30 Days for the Land: The Pickle of Urban Offerings

Greensburg Courthouse at NightGiven that I’m a city dweller who’s trying to make a month’s worth of physical offerings, it’s inevitable that I’d eventually get myself into a pickle: namely, how do you make physical offerings when there’s no natural setting to put them in?

My belief is that everything has a soul, spirit, or energy to it. Even things that seem to be as manmade as all get out, like roads, skyscrapers, apartment buildings, or the local laundromat, which is where I found myself yesterday. It is important to me for this project that I find ways to connect with, honor, and express my gratitude to all the sorts of places that I normally find myself in, and not just the places that look like nature. My life is lived in city locations, and I don’t stop being an Urglaawer just because I don’t happen to be in the woods or on a farm. I want all of my life to be part of my faith. I also believe that the Spirits of the places I encounter in my daily life are the ones that will have the strongest influences on me, and I want those relationships to be positive and balanced–when They give to me, I give to Them. Think of it as the non-farmer’s version of the Sacred Duty.

But how on earth do you give a physical offering to a laundromat?!

There are quite a few hurdles to giving offerings in urban settings. Out in nature, you can easily pour a drink into the soil or leave out some food that will be appreciated by the local wildlife. You might even be able to get away with burying something like a pretty stone, seashell, or coin. In other spaces, you’re able to go so far as to build a fire and burn your offerings. But in urban settings, you’re typically lacking in privacy, space, or open ground (that is, soil that could soak up a liquid). Food offerings could be seen as litter, or attracting unwanted urban “pests” like raccoons and crows. (Please note: I do NOT personally consider these wonderfully adaptable animals to be pests!) Leaving non-biodegradable physical offerings, like artwork or shinies, would almost certainly be construed as litter, and could cause problems for either people or wildlife, despite your best intentions.

Here are some of my personal solutions for these obstacles:

Act of Service: Sometimes it’s not what you leave behind, it’s what you take away. A piece of land that has been littered, whether it’s a street corner, parking lot, or park trail, would almost certainly appreciate someone cleaning up the trash that has been left behind by more careless humans. You could also volunteer for a project to improve the neighborhood in some way, such as by painting buildings and signs, repairing things that are broken, or planting flowers and trees in those little roadside areas to brighten things up.

Performance: Our ancestors greatly valued a skillfully recited poem, story, or musical performance. You could dedicate your performance to the piece of land you’re offering to, or even create an original piece specifically for its spirit. This works especially well in the case of my earlier story, where I wanted to honor the land of the Turnpike route that I drive through regularly, but has nowhere that I can physically stop at to leave anything. I can still readily sing or recite something from the car.

Small Amount of Offering: While it’s wonderful to do things like pouring out an entire bottle of mead as an offering (and if you haven’t tried it, I heartily recommend it!) it isn’t always practical. Sometimes, in a very urban, very public sort of space, a smaller offering is best. In the case of the land my laundromat is on, with no soil in sight, I brought a favorite drink with me and “spilled” some of it in the parking lot while murmuring a dedication. The many people passing in and out of the building didn’t even look twice at me. Sure, it would have been nice to pour out the whole cup, but that would have been very conspicuous in such a busy place. Other discreet offerings include small amounts of dried flowers or herbs (ground or crushed if that’s easier), or the traditional Deitsch offering of three beans.

Long Distance Offering: If you stand at your home altar and dedicate offerings to the Gods, Ancestors, or other spirit helpers, there’s no reason you can’t do that for the land too. I try to get to the land itself when I want to give something, but if I can’t, I will perform an offering ceremony in the privacy of my home, dedicate the offerings to that part of the land, and then leave it on my altar overnight for the Spirits to enjoy. This helps you to work around land that is privately owned, or that you can’t access for some other reason. It also works well for larger areas that you want to offer to–for example, if I want to offer to my entire home city at once, my home is within the city but of course does not encompass it!

How do you make offerings to the land where you live? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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