We live in a time where many feel incredibly isolated and alone, where the natural world is being desecrated around us and the diversity of life is diminishing in startling numbers, and where too often we feel we have lost the ability to live connected to heart and a way of being with the world and each other that is nourishing and supportive. There often has been abuse of power and a great distrust of authority. At the same time, because of our dire need, Divine is calling us home again in many and varied ways, providing the means to stoke the fires of heart and connection, and of good relationship with the world that we are part of.
This community started with a feeling of being very informal and homegrown, with folks gathering in small groups around the warmth of fire. Over time, what this community offers has grown enormously, and with this growth has been the necessary structure to support it, particularly where ritual is concerned. To sit by fire and make the offerings in the way we have been taught is, in a way, something that is dear and precious to this community. Grandfather is making it clear that to teach and instruct others in alignment with how this is properly done energetically, ancestrally and shamanically requires qualifying, committing and transmission. He is also pointing out to us that offerings are for specific purposes, and it is not recommended that you use them every time you sit by fire.
I asked David Wiley, a Tsaurirrikame in the Huichol tradition and respected elder of our community, about two areas where Grandfather seems to now be bringing us into alignment — offerings and ritual space.
Annie: David, can you explain to us about the sacred nature of these offerings and the need to be authorized in some way to teach these to others?
David: As Grandfather has spoken about, there is a basis for making offerings that was established with all the original peoples of the world. Today you can continue to see this somewhat intact in various peoples, groups, tribes or cultures. It is very difficult to reproduce this perspective in modern, literary, intellectual-oriented people but I’ll try.
As Grandfather has often said, once we were “given” the mind, we acquired a particular advantage over many life forms which could create destructive imbalance. With this gift we could create internal associations which could be used in manipulating materials such as creating tools. We could develop mental distinctions such as “past” and “future”. With all of this we could coordinate our activities amongst ourselves in a way that was unparalleled. However, this gift came with a price. Just having it provided some illusion of separation from the rest of the world and to make matters worse the more we used or dwelled in this capacity the more disassociated we felt from the world. It’s this dissociation from this natural, living, spiritual order of the world that provided the greatest danger for both ourselves and other living and material beings. Therefore something was needed to spiritually, energetically and materially support a re-balancing or an adjusting of the accounts; something we would commit to do under particular circumstances. Different peoples, depending on where they lived and what was considered important, desirable or preciously rare, were asked to provide this “rebalancing exchange” to energetically compensate for our special advantage. This not only brought some minimum material-balancing and discouraged excess but it also did and does something amazing: It brings us back into some connection. We feel a shift in this disassociation. This arrangement can be called one of the primary sacred exchanges between Divine or the gods or spirits and humanity. So to touch upon some of these points and more:
• It connects us to an important experiential relationship: To “give” means to “receive” and to “receive” means to “give”. That’s part of how this realm works which you can observe in our emotions when we receive or give.
• In this “act” a special door opens for humans, connecting us to something timeless that we can all feel whether it is culturally imparted or not. Through this door we feel more connected to our experience and the world around us as spiritual beings.
• It provides some material rebalancing and discourages excess through gratitude. This means what is present and available is precious and special.
• It provides a spiritual rebalancing between us with our “gift” and the living world.
• In some cases it can also open a special space; you can call this a ritual space where energetic movements or transformation can happen that can’t easily or safely happen under other circumstances.
So, in adding these basics up, it’s about entering into a timeless, sacred agreement to give back to those divine energies or forces, in this case, Fire. So, shamanically you could say everyone should be “happy”, us and the gods.
Once you look this over hopefully you can begin to see that there are special relationships between the “you” and the “other something”, the sacred. And wherever we have relationships, especially very long ones which go back, for instance, to the beginning of humanity, there are spiritual boundaries that define this game between the two, the peoples and the divine, living expressions of the world. Just like there are declared natural laws such as gravity, momentum, and thermodynamics there are spiritual equivalents to this and more. And to operate fruitfully with these sacred acts of engagement you need to understand some of these boundaries to keep everyone safe. Offerings fall within these boundaries. Whether you’re cognitively aware of the boundaries or not, energetically there are things in play and there can be both risk and reward.
When it comes to using or making offerings that have been given specifically to a traditional people to use there are different things to consider. A person can see that these people benefit from those offerings and you decide to take it for yourself and see if you get the same benefit. Or you can just think it looks cool to copy or mimic them. This is what many indigenous cultures rightfully complain of as the white culture stealing or expropriating something that belongs to them. You can also imagine, or invent that it’s “okay” to do what they’re doing because you generate a “belief” that this is how it’s done, regardless of whether you know anything about these peoples, cultures or histories. Or you can declare ideologically or with “good intentions” that Divine or anyone who could be critical doesn’t or shouldn’t care, so you should go ahead with mimicking or adopting the offering process. This can be seen as a form of self-justification. AND the indigenous people can still claim that this is expropriating.
The other approach in the using or making offerings is to receive what can be roughly translated as license and permission. That means an elder that is in good standing with his or her people and/or tradition can determine, whether through the gods or ancestors through whatever appropriate faculty is used, that this is something important to share with that person. The elder then grants the license and permission to that person usually through ritual transmission. The person receiving the transmission has certain obligations and boundaries that he or she must honor and there is some liability with the elder providing the transmission. In this way, not only does it preserve the “juice” that was originally established through the ancient linkage but it resolves many questions of impropriety and risks of dishonoring this sacred act. Therefore, the gods and spirits are usually satisfied.
At this point I think that it’s important to make some distinction between working with making offerings on a personal level – a personal honoring, maybe a feeling and experimenting – and something that is done in a group. Grandfather says that whenever someone is reaching for connection and finds themselves drawn, moved or inspired to make offerings in a particular way whether it’s part of a particular tradition or not, it’s not automatically a problem. First and foremost, to feel “called” to make offerings is in all of our “spiritual genetics” and it can represent a stirring, calling or desire to reconnect to this exchange. Where, how and with what offerings finally settles can be seen as a personal search to find their way until he or she steps onto a path that connects their soul or tonalli with their heart and life. Then they will usually be introduced to the offering process that syncs with this pathway and the sacred agreements for that work.
However, to provide instructions to individuals or a group you need to have the license and permission in a clean, authentic way. Otherwise you’re representing that you have the perspective, qualifications and transmission to ascertain that those offerings and those offering-practices are appropriate for the situation and the people who you are instructing.
In the offerings we make, which are from the Wixarika [vee-ra-tea-ka] or Huichol [wee-cho-al] is completely possible because of Tatewari’s capacity to
grant this transmission through His presence as Fire itself. After all, it has been done this way through the ages either through a deity-form or a shaman-tradition holder. But regardless of whether He’s using my body, I have personally received this authorization through transmission through a Huichol elder so this is a double confirmation.
Could you also talk about when it is important to use the offerings, and when this is not advised?
Regardless of how you have, let’s call it “found your way to the offerings” I don’t recommend using them casually or for social fires. Just as offerings are used when you are asking for something, you need to remember there is much more to this than just symbolism. You set into motion a type of “spiritual chemistry” as Grandfather sometimes calls it. You may not be asking for something but you might just receive…like it or not. And this is in addition to the fact that anytime you’re sitting around a fire you’re receiving something from the primal spirit of Fire. So I recommend that only in situations where you really want to open a focused, purposeful interaction with Fire should you use offerings, and of course that assumes you have the right relationships with your using a particular set of offerings such as the ones we presently use at Sacred Fire Community fires.