A Pleasing Offering

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in July 2006.

“Why do you worry so much?” a friend asked after my ramblings on researching and writing a daily rite. “Offering is offering, right? I don’t think the gods care so much about what’s offered as they do about the attitude it’s offered in.”

“I know that,” I said, brushing it off before going right back to puzzling over a daily rite.

I didn’t really think about it till much later. In a way, my friend was right. What need have gods for chocolate and shiny things? There’s a deeper reason behind ritual, offerings, and the apparent pickiness of some deities over what they’re offered. It’s not that Anpu really can’t stand fish, or absolutely adores rum, though that may be partially the case. The core reason is the concept of sacrifice.

An offering is many things. It’s a sacrifice, a form of worship, recognition of the roles the gods play in human lives. It’s a form of prayer. In kemetic practice, it’s also communion, a shared meal and shared time.

The value of an offering is what the offerer puts into it.

It’d be easy to offer Anpu money. It’d be a sacrifice – I don’t earn a lot, and there’s all sorts of items and trips and outings I would love to spend it on instead. Yet I don’t offer Anpu money. Why not? Because it’d be easy. It requires no thought, effort, or time on my part. It’s a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of self.

Jesus knew the value of offering. The story of the widow and her two copper coins illustrates it perfectly. She offered only two small coins, and Jesus noted that she offered more than the sacks of gold given to the temple by the rich men, saying “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” She was saying with her offering that she trusted her God enough to give him all she had. Her sacrifice was a gesture of trust, a sacrifice of self, not of convenience. It’s a case of money being a valuable offering. In my situation, my living expenses, schooling, and books are all paid for by grants and scholarships – I don’t need money to survive. Giving money would be giving “out of my wealth”, to use the biblical phrasing.

I also don’t offer money because Anpu doesn’t ask for it. A pleasing offering-gift is one that shows the giver listened to what the recipient wanted. I don’t know if Anpu really likes rum chocolate or honeycomb, but it’s what he told me he wanted, so I bought it for him. Offering him only the money that those items cost would have been a lifeless offering; giving him the items showed I took the time to listen and cared enough to follow through.

Time and effort is another part of offering. I fold origami; never tried giving any to Anpu, but I’ll use this as an example anyway. I could fold a sloppy, half-assed flapping crane out of notebook paper. It would take me three minutes. Yet even if Anpu decided he wanted origami, I don’t think he’d like it. I’d probably get the “What the hell is this?” look. However, I could also hunt around and find a store with colorful, high-quality origamiy paper and then take my time folding the crane, making the creases precise and sharp. I’d likely get a much more favorable reaction from that, because it took time and effort and I put my best into making it.

An offering must also be from the offerer. I missed having tea with Anpu one day. A coworker bought me a cup of chai tea because we were all frazzled and she wanted to apologize for snapping at me. My reaction was something along the lines of Ooh! I can use this for tea with Anpu! But the instant I started my ritual routine, I got the spiritual equivalent of a wrist-slap and a stern look. ‘That was a gift to you. You neither bought it nor made it, and it was intended for you. You will not offer that.’ Oops. I must have looked a bit shamefaced as I set the cup down and apologized to the Jackal.

Another story to go with the above point: During the Yule of honeycomb and rum chocolates, I had originally bought nothing to offer to Anpu. I suppose somewhere in my mind was the idea that I’d offer him something of the ritual feast. (I was clearly not thinking.) I accompanied my boyfriend to a wonderful Italian grocery so he could pick up mead, and I halted at the door as a thought occured to me. “Crap – Anpu’s gonna want something.”

“Of course I do. You weren’t going to give me someone else’s offering, were you?”

So I got him Holland gouda cheese and Amish honeycomb honey and rum chocolates, and he was very pleased, bouncing about as Yinepu, the Divine Child. It was a good Yule, and I learned a lesson about offering.

Every time I’ve given (or tried giving, or thought about giving) an offering of convenience, I’ve gotten an unfavorable response. There was the Yule incident as described above. There was the sushi, given because it was what was in the fridge and hey, I like it, maybe Anpu would too. His distaste probably came less from some dislike for sushi and more from the fact that I didn’t check if he’d like it or not, I didn’t listen, and I put no effort of my own into it. It’s possible that there will be more incidents in the future, because I can be lazy or rushed at times and will grab for what’s convenient. That’s not a sacrifice. It’s a lifeless offering.

Finally there’s the component of offerings I believe to be most important in kemetic practice: communion. Sacrifice is different when it’s practically a requirement to use the offering. In other religions, you are truly giving up any food (and usually any items) offered. They’re burnt, thrown out for animals and plants, tossed in a well, or otherwise disposed of. With kemetism, the idea is that the gods consume the offering’s essence, its ka, and the offering’s khat or physical part is consumed by the offerer or someone close to them. If you offer food, you get to eat it. If you offer ink, you get to use it. Indeed, you must consume or use said items. There’s no possibility of going hungry because you offered a slab of meat and bread.

Therefore, communion gains importance. A hasty thoughtless offering, given without meditation or time or thought, is a poor offering. Offered food becomes a shared meal. Offered items become shared actions. When someone gives the offering, she should be spending time with the netjer, her thoughts on the one offered to, open and listening and sharing her heart.

To me, daily ritual is a time of fellowship with Anpu, the time when I get to sit down and have a one-on-one chat with the Jackal. It’s a time of reverence, yes; but more than that, it’s a time of closeness. Sure, I can chat with Anpu any time, but it’s usually like talking on the phone. Ritual is when we meet face-to-face.

So what do I see as the necessary components of an offering? I believe a pleasing offering is one that is a sacrifice of self rather than convenience; it comes from having listened and cared enough to comply with what’s wanted; it’s an offering that took time and sincere effort to provide; one that is offered in mindfulness and openness to communion and communication.

In the end, a pleasing offering is one of the heart, however that may manifest. It all sums up to sincerity.

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