It is hotter than hell today in New York, even with air conditioning. I’m taking a break from a full day of cooking to write this and it’s a nice chance to sit own under a fan and rest my feet. I have deepest respect for the women in our ancestral lines who spent the majority of their time running a home, cooking, cleaning. I love to cook but don’t have to do so daily and I forget how exhausting it can be. It’s good to be reminded sometimes and I find it helps me connect more to my female ancestors overall.
Anyway, Hermes did us a good turn recently and asked for chicken. I divined to see if He wanted full sacrifice but the answer was no, cooking chicken for Him would suffice and since He always seems to approve of citrus dishes (especially sweets) when we offer them, I’m making lemon chicken. (I’ve included all the recipes below. He also wanted pie). Whenever I do a divination session, I ask if it’s ok to close the session. We literally could not close the divination until we’d worked out what meal to cook for Him. Unlike with sacrifice in our house, we’ll share in this meal too, unusual for us, but something He wanted.
So, in case anyone is interested, I wanted to share the recipes. Don’t poo-poo the vinegar pie. It’s an Appalachian dish, dating to the early 18th century, a poor-man’s lemon tart. It does not taste like vinegar at all, but like a lemon pie or tart citrus custard. So, give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.
Ingredients: 3 pounds of chicken or 4 breasts with bone.
4-6 lemons cut into slices
2 TBLS dried oregano
salt, pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Coat bottom of baking dish with olive oil. Arrange lemon slices on olive oil. Combine spices and rub thoroughly over chicken. Place chicken skin side down over lemon. Bake 20 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue cooking 35 minutes (longer if necessary but until chicken is very tender You can, if you wish, broil it for a few minutes to cook the skin).
Basic White Sauce and Creamed Spinach
Equal parts butter and all-purpose flour (about 1/3 stick of butter). Put it in a pan. Melt and whisk together. Add spices – since I’m doing this with spinach, I used red pepper flakes, salt, and nutmeg. Add at least two cups of milk – eyeball it. Add until you think you’ve added too much. Stir continuously until it thickens. Add spinach. Keep stirring – it WILL cook down and get creamy just when you think it won’t.
Two and a half pounds of all-purpose potatoes
1 TBLS salt, 1 tsp pepper, olive oil, 4 finely chopped shallots
3 large chopped garlic cloves.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat bottom of pan with 2/3 cup olive oil. Cut potatoes into quarters if they’re small, or dice them if large. Spread in a single layer on the oil. Add spices, shallots, and garlic. Toss thoroughly. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn and stir. Cook for another 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4 eggs, 1 ½ cups white sugar, ½ cup butter melted (one stick), 2 TBS. apple cider vinegar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Combine everything and mix well with mixer. Pour into 9” pie shell. Cook 25 minutes. This WILL BE WOBBLY when it is done. Just relax. Let it cool before you cut it and it’ll firm up as it cools. LEAVE IT ALONE UNTIL IT IS COOL. Trust me on this one.
(I made a whole-wheat pie crust today for this, but you could use any type of pie crust. I have various recipes that I use and it just depends on how lazy I’m feeling. Lol).
Now I’m off to finish my prep for dinner.
V.M. Asks: “Would you be so kind and write on how to strive to be more and more generous on our relationship and offerings to the Gods?”
I think learning how to prioritize the Gods and being in an open, loving, proper devotional relationship with Them takes ongoing time and consistent attention. In many respects, we learn as we go. I know for myself, I often wantto be generous with my Gods but then the little kid inside of me cries ‘no, that’s mine” usually when the offering in question involves part of something sweet. Lol. This is not a bad thing though because it provides us with the opportunity to consciously choose to make those offerings, to be generous, to give to our Gods. It allows for greater mindfulness and for consciously cultivating a generous character in our devotions. We’re all works in progress and developing a generous devotional heart is a matter of conscious cultivation.
If this is a significant issue in your devotional life, I would suggest really meditating on why you find it difficult to be generous with Them. Often a lack of generosity in our hearts indicates a sense of want or loss or not having enough in our lives. The willingness to share one’s bounty is a statement that we ourselves are nourished enough, have enough, and do not want. We should not feel a sense of loss when we give to our Gods. That sometimes this is the case is heart-breaking. In those cases pray to Them. Ask Them for help. Trust Them to be patient.
I find that sometimes starting small with offerings is very helpful. If there is something that one wishes to give the Gods, but one meets with internal resistance, then perhaps half the offering. Give half and keep half. It sounds simplistic, but when the heart is hurting, or bound by insecurity, such simple measures can be useful stepping stones in developing a habit of generous and joyful gifting. Most of all, don’t beat oneself up about these struggles. We are all learning and it’s normal to hit what I liked to call devotional speed bumps. Some days will be better than others, but the important thing is the ongoing commitment to becoming better, fuller, and more devoted to our Gods and ancestors.
In the end, it comes down to learning to make good choices, learning, little by little, to make the decision to give. It’s like developing a habit – it’s a matter of practice and consistently forcing yourself to do the right thing. The good thing, the grace about all of this is that we can ask our Gods and ancestors for help. They will provide it. We’re not alone in our spiritual struggles.
Now, for no reason whatsoever save that she is awesome, is a picture of my cat Elena catching some sunrays on the stairs. ^_^
I think it’s important to find those places in our regular landscape that summon to mind the presence and potency of our Gods. That’s part of re-sacralizing the world too: seeking out places that speak to our hearts of the Holy Powers we love to dearly. I’m not as good at doing this as I should be, but when I was in Eugene, I had a wonderful opportunity to pour out offerings in the most unlikely of places: a busy university campus during the national track championships!
At the University of Oregon there is a tree, a douglas fir grown from a seed that went to the moon. A number of seeds were taken on the Apollo 14 mission and got to orbit the moon. Apparently many of them were planted and forgotten, but not this one. There is a plaque commemorating the flight of the tree’s seed and a bench and then the gorgeous, soaring branches of the tree itself. Because of it’s association with the moon by virtue of its history, I thought this a potent place to make special offerings to our moon God Mani.
My friends took me by the day after I arrived and I was able to pour out copious offerings, both for myself and for those of Friends of Mani who had requested it. Unexpectedly, given its location, I found it a surprisingly powerful experience. Mani was, against all expectations, present and it was a joy to hail Him.
Whenever I visit a new place, there’s a protocol I have to follow. I always feel tremendously unsettled until I make offerings to the city spirit, the genius loci. If the flight has been a rough one, as long plane trips generally are for me, it can take me a day or so to fulfill this part of my working etiquette.
When I arrived in Eugene, I was uncomfortable and agitated until after breakfast the following day. I did a bit of quick divination and realized that a large part of my unease was that I’d not honored the spirits of the place yet so I immediately set out to remedy that. I poured out offerings to the spirit of Eugene but didn’t feel quite as though I was finished. There’s always the question of where to make offerings and for me, certain sites tend to resonate most strongly: any site connected with the military dead and, generally, cemeteries.
My husband lived in Eugene for many years and took me first and foremost after that to a memorial to honor those incarcerated in Japanese internment camps during WWII.
There were paving stones honoring individuals, and also soldiers and specific regiments. I gave offerings of tobacco and prayer there.
I also cleaned up some trash that someone had left. It makes me angry to see memorial sites desecrated. I think there should be more respect for our dead.
Later on that day we visited one of the local cemeteries. It was beautiful and serene and I was able to make offerings to the local dead (and to Hermes). The moment I poured out offerings to the dead in Eugene, I found myself feeling far more rooted and I was able to prepare myself for the weekend’s retreat ahead.
So once again the subject of offerings and sacrifice has come up on a discussion thread; specifically, the comment was made that food offerings shouldn’t be wasted, that if something is given in offering or if a sacrifice is made, unless human beings get to eat it, it’s going to waste.
Part of me really wants to just go “bitch, please, this argument has happened already and it’s not rocket science. Catch up, please.” but since that’s not necessarily conducive to understanding and discussion, allow me to parse this out again.
Making offerings is an essential part of the devotional process and at the apex of all offering rites, ritual sacrifice is the holiest and most profound type of offering that one can give.
To say that offerings are wasted if they’re not then given to people is remarkably self-centered of us. How can they be wasted when they are being given to Gods and spirits? If you actually believe in the Gods, then giving to Them is not wasteful. That’s the catch there. Offerings set on a shrine are not being left out to rot; they’re being given to specific Deities or spirits. Sacrifices made and left at a shrine are not being left to go to waste, they are being given again, to Gods and spirits. That we cannot see or corporeally engage with our Gods does not make Them any less real.
What actually happens to an offering or sacrifice may vary: it depends to what God or spirit it’s being given. Whether or not the sacrifice is later consumed will depend on the Deity, the tradition, and most importantly, the divination done before and after the sacrifice. (1) Likewise, what happens to an offering will depend on the same factors. This is part of an ongoing conversation with our Holy Powers, the Great Ones and the least we can do is not be parsimonious twats about the whole thing. If nothing else, this process reinforces the reality that we are not the biggest, most important Beings in the universe. It teaches humility, reverence, and in the best cases imbues us with an overwhelming sense of awe that we can stand in right relationship with our Gods with all that entails.
Our right to sacrifice is not a given. It is under constant threat, not just from Christian evangelicals and other monotheistic extremists but from secular humanists/non-theists and most of all from animal rights groups that will go to any lengths to see the practice banned. They’ve been successful too, helped by a social justice agenda that values any culture and religion except that which would prioritize the Gods.
This past year has seen sacrifice banned in at least two places (Denmark and Nepal’s Gadhimai festival) and there have been multiple threats to its practice that weren’t so successful (ARM is constantly agitating against the ATR, there was a legal challenge in Brooklyn last October against the Orthodox Jewish community and their new year sacrifice, to name but two). Our legal right to sacrifice to our Gods rests on a 1994 case that went all the way to the Supreme Court: Ernesto Pichardo and the Church of Babaluaye vs. the City of Hialeah. As we’ve seen with another Supreme court victory, Roe v. Wade, even a precedent setting decision by the Supreme Court can be diminished and chipped away at little by little…or even overturned.
I would like to think that if (when) our right to practice our religions unimpeded is ever challenged, that our polytheistic communities would band together and stand together fiercely protecting our ancestral traditions, challenging and fighting any restrictions…even if one’s own cultus does not require sacrifice (after all, we should never compromise in honoring our Gods and if it’s sacrifice today, what practice will be on the chopping block tomorrow?). I would like to think that if our ATR colleagues were to see their right to sacrifice threatened again that we would stand together, unified, to support them as well.
Sadly, I know that isn’t the case. We have too many people who just don’t care and too few people able (willing?) to look ahead. We need to be looking ahead. These are perilous times and whether we like it or not, we are minority religions. I want every Polytheist and Pagan out there to be able to honor their Gods without having to hide their practices, break the law, or feel ashamed. We should be able to celebrate without having to watch for informants, busy-bodies, and bigots. We should not have to curtail our religious practices because our neighbors may not understand, as one recent article suggested. We should, in fact, blatantly and boldly refuse to do so. After all, it should be more important to please the Gods than the asshole down the street.(2)
So I watch and do my best to stay vigilant. I pay attention to articles involving animal rights, to people arrested for animal slaughter (religious or not, it’s easy enough for something to be spun in a way that brings disaster to us), to international efforts overseas to ban slaughter. I write at several venues to try to raise awareness, and I refuse to support organizations (like PETA) that would take my religious rites away. I would like to see us more organized, more able to fight, and fend off attacks on our religions but looking at the community today, we’ve a long way to go.
- I’m very carefully separating out offerings that do not require animal sacrifice (offering) from those that do (sacrifice).
- It helps to research local zoning laws and have the information at your fingertips. I also suggest screening your property. I have a screened enclosure where I will perform sacrifices, and a huge back porch that can be screened if need requires. I do not in any way suggest performing sacrifice where your neighbors can gawk. This is a sacred thing, not some for profane eyes to observe.
One of the things I did for Ostara was to plant trees in honor of my ancestors, specifically my adopted mom, my bio mom, and my mother-in-law. I went here and had a grove of 25 trees planted for each of them. This is pretty cool and it’s definitely something I know my adopted mom at least would have loved. There are multiple options too; one doesn’t have to purchase 25 at a go.
I looked up a couple of other organizations that run projects like this and found American Forests, and the Arbor Day Foundation. It seemed appropriate both for these particular ancestors, and as a way to honor and keep Ostara and I rather liked the symbolism of trees and ancestors.
So I have been following the issue with offerings (started by relative outsiders to Morrigan cultus commenting on whether or not it was appropriate to make certain offerings to Her) with growing dismay. I want so much for our communities to be more devotionally sophisticated than some of these debates allow us to appear. Perhaps though by the very act of discussing and debating these things, we’re forced to consider our own position, and that relative to our traditions and those are good things. So, I’m going to be wading in.
Markos, the Dionysian Artist has been talking about this here (and he gives all the relevant links) with Rhyd Wildermuth and others. Rhyd posted an article to which Markos responded and the conversation continued via facebook. I flat out questioned the relevancy of Rhyd’s argument, which seems to me to be little more than reducing our gods and Their cultus to meaninglessness to which he responded:
“On the contrary, rather than reducing anything to meaninglessness or getting out of something inconvenient, this is doing the really, really inconvenient work of worlding a god beyond just what we give them. Gods can’t be bought off with offerings anymore than humans can; what they want (as you well know) is what we really have to give them: the world. That’s how they become our meaning and we theirs, and how they become known to others through our actions.”
To which I will now share my response, because these are issues in which we should all have a vested stake.
“Ah I see your confusion. I should have realized this would be difficult for someone with a Marxist mindset to understand. It’s really quite simple: the purpose of offering to the gods is not to buy Them. It is not the equivalent of bribing a human being. The purpose is an expression of devotion that interweaves Them into the fabric of our world and that augments and develops a “language” if you will by which we may engage and that is a tremendous privilege.
What you are suggesting is no different at its core than something John Halstead might write. You are denying the Gods a material presence in our reality and privileging the human fear of meaning, of infinite relevance. You’re also privileging your own personal leftist dialectic over the parameters of devotion (parameters that the gods have clearly already laid down for us — sometimes the work is done for us, not often but sometimes), parameters that mark a clear and cosmic hierarchy in which our “place” is a limited one (yet one with infinite potential to evolve and grow). It’s a position that ignores that the gods do not need us to give Them relevance; instead maybe we should be looking to Them and the navigation of our relationship with Them, to define our own relevance.
As much as you rail against power structures in your writings, what I see here is no more than resistance to Their sovereignty.
The Gods already have the world Rhyd. As much as They are transcendent Powers, They are likewise deeply immanent and inscribed in every atom. They don’t need us to give the World to Them. Perhaps They need us to wake up and realize it is already Theirs and return to right relationship with it and Them but the world is not ours to give.
That is in part the paradox of devotion: There is nothing we can give Them that They do not already possess and yet perhaps we in some way are cleansed and ennobled spiritually by entering into the offertory cycle. It nourishes that right relationship. Not as alley Valkyrie assumed is it the culmination of ones relationship devotionally with the Gods. It is the beginning, the baseline, and act of vulnerability that positions us relative to the Gods as suppliants, those who acknowledge Their sovereignty as Gods with all that implies.
You also high handedly criticize those who would accord to the ways of our ancestors, who would restore rightful and pious practices like sacrifice. You not only do so with us but with all the many indigenous religions in the world that reverence rites of sacrifice ( the Afro-carribbean religions, Hinduism, etc.) and all because you have a knee jerk reaction to acknowledging with our offerings the capacity for devastation inherent in each of our Gods. For someone who criticizes oppression of the Other and condemns racism as you do in your work, I have to say that was very white of you.”
I encourage people to read all of the relevant articles and to familiarize yourselves with the parameters of this debate. The future of our traditions is something that should involve us all and in which, we should all have a vested interest. It’s important not only to know what’s happening but to understand where ideas may ultimately lead. To venerate the Gods has consequences in our lives, each and every day. That’s no small thing.