I’ve been reviewing my magical career, especially over the past year and the events that led to my eight-month hiatus from magical praxis. This introspection and retrospection has been the result of several things: my recent novena to Saint Cyprian, my getting back into the habit of meditation and offerings, and invocations of forces to get back to empowering myself as I’m damn worthy of. I’m starting to realize something that should probably be said, and would be something that I’d argue with against myself from a year or two ago, and that’s on the topic of offerings itself.
Leading up to my hiatus, I was focused mostly on making offerings to the spirits. I’d try to make an effort whenever possible, at least daily, in making offerings to the gods or angels or planets of the day, not necessarily as an invocation of their power in my life but just for the sake of honoring the spirits who are in my life. I mean, that’s one point I won’t argue about: the crucial tenet of spiritual practice in a variety of religions, such as Greek practice, is to honor the gods. They’re bigger than us, they’re stronger than us, they’re smarter than us, and they’re involved in our lives; it is right and proper to honor the gods. I won’t argue with that. However, honor can take many forms, and…honestly, there was a network and infrastructure of temples for a reason. Household worship was one thing, but devout temple worship quite another, and I think I was easily misled into confusing the two.
Let’s face it: I’m a mortal who enjoys life in this mundane world of ours. I have a full-time office job with an hour-and-a-half commute one way. I have obligations to people and organizations in this world. I have friends, online and offline, I like to spend time with. I like to eat, sleep, game, and fuck. I’m human, and that’s entirely expected of, you know, being a human. I do not claim to be more than that, although I’d like to, and for as long as I’m human, I’m still going to have human needs and desires. At this stage in my life, I am simply not cut out to live a devout priestly existence, no matter how idealized I hold that noble profession: holding regular sacrifices for the sole sake of honoring the gods is not something I’m able to do. For those who can do that, awesome! For those who can’t, awesome! Whether it’s not the right time, or you don’t have the proper resources, that’s alright; if the gods wanted that of you, they’d provide the means for you to keep up, and if they’re not, then they don’t expect the impossible out of you since it’d come back to bite them in their heavenly asses eventually.
But…I was getting wrapped up in making more offerings than I could manage. Worse, I was making offerings for the sole sake of making offerings. It was becoming empty to me, but I felt like I owed it to them. Yes, I do owe Hermes my thanks and honor for guiding me in commuting and telecommunication and technology; yes, I owe it to Hephaistos for my skill and profitability in crafting; yes, I owe it to Raphael for teaching me spiritual healing techniques. These are all things that are right to honor the spirits in my life for, but I started focusing on offerings first and Work a distant second. I was spending more time giving empty praise than praising them for actual needs; my praise and honor was empty because I was doing it for the sole sake of praising the spirits.
The only spirit to whom only praise should be given for the sake of praising it is the One, and that’s completely another matter. I wasn’t even doing that, and to do that requires a special level of awareness that I maintain in sporadic bursts. For other spirits…no, I was misled, and I misled myself: I was making offerings to the gods for the sole sake of making offerings to them, not celebrating them properly as is their due. Giving gifts as a matter of empty ritualized practice is not honor, and I see that now.
It was taking its toll on me. I was being worn down by giving and giving and giving without expecting or even asking for much in return besides the general “yo, keep an eye out for me”. While I’m sure they enjoy the attention, they’d probably want also a reason to keep an eye on me besides giving them more of what I could. I spent more time and energy doing this empty act than I could afford, and once I started slipping, I fell into a cycle of guilt, which led me to put off offerings out of guiltiness from going before them, which led me to put them off even further, which led to more guilt…surely, you know how that goes, dear reader. It’s like not replying to an email you got from a family member for months, and by the time you feel like you have time to do so, it’s too late for any kind of appropriate response, so you just give up entirely on replying to it.
Part of my burnout was that I was giving too much without asking for anything, or even doing anything with the gifts they gave me in return. I wasn’t working with what they gave me; I wasn’t Working with my own tools. Offerings are a tool, a method of bargaining, a way of getting closer to the spirits you work with. While it’s impossible to truly bargain with the gods, they have much leeway and are willing to see how far you’ll go to get something done, and if that something is the right thing for you to do, they’ll (generally) be happy with even a token payment if you can afford it. And, while I am always willing to give all that I have if that’s the case, I wasn’t doing anything that really warranted even regular offerings.
Before anything else, I am a magus. While I may have priestly aspirations in some sense, I am no priest, and I do not have the time or the energy to devote myself to priesthood at this point in time, with the exception of some informal needs and mediation skills between me and a select few spirits. Trying to priest it up without the time or energy will sap me of both, and that’s one of the reasons I got burnt out. So what is a magus to do? By all means, I still plan on making offerings, but this time around, I’m changing things up a bit.
- Regular offerings are to be kept as token offerings to maintain a connection with the spirit. Really, repeated prayers and the like are nice, but not needed.
- Rituals to approach the gods and spirits should still involve offerings; as many magicians of note nowadays are realizing, making offerings is a solid technique to supercharging one’s magic.
- Whenever a nontrivial expenditure of energy and resources are involved, something has to be done to warrant it. Whether it’s payment in completion of a vow, opening up a deeper connection for contemplation and communion with the spirit, or tasking a spirit with a specific task, something has to be done to warrant such an offering.
I suppose I was misleading myself in the proper way to honor the gods. Celebrating them for their mere existence is…well, while it might be right to do in some cases, constantly celebrating them for that is sycophantic and, if I may speak so boldly on behalf of the divine, not exactly proper honor. Honor is recognizing their power and beauty, yes, but it is also respecting their work and one’s work with them. Without work done, there’s little to honor there, and there’s correspondingly little point in offering.
Giving and giving without getting anything in return, not even a warm fuzzy feeling…yeah, I see the error of my ways. While it’s too far in the wrong direction to only give things to the spirits as a bone to dogs, it’s also wrong to give for the sake of giving. That’s like saying you’re going to hang out with your friend and have a good time with them, only to show up at their doorstep and drop off a gift card to Starbucks before leaving. I was basically doing the equivalent of that, now that I think about it.
To the gods and spirits I have dishonored by my false honor, I apologize, and to those I may have misled with my bad advice, I apologize. Let’s see how this new approach works out, shall we?
Well said, and something that needs to be addressed and isn’t very often.
There’s a line about the rune Gifu (aka Gebo) that goes something like, it’s better to promise too little and deliver too much than promise too much and deliver too little. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the drift. Rewards and offerings need to be proportional, usually, to the Work done. Motivations also matter. I like to burn incense every day, and when my allergies flare it’s all about the fragrance diffusers, but that’s as much for my own enjoyment as it is for the spirits. It’s not a formal offering and they know that. To me, though, it’s as much a part of keeping my space clean as it is to knock down the unoccupied cobwebs and vacuum up the cat hair from time to time. Now when I bust out the candles and the condition oils, or start drawing a chalk circle in the back yard at two in the morning, Shit Just Got Real and they know this, too. And if I command Something to do something, and that command is not fulfilled, no payment is made. They want whatever? They can EARN it. Oftentimes, though, the candles and incense are more than enough. They *rarely* ask for anything else, and when they do, 99% of the time I have it on hand already, like soda pop, alcohol, or occasionally small hard candies. Spirits out here also like water, but I live in a desert. I digress…
Offering too much too often also leaves yourself open to vampires, for lack of a better word. We all know those fair weather friends that are only around when we can do something for them or give them something. You don’t want to attract those people OR those types of spirits. They can be incredibly difficult to get rid of, but once boundaries are established, they usually take off in search of a better and easier mark. There are plenty of entities out there that would happily exploit us. Don’t encourage them.
All I can do is wish you luck.
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