Offerings: A helpful guide for getting that special spirit in your life the perfect gift

photo by Viktor Dracheu

photo by Viktor Dracheu

Anyone that works with gods or spirits knows that making offerings ends up becoming a large part of regular practice.  Offerings are one of the main methods for the living to make contact with and maintain relationship to the inhabitants of the otherworld.  Making regular offerings creates a bond of reciprocity between you and the spirits you work with or the gods you are devoted to.  Because these connections that we make with the unseen are relationships, ongoing two-way connections that are not unlike friendships, they must be maintained and nourished for them to be lasting and effective.  Giving offerings to your otherworld allies is one of the primary methods that you, as a spirit worker, can directly interact with them   Offerings are a very basic form of hospitality.  Sometimes they are a simple courtesy to a guest in your home, sometimes a gift given for a gift received.   They can be used to entice a spirit to give you aid or appease an entity that you might have offended.  Offerings can sometimes be seen as the currency in the economy of otherworld relationship.

So what makes a proper and effective offering, and how can you be sure that the offering that you are giving will be appreciated and accepted by the entities that you have made the offering to?  I think that the answer to these questions are determined by a variety of factors such as who you are making an offering to and for what reason is it made.  In my practice I approach this question on an individual basis, each offering thought out and chosen for each specific instance.  For me, this is never an easy “one size fits all” type of endeavor.  You can find if you seek them out, a variety of books that will tell you the types of items best used for making offerings to a variety of gods and spirits.  While these books can be helpful as general guidelines, they lack the most vital ingredient in this practice, your personal relationships with the various beings.  What I’d like to offer you here is a different way of looking at the question of what offerings are proper to make in your own practice, a guide to evaluate and choose appropriate gifts for the non corporeal beings in your life.

In order to choose a fitting offering for a deity, your first step is to spend some time getting to know them.  Each one has a distinct and unique personality and most have varying degrees of lore connected with them.  If you are taking the steps to foster a relationship with a deity, the first thing you must do is get to know that deity.  Dig into the stories and learn about the cultures that are associated  with them.  Try not to over romanticize the mythologies and societies that are attached to the deity.  What you are searching for are the more mundane details in what we have learned about ancient cultures.  What people ate and drank.  What the aesthetic of their artistic style looked and felt like.  The society’s values and ethical code and how that relates to their religious practice.  As you delve into this cultural tapestry, you will start to get a better understanding of the nature of the deity, what they like and what they don’t like, their associations and taboos, their fundamental essence.  As you are learning about this deity, start spending some time in daily meditation with them.  Introduce yourself, be respectful, and state your intentions.  One of the best ways to learn what a god or goddess would like as an offering is to ask them.  Don’t expect an answer your first time and learn to deeply listen for their voice.  Daily meditative practice is a cornerstone of any type of relationship with the divine,

Food and drink are always a good place to start for offerings.  Find gifts for your spiritual allies that are familiar to them or that resonate with their being.  For example they are associated with northern Europe, oat and oat cakes, dark beer or ale, cream, butter, whiskey or mead are often good choices.  If they are associated with Mediterranean regions wine is almost always a staple.  When you are working with ancestor spirits you must once again think about what might be familiar and liked by them.  If the ancestor spirit is someone who you were close to or knew personally, the choices become easier.  As an example, one of the main ancestor spirits that I work with is my grandmother.  She was the person who raised me and I have always had a strong connection with her.  If I am leaving offerings for her I just have to look to what II know about her likes and dislikes.  My grandmother had a glass of scotch every night, so scotch is a perfect offering to leave for her.  It is something that was enjoyed by her in life and appreciated by her now.  If I am making a recipe that I learned from her I will always take a small plate and leave it on my ancestors altar for her.  Favorite foods, drinks and other pleasures such as tobacco or desserts are perfect for providing hospitality to our beloved dead.

An alternate idea for choosing an offering is to make active offerings, offerings that require an action or effort.  As a priest of the Morrigan I have a martial practice that I have been doing for twenty years.  For years, my fighting practice has been given as an offering to her.  The way this manifests itself for me is that before every fight in a tourney or every battle during a war, I take a moment to speak to her, to thank her and to offer my efforts to her.  I have found that she strongly responds to this type of offering .  My connection to the Morrigan has shown me that one of the things that honors her and gets her attention is to push yourself past your limits, to strive for valor.  As an active offering to a god or goddess that is associated with hospitality, one thing you can do is to feed or aid someone in need.  I was recently asked by a friend visiting Dublin, what a good offering would be for the Dagda.  After some thought I told them that they should go buy a homeless man a meal and a drink.  Let their “knife be greased and their breath smell of ale”.  The Dagda responds to his children being shown proper hospitality and kindness.  For a god of poetry write a poem, for a god of the wild spend an afternoon cleaning up a wild area,  for a goddess associated with horses volunteer at a horse rescue organization, for a god or goddess of justice, take a stand for equality and social justice in the world around you.  Be creative and take an action that is a suitable offering to the gods or spirits that you are working with.  These types of active offering are also suitable as offerings to ancestors and descendants.   We do our ancestors honor by doing great deeds with the lives that they worked to give us, and there is nothing more suitable as an offering for those that come after us as making an effort to make the world that we leave them a better place.

Make a variety of offerings to the non corporal beings in your lives.  Sing to the land spirits, offer the dead food and drink at your table, make your life be an offering to the gods.  Take time to recognize and acknowledge our unseen allies and show them the same respect that we show to the lives and the natural world around us.  Share a drink with your grandfather, tell a story to a crow, give a homeless person a blanket.  Let your offerings honor and reflect those that you are making the offerings to.  Let your practice be sincere and thoughtful, an act of true hospitality.

offeringstone

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The Warriors We Need Now

Mural in Oakland,CA

Mural in Oakland,CA

There have been a variety of meanings attached to the idea of a warrior over the years there are many visions  for the shape that this archetype and profession takes. Sometimes these visions are in line with a traditional historical model and sometimes they are a personal vision of what that title means.  But what does warrior mean in a spiritual context?  How does it come to play in our daily lives, often far from actual battle?  What can this model of action, Warriorship , offer to our communities and world today, What kind of warriors do we need now?

Traditionally, a warrior code was put into place in a society to channel the natural primate aggression of humans into a force that serves and protects the community.  This aggression, when rewoven in this way, turns a threat to a society into benefit for society.  A warrior code, at it’s heart, is a pledge to safeguard those less able to protect themselves, to defend the defenseless.  A warrior chooses to face violence,  danger,  and death in order to shield their communities from these forces.  These codes are woven into their communities through the development of personal honor and accountability.  For one who follows a warrior code their personal honor becomes the driving factor in all of their actions.  To lose honor and stain their name is a fate worse than death, and they would rather face death than face the shame of lost honor.

In a modern context the idea of warrior has become muddied.  The warrior societies that were designed to defend our culture have allowed themselves to be used by elements in our society that have placed their own narrow interests over the health and well being of the people and the land itself.  We have allowed people that control these modern warrior societies redefine their position in our community as a position of power over, not service to their communities.  Over time this has led to a dangerous divide in our culture.  The level of mistrust between the police and their communities has never been higher.  The bodies, blood and minds of our soldiers are spent on corporate acquisitions disguised as wars and they are under served and discarded when they return home.   Those individuals that are called into these organizations with high ideals and a strong desire to serve their communities often find themselves trapped in damaged systems and unable to serve to their full potential.

We need those that wish to call themselves warriors to truly be part of their communities, to stand up and defend those in our society that are least able to defend themselves,  to confront bullies not be bullies, to speak for the voiceless.  Because what you do is what makes you a warrior, not what you believe.  Having great prowess makes you a great fighter, not a great warrior.  Being good at obeying your superiors makes you a good soldier, not a good warrior.  Being proficient at firearms makes you a good marksman, not a good warrior, and if how you express your warriorship is arguing with people on the internet, you’re just a troll, not a warrior.  We have plenty of fighter and soldiers in the world.  We have more than enough marksmen, and a plague of trolls.  We need warriors.

We live in a world that is rapidly changing, politically, socially and ecologically.  These types of changes are leading to times of instability, times when immense strains will be put on our communities.  Right now more than ever our society needs true warriors.  People who will stand up and act out of a deep love for humanity and the world we inhabit.    As economic divide increases in our world, we need people to stand for the poor and dispossessed.  As racism reveals itself in our institutions and communities, we need people to speak out against it and take the difficult step of facing it within ourselves and learning to recognize it there.  As sexism and violence towards women seeps into every aspect of our culture and families, we need people to demand equality and challenge those voices who seek to diminish the feminine.  We need defenders of children and defenders of the homeless, defenders of wild places and defenders of human rights.  We need warriors to stand between our diverse and beloved community and the forces that seek to divide, limit, and marginalize us.  We need warriors to stand up and join the fight.

Mural in Oakland, CA

Mural in Oakland, CA

Service above Self

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(originally published on Polytheist.com)

Last night I found myself, once again, in downtown Oakland at a vigil for members of the community that have been killed by the police. This was a rare peaceful moment in the troubles that have been consuming our city lately. People gathered on a cold and rainy December night and encircled Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland for a candlelight vigil to remember these lives that have been cruelly taken from their family and friends, casualties of systemic racism and a police force that is violently opposed to taking responsibility for it’s officers’ misdeeds and crimes. This has been an emotional time for our community here in the Bay Area, a time of anger and a time of mourning. The issue of racism within the law enforcement community doesn’t have an easy fix. It’s not a problem that’s going to go away anytime soon and so the demonstrations continue.

In the last 17 days, there have been 15 nights of demonstrations in the streets. These actions have ranged from peaceful vigils to vandalism and looting. Last night was thankfully a quiet one, a moment of introspection and reflection during a period of unrest and pain. I found myself reflecting on these movements that have been springing up around the world recently. Across the globe, people are standing up to reclaim their sovereignty from systems of rule that seek to compromise it.

A little over two years ago, members of my priesthood, the Coru Cathubodua, and members of our community, stood on the shore of this same lake, holding a beautiful sword that had been charged with our community’s prayers and hopes for the return of sovereignty to our land. The night before was our Samhain feast. The sword was placed on an altar in the center of the room and during the feast people went up to it and held it and whispered their prayers and dreams to it. Prayers of a just land with our community living in rightful relationship with the natural world and with each other. So that morning we stood on the shore of the lake, we raised our voices to the Morrigan and the spirits of the land, and we sacrificed that sword for the sovereignty of the land, throwing it far out into the lake.

Memories of that moment became crystal clear as I was walking along the lake last night in the cold rain. I began reflecting on my path to priesthood that led me there to that lake that morning and led me there again on a windy and wet night. As my mind wandered through these paths I looked down to the sidewalk and in front of me was a section of the path that the city had engraved in flowing letters the phrase “Service above Self”

Service above Self. Three simple words that articulated my views on priesthood better than I have been able to do in pages of writing. For me, priesthood is a path of service. Service to your gods and service to your community. This is not an abstract concept. Service isn’t a theoretical mindset but a ‘get your hands dirty and wear out the soles of your shoes’ kind of endeavor. It’s a path that can consume your life. ‘Priest’ is not a title I hold lightly, as a matter of fact I have trouble seeing it as a title at all. ‘Priest’ is not something that I am, it is something that I do. ‘Priest’ means not going to bed when you are exhausted because the gods are vocal and want offerings and want to be heard. It means spending hours of my day answering emails and questions from individuals that are looking for help decoding their own messages from the gods. It means hours of ritual planning and business meetings. It means daily devotional practice and offerings. Recently for me, priesthood has meant marching alongside and providing first aid and support to people demonstrating in the streets so that they can have their basic human rights returned to them and be treated equally in the eyes of the law. It has meant bandaging cuts, washing pepper spray and tear gas from people’s eyes, and sometimes getting between a demonstrator and police in riot gear to prevent the police from beating that person.

Priesthood and activism are inseparable to me. I was pushed into this most recent act of service to my community after witnessing the officers sworn to protect and serve the public brutalize a peaceful protest and tear gas a large section of my town. That night left many people with broken bones, concussions, and deep outrage at the response of the authorities.

The next night and every night since then I have been walking alongside the demonstrators with a first aid kit trying to help people when I am able to and to provide a witness to the many abuses of the police force that have been sent there to, in their own ironic words, “defend the protester’s first amendment rights”. And they have defended the protesters bloody, with batons, tazers, tear gas, pepper spray, LRAD’s (long range acoustic devices), and “non lethal” projectiles aimed at people’s heads, making them much more lethal. Those charged with defending the people are treating the people as the enemy, abusing them at demonstrations and vilifying them in the media.

So as a priest, I have no choice but to stand alongside my community. I have no choice but to speak out against injustice and abuse. I have no choice but to listen to my goddess and stand for sovereignty. Because priesthood is service; service above self.

A Warrior’s Prayer

Great Queen,

I stand before this gathering storm,

My heart a bright flame.

Weary, but fiercely determined

Saddened and grieving,

Angered and outraged

in this place I stand fast.

My heels dug into this holy soil, not to be moved.

The strength of my arms to fortify our battered people.

The love in my heart to give comfort to the weeping.

The truth of my tongue to bring. The fulfillment of justice and sovereignty to our land.

This I swear by land, sea, and sky.

A Warrior's Prayer by Brennos Coru Cathubodua www.corupriesthood.com

A Warrior’s Prayer
by Brennos
Coru Cathubodua
http://www.corupriesthood.com

If Not Now? Pagan Leadership and Civil Rights

People raise their fists in the air and have a moment of silence for Eric Garner in Oakland.  Photo courtesy of KQED news

People raise their fists in the air and have a moment of silence for Eric Garner in Oakland.
Photo courtesy of KQED news

It’s been raining here in the Bay. Rain that is desperately needed in this drought stricken land. Waves of hard rain have been pounding the west coast for almost a week now. It’s glorious weather for us here. Weather that makes you want to spend evenings in warm homes, with food on the stove, and loved ones around you. A proper San Francisco Bay winter, wet and windy.

Last night started like that for me. I was comfortable, catching up on writing in a house full of writers, warm in my home, food on the stove, listening to the intermittent sheets of rain hitting the windows. I was happy with the thought that I didn’t have to go out again for anything, that I could enjoy a quiet cozy evening.

Then I heard the verdict of the Staten Island grand jury on the investigation of the well documented and recorded murder of Eric Garner by the police and my heart broke again. So soon on the heels of the decision in Ferguson and in the middle of a number of other cases of police officers extra-judiciously murdering black youth, the United States legal system makes its message clear. “If you are a black person in this country, your life is worth less than a white person’s life. We will treat you as a threat, and we may shoot you on sight with no consequences”.

I sat in stunned silence, my sadness shifting from despair to rage. I knew that after a decision like this, the streets in the cities of America will flood with angry citizens and a militarized police response. This is one way that anger and helplessness is expressed in this country, protests that often turn angry. Windows are broken, some cars are flipped over, things are set on fire, and some stores are looted. All in all, a drop in the bucket in comparison to the centuries of injustice, dehumanization, and violence that has been inflicted upon the communities of people of color.

I knew, that my city, Oakland, would likely erupt in anger over this latest attack on the communities human rights, and I knew that I should be there to support my kindred. But I was very comfortable, and it was definitely going to start pouring rain again, and I was recovering from a cold, and I really should be writing, and a thousand other reasons to stay warm, and cozy, and home ran through my head, rationalizations constructed to drown out that voice inside me that I knew was correct, that voice that screamed at me to do what I knew was right. The voice won out. I got off my ass, stopped rationalizing, and our family headed out into the streets to stand behind the black community and let our bodies swell the size of their protest to make their voices just a little bit louder.

The rain came, solidly soaking the demonstrators and police alike. It was a night of sadness and anger, wet rage and the noise of shouts and helicopters echoing off the tall buildings. The cars in the city, caught up in the chaos of the demonstration and stormy weather, honked their horns in support and gave us thumbs up and victory signs. We are all so weary of this, all people, all colors. We are tired of the violence, we are tired of the injustice, we are tired of the government’s lack of true leadership in these moments. We are tired but still we stand together. We stand together because no matter our differences, we are all kin, bound by the blood that runs through all of our veins. We stand because an injustice to one is an injustice to our combined humanity, We stand for love.

To stand alongside of our kindred during this pivotal moment in their struggle for equality is our duty. It’s not only the right thing to do morally, but as pagans, how we act on these very basic issues of human rights, such as racism, sexism, sexual abuse, and classism will define paganism’s relevance in people’s lives and in the world from this moment forward.

To be more than an eclectic sidebar in the history of world religions, the modern pagan movement needs its leaders to take some uncomfortable stands on “push button” issues and to publicly practice the moral philosophies that they hold dear. Now is the time to stand up and be counted in these struggles, to stand in support of all communities whose voices are not being heard, to stand alongside pagan people of color who want to know that their spiritual community is there for them for whatever they need of us. Now is the time to take rightful action and take our place in creating a more just world. Now is the time to lead by example.

Join with us.

Introductions

Me and fellow Coru priests Amelia Hogan and Morpheus Ravenna in Kelowna, British Columbia at the Western Gate Samhain Festival

Me and fellow Coru priests Amelia Hogan and Morpheus Ravenna in Kelowna, British Columbia at the Western Gate Samhain Festival

     Greetings and welcome to my blog. I had wanted to have an introductory post be the first post of my blog but it turned out that other things needed to be said, but now I think its time for introductions.

My name is Brennos Agrocunos and I am a priest of the Morrigan and one of the founders of the Coru Cathubodua or Coru Priesthood. The Coru is a priesthood dedicated the Morrigan in all her forms and that is devoted to serving the Great Queen and our community by helping those who have been called by her and spreading and living the concepts of sovereignty, warriorship, kinship, and service. The Coru was founded in 2012 and has been steadily growing and solidifying as an organization since then. Through ritual, community service, and, activism, we stand alongside all of our kin, human and other and stand opposed to any system that seeks to deny people their personal sovereignty and basic human rights. In the present political environment, this means we’re very busy.

Before the creation of the Coru, I had been working with the Morrigan for most of my life, and had been formally dedicated to her since 1999. As her priest, warriorship is part of my daily devotional practice. It’s an ethic that permeates every aspect of my life. Very briefly, what this means to me is that I strive to live an honorable life, maintain a martial practice and stand between our community and forces that seek to take away their humanity and personal sovereignty.

What I would like to accomplish with this blog is discuss these topics and how can we understand them in the context of the world that we are living in right now. How is living with a code of personal honor relevant in today’s world and how can it affect changes in our lives? What is personal sovereignty and why is it important to our communities? How is the Morrigan relevant in a modern world? And how can we take steps to bring meaningful change in our world, our communities and our lives?

We live in a time of immense global change. The world that we live in now is almost unrecognizable from the world we were born into and the world we leave to our descendants will be vastly different from the world of today. Societal changes are a historical constant,, but in the past two decades these changes have accelerated. One of the main factors in this acceleration is the spread of the internet and the easy exchange of ideas and knowledge globally. What we do in our lives matters now more than any other time in history, our dialogues matters and our actions matter. So let’s make our conversations and actions make a difference. What we do today defines the direction the fledgling pagan movement heads in. It is essential at this time of growth, for us to take this responsibility seriously and to strive to learn from the failings of the major world religions that have brought us to this place of conflict and injustice. As pagans we are a diverse and individualistic crowd. The term pagan, even if it’s disliked by some people, is a “big tent” term, a tent that covers a broad variety of traditions and individuals. This doesn’t have to be a problem if we can learn to accept people’s views and practices even when we don’t agree with them, if we can learn to disagree with people without insulting and vilifying them. As a community, we have much to offer the world today. We have big work to do and I look forward to watching our community grow together and face our challenges head on with the honor and dignity of ourselves and of the myriad of our relations held in the highest regard. Thank you all for being part of this.