Posted by: aediculaantinoi | January 5, 2014

It All Comes Down To…Spit?!?

This is the second post in my three-part miniseries of things that might be both controversial for some, and yet “Meh, I knew that” for others, which began with the post yesterday on funerals. Tomorrow or the next day: child sacrifice! ;)

One of the subjects that was one of contention even between polytheists recently was the matter of whether or not it is allowable to consume (food and drink) offerings after they have been offered to the divine beings. Some traditions allow this, some frown on or discourage it, and within each tradition, much depends on the occasion, the deities involved, the person’s particular relationships with the deities, and a variety of other matters. It’s difficult if not impossible to generalize, and likewise it is tough to be prescriptive about it.

For my own practices, I go back-and-forth, not in terms of whether to do it or not, but because it depends on who I’m honoring, what the occasion is, and so forth. Where strictly Antinous is concerned, I am able to take the material portion of the food and drink offerings most (though not all) of the time. With most other deities, ancestors, and the Sancta/e/i of the Ekklesía Antínoou, I’m generally not permitted to do so. On some occasions, where several deities (including Antinous) are being honored together, there is a certain amount of “sharing” involved.

What that looks like is pretty much what occurred on my solstice ritual a few weeks ago: namely, a large portion of food or drink was given to the gods, but before it was formally offered and dedicated to them, the people present took a small portion of the food or drink, and then once the (largest portion which was the) remainder of the food or drink was offered to the gods and poured out, then we would eat our small portions. With the particular offerings that day, that meant a sip of wine, about five or six (at most) golden raisins, about five or six (at most) pine nuts, etc.

It was interesting to me to note at the Peru exhibit that the near-exact opposite procedure was observed: humans drink first, and the dregs of the cup are then poured out in libation to the gods and earth…but, of course, that’s not just in religious offering rituals, that’s whenever people drank, which is significant in itself.

There are several traditions that are noteworthy for allowing humans to consume food and drink offerings after they are given. Egyptian tradition does this to one extent or another, and I’ll be returning to that in a moment. Hinduism has the practice of food offerings becoming prasad after they are offered, and it is considered actively good, lucky, and blessed to consume them after a ritual. Sometimes, this has been rather odd for me, as a whole mix of liquids (water, milk) and other foodstuffs (e.g. sugar, butter, ghee, honey) has been poured over a lingam, and then that is gathered up and given to those present…and, it was really good! And, in Shinto, the basic food offerings each day (rice, water, salt, sake) are always consumed afterwards as naorae, which completes the “covenant,” so to speak, created between the kami and humans as the result of a ceremony. In the ceremonies I’ve attended, we receive a few drops (literally!) of sake, while the other food items get used by the Shrine priest in some way or another, or the washed rice is “put outside for birds to enjoy” (yes, that’s a direct quote on this matter!). While I don’t know for certain, I assume that on the bigger festivals of the year, when a whole series of food offerings are given to the kami, the same thing happens. So, even in that cultural context, “getting them back” isn’t always what we might think it is, or should be, depending on what one’s position in relation to these matters is.

But I wanted to return to the matter of Egyptian food offerings in particular, and a strange set of associations that I made over the last week or so in relation to this which might explain why it would be desirable to consume food offerings from that perspective. Some people might kind of think it’s “icky” for various reasons, but hear me out.

I think there might be a clue in the story of Re and Isis, which I was reminded of by M. Isidora Forrest this last September at the Esoteric Book Conference (for which I thank her!). In that story, in which the ultimate upshot is that Isis extorts the secrets of magic from Re and thus becomes “Great of Magic,” the entire situation comes about because Re, in his somewhat doddering old age, is not careful about where and how his bodily fluids are being distributed, and in particular his saliva, which Isis then uses to create a creature…and, well, you know the rest. ;)

Do you see where I’m going with this? No?!? Okay, then.

Think about it this way: while some people make fun of individuals who will not share drinks amongst themselves because of the possibility of backwash, the physical reality of it is that backwash, in some small amount, is entirely inevitable. While many people look at this sort of matter as an “Eeew!”-inducing factoid, some traditions actually view this as not entirely a bad thing where certain offerings are concerned, at least as I’ve been informed. This is why “spraying” (but, note, not “spitting”!) drink offerings in certain Afro-Diasporic religions is considered good, because the person doing it is actually not only making an offering of an alcoholic beverage, but they’re also offering a literal part of themselves (both breath and saliva) in the process. Perhaps that’s also why the dregs of the cup are not considered “bad” in the Peruvian cultures as libations, because those dregs have something of the person drinking them in them at that stage.

So, think of it in this fashion where the Egyptian situation is concerned. If I lay out an offering of, let’s say, wine for a particular deity or deities, and the spiritual portion of it is consumed by them, then it might actually be really beneficial for me to drink the physical part that remains, because it is not necessarily “just physical” any longer: the gods have left some of their spit in it in drinking it, and that’s powerful! I don’t think this applies necessarily to food offerings, since there are no forks that might carry saliva from the mouth back to the food involved; but with drinks, it would kind of be inevitable…

This is not to say (as I take a drink!) that one “should” or “should not” have this approach to one’s liquid offerings to any and all deities or other varieties of divine being in every tradition; if anything, it’s more of a meta-commentary on how one tradition might have it “make sense” to have such an approach that–to my knowledge–isn’t already an established part of that tradition, but is consonant with it and with some matters that we can reflect upon from a modern viewpoint as well. You can take it or leave it as you like, but it simply occurred to me as a possibility for further reflection, which some of you might find interesting.

I may not get to “child sacrifice” until Tuesday, perhaps, as there’s a minor festival tomorrow that I’ll be observing and will likely write something about, and there will be a few others in the coming days as well; but, it will occur before the end of this week, most certainly!


Responses

  1. I read this one out to my wife and daughter, and a fascinating discussion followed. My daughter’s reaction was instant and very strong (as one would expect of a teenager :) – she was absolutely horrified at the concept of consuming any part of an offering once it had been made. I pointed out that while I generally don’t do so either, I *always* partake when libating to Hermes, as that is the nature of our relationship… and I learned that’s why she never goes outside to the altar with me when I do!

    OTOH, when I go to the Hindu Center I do take prasad because that’s their arrangement, and what both gods and people expect in that context.

    Thanks for sparking a great discussion!

    • Excellent! That’s always what I hope to do with these things, so thank you for sharing! And, please tell your daughter thank you as well!

      Certainly, I have the “when in Rome” practice when it comes to other traditions, or other people’s rituals, within certain boundaries of course–I can’t take part in rituals that require participants to be sorted by binary genders, for example. But, “to eat or not to eat” matters are fine, since these things are worked out as traditional ways of interacting with their gods over generations of their cultures, and who am I to question that? ;)

  2. I found this a rather interesting article, as my first blot included offering saliva to the God (in this case, Loki). During the offering process, the devotee had individual bowls, which contained mead, then the blood we drew, which we took into our mouths, and spit the blood and saliva into the bowl. After it was received, we then poured some for Loki into the fire, and then drank the rest of the mixture. (The person leading the blot had been doing this for 15 years. So it wasn’t of my own design, but of their family’s tradition.)

    • Interesting!

      I’ve never yet offered blood to a deity–my own or any other being’s–but I have had a few occasions (outside of dental problems) of drinking my own in a ritual situation. Hmm…

      • Understandable. (In group settings, particularly, I feel like human blood offerings can be tricky–due to health as well as others’ sensibilities.) The one leading the ritual was a little nervous that I’d think it “weird’ (we also anointed jewelry or ourselves if we wanted to, with the blood/alcohol/saliva mixture), but I assured her that I wouldn’t find it strange at all (which was truthful).

        Perhaps one of the most interesting offerings I’ve given was when I accepted an oath proposal from one of my Gods and they desired to have my blood over their food offering, and to “solidify” the oath, for me to then eat that blood-covered offering. The oath required that I ate it, and I think there has to do with saliva here too. That the God took in the offering and accepted it (my acceptance to the oath and the food itself) and in order for it to be official, I then needed to eat it as well.

        I try and not offer blood except when “extremely important.” I mean, it’s not really something to give freely? (I’ve used it in divination–usually to “pay” for the answer and in oaths.) [In my friend's tradition, they give a small bit of blood every Lokablot. They do the same for seidhr as well.]

  3. You touch on the precise reason why Egyptian offerings are consumed, as well as the reasons why. It is almost exactly like prasad. Offerings are given to the gods, then once the gods have done what They want with them (or not), They are reverted to the people who celebrated, to close the circle.

    You also explain why we do not do the same thing with offerings we give to the dead, in the same tradition.

    It’s important to note that any amount being offered to the dead that doesn’t get shared is not some obscene amount of food waste. In ancient Egypt, all the food offerings were gathered together and presented to the ancestors. Then, enough to fill a bowl (maybe a handful) was taken out, or some other small token percentage of said foodstuffs, and placed on the tomb altar. The rest was divided amongst the priests who did the offerings as their payment, in a society that had no coinage.

    In modern times, we can do the same. For example, when I make dinner, I can take one spoonful of everything I have prepared and place it on its own plate. Said plate can sit with me while I eat, then it goes to the ancestor shrine, so we have both shared, and not shared, the offering. How this can be seen to be an offensive or wasteful act to anyone, I fail to comprehend.

  4. […] As I’ve been building up to for days, here’s the third and final post in this series that began with funerals and continued with food offerings. […]

  5. ++I don’t think this applies necessarily to food offerings, since there are no forks that might carry saliva from the mouth back to the food involved; but with drinks, it would kind of be inevitable…++

    You make it sound as if the physics of spiritual consumption are identical to those of physical consumption. :)

    • But, really, who’s to say they’re not? Energetic “contaminants” are even more difficult to prevent, guard against, or account for than physical ones…

  6. […] this month, I wrote about the issue of consuming food offerings, and one reason why it might be considered “beneficial” to do so within an Egyptian […]


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