If I had to characterize Kirk S. Thomas' Sacred Gifts: Reciprocity and the Gods in only two words, it would be: “accessibly profound.”
Don't be put off—as I initially was—by his bantering tone, hyper-colloquial diction, or home-spun analogies. This book speaks as an incisive work of contemporary pagan scholarship and philosophy, and (best of all) points the way forward for future pagan thought.
There can be no relationship without communication. How, then, do we communicate with the gods?
In Sacred Gifts, Thomas answers this question elegantly and authoritatively by beginning with a careful examination of ancestral precedent. From these specifics, he deduces the general principles of the divine economy.
FOOD: Pork, poultry, possibly fish. Root vegetables such as potatoes and turnips, also garden vegetables such as squash and tomatoes. Frey is also partial to cherries and raspberries, and is very fond of homemade whole-grain bread, especially if the bread is sliced with local honey on top. Wholegrain crackers and good cheese are another good offering.
DRINK: Dark beer, dark ale, stout. For nonalcoholic beverages he will take apple cider, lemonade, vegetable juice, or cherry juice. He also likes herbal teas, including teas with berry flavors (such as raspberry).
CANDLES: Frey likes golden-yellow or leaf-green candles, earth tones or white will suffice.
INCENSE: “Sensual” scents such as musk, sandalwood, and patchouli, but also “rain” is very much enjoyed.
OTHER OFFERINGS: Gold dollar coins, lucky pennies, green or honey amber stones, as well as figurines of boars, stallions, stags, and ships. A cup or jar of whole-wheat flour, or barley. A sheaf of wheat. Antlers. Your sexual fluids. If you can afford it (or better, craft it yourself), a torc or sword would also be a fine gift to put on his harrow.
Do ut des means “I give so that you may give.” It is one of the defining points of Roman polytheism, and it is the most important. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out how the Romans viewed their Gods. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out a different approach than what we likely grew up with in regard to relationships with the Gods and society as a whole.
Ask someone in the Pagan community about Roman polytheism and you will regularly hear that it was contractual to the point of lifelessness. Actually, ask a lot of Roman polytheists the same, and they will repeat that statement as well, preferring to take the outdated tone of early scholars of the Roman religion, who regularly were Christian and carrying on a long tradition of upholding their perceived superiority through biased writing and opinion.
There are two things I really love about the New Vesta tradition. The first is the way it bridges the distance between the ancient world and the modern world. The second is the way it helps strengthen family solidarity. And one of the simplest ways it does these things is through mealtime offerings or libations.
Even in antiquity, Vesta – goddess of the home and hearth, and symbolized by a flame – was a bloodless religion. Instead of making a living animal sacrifice, ancient Roman families sprinkled mealtime offerings of loose salted flour or wafers (called mola salsa) into her sacred flame that burned in their household hearth. Libations of wine or olive oil could also be made into her flame.
One of the things that I have added to my practice over the last several years is to give offerings to the spirits, the Ancestors, and the Gods who inhabit my world and who I work with .Before I left for Kaleidoscope gathering in Canada this year, I ‘put my working altar to bed’. I tidied and dusted it, put the skulls away and requested that the spirits rest but be watchfull while I was away and in turn promised to bring them back gifts if they would do so. I did not want my house sitter to feel uncomfortable while she was staying but I also wanted my house to be proteted. Apparently I was so successful at this that my cat, who it could be said, is also a spirit, also spend the entire month in the hall cupboard and only came out when my lovely house sitter was asleep or out of the house.. but I digress
The news came at work, in a text from my fiance: Oregon's ban on gay marriage has been overturned, and the state is issuing marriage licenses to gay couples effective immediately.
It's big news for us, because it means when we say our vows next September we'll be able to do it on Oregon soil--or, in our case, sand, because we want to be married on the beach. I immediately have to go lock myself in a bathroom and cry a little bit, because up until this moment I wasn't convinced it was really going to happen.