The Mystery of the Otherworldly Feast
A central focus of the religious practices of the ancient Indo-European peoples was the offering of sacrifice to the deities, spirits, and ancestors seen as a “shared feast.” In general terms, the making of offering can be seen as the offering of hospitality and therefore the building of a positive and reciprocal relationship with the Powers we hold in esteem. In the archaeological evidence from the Celtic lands, we find offerings of items of value into springs, lakes, rivers, and shafts as well as indications of ritual burning.
In the Neo-Druidism of FoDLA, we seek to emulate this ancient ideology–which was certainly a part of the world of the Druids of old–by using our ritual fire as a hearth to which we may invite the Powers to whom we wish to offer gifts and hospitality. On certain occasions–especially when dealing with subterranean beings or perhaps the ancestors–we might physically offer into the earth or a body of water, rather than into the fire, but in general the fire-as-hearth is the focus of the work. Offering of one sort or another, envisioned as an occasion of shared hospitality is an expected part of any group ritual and is highly encouraged for personal rituals.
For the ancients, the “meal” would often have been literally that: the flesh of a ritually-slaughtered animal consumed by the participants and shared with the Gods via the fire. In the post-Enlightenment age, we no longer feel that the deities must be fed by the taking of life, especially the life of a being that has not consented to participate in the giving. (In ancient Celtic society, the animal offered–such as a cow or horse–would have been part of a herd under husbandry and thus part of the community’s property. These days food animals are rarely personal property, so–even if one set aside the moral objections to ritual slaughter–finding something of personal value, even aesthetic value, to offer at the ritual hearth is more in keeping with genuine giving.) We regard flowers, fruit, art, song, story, praise, and other items as fully worthy offerings to the Powers at the occasion of the ritual “feast.”
Todd Covert – May 2006