By Frater S.C.F.V.
One of the most common questions new Magicians who wish to work with spirits in traditional ways often ask is what kinds of offerings to make. This is a fantastic and very respectful and attentive question. My esteemed colleagues have written a great deal on this important subject — see for example the amazing Ritual Offerings book from 12 practicing occultists including Aaron Leitch, Zadkiel, Frater Ashen Chassan, Brother Moloch, Joshua Gadbois, Denise Alvarado, Jason Miller, Nick Farrell, Sam Webster, Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, and Gilberto Strapazon.
I cannot recommend this amazing book highly enough and what I have to share below are only a few humble footnotes from my own experience to add on to what they have already eloquently said there. Dr. Stephen Skinner, Joseph H. Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent and others have offered many helpful pointers on the subject as well.
In this brief prolegomenon to a more rigorously researched and comprehensive future article on the subject, I will aim to unpack why one might want to consider giving offerings as part of working relationships with Archangels. I will explore some often less discussed forms of offerings such as offerings through action and sharings of spirits’ acconplishments. Finally, I will aim to outline four key principles to govern offerings and share some concrete examples to illustrate the central concepts this article strives to elucidate.
Offerings to Archangels in Historical and Magical Theoretical Context
One common question among new ceremonial magicians is how to proceed with making offerings for Archangels. The comments below were shared as “notes from the field” based on my own experience in this area grounded in grimoiric tradition. From the outset, it is worth noting, as Dr. Alexander Cummins points out, that early modern literature is fraught with reservations about making offerings to Angels. These include worries that it might entail idolatry, lead to accidentally feeding demons who might then harm the Magician, or that it is not necessary since the Angels neither require nor can digest physical food or some ethereal substance contained therein.
There are, however, some traditions of offering food to Archangels, as on the Feasts of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on September 29th in the Catholic liturgical calendar. I once read about a similar practice from the Iberian peninsula, in which the sense was seemingly that the gesture of offering the food was meaningful to the Angels, because it was an act in harmony with their own nature of kindness, gratitude, respect, and loving consideration for others, quite analogous to a charitable action. In Agrippan terms, such gestures could be understood as embodying the sympathetic virtue of generosity in the service of the Good and of God, which is also in the nature of the Angels.
When I make offerings to the Angels, this is more or less the way in which I understand what I’m doing from a contemporary perspective, which is “traditional” in the sense of being in keeping with the offering-based philosophy as a way of structuring spirit work that runs through the Western esoteric tradition. For instance, in Iamblichus’ Theurgia, the great Neo-Platonic philosopher and theurgist comments on how he understands the giving of offerings to celestial beings who would seem not to require them. There, he writes:
“But,” it is remarked by thee, “the things that are offered are offered as to sensitive and psychic natures.” If, indeed, they consisted of corporeal and composite powers alone, or of such as pertained merely to the service of the physical organism, thou wouldst be correct. But since the offerings partake also of incorporeal ideals, special discourses, and simpler metres, the peculiar affinity of the offerings is to be considered from this point alone.
And if any kindred relationship, near or far away, or any resemblance is present, it is sufficient for the union about which we are now discoursing. For there is not anything which is in the least degree akin to the gods, with which the gods are not immediately present and conjoined. It is not, then, as to “sensitive or psychic,” but actually to divine ideals and to the gods themselves, that the intimate union is effected so far as may be.”
This seems like a sympathetic argument to me, on the basis of certain things being worth offering because they “partake of the nature” of the spirits in question in some form. Iamblichus’ argument is here made in reference to gods, but we might take a similar approach to Angels, especially if we are working through a Heptameronic or other similar system that ascribes Archangels as ruling over Days and Planets. Things of the same nature as a spirit are in harmony with them, and therefore, can be helpful to create the kind of sympathetic resonance that facilitates the work with the Angel in ritual. This remains so even if the Angel is not interested in actually ingesting or eating the thing offered.
It is definitely the case that arguments have been made against offerings to Angels as being idolatrous. We can reply to this objection through the Catholic distinction of veneration versus worship. The right way to make an offering to an Angel from a Catholic perspective is be to offer it to God in the “name and honour” of the Angel. In this way, we are worshiping the Divine, but venerating the Angel, showing love, gratitude, and respect.
Respecting Preferences and Incorporating Sympathetic Correspondences
As a general rule, I’ve found that it can be helpful to ask the spirits if they have any preferences for offerings and then proceeding accordingly. This applies across all realms from the chthonic and elemental to the Angelic, Archangelic, and Divine. What spirits sometimes ask for can be surprising; as Jake Stratton-Kent has noted, for instance, it might be something as simple as an egg.
When we don’t yet know a particular spirit’s preferences, however, it can be helpful to look into the grimoires for correspondences that are sympathetic to their nature. This is especially true for herbs, incenses, colours, foods, and other readily-offered things. Often, the spirits will enjoy these offerings, grounded as they often are in hundreds of years of Magicians’ work with them, and I will continue to use them or tweak them over time with the same spirit. Many spirits offer things that involve some sacrifice on our part, even something as small as giving up a glass of wine from a bottle as a libation to them.
A Concrete Example of Offerings in Practice
As a concrete example to illustrate the point of how grimoiric correspondences can be applied to select offerings, yesterday, I lit a Vigil candle for Archangel Sachiel, Archangel of Jupiter and Thursday as per the Heptameron. I also offered him unleavened bread wafers, a classical Tanachic offering that works for many spirits, and which also has correspondences with Church wafers that work with Jupiterian priestly connections. The latter also works with the sympathetic symbolism of Christ as King of Kings, Kingship being a Jupiter-ruled quality.
In addition, I offered Sachiel some Applewood incense, Apple being sacred to Jupiter as per Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy and a blue container-framed white candle inscribed with his Heptameron sigil in white. Blue is one of the colours that is traditionally associated with Jupiter. Moreover, Sachiel’s Vigil candle was dressed with Solomonic Holy Anointing Oil and dry Basil, Basil being associated with Jupiter as per Agrippa.
In addition, the bread and incense as well as additional candles for each spirit were also offered to four additional Jupiterian Spirits who operate under Sachiel, whom I also invoked for help in consecrating two 2nd Pentacles of Jupiter from the Key of Solomon and a Jupiterian Ring, namely Netoniel, Devachia, Tzedeqiah, and Parasiel. I used a framework from Balthazar’s Solomonic candle magic method here. The rationale here involves invoking the Most High, then the Archangel of the Planet, then Angels under that Archangel for help with a particular petition. This is a classically goetic approach of working down through spiritual hierarchies as Jake Stratton-Kent and others have shown. I’ll share a picture of my Altar setup from this ritual as an example to illustrate the point below. This setup was done on my Altar of Saint Cyprian of Antioch and under his watchful eye, which is why the Altar features his enlivened statue as well.
Photographs and Sharing Spirits’ Accomplishments as Offerings
However, offerings can go much deeper than what is offered in ritual. All of my pictures of ritual setups for work with particular spirits that I share on Light in Extension are also offered up to the spirits involved as well as the recognition and exposure they get from these, as are the articles I share about the operations for my own records and the benefit of others to share ideas for their own work.
When a spirit asks me not to photograph something or write about it, I respect the request. Generally, however, I have found that they have appreciated such sharings made in a respectful context as it has often led others to work with them. It also demonstrates gratitude for their work and the relationships built up with them when offered in their honour and not to our own glory.
Actions as Offerings
In addition, we can make offerings of a still other sort, namely of actions. An action that is in harmony with a spirit’s nature, particularly if it is impressive, can be sufficient to motivate them to action even if they do not physically or spiritually require it. To illustrate the principle involved here, let us consider the rather humorous example of some rather inventive ants.
Suppose a group of ants were to gather together in your kitchen one fine morning. They had decided to venerate you, in all your dazzling human wonder, as a powerful Giant and request your aid in procuring food for their queen. In other words, they wanted to petition you via a spell.
Suppose that in order to attract your attention, these craft ants decided to all click their feet synchronously to sound out something roughly analogous to your name. On top of this, they traced an amazing honey Sigil to you on your floor, reading “HELP US,” followed by your name, which they gave to you as an offering.
Now, you might not need their offering at all; in fact, it might be somewhat of a nuisance, since they had to dirty up your beautiful kitchen floor in order to create it. However, since you are a good-humored individual, you might be rather amused by their gesture and the effort and pains they took to create it. Thus, even if you didn’t remotely need their offering or particularly want to lick honey off of your own kitchen floor, you might accept the offering anyway and say “what the heck, what help do you want, ant friends?” And if all they wanted was a spoon of sugar for the Queen, you might even be willing to oblige them given how trivial such a small gesture of help seems from your own lofty perspective as a mighty Giant to a humble ant. Perhaps the situation with offerings to Archangels is something roughly analogous to this.
Examples abound of actions in harmony with the natures of various spirits that we can perform for them as offerings. For instance, Aaron Leitch cultivates a garden as an offering to the Archangel Anael. Martial arts training sessions or military service can be offered up to Martial Spirits, such as Samael, Archangel of Mars and Tuesday. Romantic gestures can be offered to Venusian spirits as can works of art, music, dance, and other works of Beauty. Study sessions and intellectual work can be offered up to Mercurial spirits and Angels of Mercury. Gestures of kindness to make others smile can be offered to Solar spirits. Offerings of advocacy for the vulnerable and wronged can be offered to Archangel Michael. Healing work, herbal medicine, studying contemporary medicine and so on can also be offered to Raphael as well as simple gestures like dropping off soup or medication for a sick friend.
As two other common examples commonly represented among the magical community, for Pagans who work with the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri (PGM), gestures done in harmony with the nature of a god can also be offered. For Christians, prayers can be offered by ending them in the name of Yeshua / Jesus, or acts of forgiveness or loving gestures can be offered unto him and to God the Father more generally.
More generally speaking, to extract a general principle from these concrete examples, any action done in harmony with the teachings of a deity can be offered as a gesture of love, respect, gratitude for what was learned, and sympathetic harmony with their nature. In this way, the “occult virtue” of the spirits in question, to borrow a term from Agrippa, begins to become instantiated in our lives. In the process, we increase our sympathetic harmony with the spirits and facilitate future work with them.
My experience has been that Archangels particularly love when we do good deeds in harmony with their nature and offer these in gratitude for what they have done for us. Progressively alchemically transmuting more and more of our lives into doing things that benefit not only ourselves, but also our families, friends, communities, and societies has the added benefit of not only enriching our lives, but also meeting the grimoiric requirements (e.g. in the Key of Solomon, Arbatel, etc) for living a good and honourable life as part of the lifestyle of the Magician in the ideal these texts advocate. Any such gesture can also be offered to the Holy Spirit for magicians who work with him. In addition, periods of meditation on the nature of a Spirit or their class (e.g. Angelic, Elemental, Planetary, etc) can also be offered to the spirits. Often they will reciprocate with images, insights, or other manifestations.
Four Underlying Principles of Offerings
Indeed, it seems to me that there are a few foundational principles that underlie all offerings.
One of these, which is so central to Archaic Goetia as Jake Stratton-Kent has shown in Geosophia, but also to the more offering-based Christian magical systems, is reciprocality. Reciprocality means that both we and the spirits benefit from our work together, them through offerings and time with us and us through their teachings, magical help, and how we grow in the process. This principle ensures balance and harmony, key aspects of virtue as Aristotle, Siddhartha Gautama, Kung-fu-tzu and others have pointed out, but also central features of the Adepthood ideal.
Another principle is respect – treating spirits with the same respect we ask of them. In this way, we show them that we care enough about them and what they are doing for and with us to show them we respect them by making meaningful sacrifices on their behalf.
A third is gratitude, not taking them for granted, but appreciating the gifts they offer us. Gratitude is a powerful force in all human relationships; it deepens love, enriches friendships, improves work relationships, and ensures gifts receive the recognition they deserve. The same holds true in spirit work. Just as we love those who are grateful for our actions to help them, spirits seem to delight in the same way in gratitude. Just as we are more likely to want to help the grateful than the ungrateful, those who display haughty attitudes of unappreciative demandingness and entitlement, so are spirits more likely to help Magicians who show them the same courtesy.
And a fourth is sympathy, ensuring that the offerings are in harmony with their nature and preferences. As the examples discussed above have indicated, proper offerings should always be in some way in harmony with the nature of the spirits to whom they are given. Just as an appropriate gift for someone who only listens to metal music is not the latest country album, but a metal album they do not yet own, or a shirt of their favourite band, the appropriate offering for a spirit is not one that is contrary to their nature, such as a sword for a Venusian spirit, but in harmony with it.
Spirit offerings are one of the most ancient forms of human spirituality recorded by anthropologists. To those of us in the contemporary world who continue to feel the enduring call to work with the spirits, they are an essential technology and technique of inestimable value. Indeed, ritual offerings hold the power to amplify our magic and deepen our relationships with the spirits with whom we work.