Liminal Book Review: Ritual Offerings

Ritual Offerings: Feeding Your Spirits – Empowering Your Magick. Edited by Aaron Leitch; 2014. Nephilim Press. 274 pages. Copy 629/1000.

My magick really went into overdrive when I started making offerings. Always a theist of some kind, I was trained early in the techniques of Buddhist meditation and mantra. Part of that practice included giving to the Buddhas water, flowers, fruit and devotional time. At first I thought it was just an external expression of focus, a kind of eye candy trigger to get myself present. It wasn’t until later, when I started doing Druidry, that it became much clearer in the subtlety of what was happening: relationships were being formed and alliances made with Deity. The Indo-European concept of ‘ghost-i’, a reciprocity of “I give so that you may give”, just never sat right with my compassionate sensibilities. I give because I am generous or wish to alleviate suffering, not so I can build up a karmic reserve….a cosmic bank account from which to draw upon when needed. But I have also seen the results in the form of phenomenal spiritual experiences, blessings and small miracles.

 

The anthology Ritual Offerings  covers the many complexities involved in the conversation of devotion between polytheist, occult and Deity-centered magickal traditions ranging from Wicca to hoodoo, Golden Dawn to Tibetan Buddhism. A very practical collection of essays, this anthology includes many well-known and respected authors from the occult world: Sam Webster, Brother Moloch, Frater Ashen Chassen, Jason Miller, Nick Farrell to name the ones I recognized and why it was initially purchased. The book itself is an incredible work of art. This hardbound cover is half oxblood and half leathery black, with an embossed sigil covering most of the front and part of the back, wrapping around the spine. The turn in page has a most beautiful image of an illustrated altar with offerings and other arcane symbolism, in the front and back of the book. It also includes a satiny page marker sewn into the endband, which is very convenient and user friendly.

By far my favourite essay included in this anthology was Brother Moloch’s “Ancestors & Offerings”. The practice of ancestor worship in the West has been a long forgotten , Brother Moloch gets right into the nit and grit. Details and suggestions for beginning a ritual practice involving ones’ Dead, the essay breaks it down describing what and why to offer, how much/often, where to make offerings and working for results. This very frank and practical piece gave me some ideas on how to persuade them to work with me. As someone with a lot of Christianity in their family, I have found they are not always cooperative with what I want to accomplish…Brother Moloch draws upon his various spiritual lineages to explain ways in to maneuver around these kinds of obstacles. For example there are certain things nearly all Ancestors seem to like such as coffee, clean water and a simple white candle. He mentions a few things I had not thought to try before such as the naming of all my family lineage as a way to connect the dots with them all, or listing off all my blessings so they know how thankful I am for it all.

In “Offerings in Iamblichan Theurgy” Sam Webster breaks down the levels of offerings made and how they perpetuate our magick. One of the most compelling parts of the essay goes into the age old argument of “The Gods need our offerings because….”. According to Iamblichus, the Gods, in fact, do NOT need our affectionate attentions in order to survive. The Gods are deathless, unchanging and slightly self absorbed. If it makes no impression on the Gods, WHY do we make offerings then? Sacrifice is not made with expectations of reciprocity, but given out of love for Deity. In the making of offerings, the materials used are charged with the ‘Word’ or names of Deity, which are their essence. “Each thing in the world instantiates a complex union of the Words of a number of the Gods…we offer back to a God that which has a part of its constitution the Word of the God. As Iamblichus notes, Creators most love their creations” (p.215). For example, I often offer to Hekate graveyard dirt as this is a place She especially enjoys, it resonates with the chthonic aspect of Her as a guide of the Dead.

A few pieces in the anthology were shorter than I would have liked; less than 10 pages which really would be more of an article than an essay. Although packed with information, Jason Miller’s essay “Severed Head Cakes and Clouds of Dancing Girls: Offerings in Tibetan Buddhism” felt as if only the very surface of this subject was scratched at. My training in chod gave me an insight many Western practitioners may be missing in this piece, but Miller still does a great job of explaining without going too deeply into the practical applications. One example he gave as an offering are the making of tormas, clay-like cakes which can be molded into various shapes and used in place of a blood sacrifice; “mar-chod, the ‘red offering’ of sacrificed animals and humans that Buddhists do not practice” (p.184). He also mentions a practice I find to be missing in Western traditions, the feeding of Demons and other ‘lesser’ beings. This is a difficult thing for Western practitioners to understand, as they generally see the feeding of demons as a way of encouraging their presence to be near. In Buddhism it is believed all beings, everywhere, suffer. These demons and other harmful spirits are intensely miserable which is why the act of offering tormas or other objects which are pleasing is a way of easing that suffering; it is an act of complete compassion.

This is a book any serious magician should have on their bookshelf, if not for the wealth of information contained within, but for the beauty without. Not often will I pay over $50 for a book that is not a textbook, but this was an especially wonderful exception I do not regret. I think it will also increase in value over time, as the authors are all five-star practitioners and the limited prints will ensure it’s rarity.

WytchfawnLiminal Book Review: Ritual Offerings