I recently reached a spot where I was between a bit of a rock and a hard place. The reason? Religious Offerings.
I remember a few years back, there was a kerfluffle about food and drink based Offerings and whether or not you should consume them. One camp was incredibly classist and elitist, and I certainly didn’t stay out of the discussion myself; I’m sure if I dug hard enough I could likely find my own contribution- but that is neither here nor there.
I approach the topic once again, though, because everything I stumble across concerning Offerings in Irish Polytheism says the same thing; ultimately, Irish Polytheism has some interesting rules about offerings.
According to the Irish Celtic section of Emerald and Black’s Polytheism 101: Offerings article:
Food offered to the Déithe likely was not eaten, so you may want to avoid doing so […] Man-made items should be destroyed (broken or otherwise rendered useless, as was done back in the day)
I have seen this sentiment echoed in several other places- including An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa’s video about Offerings on Youtube (that link will take you to the Video’s accompanying article, which contains an embedded version of the Video), and again on their Website in another area. Even Pagan Portals: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism states:
The items are generally broken first as a token that they belong fully to the Otherworld after being given (OhOain 1999)
In other words, once offered, the “essence” of a thing is gone. As such, the rules for Offerings in Irish Polytheism appear to be as follow:
- You cannot eat them;
- You shouldn’t move them from the spot they are offered;
- You cannot reclaim or reuse them;
- They should be damaged beyond human consumption or use when given (especially if they are objects which are man made).
Because of these rules, the most common method of giving Offerings also seems to be leaving them outside. This is, at least, the method which I see most Irish Polytheists promoting today. However, doing so does not sit well with me for a few reasons- including the fact that I can’t leave offerings outside due to city ordinances, and I can’t leave them inside because they will eventually create biohazards and attracts pests. Likewise, both would create clutter that would eventually overwhelm the space if I am not allowed to remove them at some point.
But still, I wanted to begin giving offerings and building a daily practice. This remained an issue for me, however; I was unable to figure out a way to build that daily practice including offerings, but at a complete loss as to what else to do; what do you do and how do you approach it as a practitioner when neither eating it nor leaving it outside (or alone at all) is an option for you?
Then a good friend suggested burning them.
While not exactly the most common method of giving offerings in Irish Polytheism it isn’t necessarily unheard of. In fact, such a method was apparently very common; hidden in the short paragraph about Irish Offerings, again, Emerald and Black’s article states not once, but twice that:
The best way to dispose of any offering to them is to burn, bury, or sink it in a body of water. […] (^the items should be broken^) then burned, buried, or sunk.
And prior to the excerpt above, Pagan Portals states:
Offerings are usually made either into water or fire.
And Ghaol Naofa’s materials mention Fire disposal several times as well.
But there are other reasons I chose to burn my offerings, too.
For one, the lighting of Ceremonial Fires was a common thing in Irish Culture. I wrote about my old method of giving Offerings back in 2014 and roughly revisited the topic again in 2015 concerning House Spirits. For me, the act of giving Religious Offerings has always been a formal and ritualized process. With the emphasis on Fire in Irish Polytheism, of course it would be a natural direction for me to take my Offerings in lieu of the problems I faced with other methods.
And as I’m predominantly a Devocant of Brighid, it feels right that she not only get the most regular offerings, but also that they be given through the element of Fire- her element.
So I set out on a quest to find reliable information about burning Offerings.
For a list of IriPol resources, including those I used to inform the opinions mentioned in this article, please view this page here.