On Offerings

I bring all manner of offerings to the Gods. Mead and wine most commonly but also food, flowers, honey, beads, anything that means something. It can even be time, or an effort dedicated to Them. What matters is it is offered, or sacrificed, in an honest act of giving.

But what does it mean? No, when I bring Nótt a cup of dark red wine it is not because I think a star clad Goddess will pick up the cup and sip away. When I bring Odin a tasty slice of beef it’s not under the illusion that He will pop up from another realm and stuff his mouth with it. When I bring honey to Ochún it is not because I think she’s run out and her bowl needs a refill. Then why?

It is the very act of giving that matters. It opens a connection or strengthens one that is already there. It builds and nurtures relationships. It’s not matter of payment, I do not demand anything in return. I may wish for something in return but it is never a demand. First and foremost I give because I want to give. Then come what may, the offering stands either way as a representation of my devotion and respect.

The process of giving does not begin and end with the handing over. All of it plays a part, from the moment of decision to the steps of preparation, be it to cut up a slice of bread or fill a cup with wine, to the aftermath. Behind the physical actions lies an intention, and there is the key. It doesn’t end after leaving the offering on the shrine either, the warmth of giving lingers far longer.

Sometimes I lack words, and that is alright. The intention is still there. It’s not about grand gestures to impress anyone, it’s about the connection built within. Nor lies the value of the gift in it’s price tag, but in the spirit it is given in. The effort and intention.

And with those words, I go to bring an offering of wine to Nótt. Mother above, star clad darkness, depth and the truth beyond. I am not yet out of my seat but the process has begun, intention has settled and with it a calm warmth and joy. So I go.

Just a Dream – Uluru

Just another dream

***

Uluru. Ayers rock. A stunning monolith, a mountain carrying echoes of the past. I was there for real, once almost twenty years ago. Tonight I visited again, though only in a dream. I climbed not to the top, for it was too tall and I did not wish to go against the wishes of the Aboriginal community. A short distance I climbed though, just at the foot of the mountain, and that was enough.

As I slowly made my way up the stony slope I came across an odd opening. The width of a hand or less, a crack in the red stone leading to a cavern. I went down on my knees and looked inside.

There were offerings within. Items both old and new, cheap and expensive alike, some left by native hands and some brought by outsiders. So many offerings it almost looked cluttered in there, but still it warmed my heart to see. I smiled as I started to make my way back down.

uluru_ayers_rock_australia.jpg

Porridge, Christmas and Ceremonial Sacrifice?

There is an interesting old Christmas tradition here in Sweden. It has nothing to do with Santa Claus or the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. It involves… porridge, traditionally. Yeah, porridge.

According to tradition, a family should always remember to leave a bowl of good porridge outside on Christmas eve. Sweet, good porride, preferably with a knob of butter in it. Thanks to a bit of linguistic confusion and mixing of traditions, some today (kids especially, I am guessing) will believe that this bowl of porridge is for Santa Claus. But no!

The word used in Swedish for Santa Claus is “tomte”. But see, already before people were bringing the great big bearded gift giver (Santa) into the picture, a “tomte” was more like a gnome. You know garden gnomes? A little creature looking like an old man, only… small? Yep, that’s it. That is a “tomte” if you cut Santa out of the picture.

These are beings that have been thought to live alongside humans, helping to take care of the home and those living there. Make your house “tomte” upset and you might find your cows getting sick! Keep him happy and he’ll make sure things run smoothly around the farm. He’ll help keep the place clean, orderly, safe. If kept happy.

And there we get to the porridge. On Christmas eve tradition said, and still says, that a bowl of porridge should be left outside for the “tomte”, the (hopefully) friendly house gnome, as a thank you for all his help, and in the wish that he’ll stay happy and helpful.

Yes, it’s still done today. Not by every family – you won’t see people set out porridge outside their apartment doors in the cities for example – but it is still very much a living tradition. Few will call it a “sacrifice”, but of course that is what it is.

So many will think of sacrifice as involving blood and death, they imagine slaughtering animals in honour of pagan gods, they imagine the macabre and scary. Sacrifice doesn’t have to be that. It can just be that bowl of porridge too.

 


IMG_2485.JPG

So far this winter we have had unusually little snow, but it is still beautiful.

 

Being raised a city girl, brought up in an apartment block in a highly modern city, I never did this as a child. Still it was something I was aware of, as long as I can remember I’ve known of the tradition, it was just not something done in my neighbourhood – who expected the apartment block to have any tomtar anyway?

Today, my husband and I live in a classic red-and-white house out on the countryside. The picture above shows the view from our living room window! Any tomtar around?

I am not bound by tradition. My beliefs are my own, I draw inspiration from tradition but in the end, I put together my own practices. And while I see a core of truth in the idea of the tomte, I do not see it as a little old man with grey beard and a hunger for porridge specifically. I see the unseen, the spirits of the land, the beings living and breathing here, by our side but mostly unknown. Benevolent or not so much, friendly or mischievous, it probably varies. They are not gods, nor angels, nor something as abstract as symbols. They are people but not like us. I don’t understand them yet, but there they are.

We didn’t give porridge. My husband absolutely hates porridge and we very rarely have any at home. And we weren’t even at home on Christmas eve, so instead it was done a few days after, when we had returned home. I don’t think they care if it’s the 24th or 25th of 27th anyway.

Blueberry mead. We offered blueberry mead, drank some ourselves, toasted to the spirits of the land and all those who are, have been and will be tied to this land. The moon was big and gave far more light than the little lantern we had brought out, the sky was full of stars and the night was cold. As ceremonies go, it was simple yet beautiful.

Perhaps it’ll be some porridge too next year. With plenty of sugar and cinnamon, and a knob of butter in the center. But for this year, I think the mead did well enough.