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From Ancient Rituals to Modern Reverence: Earth and Ancestor Honoring Unveiled




The topic of earth and ancestor honoring and offerings is something I include in all of my workshops and experiences at Activated Earth.


Sacred reciprocity with Pachamama (Mother Earth) is a guiding principle and fundamental belief that serves as a compass that guides and determines every service we put forward to the community as Activated Earth Healing Arts and Learning Space.


Sacred reciprocity is a concept rooted in many indigenous and animistic worldviews that emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced and reciprocal relationship with the natural world. It speaks to the idea that we are in relationship with everything here on earth; the winged-ones, the one-leggeds (trees and plants), the sun, moon, star nation, rivers, and everything in between. Everything around us has consciousness and personhood, is interconnected and interdependent, and we have a responsibility to give back and express gratitude for the blessings and gifts we receive from the Earth and the Divine.


All of our nature-based workshops include working with the sacred medicine wheel garden by harvesting its medicinal plants in a good way; by showing reverence and gratitude, by giving offerings in return for their medicine, in sacred reciprocity.

Earth-honoring offerings encompass practices and rituals that are performed to show reverence and respect towards the Earth and its natural elements. These offerings can include physical offerings such as sacred tobacco, ceremonies, prayers, and rituals aimed at expressing gratitude, seeking guidance, or seeking harmony with the natural world. 


Examples of sacred earth-honoring offerings can be found in various cultures around the world, as well as in modern eco-spiritual movements that emphasize the interconnectedness and sacredness of all life on Earth. Such offerings play a vital role in promoting sustainable living and nurturing a deeper connection with the planet. 

 

In this blog I will discuss various physical and non-physical offerings used around the world that I have found documented in my research thus far. 


The way I like to introduce the concept of offerings in my workshops is as an invitation to notice and recall two things. Notice the land we are currently standing on and recall your ancestors and lineage. When we do this in an intentional and reverent way we connect our spirit with heaven (our ancestors) and earth (the land underneath our feet). 


For example, if we were harvesting medicinal plants from the Asheville area, we would need to acknowledge that we are on Tsalagiyi (Eastern Band Cherokee Land). A traditional offering in this land is sacred tobacco. The next invitation is to recall your ancestors and the land they walked upon. For example, if I am recalling and wanting to honor my Ukrainian ancestors, then I would want to offer a libation such as vodka. 


In the Americas two of the most common offerings are sacred tobacco and cornmeal. In some cultural contexts, tobacco is considered a masculine offering used as a ceremonial or ritual offering by men in certain indigenous communities or spiritual practices. The act of offering tobacco can symbolize respect, gratitude, prayer, or connection to the spiritual realm. Cornmeal may be considered a feminine offering associated with the feminine aspect of creation and is used as an offering to honor Mother Earth, fertility, and sustenance.


A libation offering is a ritual act in which a liquid is poured as an offering to deities, ancestors, or spiritual beings. This practice is found in various cultures and religions throughout history and serves as a way to honor, give thanks, and show respect to the divine. Libations are often accompanied by prayers, chants, or other rituals to convey intentions, gratitude, and reverence. The act of pouring the liquid is symbolic, representing the act of giving and receiving, and the connection between the earthly realm and the spiritual realm.

 

In Pagan traditions offerings could include liquids such as milk, mead, olive oil, alcohol, honey, and in some practices, blood; depending on the region. In Northern Europe you would be more likely to find offerings such as milk, salt, oats and herbs as well as metal objects such as swords and shields. In Southern Europe offerings typically include candles, flowers, incense, mead, and olive oil. 


In Eastern Europe you’re more likely to find offerings of vodka, bread, salt, or grains that are typically placed on an altar or in a designated space. Indigenous peoples from the Republic of Sakha - Yakutia (arctic Siberia) use fermented horse milk as a common offering.


What I have noticed is that the offering has a lot to do with the land itself and what is abundant there. For example, in the Caribbean a typical offering is rum because sugarcane is most abundant on that land. In Southern Europe, mead or olive oil are common offerings because olive trees and grape vines are most abundant in that warm and temperate climate.

 


Despacho ceremony in progress at Mt. Pisgah in Asheville , NC
Completed despacho

The Despacho ceremony in Peru is a traditional Andean ritual where offerings such as food, candies, seeds, and symbolic objects are placed in a bundle or cloth package as a way to give thanks, honor Pachamama (Mother Earth), and invite blessings. The offering is then ceremonially wrapped and either buried or burned as a symbol of reciprocity and unity with the natural world. This sacred ritual is deeply rooted in Peruvian indigenous culture and is often performed by a Paco (traditional healer).

 

Some cultures practice ancestral veneration and earth-honoring rituals through non-physical offerings such as ceremonial drumming and trance-like dance. In the region of south-west Nigeria the Yorùbá culture observe the ritualistic Egungun dance which is believed to invoke the presence and blessings of the ancestors. The Dipo dance is a traditional dance and ritual ceremony practiced by the Krobo people in Ghana. It is a rite of passage for adolescent girls, symbolizing their transition from girlhood to womanhood.


Native American tribes such as Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Crow among others also practice earth and ancestral honoring through ceremonial drumming and trance-like dance in their Sun dance ceremonies. Each tribe may have its own unique variations and interpretations of the ceremony, but the core elements of fasting, prayer, and physical endurance remain consistent. The Sundance is a significant cultural and spiritual tradition for these tribes, fostering community and spiritual growth.

 


Photo credit: María Paz Salas / AFP-NA, El Ciudadano

In my country, Uruguay, we honor land and ancestors through the rhythmic music and dance of Candombe. Candombe is a traditional Afro-Uruguayan rhythmic music and dance that has deep roots within the Uruguayan people. It originated from the African slaves brought to the country and has evolved into a symbol of Afro-Uruguayan identity. Candombe plays a significant role in the cultural fabric of Uruguay and even as a white-presenting Latina this ritual ceremony awakens a profound sense of gratitude for life, my ancestors and the land beneath my feet.



Visit Activated Earth Healing Arts and Learning Space for hands-on, experiential workshops and experiences steeped in ancestral and land reverence and gratitude. It's through experiential learning that our consciousness truly expands.









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