Secondary libations

I was just performing a very simple, frequent practice of mine that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here so figured it would be worth discussing a little. Am curious if anyone else does anything similar.

A common question from beginners in polytheism – especially those living in cities – is, ”How do I properly dispose of offerings?” Plenty of people have answered this for their particular traditions (including me, in Kharis), although it’s still debated to some degree. Some innovation is required because in antiquity, people lived in different ways that changed how they would approach this issue. They had dirt floors and constant hearth fires and easy access to wild places.

Now, I would say the majority of my everyday offerings are libations. This is partly due to the preferences of my gods and spirits, and partly due to practical considerations – it’s simply a lot more manageable to make libations and dispose of them frequently than it is to deal with food offerings or other things, especially in an apartment. So all my shrines have at least one drink receptacle, and receive regular libations of various wine, mead, beer, liquor, spring water, and other liquids. And periodically, I go around and empty them out. But while I don’t think it’s necessarily terrible to pour the liquid down the drain (it will all reach the earth or sea eventually, I figure), it has never felt quite right to me either, if for no other reason that it’s rather unceremonious and impersonal, sending it to some distant unknown destination. So instead, I have a simple lightweight bowl I use to collect all the libations together (depending on the constituents this can result in a very strange-smelling brew!) and then I go outside and I pour them at the base of the large sycamore tree in front of my home.

But over time, I began to feel that this was an opportunity to sort of secondarily dedicate these substances to the land I live on, and the tree which I am very fond of. I won’t claim to know how these things really work on a divine level but I generally ascribe to the idea that the gods/spirits take some kind of vital force from the food or drink we offer Them, and/or reap some kind of power from the act of offering in itself. Once that has happened, we are left with physical substances that may be spiritually depleted in a sense. But when I poured these out into the thirsty earth I did not feel like it was as simple as disposing of some meaningless and even soulless liquid. It seemed in a way like a second layer of offering. And so I began to dedicate these sacrificial remains by saying a prayer to the land, to the tree, and then again to the gods who received the initial offerings.

Funnily, it occurs to me only as I am writing this now that there is actually precedent for this in my tradition. At the dark moon, part of the rites for Hekate surrounding the deipnon involved also sweeping out the house and collecting the detritus of sacrifices (ashes and whatnot) to deposit at the crossroads. So in that case, what had once been offered was in a sense offered again. This is actually also something I practice, by including in my deipnon the ends of incense, matches and other burnt items I collect over a month of ritual work. Somehow I never connected these two things until now. Hm.

In any case, I like these practices because they make even the act of disposal into a holy thing. Not to mention, I think it has helped foster my connection to the plot of land on which I reside – even in an apartment in the city.

~ by Dver on July 2, 2022.

4 Responses to “Secondary libations”

  1. “… including in my deipnon the ends of incense, matches and other burnt items I collect over a month of ritual work.”

    I’d never thought of doing this, but it’s brilliant! Definitely a practice I will be borrowing in some way.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Lately whenever I dispose of offerings I’ve been saying “I return these offerings to the earth” so I guess I kinda do this too in a way. I like it. It feels more conscientious than just dumping stuff on the ground

  3. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    I do get this question quite a bit: what does one do with old offerings. Here is a thoughtful post answering that. Here is one option.

  4. I love this! I usually just pour libations out respectfully onto the ground, but so many of my ‘known’ trees (ones who have to some degree reciprocated my attempts to communicate) are in easy reach. I’m going to do this!

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