I wanted to break my unintentional hiatus from writing blog posts with a post cliff-noting a conversation I had the other day with my -- also magically-inclined, and rather adept at Spiritworking -- husband. We had a conversation about spirits, offerings, and magical safety (notes I probably should have taken for our ever in-progress, will be completed eventually class, on Magical Protection). And though you may not think this applies to you-- you may not 'actively' work with spirits, you may not do spellwork or witchcraft to your way of thinking-- but, if you ever leave an offering to a plant when you harvest from it, or you light candles and pray to a higher power, anything of that nature-- you are in one form or another working with the Spirit Realm and the denizens found therein.
This conversation was spurred by my thoughts on a practice I see many, many people-- who might consider themselves spiritual or not-- such as and particularly herbalists and foragers but also others (and myself have done), who do and/or recommend others to do. This is the practice of leaving a piece of your Self as a 'suitable offering' when creating connection with a plant or tree, and particularly when harvesting from such beings, whether you have something else that could be used as an offering or not-- especially promoted when you do not. This piece of your self is something physical from your body, made of your flesh, usually a strand of hair plucked from the head or blood, often menstrual blood among womxn (now you know what I'm talking about, don't you).
On the surface, this seems right. You are in a sense sacrificing something of yourself, in the pursuit of creating right relationship and/or in exchange for the taking of something physical from the plant. Kind of like an eye for an eye, so to speak. But if you think about it, and you don't have to think on it very hard or long if you know your Lore, it is actually a very, very bad idea.
In almost every antiquitous accounting of curses, ill befalling someone, 'black' magic spells, bindings, or anything else usually attributed -- if not to the Fae -- to witchcraft/witches, it involves the 'witch' or Being having acquired some piece of the person-- flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone, in order to work their magic against them. In almost every fabled telling of how to protect oneself not just from "black magic using witches" but also the Fae, Demons, and other malevolent spirits, one is instructed to leave no trace behind and give no offerings of the flesh-- no hair, no nail clippings, no blood.
I know I know, many of you are thinking it. "But, I give my moon blood to my favorite tree in my back yard, it would never harm me!" Or, "I've given my hair plenty of times to plants, nothing bad has happened to me." And this may be true, in theory. Yes, that tree may accept your blood offering (as almost anything is willing to do) in exchange for being in relationship with you, protecting your yard/home/family, aiding you in spellwork, etc. It is, after all, a Spirit in its own right. I've done this myself-- I've given offerings of oil and honey and milk, offerings of moon blood, even buried placentas under a particular tree at a home we lived at for many years. My husband also worked extensively with this Spirit, and it watched over our family and our home. But we also warded the yard and our home with our own magic, and did not often give offerings of such flesh and blood-nature... And yes, that devil's club in the forest or that patch of nettles at the hedgerow may gladly accept your offering of Self, in exchange for its relationship and parts of its Self. But-- here is the catch. There is nothing stopping another, bigger, badder Spirit/Being from coming along and taking the essence of you from such offerings. What is a tree or a nettle spirit against an Unseelie Faery, against a Wraith, or Demon spawn. The Otherworld is not all Light and Love, not all Spirits or entities are benevolent and wish to help you, puny destructive human, or mean you well. They will come and easily take that which they desire. They are drawn to Light shining in the darkness, they are drawn to blood like sharks.
The effects of the taking is two-fold: not only do they now have not just a spiritual tie but a physical, biological tie to you, in many instances such as with the giving of blood, they now have an energy source that makes them stronger. Witch Bottles (glass bottles filled with all sorts of things from broken glass and needles to blood, nail clippings, and urine from the spell-crafter and used as protection from dark magic or entities usually buried under the front door, mantle, or in the yard) are powered by and tied to the human they are used to protect through the inclusion of pieces of their physical self. Many spells and rituals in cultures from all over the world in antiquity and today are fueled through blood sacrifice-- particularly when working with larger, stronger entities such as gods. There's a reason why these offerings are from, in almost all instances, a sacrificial animal. Some stories tell of witches feeding their Familiars with milk or blood, both often from their body. It tied them to them, and gave them power to go out and do the witch's bidding in the world.
Back to the physical tie -- this is something that they (malevolent spirits, anyone who can throw a decent curse and is willing to, etc.) can now use, in any way they see fit, against you. It is theft, it is not consensual, it is dangerous. There is almost no way of getting back this DNA tying them to your entire Being, over time perhaps it will decay and return to the earth, but they may still have a spiritual tie to you afterwards, there's no way of knowing. This tie is a way for spirits to get past your wards and protective barriers-- and they might not just come for you, they might see that you have pure-light innocence (ie. children) living in your home that they can now just walk into, and go for them instead. This is a way for them to get past your bodily shields, weaken your aura/energy bodies, attack your mind and eventually your body (just as physical illness is almost always rooted in a mental/emotional/spiritual imbalance or problem)...
The moral of the story-- be aware of your actions, as they affect this world and the Otherworld. Be aware of not just your physical safety, but your spiritual safety, in all that you do. Consider the implications/risks of leaving pieces of your very self all over creation, before giving blood to call a spirit or as an offering to a spirit/god-- especially if it is one you are new to interacting with or don't know at all, or that could be dangerous (I'm looking at you American Horror Story Roanoke Nightmare Medium calling in a known dark spirit with your blood-- this is what really started the conversation, actually). Just because you call one spirit, doesn't mean others won't smell blood in the water and come searching for food.
If you go out often to work with land or plant spirits in the world, make it a priority to carry a Gift Pouch with you full of things such as tiny quartz crystals or herkimer diamonds, organic and unadulterated tobacco (the Grandfather Spirit of All Plants) or sustainably sourced/homegrown sage, flower essences, seashells, found feathers, small container of honey, etc. to give as offerings to the land or particular plants you may find yourself wanting to thank / build relationship with / forage from. Be considerate, be smart, be safe. Offerings of moonblood are, I believe, usually ok for a potted house plant or a deity you actively work with (such as the Morrigan) who may appreciate such offerings, or in your yard for a tree for instance *if* you are actively Warding the space. Though, something else to consider with offering moonblood is what are you releasing with that shedding? Are you now giving that to your plant? Or one could argue the Earth is transmuting it, but either way. Just things to think on.
Be well beloveds, be magical, be safe.
This is the first article of my series on Magical Protection.
PART I is "Pieces of Yourself: What NOT to Give Spirits"
PART II is "Witches: Baddest Thing in the Woods, or Not" (ie. why witches are actually badass-- we basically have spirit gangs)
PART III is "Practical Magic: Tools for Magical Protection" (ie. how to keep yourself safe, and/or get out alive when magical shit hits the fan...)
This will be put together and expanded on in a book/class that my husband and I are writing.