Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Making of Offerings

One of the oldest items on my ancestor altar is a bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion. I adopted her as a spiritual mentor when I was unraveling my inner anger ball. I used compassion and kindness as mindful tools towards changing the way I responded to the world around me. The bodhisattva visual was a beacon of hope for me.
I use deity in my pagan work. I am a big believer in mythology as useful metaphors of ideals we strive towards. If I stumble across a mythology that speaks to the simple or complex characteristics of Work I am doing, I may choose to walk with the mythos of that deity.
With Kuan Yin, as a dedication to my spiritual faith, I string a small beaded necklace at the start of each new year and drape it around her neck. I consider it an offering to the spirit of her story that is diluted down into acts of compassion and kindness. I offer it as a gratitude for the guidance her stories have gifted me.
It doesn’t mean I think that Kuan Yin walks the earth or watches over me. I don’t believe that when lightning strikes Zeus is hurling his thunderbolts (though it’s a great story). When I leave out food offerings for the dead, I don’t believe they come and eat it. But I know that hungry animals are being fed in their honor.
These small offerings mark the years I have been on this path. Each layer displays the time that has passed since I started this Work. Over time, the notion of making offerings as a sign of gratitude and dedication became a heavy part of my spiritual life.
Offerings are good ways to bring attention to something I see as sacred that others might not. A marigold wreath left around the knob of a tree. A mandala of birdseed and corn left in a forest glade. Peanuts piled like cairns on logs and in knotholes. Natural fiber ribbons and yarns left loose on branches to pull the eye, precious resources for nests and burrows.

I decorate Kuan Yin to show that she is not just a statue. She is an altar, a space of Work that changes as I transform, as my Work alters. When I go to the woods, I leave offerings because I am grateful to have wilds to walk in, and in my gratitude, I offer nourishment to the animals that live there. It keeps me mindful. It keeps me present in my gratitude, offering me a better way to experience the world.

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