5 Ways Your Offerings Hurt the Environment (and Five Easy, Eco-Friendly Alternatives!)

5 Ways Your Offerings Hurt the Environment (and Five Easy, Eco-Friendly Alternatives!) August 7, 2018

Pagans love the environment. Yet some of the most common offerings are damaging the environment we honor as Divine. Here are five common offerings that can hurt the planet, along with five easy, eco-friendly alternatives.

1.) Leaving coins in trees

For the love the gods, don’t. Do. This. On our recent trip to Ireland, we came across several thorn trees in which people had stuff coins the trunks. These coins will kill the very trees you’re trying to honor. Actually, don’t stick anything in trees–not stones, not little bottles. The tree will grow around them, but then the tree will die. Plus, smaller animals burrowing in the hollow of the tree may have a harder time nesting with your offerings in there.

If this is a fae offering, they’re not going to take kindly to your offering if it kills the trees they hold sacred. Don’t make the fae angry. You wouldn’t like the fae when They’re angry….

Offer instead:

Your own wishes and prayers, spoken to the tree. Singing is great–trees seem to like singing. You can also collect the coins, stones, or other things left within the tree. Do not keep them. Donate the coins to a cause that protects the environment and deposit the stones a stream.

2.) Pouring milk on plants–especially trees

Yes, the fae and some other spirits like milk, too. But again, they won’t like it if it kills trees. The picture below shows the damage fungus has done to an Irish thorn tree because of people pouring milk on its limbs as an offering.

Image courtesy of Treasa Kerrigan

Water is considered by many traditions to be the purest offering. Pouring water at the roots of a tree is a wonderful gift. If you must leave milk, pour it into a bowl and leave only for a day or two. The energy and intention will be left behind.

3.) Throwing non-native flowers, fruits, or vegetables outside

As we begin the harvest holidays, it’s natural–and right–to want to give back some of our bounty. But don’t throw offerings not native to your local environment into the woods, fields or otherwise. Insects from imported flowers may be lurking inside, seeds can travel, and invasive plants can overtake native ones. Anyone who has ever battled blackberry bushes (hello me with stigmata-style gashes and twisted ankles…every damn summer) knows what a pain invasive fruits can be–and my complaints are small compared to the damage invasive plants can do to farms and forests. Remember, birds can eat the offerings and carry the seeds far, causing damage way beyond where you’re likely to notice.

Leave instead:
Native flowers or vegetation. If you’re not sure, a quick Google search in your area or a stop at a local nursery can help. If you can’t get a hold of native produce or flowers, leaving non-native offerings in a bowl inside your home is absolutely fine.

4.) Meats, cheeses, chocolate

You may assume that animals of the area will enjoy them and for the most part, you’ll be right. That the problem. Leaving human food for animals can bring wildlife closer to residential areas, risking death or injury by cars, domestic dogs, or otherwise. Leaving them further out in the wilderness doesn’t solve the problem. A few years ago, a contractor left a deli sandwich on my friends’ property. The meat and cheese spoiled and their dog ate it, nearly dying. The incident cost thousands in veterinary bills, which paled in comparison to the dog’s suffering. The same could happen to a wild animal–even an endangered one such as a wolf or a bear. Plus, we all know the danger of dogs eating chocolate. Your neighbor won’t be happy if your offering sickens their pet.

If your Gods demand meat, cheese, or chocolate (many do!) and you must do your ritual outside, hold up the offering as a symbolic gesture. Consider eating the offering afterward, or share it with friends, co-ritualists, or other guests. For thousands of years, humans have eaten meat offerings for their Gods and we’re all still kicking. If you cannot eat the offering due to allergies or personal prohibitions, leave it a plate inside your home for a time, discarding in the garbage, later.

5.) Leaving anything plastic anywhere but in the recycling

No, the Gods will not understand if you toss a plastic bottle full of desires for transformation into a river. No, they are not more likely to bless your endeavor if you hang its effigy with a plastic ribbon on a tree. Plastic is literally killing our planet. Birds can eat bits of your offering and die. Plastic ribbons tied to tree limbs will eventually kill the limb and possibly the tree. Streams and rivers lead to oceans and we don’t need any more plastic in the oceans. 

Use cloth or cotton to hang your intention outside. If your offering requires throwing something into the river, use paper, native fruit, or a combination.

Our environment is in trouble, but all hope is not lost. Taking small actions not only add up, but they connect with the spirit of worshipping the Earth as Divine. Start with your offerings, and see how far your ecological intentions spread to other parts of your life.

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