Earthworks III ~ Tending the Shrine: Gifting, Offering and Sacred Work

Think about the friendships you value the most.  Maybe you are thinking about your best friend or the sibling who just ‘gets’ you.  Maybe you are thinking about that friend who makes you feel better every time you are together – the one that somehow helps you see the brightness in life. Friendships take many forms and not all of them are balanced and healthy.  But the ones that are?  We can tell. Even if we have not consciously evaluated those connections for healthy vs unhealthy traits, we naturally gravitate toward healthier exchanges of energy.

When we interact with our dearest and most valued friends, we offer attention, support and space for their lives.  In return, they offer us the same – the energy flows in both directions and the balance of effort and attention is equal. We consider the needs and priorities of our dearest friends and they do the same for us. For example, when we are gift-shopping for a friend we know well, we focus on getting that friend something they will like and value.  We look for something that helps them or addresses an area of interest. It might even be a gift relating to something we do not understand or personally enjoy.  I have a lot of friends in various geeky fandoms that I do not share.  However, that does not mean I am not going to go out looking for all things Doctor Who when shopping for a Who fan.

Some of the same traits that make a friendship healthy can inform and strengthen our relationships with the land spirits we live with. The cultivation of a friendship should be at the center of the offering relationship we build with our land spirits.  Just as I would gift a friend something that relates to their fandom rather than my own, we should strive to offer our land spirits gifts that benefit them.

I group offerings into two main categories: gifting and sacred work.  Gifting can be attention and energy or physical offerings.  Gifting is what we frequently think of when we hear the word ‘offering’ – pouring out wine or water, lighting incense or placing stones.  Sacred work is the pursuit of tasks in the name of the Beings to whom you are offering. Many of us engage in sacred work on behalf of the gods, but sacred work on behalf of the land spirits is a worthwhile endeavor as well.

As per my usual, I am going to throw a lot of different ideas at you for ways to make offerings to your land spirits.  Remember, you do not need to feel pressured to immediately integrate all of these.  See what resonates with you. What fits your lifestyle?  Your available time and energy?  What ‘rings true’? If you see some ideas that appeal to you, choose one to try.  Then build from there.

Tend the Connection

Many years ago, I heard someone say that the other way to spell “love” is T-I-M-E. One of the best offerings you can make to your land spirits is simply your time and attentionLast week, we talked about selecting a site for your outdoor shrine.   One important factor to consider when establishing a shrine is making it accessible.  When our shrines are part of our daily lives, we spend more time with them.  I pass my vé every time I leave my house.  It is visible from my front door. I also garden, which puts me near the vé daily. The upshot of this is that I spend a fair bit of time connecting with my land spirits.

When I water in the mornings, I talk to my land spirits.  I tell them how grateful I am for their presence where I live.  I tell them that they are beautiful, that the plants they are growing are so healthy and lush.  I thank them for tolerating my presence and for watching over my homestead. I make time to just pause, connect, and listen to any messages they wish to relay.

Similarly, when I am leaving the house, I speak to the land spirits and pass them a little energy on the way to the car.  Think of this like seeing a friend in the grocery store – a quick greeting, an exchange of smiles, then both of you go back to what you were doing.

An offering relationship does not need to be ‘formal’ if you are spending time building up this connection.

Tend the Soil

Just as your body is the vehicle for your spirit, the physical earth around you is part of the body of your land spirits. Sadly, much of the earth where people live is in rough shape.  Years of farming, erosion, harmful chemical use, traffic and more have resulted in depleted soil.  The same way you would gift a worn-down friend a massage or acupuncture treatment, you can gift your land spirits offerings that support their bodies. Here are a few examples.

Water. In most of the world, an offering of water is never a bad idea.  This is especially true during hotter, drier weather. My go-to offering is water.  Also, water used for cooking frequently contains useful bits of organic matter that feed the soil.  If you’ve boiled eggs or potatoes or steamed some veggies, the water left over can be a wonderful offering to the land spirits. Make sure to let the water cool first.

Nitrogen. Nitrogen is frequently in short supply in our soil.  It feeds not only the plants that grow but also the microorganisms that make up the microbiome of our land. One simple way to add more nitrogen to the earth is coffee.  Both cooled liquid coffee (black, of course) and spent grounds are wonderful sources of nitrogen.  If you are using the spent grounds, sprinkle them lightly on the earth or work them into your compost. Brewing neutralizes the acid content of coffee making it perfect for amending soil.  Remember that we can over-amend the soil, though.  If you are using spent coffee grounds, go easy and sprinkle widely rather than putting a heavy deposit in the same place every time.


Tasty, tasty nitrogen

Compost.  Organic material is the magic ingredient in good soil.

Although it only makes up a small fraction of the soil (normally 5 to 10 percent), organic matter is absolutely essential. It binds together soil particles into porous crumbs or granules which allow air and water to move through the soil. Organic matter also retains moisture (humus holds up to 90 percent of its weight in water), and is able to absorb and store nutrients. Most importantly, organic matter is food for microorganisms and other forms of soil life. – Kathy LaLiberte

If you have the space to make compost (either outside in a bin or via vermiposting) start doing so. You can also buy finished compost from the garden store.  Sprinkle this magic soil-builder around your land and rake it in if necessary.

If you compost via vermiposting, the ‘worm tea’ can be diluted with water and sprinkled directly into the earth.

Soil-Enhancing Plants. For those of us who live in suburban environments, one of the best ways to support healthier soil is to convert to a clover lawn (or a clover-glass hybrid).  A clover lawn returns more nitrogen to the soil, feeds the local pollinators and needs less mowing.  Here are some other soil-building plants to consider.

Tend the Creatures

During your observation of the land around you, what birds, mammals and insects did you see?  These free-ranging beings are also part of the physical body of our land spirits.  Supporting the fauna of a given area of land is another good way to make offerings to the land spirits.  Even when I lived in an apartment, I maintained a bird feeder.  That daily offering of seed to my local feathered friends was also an offering to the land spirits.

Support the birds.  One of the most accessible ways to make an offering to the land spirits is to put up and maintain a bird feeder.  Try to offer seed mixes specifically for the birds native to your area. Depending on your local squirrel population, it may be worthwhile to get a squirrel-proof feeder.


Sometimes squirrel-proof is a misnomer

Consider offering suet or putting up a hummingbird feeder (hummingbird feeders require a little more work) as well.

You can also plant or put up shelter. Bird houses, trees, shrubs and tall grasses all make wonderful habitats for different species.  Some plant varieties also offer food for the local bird population. If you have been thinking about including sacred work in your offerings, consider planting some green friends that support the birds.

Support the pollinators. The health of our land is an interconnected web of relationships.  Pollinators help support healthy plants (who, in turn, support healthy soil) by assisting with pollen collection and distribution. Over 90% of plant species require the help of animals for pollination. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, birds and even bats. Planting food sources for pollinators is a wonderful way to increase the health of your land.  Here is a link to some guides for native pollinator-supporting plant species.  Plants for pollinators can be grown in containers on a balcony as well as in the ground.  If you live in an apartment, you still have some options for supporting your local butterfly population.

 

Offerings of wine and incense are lovely.  They are meaningful to us and the act of gifting something we prize highly is powerful.  I still include these kinds of offerings in my practice.  However, just as our Doctor Who-loving friend will appreciate a Doctor Who-themed gift more than, say, the Star Wars-themed gift we personally love, our land spirits appreciate gifts we select that benefit them.  As you continue to work with your own land spirits, try to include offerings that support them.  You will be amazed by the response.

 

So, what offerings do you like to make to your land spirits?  What seems to get the best reception?  Hit me up in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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