It’s not my custom to say a great deal about magic. I’d rather comment on other people’s blogs who are saying a lot about magic. But this week, Deb and Jason and Gordon all weighed in on the subject of offerings — offerings in odd places, offerings as a regular habit, offerings as an occasional activity, offerings as as a significant source of connection with the spirit world, offerings that offend, offerings that give joy, offerings of light and water and incense, offerings that you eat, offerings that you don’t eat, and on and on and on.
It’s a regular olden-days blog go-around, I guess.
A few years ago now, I built this altar, shrine, thing, a shelf really, for making offerings to the Seven Classical Planets. In part, it was about using up a sheet of foam core. In part, it was practice building 3D things out of flat materials (like foam core or plywood). In part it was practice for the Kavad (which is still in process, by the way, just … very… slowly. Deep private, you might say, if you were Gordon).
Tonight I fired it up, almost literally, and dosed the spirits with a healthy offering of light and butter in the dish. A couple of days ago there was a dollop of chicken soup, and maybe some vinaigrette. These things appear to be acceptable.
A few days ago, I moved my ‘spirit’ space into my office, and downsized considerably. Gordon had a list of places he’d made offerings, but I’m reminded of the tent in the alchemist’s workshop, in the frontispiece of Heinrich Khunrath’s book on alchemy (I couldn’t find an image with clear rights for use on other blogs, so I didn’t). In the smoke rising from the incense burner in the tent it says, “ascending smoke, sacrificial speech acceptable to God.” I take this as a sign that it’s perfectly acceptable to have my shrine in my workshop; and to have some candles going. When I get stuck on a project, it turns out that it’s nice to have a place to redirect my focus, and consider my options for moving on.
But I think it’s also important to note that the things we make are an offering of sorts, too. I made this scroll for a friend’s shop, and it’s a talisman for them of sorts. Yes. But isn’t it also an offering, a way of saying, “the door is open to this place.”? I don’t know. I don’t always have a clear understanding of such things.
But offerings are like culture, too. Sometimes they’re appropriative, sometimes they’re appropriate. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t. What we make, though, becomes part of the culture, whether reviled or enthusiastically received. The work we make becomes both inspiration and hope for the future.
I think that’s part of the reason why there’s a tabernacle of prayer in the alchemist’s lab in Khunrath’s book; and why there’s one in mine (although I admit that my office is hardly home to an elaborate set-up of glassware — more like a sewing machine, some knitting and bookbinding supplies, and a CNC milling machine). A creative person’s work flows out of their understanding of culture, and history, and community, and spirituality — what they understand of that milieu informs their work, and likewise directs it. But what they pump back into the culture has its role too. I’ve written poems to say at this little shrine of foam board and metal pins; and site statistics suggest that others are using them or at least reading them. Maybe these pieces will one day wind up in a museum. Or maybe they’ll be thrown in the trash when I die. It’s hard to know for sure.
What I do know is this. I would work differently without these things here. Maybe not better, maybe not worse. Maybe more effectively. I don’t know. But it forces me to consider other issues besides my own pleasure and happiness in my work; it forces me to consider what and how I teach others, and to what purposes I direct my skills.
Is it my own thoughtfulness? Or the spirit realms talking to me? Those are excellent questions indeed.