If you feel yourself to be a medicine person but have not found your path or lineage and don’t know what to do, trust that you will eventually be guided to a path that teaches you skills and leads to an initiation of some sort through which you will develop your own particular kind of medicine work. However, you do not need to be initiated to do most of the work and rituals described on this website.
One thing many people who are just beginning to do this kind of spirit work ask me is “What are the most common offerings made to the spiritual dimensions?” Below is a list of the top 5 from the divination system of the Dagara people from Burkina Faso that I am initiated into.
- Ash: meaning ash from a wood fire. Any kind of fire. Does not have to be a special or ceremonial fire. Ash from your wood stove or fireplace is good enough. It is often nice to sift the ash so it is easier to work with. If you don’t have a wood stove or fireplace, find someone who does. I am sure they would be willing to share. Ash is offered only and always with the left hand. It is used frequently to create a barrier or boundary of protection, to seal off a ritual space, or seal off an offering to go only to the intended recipient but it is also a major offering in and of itself. It has high potency in the otherworld and is a precious gift.
- Water: Water is a frequent offering to the spirits. You can have many kinds of water available to offer if you wish to. Rainwater is seen as the most clean and best. You can easily gather this by leaving containers out to catch rain. You can make moon water by leaving water out under a full moon, star water by leaving water out under the stars, create all kinds of flower and herbal waters, collect water from important water sources close to you, lakes, ponds, ocean, rivers, streams. But you can use tap water too. I leave my tap water out in the sun for one full day to clear it. Water is an offering in and of itself, as well as an element that is used most frequently to “clear the way.” If there are obstacles or blockage or you want to open communication or increase flow of energy, you may pour water onto the Earth asking for the way to be cleared and stating what it is you are wishing to clear. You are asking the water to “clear the way.” The water is doing the work. Water is also good for clearing conflict and discord, purifying and cleaning negative energy and bringing freshness and opening to any situation.
- Milk: Any kind of milk, soy, rice, coconut, hemp will do but the spirits do prefer cow’s milk. Milk is white and is a symbol of purity and innocence. It is used to clear experiences of violation and upset. It is also the most common offering to the female ancestors and entities. It is called upon for nurturing, healing, soothing, caring, and sustenance. One of the most common offerings to the star beings is milk poured into any natural body of water.
- Hibiscus juice: The teaching I received when I was training to become a diviner was to use hibiscus flowers steeped in boiling water as a substitute for a blood offering. I do not make blood offerings (meaning blood from an animals I have sacrificed), nor do I train people to do so. The reason for me to continue this substitute I was taught is because I do not feel myself to be in appropriate relationship to the animals I would be asked to sacrifice in order to carry that out. This is not a judgement call on others who do blood sacrifice. People need to make their own decisions based on what feels right to them. To create the hibiscus juice, steep 2 tablespoons of dry hibiscus flowers in 8 ounces of water. That equals one portion. Sometimes we are asked to offer two or three portions or even more. This is considered a very big offering. If hibiscus is called for, it is a signal to you that a debt of some kind is asking to be filled, or that the ritual you are carrying out is of significant importance. If you feel you need to make a very big offering for an ancestral debt or you are asking for a big favor from the spirits, then hibiscus juice is a good offering for that.
- Spirits: (meaning alcohol of any kind but the clear kind is often preferred: gin or vodka) The spirits love spirits. This is a very high energy fuel for them. They can extract a lot of sustenance from fermented beverages. If you have a problem with keeping alcohol around or simply do not want to engage in that, you may consider kombucha or other fermented beverages as an alternative.
Many other foods are asked for but the above are the staples, and most requested. You will develop your own particular offering bag based on the spirits you work with. Mine always has anise powder in it as a nod to my Italian ancestors, my great-grandmother’s other favorite herbs are often asked for as well as colloidal gold. But this is particular to me personally.
Offering some of your meal is a good practice too. This is commonly called the spirit plate: a small portion of a meal is set aside in a special plate and left as offering for the spirits and or ancestors.
On the Strega Tree Apothecary’s You Tube Channel you will find instructions on how to make these offerings if you wish to learn.
~Theresa C. Dintino
©Theresa C. Dintino 2019
Theresa C. Dintino is an ancestral Strega (Italian wise woman), Earth worker, and initiated diviner in the West African Dagara tradition. For more than 20 years Theresa has studied and practiced an Earth-based spirituality. She currently helps others reclaim their personal lineages through her divination work. Theresa is the author of seven books which include her Tree Medicine Trilogy. Learn more about her books here.