The Basics on Offerings to Pagan Gods & Ancestors

Offerings to Gods and Ancestors: Paganism Basics

What is the point in giving offerings to the gods and ancestors? The tradition of giving offerings dates back to prehistoric times. We see this practice in the Bible and ancient holy texts, as well as through evidence in archaeology, cave paintings, and tombs. Our ancestors thought giving offerings to gods and goddesses would gain their favor and keep misfortune at bay. Today, people give offerings in a variety of places where religious rites are performed.

Should Pagans Give Regular Offerings to Gods and Ancestors?

As a pagan, you might wonder whether you should give offerings to gods and ancestors. This should actually be a part of your tradition on a regular basis. To give an offering to a god or ancestor is like making an exchange or a deal. “I’m giving you this in exchange for that.” On the contrast, you can also give an offering to thank the god or ancestor for their support. Think of it like this, if someone you loved gave you a thoughtful gift just to say thank you, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you be grateful and more wont to bestow gifts upon that person, too? It’s the same thing with offerings to gods and ancestors – think of them as gifts.

Applying the 5 Love Languages to Relationship with Deity

I think of my relationships with my gods as friendships, partnerships and sometimes even familial or romantic. YES, I said it. So when we think about how we treat the ones closest to us, we should apply that process to our connection with deity. Even using the 5 Love Languages will help you understand how to treat a close spirit. Through services, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

  • Services: doing something in honor of your deity. For example, volunteering at an animal rescue for an animal that is sacred to your god/goddess (i.e. Odin – wolf rescue)
  • Words of Affirmation: this is as simple as praying or talking to your deity on a regular basis and telling them how awesome you think they are (yes, even the gods like to hear it)
  • Gifts: OFFERINGS, which we are detailing below
  • Quality time: spending time in meditation, trance, and in dreamtime reaching out to your deity. Listening to their messages and paying attention to their signs. Also communicating via divination like tarot, runes, etc.
  • Physical touch: No. I don’t necessarily mean you’re getting “physical” with your deity, unless that’s your thing. I mean dancing to honor your god, dressing in a certain way to honor your deity, basically honoring them with your body in some sacred way (whatever that might be)
Pagan offerings can be anything from nature.
Offerings to gods can include anything of beauty from nature.

What Do I Offer My God or Goddess?

Many people get confused on what offerings to give their gods, goddesses, and ancestors. This isn’t difficult and should be a fun part of your pagan practice. The key to giving good offerings to gods is to simply be mindful of what you are offering. Some gods and goddesses have preferred offerings. Look up your god or goddess online + offerings and I’m sure you’ll find some great suggestions.

Ideas of offerings to gods and goddesses:

  • Incense – research what type of incense your god or goddess would like the most. If you’re unsure, try different kinds to see how it is accepted.
  • Bowl of herbs or flower petals – research what type of herb/flowers your god or goddess might like then leave it on your altar.
  • Foods – certain types of foods can be used as offerings to your gods. These can be left on your altar or set aside on your dinner table.
  • Drink – a bowl of water or some other form of beverage associated with your god can be left on your altar. Common offerings include wine, ale, mead, liquor, coffee, and tea. Offer traditional drinks to your deity based on mythology and correspondences
  • Candles – you can dedicate a certain candle’s flame to the energy of your god or goddess. Dress the candle in oils representing your deity, carve your deity’s name into the wax, or decorate a glass vigil candle to honor your god or goddess
  • Song – sing a special song or play a special song dedicated in your god/goddess name.
  • Poetry – if you love to write, write a poem or story for your god or goddess then recite it out loud. Or chant during ritual.
  • Stones – offerings to gods of stone and crystal are also appropriate. Some deities are linked to stones…if you’re unsure, look it up!
  • Dance – ecstatic dance is one of the best ways to commune with your god or goddess, sacred dance honors them and allows them to speak and act through you

As you can see, there is no limit to what you can offer your god or goddess. First research what your god or goddess would prefer before giving an offering. But, if you don’t have a special kind of incense or you can’t afford that particular offering, give what you can. The gods aren’t jerks (mostly) and will understand if you give an offering with a pure heart. Keep in mind, don’t give offerings to gods that you wouldn’t enjoy receiving as a gift yourself!

After months of study and connection with Berchta, I had enough information to write a long article on her. Following my post, I realized something – this article all about her true nature and beauty was more of an honor to her than any physical offering. Why? Because it put her name out to the masses and taught those who might be searching for her about her origins, folklore, history, associations, and qualities. Things people might not find anywhere else on the web. Things that only come through a personal relationship with the Divine. 

The Written Word as Offerings to Gods

When I found my goddess, or rather when she found me, there wasn’t a lot of information about her on the web or in books. Berchta was one of those obscure, nearly forgotten German goddesses from the past whose name mostly survives in nightmarish, European winter folklore. A few people had written their thoughts and experiences about Berchta on their websites, but it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know everything about her. 

After months of study and connection with Berchta, I had enough information to write a long article on her. Following my post, I realized something – this article all about her true nature and beauty was more of an honor to her than any physical offering. Why? Because it put her name out to the masses and taught those who might be searching for her about her origins, folklore, history, associations, and qualities. Things people might not find anywhere else on the web. Things that only come through a personal relationship with the Divine. 

In addition, in ancient times, spells and incantations were inscribed on stone. People would petition the gods for their needs and desires by writing it then burying it. As an offering to your deity, consider writing, painting, or inscribing your invocations then burying them to reach your deity.

Creating a Sacred Symbol

For my artwork offering, dedicated to Berchta, I was inspired by her sacred symbols. Berchta carries a ring with keys on her belt – the keys to the cycles of life and to the other realms. I drew a ring with keys and then turned the ring into a spinning wheel, because Berchta is a spinner of fate (similar to the Norns and Fates). Runes sacred to Berchta make up the keys, which are decorated in sacred evergreen foliage. You can create a sacred symbol for your deities and ancestors, as well.

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Examples of Deities and Appropriate Offerings

AphroditeOsirisBrigidCernunnosOdinCliodhnaBerchtaAncestors
RosesCedarRed cloverAcornsWineMeadFishFlowers
PerfumeDatesPoetryCoinsMeadHagstonesBreadTobacco
MyrtleMyrhCandlesEvergreensPorkSongPorridgeFamily Recipes

What About Ancestor Offerings?

Ancestors are a bit different from the gods and goddesses as far as the types of offerings. Our ancestors make up our bloodline, so therefore we should put extra thought into the offerings to ancestors. If you have an ancestor altar or shrine of some kind, it’s best to leave their offerings on their altar. But always do what feels most appropriate to you.

What Did Your Ancestors Enjoy While Alive?

If you are giving an offering to an ancestor that you knew in life, think about what that person liked while they were alive. For example, maybe it was your grandfather and you know that he smoked cigars. You can offer a cigar or a bit of tobacco. Or maybe it was your great aunt and she loved tulips, a vase of tulips is perfect for her. Maybe your great grandmother loved caramel candies, leave a few of these on the altar for her.

The options are endless and it is really about being mindful and thoughtful of what you are leaving as offerings. Artistic offerings are always appreciated by the ancestors: poetry, song, paintings, sketches, etc. I also believe when we put time and effort into our family tree, this is a form of offering as it brings your ancestors’ memories to life. Telling stories about your ancestors and keeping their memory alive is the highest form of flattery.

Offerings to Ancient Ancestors

If you didn’t know your ancestor while they were alive, and let’s say you are giving an offering to your ancient ancestors, think about their heritage. Think about where they lived and what was common as far as foods back then. Perhaps a bowl of milk or slice of bread might be appropriate for those who lived in Europe in Medieval times. Or maybe leaving a bit of dried plant matter or herbs that were common in those times. For example, red clover for Irish ancestors, Elder berries for English ancestors, etc. Learn more about ancient ancestors and how to connect with them here

Offerings to pagan gods should be separate from the ancestors' offerings.
Leave your offerings to gods and ancestors on separate altars.

How Do I Dispose of Used Offerings to Gods?

Many people want to know what they’re supposed to do with the offerings to gods and ancestors once sufficient time has passed. This is an easy enough question to answer. Do what you feel is best. However, it seems somewhat disrespectful to throw away certain things.

Here’s some tips on how to dispose of offerings in appropriate ways:

  • Food – if it was vegetable or fruit matter, throw it in the compost or throw it outside for the birds and wild animals to eat. The gods and ancestors would be appreciative of such a gesture. Trash it, if no other option.
  • Water/Wine/Liquid – can be poured as a libation outside on the ground. Don’t drink it after it’s been sitting out. Can be poured down the drain if no other option.
  • Dried herbs, teas and plant material – again, can be given back to nature or used in the compost.
  • Trinkets, jewelry, knick-knacks – you can keep these on your ancestors’ or gods’ altars and switch them out with the seasons (see section below on seasonal offerings).
  • Crystal and stone offerings – I tend to reuse my crystals and stones, even if they’ve been placed on my deity or ancestor altar. Once I feel they’re no longer needed for that spirit, I’ll cleanse it well and reuse it in some other way – in spells, rituals, or as offerings again

Seasonal Pagan Offerings and Conclusion

You might find that as the seasons pass you will get the urge to change your altar decorations. This can also include seasonal offerings to the gods and ancestors. For instance, if the summer solstice is on its way, you might want to take down your Spring décor (eggs, rabbits, etc) to make room for summer décor. This can include switching out plants, flowers, bowls of dried herbs and stones all dedicated to the gods and ancestors.

Seasonal Offerings to Gods and Your Altar

Often when I clean and reorganize my altar, I am thinking of what the gods associated with the coming season would enjoy. This typically includes different stones, dried flower petals and herbs, and even boughs or branches of evergreen trees. Depending on what gods you work with or what branch of paganism you follow, this will influence how you set up your altar and whether or not you change your offerings and altar décor with the seasons.

Be Mindful and Experiment

The choice is ultimately up to you what you want to offer to your gods and ancestors. The key to giving the best offerings is to simply be mindful and intentional of what you are giving. You wouldn’t invite an honored guest over for dinner and throw out a bowl of two-day-old leftovers, would you? So treat your gods and ancestors with just as much respect, if not more. Think about what you are giving them and whether or not they would really enjoy it if they were sitting across from you at your dinner table. While I’m sure most of the gods and ancestors are just happy to be recognized after years of being ignored, we still want to be respectful, polite, and thoughtful.

More on Gods and Ancestors:

Pagan Basics: Offerings to the Gods and Ancestors 101

22 thoughts on “Offerings to Gods and Ancestors: Paganism Basics

  1. offering process (for me):
    1. pick something for them
    2. give it out in any manner deemed fit for the circumstances (that’s the fanciest way I’ve ever written “give it to them”)
    3. leave it out for a few minutes, 1 hour, a day, or something akin to that. if it’s a food or drink, you can eat/drink it yourself (you’ll be connected to them). if it’s an item, feel free to leave it there or put it in another place (I either a, leave it as is, or b. put it into a jar). if it’s a disposable non-edible, then you can bury/burn/throw it away.

  2. I move a lot because of school! also seasonal offerings sometimes. What do you do with the stuff after you take it off or have to move it? I dont wanna piss anyone off and I wanna be respectful I’m just not sure how yet!!

    1. Offerings of food or beverage can be trashed or poured out onto the ground outside. Incense ashes can be saved in a jar and used to make black witches’ salt.

        1. I’m norse pagan and we are a feasting community that shares their spoils so I’ll put my offering out and when they gods are ready they share it with us… so yeah like some of the drinks and food that don’t spoil (loki loves candy) they’ll share their offerings with us… and yes they share because we’ll get an overwhelming sense of you gotta eat/drink this now

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