Continuing with my taking your practice off book…. an evolved look of sacrifice…
The concept of sacrifice in spiritual practice is an ancient one. There is proof all around the world, from the Aztec to the Druids, from the Shamans of India and Nepal to the Houngans and Mambo of Africa and Haiti that sacrifice of blood and of the harvest were part of the spiritual journey of the tribes of our ancestors.
• Sacrifice, be definition means:
: the act of giving up something that you want to keep , in order to get or do something else (Webster’s)
Which ties into the second definition:
: an act of killing a person or animal in a religious ceremony as an offering to please a god (Webster’s)
This concept of sacrifice, giving up something you need, for a greater good, would explain why animals and harvests were offered in the past… but does not address what and how we can offer spiritual sacrifice in our modern world.
For our ancestors, what sustained them were the animals and plants they needed to survive. The concept of money to purchase groceries was nonexistent, nor ways to preserve their kills, or harvests. So for them, the ultimate sacrifice was food. It is the one thing they could not live without.
In this day and age, although it seems taboo to say it, the ultimate sacrifice is money. Money is the one thing for which (sadly) we cannot survive without. In lieu of farms to grow our crops, and forests to build our homesteads, our time is spent in service of employers to obtain the one practical thing we need, money to sustain and finance our lives and dreams. We sacrifice time to earn it, and then turn around and sacrifice the money to obtain shelter and food, and to fuel our healing and our goals.
As a result, spiritual practices should adapt accordingly. We no longer need to offer the blood of animals. This does not mean that we can’t offer our own, if it follows with your believes and is done in ethical ways to cause no harm to yourself. But that’s another blog topic.
What has me thinking about sacrifice, and adapting the concept to our lives, relates directly to how I do my island version of a despacho, which are the closest example to the offerings my grandmother would leave to the Mother of the Ocean. At its roots, a despacho is a word used to define the gratitude bundles offered by the Q’ero in Peru, but similar concepts and practices are found in other spiritual paths. Offerings are either offered to moving bodies of water, burnt in a homa (fire puja) as offerings, or buried in a sacred location. The offerings placed within would range from foods, to flowers and resins and more, depending on what the participant felt was truly an act of sacrifice. But the practicality of performing offerings in this way, and what we offer, needs to adapt to our changing world.
So what do we have to offer? How can we interpret this spiritual concept into our modern world? What happens, when you live in a city, and in an apartment or condo, and have no land available to bury your offerings, no safe or permitted means to build an offertory fire, and it is (rightfully so) considered polluting the waterways if you allowed your despacho to be released on the few streams or rivers you can access? How do you adapt your practice… can you still call it traditional offerings… are you still offering a true despacho, performing a true homa….
We so often get tied up in the ‘tradition’ of a practice, that we miss the concept of why we are doing it, simply going through the motions of our ancestors. This is a lesson from my grandmother. Adapt. Grow. Understand the reasons behind your journey so you can journey to spirit with purpose.
A homa (fire puja) or a Despacho ceremony, are both done for the same main reason. To show gratitude to the spirits for the life we are given. To be humble and grateful and to remember to not take it for granted. It can also include elements of petition, or request for changes or blessings we hope to manifest in our lives. I will be doing videos and blogs on this topic in time.
I have found different ways over the years to adjust my practice to allow for true sacrifice and to show appropriate gratitude. I look around my life and I think of the things I am most grateful for. My family, my rescue baby of the furry persuasion, and spiritual practice. How do I translate this gratitude in a sacrificial way…. well, my offerings are ‘financial’.
When I do my full moon Gratitude despacho, it includes a monthly donation to the Human Society, and the food offerings often used in a traditional despacho are offered symbolically during the ritual, but practically as dry produce and canned goods, which I then donate to the Food Bank. Being a single income earner living in Toronto, is far from cheap, many of us live paycheck to paycheck, so for me financial sacrifice means I am giving up something I may wish for myself, for the greater good. We can adapt and change our practices to be more realistic, but also, to truly embrace the concept of what our ancestors meant by sacrifice and the showing of gratitude.
Written by: Kayla Baboolal, your Shakti Shaman.
I will be doing a youtube video to show a simple full moon despacho for city dwellers, with a little more chit and chat on the concept of sacrifice and adaptation. It will be up next month, and I hope to see you there…. Once I have time to complete it, I will add a link on this post.