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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Offerings and sacrifice

   One of the key aspects of practice as a recon is the idea of offerings and sacrifice. It comes up in discussion on groups all the time, both people discussing what the ideas mean to them and also talking about what constitutes an acceptable offering or sacrifice.
     For myself I define a sacrifice as the giving to a Power something precious and valuable – often irreplaceable -  and I see an offering as the giving of something special but not unique. Put another way I see a sacrifice as a gift while an offering is more of a sharing. These are purely my own definitions of course; if you look both words up in the dictionary you’ll see the meanings are essentially identical. When the subject of sacrifices comes up people usually think of animals, but other things like jewelry, silver, and weaponry can also be sacrificed. Offerings might include incense, flowers, food, candles, drink, a gift of skill like a poem or anything along those lines. I make offerings very regularly but I have only once made a sacrifice; I sacrificed a sword to the waters for the Morríghan. Sacrifices, to me, are a pretty big deal which is why I’ve only ever made the one. Offerings can be intense and important as well, so I always trust my intuition to help me decide what to give.
     Everyone has their own opinions on when and why to make offerings, and make no mistake some people take it very, very seriously. Everyone, even if they follow a similar path, can have different views and expectations on this subject, but I think it’s always important to trust your own gut. Let your own connection to deity – or whoever you are offering to – guide you. Whatever path you follow you’ll get a feel for what offerings are considered usual to give in different situations and it’s always good to ask around if you aren’t sure, but in the end you’re the one offering it so it’s your decision. Sometimes you may feel that you shouldn’t give an offering – the Havamal says “Better no prayer than too big an offering” (verse 146, Bellows trans.) – and that’s alright too.
     I think that an offering should come from a genuine place; it shouldn’t be a bribe or an attempt to buy an outcome from the gods, at least not in my view.  There is certainly the aspect to offerings where they were seen as something to be given when asking for something, but still, I see this less as a “payment” if you will and more as an exchange of energy, “a gift for a gift” (Havamal 146, Bellows). After all when you pay for something you expect a specific result and making an offering, or sacrifice, doesn’t guarantee anything, but on the same hand it’s generally considered polite to offer something when asking a Power for anything. When I make offerings at seasonal rites they are not given to ensure something so much as to give thanks for what I already have been given and to honor the Powers. It is said that the ancient Druids believed that their ceremonies contributed to the perpetual act of creation that kept the universe going and I can see that as well, how offerings keep reinforcing the bonds that hold everything together.

    Basically, much like prayer, I make offerings because I want to not because I feel like I have to; they come from a place of connection and caring not obligation.
    This is all just my thoughts on what sacrifices and offerings are, I’m sure most people will have their own opinions on the subject…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hear my prayer...

There's a saying in neopaganism "ask three pagans a question and you'll get five answers", well I think if you ask three neopagans about prayer you may get seven answers. It always surprises me that something that seems so essential to me can cause so much controversy in the larger neopagan community; after all prayer can be found (as far as I know) in every culture and religion around the world. Yet there are some people who are very firm in their opinions that prayer has no place in neopaganism. The same is true in Recon. although I've seen it more in heathenry than CR. There just seems to be something about prayer - especially daily or devotional prayer - that really puts some people off. Now don't get me wrong I'm all in favor of personal practice being unique and I don't think what works for me should be required for anyone else; I may pray daily and someone else may never pray outside of ritual, or at all, and that's fine. What I don't understand is people who are totally against the concept altogether.
   There seems to be some idea that prayer, daily or devotional prayer that is, is a "Christian thing", despite the fact that it is seen in many other cultures.  I am not as open about this as I used to be because when I talk about it I almost inevitably am accused of having Christian baggage - hilarious since I wasn't raised Christian and only studied Christianity as an adult long after my habit of daily prayer was begun. But the whole "Christian baggage" thing is a common accusation in some pagan and Recon debates, tossed out without any supporting argument, and used as if it were the final word. The equivalent of saying "No one should listen to you because you think like one of them". Like a child shouting "you have cooties!"
   Personally I love prayer; I pray in the mornings and I pray at night because I find it helps me feel both connected to Powers beyond myself - be they my ancestors, the daione sidhe, or the Gods - and that I get a feeling of peace and centered-ness from prayer. I pray because I want to pray and because I enjoy praying. Prayer is a little way, on a regular basis, to strengthen and reaffirm my relationship with those Powers. I may accompany my prayers with little offerings - incense, candles, herbs, actions - or I may only offer my own energy. I tend to follow the Celtic practice of singing my prayers, making little chants and songs out of traditional material I have reworked or writing my own. I may pray to ask for things like protection for my home and family or blessings, or I may just pray to honor whoever I am praying to. I try to have fun with it; I once made a prayer to Odin in limerick form, even. I feel like I am giving my energy and focus to those Powers for that time and I also feel like I am getting something out of it because it does help me feel better and more connected to them.
   There is a lot of beauty in prayer that I wish more people were open to, even if they don't choose to do it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fáed Fíada - The Deer's Cry

The Deer's Cry is a portion of a prayer called Saint Patrick's Lorica, or breastplate from around the 8th century CE in Ireland. The portion that makes up the Deer's Cry is thought to be a survival of an older traditional prayer by some people; whether it is or not it is a beautiful little prayer and very useful.

Old Irish:

"Atomriug indiu
niurt nime,
soilsi gréne,
étrochtai éscai,
áni thened,
déni lóchet,
luaithi gaíthe,
fudomnai mara,
tairismigi thalman,
cobsaidi ailech." *

Modern Irish:

"Éirím inniú
I gcumhacht na bhFlaitheas,
I soillse gréine,
I ngile na gealaí,
In áilleacht tine,
I mire lasrach,
I luas gaoithe,
I ndoimhneacht farraige,
I mbuanseasmhacht talún,
I ndaingneacht carraige."**


"I arise today
through the strength of heaven
the light of the sun,
the brillance of the moon,
the splendor of fire,
speed of lightning,
swiftness of wind,
depth of the sea,
stability of the earth,
firmness of rock."

*Old Irish courtesy of
** Modern Irish courtesy of

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Prayer for Lughnasa

This is based on the Carmina Gadelica, but modernized and made pagan...

Reaping Blessing 89

Gods may you bless my reaping,
Each ridge, and plain, and field,
Each sickle curved, shapely, hard,
Each ear and handful in the sheaf,
Each ear and handful in the sheaf.
Bless each maiden and youth,
Each woman and tender child,
Safeguard them beneath Your shield of strength,
And guard them beneath the shadow of your power,
Guard them beneath the shadow of your power.
Encompass each goat, sheep and lamb,
Each cow and horse, and store,
Surround the rocks and herds,
And tend them in a kindly fold,
Tend them in a kindly fold.
May Lugh, the many skilled, bless us,
May Danu’s blessing flow to us,
May Brighid of curling locks bless us,
And our ancestors of the graves and tombs,
and our ancestors of the graves and tombs.