What to offer when you feel you have nothing

I am sure many of us are familiar with times that are financially thin, times when we have to make difficult decisions about what to spend our money on. At such times we can feel the weight of needing to honour our Gods with offerings, feeling that we cannot afford to spend food or heating or medical bill money, but fearing Their displeasure if we don’t.

Perhaps first it is worth mentioning why we make offerings. We make offerings to our Gods as an honouring, as a sign of our love and respect for them. We may make offerings because of something we wish to receive in return. We make offerings to strengthen our connection to them and maintain their presence in our lives. I recently heard Morpheus Ravenna explain it really well. If we think of our relationship with our Gods as being like a friendship. If we forget to stay in touch with our friends, if we don’t manage to honour or maintain the friendship, the friend doesn’t disappear but the friendship will wither away.

Fortunately offerings don’t have to cost anything, there is much you can offer that is absolutely free and in some ways may be better received than bought objects.  The key thing with all of this is the intention with which it is done. That the offering is made with active focus and consecration in the name of the deity it is intended for.

Here are a few suggestions for you, and maybe they will spark some other ideas of your own.

Prayer

Prayer has become almost a dirty word for some pagans because of its association with Christian practice. But we spoke in quiet contemplation and focus on our Gods long before Christian priests had any say in it. Speak with your God(s), speak from your heart, honour them, show gratitude for Their presence in your life. Sometimes we pray because we need something, but it can also be a simple act of devotion.  If you’re not sure what to say there are prayers available online and in books that are perfectly acceptable to use with the right intention and attitude.  In time you may find your own words and voice to offer.

Story, Song and Music

Telling the tales and stories of our Gods is how we keep Them alive in the world, even if it’s only between us and Them. But if you can, tell others Their stories, tell them to friends and family, tell them to your children or if you can find the right opportunity tell them to your community.

Sing for your Gods, and never mind whether you think you have a singing voice. Song is prayer carried on voice and breath.  Simple chants are just as effective as songs of many verses and no it doesn’t matter whether you learn the words by rote, use a book and sing with intention and heart.

Make music, if you play an instrument play it for Them, compose for Them. Or if you have a drum, drum for Them, the beat of the drum carries to the otherworld.

Song and story connect us with our ancestors who would have done the same, sharing with their families, tribes and communities. In this way we strengthen the ancestral lines behind us and before us.

Acts of service

There are so many of these it could become a long list but I will mention two really strong ones that in my experience the Gods really appreciate. Volunteering in your community and the clearing of sacred or natural places.

Can you spare a little time in your week to those in need? Whether it is for an elderly neighbour in your community, a young mother struggling with her children or time given to a charity in an area that matters to you. This time, these acts are a way to show that your tribe, your community matter and as such that you honour the God(s) that watch over you and them. Think about what your particular Gods represent and align your act with that.

It is an ongoing and maddening thing for many pagans to find natural or sacred sites covered in rubbish, the saddest thing is that sometimes it is pagans who add to it! None of us should be leaving rubbish on the land, and if we come across it clearing it away is a strong act of honouring, a way of showing that our lands matter. I encourage you to carry a bag with you wherever you go so that you can do this. Also think before you leave an item at a sacred site. It is better to leave a non-physical offering at a sacred site than an item that can cause damage. Even items that can biodegrade are not necessarily ok, things won’t biodegrade in sites such as caves and items tied to trees and plants can choke them and stunt their ability to grow.

Study and Learning

Dedicate some learning or study to your Gods. It might literally be the study of Them and Their stories, getting to know as much you can of Them. Or it might be your college or university studies, or training for your job.  Dedicate the growth of your knowledge to Them, your efforts to be able to do more for yourself and your community.

Physical Training

This may not be right or appropriate for everyone but many Gods welcome fit and strong devotees. Make an offering of your physical training, your exercise regimes, take up a fighting art in Their name.  Make your body your offering to them.

There are of course many ways of making offerings to our Gods and different things will be appropriate at different times in our lives and our spiritual practices. These are just a few ideas that may help you when you feel you have nothing to give.  Give only what you can manage, do not harm yourself to make an offering. Better to make a promise of an offering in the future and sing Them a song for now.

Awen Clement – May 2017

*Some of the thoughts in this article have arisen from taking the class ‘Polytheist Devotional Practice’ with Morpheus Ravenna of the Coru Cathubodua, with thanks to her for her teaching.*

Awen is a priestess of The Morrigan who lives and works in the West Midlands of the UK. She is leading the 2017 Call of the Morrigan Retreat – The Queen’s Vigil in West Wales in September.

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Rag Tree Tradition by Lora O’Brien

So, I’ve worked for the last 12 years as a professional tour guide to the sacred sites of Ireland, and let me tell ya, I’ve seen some shit.

8 of those years were spent managing the sites and visitor centre at the royal complex of Rathcroghan, Cruachan; which (as many of you know, unless you’re believing the nonsense that there’s no Morrigan sites in Connacht), is where the Morrigan ‘resides’ – Her primary site in Ireland is the Cave of the Cats, Uaimh na gCait. This site is an ancient cave, worked by human hands in later times, known as the primary physical entrance to the Irish Otherworld, which Medieval Christian scribes referred to ‘the Gates of Hell’ due to the unfortunate amount of monsters and demons (to their perception) which flowed out from this hole in the earth on an all too regular basis.

I’m probably telling y’all stuff you already know here, being folk who are interested in Herself. I’ve been Her priestess for 13 years, and I know how hard she pushes us to do the work, and how important real information is to Her.

But what you might not be aware of, and what I’d really, really, like you to be aware of (and tell all your mates), is the absolute misconceptions and horrific disrespect that Pagan or ‘spiritual’ visitors to Ireland show at our sites.

Let’s talk about the Rag Tree tradition, shall we?

In Ireland, we have long had the custom of the ‘Raggedy Bush’ or Rag Tree, and there’s similar in Scotland, with what they call ‘clooties’ tied to certain trees. The trees are Hawthorn, one of our most prominent native trees/bushes – Crataegus Monogyna, or in Irish, the Sceach Gheal. The Irish name literally means something like, ‘that which makes the hedgerow bright’, and when it’s covered in colourful rags it sure does. Most often, there’s a particular hawthorn, growing near a particular holy well, and this is the local Rag Tree.

Occasionally there’s no well or spring to be found, but my theory on that is that there used to be one and it’s gone now, or that the misconceptions around Rag Trees stretch back further than your average modern American tour group, and some fecker just decided at some stage that a single growing hawthorn was actually a Rag Tree, way back in the mists of time, and it stuck. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no magic there today… just that it probably didn’t start out that way. The water nearby is a pretty important part of the magic here.

What’s it all about then? Well, basically, the tradition goes that you take a piece of cloth from a sick person, tie it to the tree (often with prayers), and the sickness disappears as the rag rots away. The water nearby is most often a holy or healing well, which helps of course.

Sounds simple enough, right? From a magical perspective, we’ve got sympathetic magic in the rotting of the fabric – the visual representation of the illness losing power and strength and eventually disintegrating. We’ve got an energetic loop that’s formed between the sick person (it has to be an item they’ve worn while ill, so imbued with their DNA or essence) for illness to flow to the tree, and back the way then with the healing energies from the water, through the roots of the tree. Make sense? Sure!

You know what doesn’t make sense though? Folk who come along and tie their rubbish to the tree. Or tie strings or cloth so tight they damage the tree branches. I’ve removed everything from crème egg (candy) foil wrappers to junk jewellery rings to plastic covered wire wrap ties from the branches of our Rag Trees on this island. Not cool people, not cool. That, at least though, can be written off as ignorance of a ‘quaint’ local tradition they want to be a part of, by people who are really just here for lip smacking the Blarney Stone and the Guinness.

What’s more worrying is the visitors who come to sites where there’s no Rag Tree, on supposed spiritual pilgrimage, and tie their shit to whatever tree happens to be there.

The Cave at Cruachan is a prime example of this. I was a guardian there for 13 years, and for 8 of those I was paid to be in and out of it most days of the week. There’s a hawthorn that grows over the mouth of the cave, but it’s a relatively young one. Maybe 20 or 30 years old is all. It’s a fairy tree in the sense of it being smack bang over the mouth of a Sidhe dwelling, and it’s definitely magical… but it’s not a Rag Tree. Every week though, there’d be some new bit of tat tied to it. One tour group got a nylon umbrella off their bus, ripped it to bits, and tied the bits to the tree. Then they left the umbrella carcass in the field, got on their bus, and drove off.

There were obviously some who wanted to leave an ‘offering’ at the site, to connect themselves there in some way, and perhaps that’s how some of the cloth strips got into the tree. Maybe some were even cloth from the garments of sick people. But this is not a healing site. In my experience – personally, and collected from feedback of those who energetically interacted with the site – the entities at this site will gleefully follow any connection you choose to make there, go right back to source, and tear down anything weak that they find there. Ostensibly ‘for your own good’, of course, but they are absolutely merciless about it… if you lay a pathway for them they will follow it. This is not a good thing, for most people. Especially unprepared people. People who maybe think that Irish entities and Sidhe spirits are essentially pleasant and good natured, full of the craic, and harmless to let in. People who are perhaps sick, and not at full energetic defensive strength.

There was once a baby’s bib tied through the branches of the hawthorn tree at the Morrigan’s Cave. Just take a moment, and let that sink in for yourself.

You see now why I might be a bit ranty on this topic? Can we not do this anymore?

My best advice is to take local advice. If you want to find a real Rag Tree, there’s websites and books that will tell you where to begin your search, but first and foremost you should be talking to local people. Get exact directions. Check that the tree you think might be the one is actually the one. And remember, just because some eejit has tied something to it before you got there, doesn’t make it a Rag Tree.

Please, be sure?

13625325_10154343445948833_754878224_nLora O’Brien is a native Irish Author and Guide to Ireland, facilitating your authentic connection to Ireland one small step at a time. You can get involved with the excellent Irish Rewards by becoming a Patron of her work at www.Patreon.com/LoraOBrien, or visit her website to find out about her upcoming on-line course, Meeting the Morrigan. You can find Lora’s blog, books, mailing list, classes and more at www.LoraOBrien.com.

 

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