The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

A Beltane Blessing: Recipe for Sacred Herbal Offering Blend April 29, 2018

Sacred blend being stuffed in leather pouch for around the neck

Sacred blend being stuffed in leather pouch for around the neck

Offerings to the land, spirits, and/or diety are a common stable in many traditions, druidry being no exception. Many opportunities present themselves and having something you carry with you can be built into your regular druid practice (and kept within, say, a crane bag).  Some years ago, I wrote about sustainable offerings and the kinds of offerings you can leave as part of a regular spiritual practice. These offerings might be home-grown herbs (as in the case of today’s post), home-brewed alcohol, small blessed stones, home baked bread or cakes, small shells, even your own nitrogen-rich urine.  I think the important thing with any offering is that it truly puts no strain on the ecosystem–but rather, is a true blessing.

 

In the spirit of this idea of sustainable and sacred offerings, in today’s post, I’ll share the recipe for one of my own sacred herbal blends that I often carry with me and use for leaving small offerings—in nooks of trees, on stones, in an offering bowl, as an offering as part of ritual, and so on. This kind of offering blend is a perfect thing to make at Beltane, as the energy of Beltane is full of vitality and life, of healing and blessing. Using the energy of Beltane to mix and bless these herbs brings that energy to the land and spirits throughout the year.

 

Sustainability and Suitability of Offerings

The key to leaving any offering is that it won’t damage the ecosystem or cause it harm–either in the leaving of said offering or in its creation. This means you have to take some serious care and consideration to develop an offering blend that gives back rather than takes. In the case of the herbal offerings I’m talking about today, it is critical that you leave only materials that will naturally break down and that will not spread any seeds that do not belong in the ecosystem.

 

Towards that end, I take two precautions with the herbal blend presented here. First, I use only leaf matter and flower matter (harvested long before the formation of seeds). Second, I bake the plant matter at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, killing off anything that might be present in the plant matter so that it is harmless and safe to leave (and bonus: it makes the house smell great!)

 

An alternative, another kind of herbal offering entirely, which I’ve talked about in some of my wildtending posts, is to intentionally leave seeds that are rare and in need of replanting–but that’s a different kind of thing–you can read more about that in this post. That is certainly another kind of herbal offering that you can leave.

 

An Introduction to the Herbs

A blend of herbs....

A blend of herbs….

For my blend, I wanted to use a combination of tobacco leaves and flowers (home grown), lavender flowers, rose petals, and  .  You can use any number of herbs you can grow yourself or buy organically: I like flowers a lot, as well as aromatic herbs for a nice smell (mints, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sages, etc).  Here are the herbs from this specific blend:

 

Nicotiana Rustica, or Wild Tobacco. Each year, I grow Nicotiana Rustica, which is an old form of tobacco known as “Aztec Tobacco” or “Wild Tobacco.”  I’ve grown it successfully in a garden as well as in smaller pots in a windowsill. It is super easy to grow and grows prolifically.  It will self seed if you allow it to.  Wild Tobacco is not a kind of tobacco used for smoking as it has up to nine times the concentration of nicotine compared to a traditional tobacco grown for smoking (although in some parts of South America, Shamans use it as part of entheogenic mixtures). I have found that this particular strain of tobacco is well received by the spirits of the land and they are joyful in receiving it. This variety is native to North America, but is usually not cultivated because it is too potent for the common misuses of tobacco today. By growing this plant myself, and, by being a non-smoker, I am cultivating a sacred relationship with a plant that has long been used as an offering here on the land in North America–and a plant that is often well received when given in reverence and respect to the spirits and the land. I feel, in some way, that I am reclaiming a relationship with this tobacco plant, returning it to its sacred, rather than its mundane and abused, purpose. It is still early in the year, and you can readily get seeds for this variety–so consider cultivating some!

 

I like to gather the flowers as they bud–each little stalk will produce a new flower and drop it regularly, much like common mullein. I will typically gather up most of the flowers and later, seed pods (to share the seeds).  And I will cut the stalks and allow the leaves to naturally dry (they slowly turn brown). I save the stalks for use in smudge sticks that are specifically created as “offering” and “blessing” sticks.  Both the dried leaves and stalks smoulder nicely.

 

In this blend, the wild tobacco represents an offering to the land that is sincere and represents a desire for continuing a sacred relationship with the land.

 

Nicotiana Rustica

Nicotiana Rustica

Rose / Rosa spp (flowers/petals): My second ingredient in this blend is rose petals–they produce a beautiful smell and color, and make the blend really delightful. However, they have a more important purpose, and that purpose is protective and healing in nature. Rose, medicinally speaking, helps heal the heart and also has thorns which offer protection. I gather rose petals around Lughnassadh each year (or earlier, depending on the specific species).  Rose is under the dominion of Venus.

 

Lavender (Lavandula spp) Lavender flowers are a third ingredient that comes in my sacred offering blend (and occasionally, lavender stalks and leaves, although I usually save these for smudge stick making as well).  Lavender, which is a Mercury herb, has been used for millenia for purification and warding purposes–and that’s exactly what it is used for in this blend.

 

Elder (flower, Sambuccus Canadensis; Sambuccus Spp.). I have written pretty extensively about elder in an earlier post, so you can find complete information on Elder in that post.  In this blend, I gather Elderflower (right around or on the Summer Solstice).  I turn much of this elder into Elderflower cordial and tea but save some of it for my sacred offering blend. Elder offers a connection to the realm of spirit and for bringing good energy into the land through the connection with the summer solstice and solar current.

 

These are the four plants I commonly use in my blend, but as I said above, you can use any plant that speaks to you and that you’ve developed a relationship with. Here are some ideas:

 

  • Conifers: Eastern White Cedar, White Pine, Eastern Hemlock (needles), Spruces, etc. Other tree leaves would also be fine!
  • Herbs (leaf, flower, stem): Mints, Lemon Balm, Oregano, Marjoram, Basil, Thyme (if you are unable to grow them, you can buy organic blends at the grocery store or fresh at a farmer’s market, and dry them and blend them)
  • Flowers: Any flower petal that you can dry (avoiding any seeds)

 

The key to any blend is that you think about the magical purpose and energy behind each herb/plant/tree as well as your own relationship with it. This is a great way to begin to cultivate relationships with certain plants for certain purposes as well. If you “grow your offerings” this season, by the end of the year when you are ready to make such a blend, you’ll have spent a full season with that plant. If the plant is a perennial or you save some of the seeds, then your relationship with that plant deepens over the years. For example, I’ve been growing Nicotiana Rustica for about 8 years now, and each year, as I save the seeds and replant them, and share them with friends, my relationship with this plant deepens–and the power of the offering I give also deepens.

 

To me, every part of the cultivating and harvesting of this sacred blend is, in fact, part of the sacred relationship I am cultivating with nature. By tending the plants, or finding them carefully in the wilds, I can continue to build a specific blend that honors the land our deepens our relationship.

 

Magical Crafting and Making the Blend

The good news about a sacred offering blend is there is no right or wrong way to blend it. I would suggest, in fact, that your intuition (rather than measuring select ingredients) goes further than a specific recipe. However, I do have some suggestions to follow:

 

Select a sacred time. In my case, I decided to make this blend on the full moon closest to Beltane. This draws both on the power of the moon and the energy of the sun.

Bowl and simple altar setup for creating sacred offering herb blend

Bowl and simple altar setup for creating sacred offering herb blend

Open a sacred grove. In the druid revival tradition, this would include calling in the sacred animals, calling in the elements, blessing/purifying with the elements, saying the druid’s prayer, establishing a protective sphere or circle.

 

Cut your Herbs (if necessary). Many home grown herbs are not in very small pieces, so I find it is useful to cut them. I do this with a pair of scissors.

Cutting tobacco leaf

Cutting tobacco leaf

Blend Your Herbs. Gather your herbs together and blend them. I find that using a clockwise motion while I chant or sing helps bless them and brings some of my own energy into the mixture.

Blending the herbs

Blending the herbs

Bless Your Herbs. You might use a simple blessing to empower the herbs further with sacred intent. I used an elemental blessing, drawing upon the energies already called and simply moving each elemental bowl clockwise above the herbal blend.

 

Store Your Blend. Depending on what you are going to do next, you might put your herbal blend in a mason jar to keep it airtight. The last batch I blended was primarily for gifts, so I instead put them in little bags with labels and also filled up my own offering bag again.

Bagging my herbs for gifts

Bagging my herbs for gifts

Attaching labels for the herb blend

Attaching labels for the herb blend

Close Your Sacred Space. Close your sacred space once your magical crafting is complete!

 

How to Use Herbal Offerings

There’s not really a wrong way to use an herbal offering, but I can give you some ideas of how I’ve used these.

 

Offering on a stone cairn

Offering on a stone cairn

Land Healing Purposes. When I see land in need of healing–an abandoned lot, a tree that has been cut down, a recently poisoned lawn, I will leave a pinch of the offering. This is just to let the land know that I am here, I honor it, and I am present. I have left these pinches near cut Christmas trees during the  holiday season–again, as a space holding gesture.

 

Land Blessing Purposes. When I’m interacting with the land, I will leave a pinch. For example, if I’m camping out somewhere, when I first arrive and again when I leave, I will leave a pinch of the offering. If I’m hiking, I will leave some as a I walk at a few points.

 

Ritual Offering Purposes. Because I always honor the land and the spirits of the land as a primary part of my own ritual work, I use this blend as an offering to the land.

 

You can do a lot of things with this sacred blend–or another like it! I wish you a blessed Beltane–and happy magical crafting!

 

Druidry and the Art of Sustainable, Meaningful Offerings October 21, 2012

In druidry and in other earth-centered religions, its customary to make offerings to spirits, the ancestors, guides, outsiders, etc.  We usually do this as part of ritual or solitary practice. Recently, the issue of what to use as offerings came up in a discussion in one of my druid groups, and I’d like to spend some time thinking about this practice and its connection to sustainability and earth-centered living.

 

Why offerings? Offerings are usually made in honor of deities, ancestors, spirit guides, spirits of the land, the earth mother herself, etc.  I often leave small offerings on natural altars that I maintain, as well as use them at the start of rituals to show gratitude and thanks. A simple offering might be a plate of cakes left to honor the land for a bountiful harvest, a handful of seeds cast out of a sacred space to keep the outsiders outside, or wine poured onto the fire. Offerings that druids and other earth-centered/pagan practitioners provide vary widely, but commonly you see wine, mead, apples, tobacco, honey, baked goods, silver coins, herbal blends, and so forth.

 

Amaranth is a wonderful offering!

Amaranth is a wonderful offering!

Where does that offering come from?  I think that *what* the offering consists of is usually given a lot of thought in our practices. You can Google information on offerings, or read any earth-based or pagan-focused book, and they all talk about the appropriateness of various offerings.  The problem with this approach is that it often ignores the system from which that offering comes. I’d like to propose that, if we want to encourage a sustainable mindest, then druids and other earth-centered practitioners might also want to think carefully about *where* their offerings come from.  If we are offering that comes out of the general polluting consumerist system, that offering will reflect polluting/consumerist energy, regardless of what intention that you put into offering it.

 

Take, for example, the humble bottle of wine you pick up at the supermarket for your next ritual. The supermarket bottle of ritual wine has three potential issues associated with it.

 

1) The physical production and transport of the simple bottle of ritual wine has a network of various energies, resources, and pollution tied up in it.  Where does the wine come from?  Who produced it?  How were the grapes grown and processed? How many pesticides were used?  How far did it have to travel and how many fossil fuels were burnt on that trip?  Chances are, that supermarket bottle of wine is part of the larger consumptive system and has damaged the planet in some way (from pesticide use to the CO2 and other chemicals emitted with its transport). Is this the offering you want to make to the spirit realm?

 

2) The spiritual energies associated with the supermarket bottle of wine.  How many other people handled it before you? What other energies might be present? How do those energies interfere with your intentions? Again, is this the offering you want to be making to the spirit realm?

 

3) The final issue is internal to you–your intentions and energy expended in getting the offering.  By doing something so effortless as grabbing a wine off the shelf, paying for it, and uncorking it for your offering, is this really an offering?  What exactly is an offering? An offering should be meaningful, it should demonstrate your commitment and sincerity.  The effort involved in purchasing something is quite minimal. Is this what you want to be conveying to the spirit realm?

 

I think that for those of us who have lived our whole lives in consumerist society, going to the store and purchasing a bottle of wine doesn’t really seem like an issue.  Its something we don’t even think about–we need an offering, so we go buy one.  But not thinking about these issues is exactly what has gotten us into our current unsustainable situation.  Instead, I propose that we put more thought and effort into what we use as an offering.

 

Sustainable, Meaningful Offerings

To address the three problematic areas above, I’d like to propose two solutions: making earth-centered offerings and offering lifestyle changes instead of physical goods.

 

Sunflowers can be offered fresh or dried! Offer the whole head.

Making earth-centered offerings.  Rather than purchasing offerings, I’d like to suggest that you can grow your own offerings or gathering them from natural spaces (recognizing and respecting any rules about gathering from state parks, of course).  Naturally grown, earth centered offerings have the benefit of being something that wildlife will likely eat as well as not being part of the damaging, consumptive system that is slowly killing the non-human life on this planet.  Everyone has the ability to gather, even if you have no space to grow.

 

You’d be surprised what you can grow and/or gather.  Seeds and nuts are wonderful choices for growing or gathering, and they store quite well. I grow my own sunflowers, amaranth, broom corn, as well as collect acorns, walnuts, and other assorted nuts; many of these become offerings. A squirrel is sure to appreciate some black walnut, hickory, or acorns left on a Yule or Imbloc altar! I also occasionally make my own cakes with something I’ve grown or gathered–acorn flour, sunflower seeds, etc.  For the cakes, I also have purchased rye and wheat from local farmers who are engaging in sustainable practices, since I don’t have the space to grow much of that here on my small property. The intention and the energy that goes into growing or gathering something will really be appreciated in the spirit realm!

 

For offerings that I plan on casting into the fire, I make it a point to create an all-local, sustainable fire blend.  When we prune our cedars, I dry out the branches and needles (which make wonderful cracking and popping when you throw them into the fire.   I also collect and dry juniper berries, rose hips, and sap from conifers on our property that has dripped and dried. Pine needles and pine cones are added to the blend and the result is a wonderfully smelling and quick burning offering. I mixed this up in a big bucket a few years ago and gave some to my grove members in a small cloth bag.

 

I’ve also offered handfuls of composted manure to the spirits of the land.   For this, I went and got the manure from local herds of alpacas or horses, composted it down, and then offered it in thanks.  This was a really nice “harvest” offering to our land for the bountiful season. This offering is quite amazing because it directly provides fertile soil for the land in which to grow.

 

If you have space, you can also make permanent kinds of offerings–planting trees, shrubs, and flowers that will aid wildlife and tending them till they are grown.  For this purpose, I’ve planted service berry, a butterfly/bee garden, and engage in other permaculture-based practices.  Just make sure your offerings are native and fit the landscape if they are going to be left :).

 

Your own lifestyle as an offering. The second thing I’d like to propose is that offerings don’t have to be physical.  They can be lifestyle changes.  Consider, for example, the impact you’d make if each year, as part of your spiritual path, you committed to engaging in one more earth-centered practice.  This could be something quite simple, from starting a recycling program in your office to serving as a volunteer in your community on environmental projects.  Earth-centered offerings might also be participating in a backyard wildlife project where you aid scientists in tracking the migration of species to something more radical, like committing to grow 50% of your food for the year.  Each time you do this, you offer more than just a physical object–you offer your time and energy to improving and preserving the world.  What greater offering can there be?