Offerings and Dedications

  • Alex Jones

    I loved this post, practical and raises issues I have concerns about.

    Some people seem to be ignorant of the practice of dedication, they fail to understand or follow what is done by ancestors. On the alternative side the same people have a disconnect with what is offered, its consequences, situation, as you rightly point out.

    The ancient Celts however did throw things into rivers with a seeming disconnect between the item and the river; but then one must understand their mindset, that the river is a connection to the Source, and thus to throw something specially commissioned like the Battersea Shield into the river was both a sacrifice and a dedication for abundance from the Source. In Colchester they buried a cauldron to honour the Source. The Iceni grabbed the statue of Claudius when they attacked Colchester and dumped he head into the river.

    I have a contract that I will dump coins I find into the river as part of a request for prosperity, which is no different than what people do with wishing wells.

    My approach for instance, honouring Silvanus, might be to plant more trees, or assist forest animals. Silvanus is the same archetype as Apollo, a solar archetype, deals with bard, prophet, healing, agriculture, so simply doing those activities in the spirit of that archetype will be a type of honouring as well.

  • Alex Jones

    Two quick notes.

    Celtic archetypes break down to the same core archetypes, different name, or face, but same archetype. Silvanus (forest), Belenus (agriculture) and Manawyddan (sea -fishing) same archetype for different environments, land, forest, sea. Nodens, Apollo, Cernunnos, Herne the Hunter, Green Man is the same archetype. He spins off into his Winter and Summer faces, hence the ram-headed snake, and Lugh against Gwyn Ap Nudd. There is also the pairing of Lugh (Mercury) with the Source (Rosmerta) that can produce a child like Gwion, Esus, Mabon. The core archetype can also break into two or three aspects like the Source can become the three Matres, and Bran is associated with head raven and cauldron.

    Dedications and “sacrifice” was also, and significantly for the people, the tribe, the warband, as well as the individual.

  • Sharon

    Found this article while searching for info on Druid offerings because I find myself uncomfortable with my present practice. I’m following an ADF script which has several offerings to the deities, nature spirits, and ancestors. I love ADF for the most part…but offerings seem to be a big deal…and I find myself uncomfortable with what I see as the waste.

    I’ve only done one ADF high day rite so far for Samhain and I used steel cut oats, pineapple juice, herbs, polished amythest chunks, dinosaur bones, 4 large apples, and a jasper carving of a horse as offerings. After the rite, I chucked it all into the scrub woods in my back yard. And honestly…while most of it will compost back into the earth, I just felt a sense of waste. I felt a sense that there has to be a better way–like making a donation to a food shelf in the name of the ancestors, or a donation to an environmental organization in the name of the nature spirits–putting the offerings where they will actually do some good versus throwing a horse carved of jasper into my backyard where it will just sink into the dirt over time. Or planting a tree to honor the deities…something constructive. I guess I’m having a problem with seeing the type of offerings I am doing as constructive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: