A discussion of devotional offerings has come up again. (Ever noticed it happens almost every six months?) This latest episode is related to offering a bullet to The Morrigan. With discussions on facebook migrating over to blogs. Including Galina Krasskova, Asa West and Rhyd Wildermuth.
Now I promised myself not to get involved in these debates anymore. But in this case I feel compelled to defend my religious beliefs and the sacredness of my gods.
It’s Rhyd’s piece I take issue with. Mostly because he brings up old, heavily discussed, and controversial topics, like blood sacrifice,(this borders on animal sacrifice), his closing statements are judgemental as it illustrates a picture of people who do offer blood sacrifice (like me) as barbarians. (I used that term as that’s what I’ve been called in past for performing my devotion.)
This is all too familiar. *Yawn* I’m not going to go much into this stuff as I’m tired of it.
What did gripe me, which is why I’m writing this, is that he claims that the shrine is part of the devotees personality, a ‘mirror’, it is us. Or as Asa put it: “what we choose to offer to a god–and our reason for choosing it–says much more about us than it does about the god.”
Now, in some regards I do agree with Rhyd in respects of our bodies being akin to altar (after all, I have devoted my very being to Dionysos) and also that physical altars/shrines works as a conduit to our connections to the gods. But in his essay it appears to me that he is distancing himself away from the importance of devotion and space.
I find a certain irony in this as Rhyd is well known for his anarchism and his work with the massively popular Gods and Radicals. Within that group the discussion of ownership / possession comes up a lot, but here it appears Rhyd is forgetting the nature of a shrine/altar by enforcing a belief that these spaces are only just personal possessions…
From my perspective the concept of anarchism can be found with shrines and altars as devotees don’t own the space, it is not yours / mine / ours. The offerings given are offerings and once given to a god they belong only to the god. This is my fundamentals of devotion.
A shrine is a sacred space dedicated in a household, ie., the devotee may own the space around the shrine, but not the shrine itself. A devotees job to play a host in making the gods comfortable in the space dedicated to them. This is the basics of Xenia, or Theoxenia to be precise. Depending on what the host has invited into the household and how the host wants — or are directed by the deity — determines the offerings given.
For myself I’ve been working with the darker aspect of Dionysos. This aspect requires certain things that may be considered unsavoury in our over-culture. Including blood. But this is not something I’ve actively gone out of my way to seek, nor is it a reflection of my personality. It is a process I must fulfil to move forwards with my devotion. It has opened gateways for me to come to terms with Mysteries I would not be able to understand without enduring / giving these kind of offerings – as far as I know there is no alternative to this form of work. What’s more this has been requested of me by Dionysos or his retinue.
In the end, each to their own when it comes to how far one wants to take their devotion, but espousing a certain method of dedication is dangerous territory. Not only is this dogmatic, it is holding back proper devotion to a god, it is allowing our human morality to dictate our practice, it is ignoring the rites of our ancestors, it is speaking for the gods themselves, i.e., hubris.