Offerings 101: What do I offer the gods? How do I determine what to offer? Can I offer without a patron?
Do I need to revert my offerings? How do I do that? What if I can’t?
Right now, I’m full of “don’t really care” on this topic. Maybe I can come up with a good post by exploring why I’m not really into the subject matter right now. It is a central point in Kemeticism. So, why the blahs?
Maybe because the offering mindset has a dark side that I rarely see addressed. That does not mean you should stop giving offerings. That’s not it at all! But maybe just be aware of how the offering mindset can warp over time into something it wasn’t really meant to become. I’m going to go on a tangent here and discuss the pitfalls inherent in the offering mindset so that maybe people can recognize when they stray into that territory.
Pitfall 1: “The Vending Machine”
This is probably the first thing people think about when it comes to offering pitfalls. The gods are not vending machines. They’re not obligated to answer your request even if you blow way too much money on vintage Scotch on Their behalf. Even if you create a trial for yourself, and dedicate 100 hours of community service, they’re not required to do what you’ve asked.
It’s possible that the thing you’ve asked for was a really bad idea and they’re doing you a favor by not giving it to you. Maybe what you’ve asked just isn’t possible without breaking some major rules of ma’at. Maybe they just don’t like being bought. (Who does?)
Pitfall 2: “What have you given me lately?”
Yes, the deities like offerings. I’m not arguing against that, but I’ve run across this underlying current of thought that a follower is only as good as what they offer and how they offer it. It’s as if the gods don’t care about people at all except as a source of offerings. Some gods may be like that. They do have widely varying personalities. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to have a relationship with a god (or anyone else) who acted that way. If a human only likes you for your stuff, we call them a “fair weather friend.” If I called my gods that, they would feel insulted and possibly hurt by the accusation.
In my own experiences, my gods do genuinely care about me, offerings or no offerings. The stuff is nice, but it’s not everything, or even the most important thing. The gods love you. If you don’t honestly believe that, then what are you doing here? Go take up a more fulfilling hobby like Pokemon card trading.
Pitfall 3: “Shrine Envy”
This is not a contest. If you can afford nice things without causing undue harm to your bank account, then by all means, have fun with it! If Jane Hotep blogs about an elaborate shrine, ritual, or offering, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s more devoted or that the gods love her more than you.
You don’t need to get shrine envy. In fact, shrine envy is a distraction that may cause you to lose confidence in your own practice. If you lose confidence, your practice will suffer for it, causing you shrine guilt to go along with your shrine envy. Try not to do that. Remember pitfall 2 while you’re at it, the gods love you anyway, and be patient with yourself. Do what you can, when you can, as measured by your own lifestyle, ability and limitations, not in comparison to someone else.
Pitfall 4: “Shrine Guilt”
So, maybe things haven’t been going according to plan. Maybe you got busy. Maybe your depression has flared up leading to some fallow times. Maybe you had a sudden loss of income or time or space. For whatever reason, you haven’t been able to meet your offering goals. This is when shrine guilt sets in.
Stop that. The gods don’t want you to be miserable. (If they do, you need different gods.) You’re not doing anyone any favors by beating yourself up. The way to tackle this is not to make a new resolution to shrine twice as hard starting tomorrow. The best way is to go back to doing small things today to ease your way back into it. (Remember pitfall 2 again! The gods love you, dangit!)
I’m sure there are others, or variations on the ones above that I haven’t thought of. This list will get you started in recognizing the difference between a healthy practice, and one that is fraught with poor relationship values.
I will go back and answer one question from above though. What do I offer the gods? Offer your heart. Offer your friendship. Offer your time and thoughts. Offer your compassion. Offer yourself, as you hope to be, and as you really are. Offer your honesty. Offer your hopes and fears. Offer your efforts to make the world a better place. And yes, offer your chocolate. They like that.