Hellenismos has a lot of information about the offerings that were made to the various gods in antiquity, and that in itself is a good enough reason to continue making some of the same ones. Frankincense is an old favorite, and I toss a bit of barley to one god or another every day. Giving a coin to a beggar is something I will turn my car around to do.
Some traditional offerings aren’t my style, though. Like most modern folk, I have no plans to sacrifice an animal and burn a portion as an offering to the gods. I’ve considered making a burnt offering of meat I sometimes purchase from a local farm, but it hasn’t happened yet. I understand the reasons for doing it, and don’t find it less morally problematic than simply killing the animal for meat, but there’s a pretty steep learning curve to do it right, and I don’t feel compelled to make that climb.
The list of things that the Hellenes offered their gods is actually pretty long and detailed, but outside of the aforementioned items and some myrrh and wine from time to time, that’s most of what I take from it. My other offerings fall into the category of unverified personal gnosis, or perhaps just reasoning out a few that seem right.
- Grape juice. I don’t drink much wine, so when I pour libations with it (after mixing it with water, of course) I still get lightheaded for a bit. I also pour more libations in the morning, and wine doesn’t feel quite right, so I offer unfermented grape juice instead, like the Methodists do. Since it’s reconstituted, I don’t feel the need to add water, either.
- Coffee. I take coffee seriously, offering it brewed to Hestia Caffeina daily, as well as offerings of ground coffee to her seasonally. For the past year or more I have also given Poseidon Soter a daily libation of coffee; he is savior of sailors and one well-known fictional sailor, Starbuck, gave his name to a coffee-shop chain because of his love of the stuff. Coffee grounds (as opposed to ground coffee) is given to Cloacina, together with . . .
- Mint, in season. Cloacina is the Roman goddess of the sewer, and not much is known about her cult, so I added mint when it’s growing because who doesn’t like a refreshing whiff of mint?
- Cookies. I bake chocolate chip cookies for Noumenia, the beginning of the month. I like them. The gods accept them. They bring smiles to everyone else who eats them, strengthening community. Win all around.
- IRA contributions. The better off I am in retirement, the less of a burden I will place upon my descendants. That allows them to carry traditions forward, which honors my ancestors. Our present economic system demands poverty of senior citizens before helping them, and expects the costs of child rearing, elder care, and student loans to be borne by a single generation. It’s a broken system, one which is the very opposite of community, but it’s what we’ve got. This offering works within those confines.
Offerings are central to my practice. Quite a bit of what I offer isn’t exactly traditional, but it all works in my relationship with the gods. When they want more emphasis on old school offerings, they aren’t shy letting me know.