I often get asked by clients what offerings or sacrifices they should give to spirits in return for their help. That’s a reasonable question. After all, nothing good comes for free. Every action we take, even drawing a breath of fresh air requires an expenditure of energy. This energy is an offering to the element of Air, and if you want to personify it, the God of Air.
But the notions that people have when they ask me this question are predicated on the belief that modern offerings have to mimic those provided by practitioners in ancient times. They are looking for a concrete, scientific answer on what offering of food, beverage or other physical items would best appease the summoned spirit.
You have to understand that the offering is in-and-of-itself purely symbolic. Poseidon is not gonna actually eat the meat that is presented on his altar. Paimon will not drink the wine you pour in his cup. The reason why these types of offerings were very common in the past was because it felt like a sacrifice. People had less to eat and drink, and giving up what little they had to appease a spirit felt like an actual sacrifice in their lives. If you’re placing an apple on a demonic altar but you have a whole bunch of apples lying around, that’s not really a big deal for you. But if you are starving and the apple is the only thing you have to eat, well, that’s another story.
A sacrifice has to be painful for the practitioner in order to be meaningful and valuable. This is why the most famous story of a sacrifice was that of Abraham offering his son to Yahweh. His son was the most precious thing he had, but he was willing to give him up to prove his loyalty and obedience. For the same reason the Carthaginians sacrificed babies to Moloch. Does that mean that this exact sacrifice is necessary? Not at all. But it’s an extreme example that demonstrates the sort of thinking that should exist behind a sacrifice. You are giving up something that is valuable to you, and that is what strengthens your relationship with the spiritual entity.
That is the basic premise behind offerings/sacrifices. But you still might wonder why specific fruits, herbs, gems and other items are recommended as offerings for one spirit, but not for another? You will find very specific information about the best offerings for each spirit. There are three reasons:
- Practitioners/worshippers tested different offerings in the past and saw that some were accepted, while others were not. How could they know which were accepted or not? Well, they either got help from the spirit or they didn’t. If they repeatedly got help when they offered apples and rarely got help when they offered pears, it became evident that apples were the best offering for that particular spirit. This could be for three reasons: 1. mere happenstance, 2. the item that worked was a proper sacrifice on every occasion (based on the practitoner’s circumstances, as explained earlier), 3. the item served as a better energetic beacon, therefore it was actually an operational, ritual item (read point #3 for clarification)
- Some offerings and sacrifices are better aligned with the attributes of a spirit or the nature of one’s request than others. If you’re making a sacrifice to a spirit of wealth, it makes sense that it be wealth related. It can be a promise to donate a specific amount of money in the future, or even to burn some amount of money to begin with, in order to demonstrate strength of conviction in the spirit’s power and willingness to assist. If you were working with a spirit like Belial to enhance your physicality, you could offer as a sacrifice to get up early and go for a run. As long as it feels painful and perhaps inconvenient it is a sacrifice, by the very definition of the word.
- Some offerings and sacrifices aren’t actually that, technically speaking. Rather, they are ritual tools that align with the spirits attributes in order to serve as energetic beacons that pull the spirit’s energy and influence towards us. These are the sigils, the corresponding candles, crystals, incense, ceremonial robes, statues… none of these are consumable items that one is dispensing with by presenting them within a ritual space or upon an altar. They’re also not painful sacrifices. They serve to actively draw in the spirit’s energy, in a deterministic sense. They are operational, rather than dedicational items. As I often say, a magician is proactively either commanding or respectfully asking a spirit for assistance, while the worshipper is passively begging for help and hoping for the best.
The offerings/sacrifices of #1 seem to be most scientific at first, as they were categorized through trial and error, but they are in fact the most superstitious. There is no logical reason for Odin to prefer mead over wine or Loki to prefer oatmeal over bread. Far more logical is to present offerings that are actually meaningful to you as the practitioner, and they will only be meaningful if they feel like an actual sacrifice, if there is pain involved in giving it up. If you’re very poor, a slice of bread can be an amazing offering. If you’re a millionaire.. not really. Alternatively, or in addition to a sacrificial offering, you can employ the more elegant approach of operational magic, whereby you work with energetic beacons that align with the spirit’s attributes in order to attract its influence.
Overall, this is a complex topic. What I can say for certain is that I’m not an advocate of following ancient customs blindly, which is the approach of many neopagans and demonolators. It’s important to take note of the underlying logic behind our actions. Otherwise we’ll get lost in a maze of rules that make little rational sense, dependent on tricksters and false experts to guide us through it.