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Author Topic: Rituals & Offerings: what's REALLY going on?  (Read 10187 times)
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« Reply #30: April 02, 2011, 09:29:01 pm »

Talking about religion and taking somebody's trust in your position as a teacher, and exploiting that trust into performing tasks that are not neccessary for reaching enlightenment, but that they do because they trust you, is different on the other hand.  If God was very simple, or spirituality, or taboo, or the concepts of any - people would be their own teachers on proper conduct along with society (in this world), with no intermediary human in between them and their aspirations/search for eternal knowledge and how to perform proper actions for their (now known, in this scenario) Concept of God(s).  But that doesn't seem to be the case, and I think that knowingly teaching people otherwise than your best understanding of proper and harmonious conduct with the world and with the being you profess, is an important disambiguity.

I can't understand why anyone would do something they thought wrong because someone claiming to speak for their god told them to do it. Surely, I'd think the guy who told Joe to murder his neighbor to appease God X was guilty, but less guilty than Joe who actually did the murder. You see it the opposite way.

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Last Login:April 14, 2011, 12:33:24 am
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« Reply #31: April 07, 2011, 03:49:36 pm »


I agree with what Darkhawk and Ellen M. are saying, and I won't repeat all of it here.

I'll add:

In the natural world, there are flows of necessary energy and material,  animals eat plants and get it from them, parasitism, symbiosis, etc. What's in an ecosystem is defined by these energy flows.

In the human world, there  is a gift economy,  the community is knit together by giving, by paying forward instead of expecting payback, from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs, etc. And that helps its members survive in very real ways.  The community is defined by the cycles of gift.

Whether the gods need offerings is debatable, I'm not sure they do.  Offerings are putting actions behind the words: We're making the gods part of our Ecosystem or Community.  Or that conversely, we're making *us* part of the gods' circle.

Also, the gift helps society work, so I think including it in religion is a way of helping make it important.
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« Reply #32: April 14, 2011, 11:46:23 pm »

Is his understanding of how rituals and offerings work fairly common? Is this a pretty good summary of how most people experience deity and understand the purpose of ritual? Have you had different experiences or a different understanding? What do others think about the purpose of ritual and offerings and why we do them?

Bonewit's idea of 'energy exchange' strikes me as a bit new-agey. I know some cultures have concepts of mana or chi but I'm not convinced every culture sees 'energy' this way.

Personally, I see offerings and rituals as distinct (although often combined) and I believe the understanding of why they were done would vary between cultures (just as 'how' they were done did.)

In my practice, giving something in offering is giving a gift, to show hospitality, to set up a 'contract' between human and gods/spirits, to sacrifice (in this sense, I mean give up something that is precious to you, as a sign of love and reverence) and as a physical form of praise. I believe that once it's given, the offering should not be disturbed, eaten on enjoyed by the giver except to dispose of it thoughtfully. To be honest, I don't even like the idea of taking photos of anything which has been handed over to the Gods. I'm aware this differs with other traditions though and respect that.

Ritual serves many purposes, as an extended form of prayer, as a rite to recognize something happening in the human or natural world, as a form of myth re-enactment to encourage a desired outcome, as a way to let human's 'experience' some divine mystery that cannot be explained in words, as a tradition to connect with ancestors, as a form of healing... etc. etc. Ritual is far too complex to sum up easily.

Do the Gods 'need' us? No, not really. Not any more than we need them. I often feel the the misunderstanding many of us have over the 'point' of offerings, comes from our own modern social values. Simple things like bread and milk and honey are cheap, easily obtainable and require little effort on our part, so we don't value them the way they would have been by a small, self sustaining community. These small amounts of food were the difference between life and death back then, they were a currency in themselves and took a great deal of hard work to acquire. Whether or not the Gods take the energy from offerings, or need or use them in any way, giving them up was a highly important act in the original context.

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