Do you give offerings? What value do you see in them? What is their purpose?
The point of an offering is to start a conversation with The Gods, not to simply beg for things. Heathens need to separate ourselves from the Abrahamic notion that one prays in order to attain something only. If one builds this relationship, in a mutually beneficial way, one is able to build favor with the Gods, and perhaps, more luck is to follow. That goes hand-in-hand with not asking for crazy things of the Gods, Odin isn’t a djinn that will magically give you a new Ferrari. If you ask for something like that, you better be ready to pay out. Otherwise misfortune can follow.
It is better not to pray at all than to pray for too much;
nothing will be given that you won’t repay.
It is better to sacrifice nothing than to offer too much.
Odin carved this before the birth of humankind,
when he rose up and returned again.Stanza 145, trans. by Jackson Crawford
So what do we know about historical offerings? in a written form, not much sadly – There isn’t much in the way of clear information on many historical Pagan rituals aside from those that were seen as “enemies” such as Adam of Bremen who wrote extensively about his travels through Pagan Scandinavia. Church leaders, such as Adam, described his supposed witnessing of various sacrifices/rituals in the same way that a folk horror film director exploits the fear of the countryside to illicit fear in “the more civilized” (think Midsommar).
The sacrifice is as follows; of every kind of male creature, nine victims are offered. By the blood of these creatures, it is the custom to appease the gods. Their bodies, moreover, are hanged in a grove which is adjacent to the temple. This grove is so sacred to the people that the separate trees in it are believed to be holy because of the death or putrefaction of the sacrificial victims. There even dogs and horses hang beside human beings.Adam of Bremen‘s depiction of sacrifice at Uppsala
He further documents forced drownings in a colorful way that makes it appear that scary Pagans would just nab random people and chuck them in the river against their will. While not saying it was 100% incorrect – I have a feeling that the agenda of the Church was to make everything look bad to push for mass conversion. Adam was, of course, not present for these atrocities of faith, but “heard about them from colleagues that were”, this is of course, a great plan on how to get away with just making stuff up, then not taking blame if proved wrong.
On a smaller scale though, we DO have some idea of what people gave to the Gods aside from alleged large-scale sacrifices noted above. Offerings were sometimes simple acts of leaving food and drink on an altar or shrine in the house, on a rock, in a tree, or burned as effigy. We have found all manner of items in tree hollows and bogs including small stones, carved statues, jewelry and even locks of human hair given to the gods. The latter example proved it wasn’t lavish gifts that folks always gave, it was important ones. Hair, for example, could be seen as sacrificing ones own beauty to the Gods, which is somehow very powerful feeling.
I used to always take issue with people, when I was catholic, not taking Lent seriously. Here you had a fasting period, 40 days long, where you had dietary restrictions and were supposed to give something up as well. I’d see folks do things like give up eating M&Ms for Lent, or Give up Watching the News – pointless exercises in false righteousness. But giving up a status symbol such as your own long braids is so much more intense. It almost shines close to the act of Tyr sacrificing his own sword hand to help protect his family from Fenrir.
Now the question arises – how do I do offerings? There is a handful of things I do on a daily basis to speak with the Gods. Whenever I work out, I have pledged my strength to the Gods in order to become more of a warrior than I currently am. I don’t envision myself going off to fight anyone since I am nearly 40, but perhaps I can help others in other ways? I visualize the Uruz rune for strength as I work my way through the pain and devote it to Thor. I also give food offerings during important feasts and occasionally give things like beer on an altar. Truthfully I need to get better at my daily practice.
Has this brought me any favor with the gods?
Unverifiable Personal Gnosis (UPG) Time: A lot of this came to be fairly recently as, I was close to losing my job due to political inaction regarding Covid-19 this year. The place I work is one of the places that The President has a vendetta against, and is seemingly doing everything in his power to destroy. As you can imagine, this has been insanely stressful for everyone at my job, and I routinely asked Thor to help us in any way he can since he often watches over the “common man”. On the day that the layoff was set to occur, I had given some offerings and talked to the Gods about our situation – as I was arriving that day, I pulled into the parking lot to see that my parking place had four large Corvids (probably crows) standing there. I took this as a sign that I was protected, and thankfully I made the cut.
In closing, I try to do offerings when I can, mostly because I have seemingly personally benefitted from it. In turn, it has helped me feel like a better person as I have been trying to help others as well. I don’t give lavish gifts, or promise nine of every animal on a tree, but it seems to add up.