The Spiritual and Practical Ecology of Offerings

Photo by  Artem Beliaikin  from  Pexels

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

In The Spell of the Sensuous, the author shares that when he was visiting Indonesia and learning from some of the Shamans there, he would observe that people would leave offerings outside of their house for the spirits. One day, curious as to what happened with the offerings, the author followed someone, saw them give the offering and then he waited a while. Then he walked over and he saw that ants were carrying off the offerings.

What the author came to realize is that making the offerings had a spiritual impact, but also an ecological one. The ants didn’t show up in the homes where offerings were being made, because the offerings were set far enough away that the ants could get the food and go on their respective way.

Now it could be argued that the spirits really have nothing to do with an offering, in such a situation, but I disagree because while the ants may have taken away the physical sustenance, the spirits are also provided something from the offering. And the end result is a continuance of the ongoing relationship between the person and the world around them that is ideally harmonious.

And really, in one sense, that is the point of an offering. It’s establishing a space where the magician, spirits, and natural world meet and from there coming to a place of mutual harmony. At least that’s how I’m approaching my offerings. What’s fascinating to me is that what’s also changing when I make offerings is my awareness of not just the spiritual world, but also the world in general and my place in it. I’ve started asking myself what offerings am I really making to the world.

Consider this: When you throw something away you are making an offering of sorts. It’s not an intentional offering, but you nonetheless are offering the world around you your waste as well as any accompanying emotions and thoughts that go with it. Now I’ve never been a litterer, but even so I think what we put into our environment is also what we get from it. And what we casually offer, without much thought, is something which still has significance and contributes to the lack of connection people have with the world.

When I make an offering of honey or wine or something else along those lines its made with an awareness that is being shared with the world around me and all of its inhabitants, spiritual and physical. I make it with an awareness that what I’m striving for isn’t necessarily a specific result, but instead is an awareness of the intimate relationship I am in with my environment and the life I co-share that environment with.

This awareness has also changed how I interact with that life. For example, there was a time where if I came across a spider in my house, I’d probably just kill it. That’s no longer the case, because I consider that the spider inhabits an ecological niche that provides it a specific purpose and I ought to respect that purpose. So instead I’ve taken to carefully moving the spider to outside the house and wished it well. A fundamental change in behavior, which brings with it an intriguing sense of flow and alignment with that spider and with the overall environment we’re in. Instead of trying to impose my will on the spider or the environment, I’m working with the spider and the environment to find a solution that respects the life cycle we’re all in.

In turn what I’m discovering is a deeper connection to the universe at large, one that allows me to tap into a sense of flow that brings me to the right place and time because I’m in harmony with the universe and my place in the web of life, instead of trying to control it and force things to go a certain way. I am moved by the universe because I flow with it and in that movement I find the necessary means to reach my desired result and align it with the overall pattern of the universe. And that’s something that heartfelt offerings and interaction with the life around and within me is teaching me…that there is a way to live with this world in harmony, in a way that differs from typical Western narratives of control, and opens you to heart of the universe, which in turn may open to you.