26 November 2013

Urban Offerings

Here in the States it's almost Thanksgiving; that wonderful time of family "togetherness" and gorging yourself until you pass out.  I'm not always as grateful for my family as I feel like I should be, so I like to look at Thanksgiving more as a time for making offerings - particularly to the spirits of the place where I live.  It's fairly easy to remember to make offerings to the beings that we ask for help, but it can be quite difficult to remember to also make offerings to the spirits that just happen to be where we spend our time.  The spirits inherent to the places where we live and work can make our lives easy or difficult, almost without being noticed. 

I live in the suburbs and work downtown, so I like to make three special offerings around Thanksgiving: to the spirits of the area where I live, the spirits of downtown Seattle, and the spirits of I-5 (on which I travel every day). 

The easiest offering for me to do is always the one to the area where I live (a slightly betwixt and between bit of Snohomish County). The spirits of the place where I live are used to me and I don't really have to go out of my way to get their attention (doing magick in any place for a prolonged period of time draws spirits like moths to a flame).  It's also easy because I can give the same kind of offerings that I usually do, since I have an altar on which I can burn incense, place sacred objects, etc.  I also have the good fortune to have a yard so if I want to make offerings of food or flowers outside I can very easily. 

However, I do like to make a little extra effort when giving special offerings by trying to make them more relevant to the spirits I'm making the offerings to.  I try to think about what spirits are in the area and what they'd like.  The area where I live used to be quite rural (it was chicken farms when it was first settled and forest before that).  There aren't a lot of ghosts that live near me (fields and forest don't exactly hold on to human energy), but there are some nature spirits and the spirit of the land itself is fairly strong.  One of the things I've done as a sort of permanent offering to the land is to promise not to use chemical pesticides or fertilizer in my yard, making it more hospitable to nature spirits, as well as slowly replacing the plantings with native species. 

For Thanksgiving I like to put out a small offering of organic, local fertilizer in the part of my yard where I do workings.  It's a large clear space under some big cedar trees and I put the fertilizer right in-between them.  I'm always careful not to put it right on the trees as some fertilizers can actually burn plants in high concentrations.  I also try never to user too much, since I don't want to encourage weed growth - they do that well enough on their own thank-you.  Although it would make sense to make an offering of food (like home baked bread) I have to be careful not to put out too many offerings of food because my area has a bit of a rodent problem that I don't want to encourage.  I also tend not to make offerings of bird seed because I have an outdoor cat that is a ferocious hunter - the birds do not need to be brought to her.

Making an offering to my city is always a bit more challenging.  I do a fair bit of work with the spirits of my city's founders, so I like to go up to Lakeview where most of them are buried and give them some attention.  Most of them are fond of offerings of whiskey and the rest enjoy a good cup of coffee, so they're easy to appease.  I also like to make an offering to the spirit of the city itself, which is a little more complicated.  Sure, I could do a symbolic offering of incense or flowers on my altar but that doesn't really do much to help the city itself (it's spirit is well fed and doesn't really need it).  I prefer a more direct approach for offerings to my city.  If I were less lazy going out and doing charity work in the city would be an ideal offering, alas I am not less lazy.  So I like to give donations to the local food banks.  Many food banks get the majority of their donations during the holiday season, so I make sure whatever I give has a really long shelf life (I tend to go with canned fruit and big bags of rice - lots of nutritional value and very shelf stable).

Offerings to the spirits of I-5 is also a little funtastic.  The interstate is an interesting beast because it's energy is so fluid, influenced by the people constantly moving on it - never staying in one place for more than an instant (unless there's gridlock).  There's also a fair amount of negativity on I-5 from road rage and accidents.  Although I take the bus for my commute, I do drive on I-5 several times a week.  The best offering I've been able to come up with is to make a drive where I'm particularly attentive to being a polite driver and where I have a good time on the drive.  Putting out a little positive energy on the road is really the best thing I can do, so that's what I go with. 

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