Kemetic Offering Guide
Offerings symbolized life and order (ankh and ma’at), and as life and order they were consubstantial with god. That such a large proportion of them consisted of food makes their link to life force clear. Texts speak of the animal’s thigh and heart as awakening life and transmitting life force to the god. … A god was not immortal in the absolute sense; a god’s life force needed replenishment. Of course, the life force that was returned to god in offerings had previously come from god, the source of life force. … The circular flow of life from god to king/Egypt to god and back again prevented the cosmos from winding down. Offerings were more than gift giving; they were reciprocal creation. (Temples of Ancient Egypt, Shafer)
Often times, many new comers to the Kemetic field aren’t sure what to offer the gods that they have interest in. There are many modern guides to what you can offer the gods- based off of certain gods’ likes and dislikes, though most of them are based solely off of UPG. However, it seems very likely that many gods in antiquity were offered the same things- regardless of the god they were being offered to. Almost like a list of foods/offerings that were safe for all gods.
In order to help the beginner, I’ve compiled a list of goods that were commonly offered in ancient Egypt (to learn why we offer what we offer, or why we offer it the way we do, please see this post. To learn more about offerings in general, please see here. To learn more about making offerings with limitations such as space, dietary needs, etc. see here). Goods which should be safe for any god that you are hoping to start a relationship with. Hopefully this guide can serve as a starting point for any beginning Kemetics out there who aren’t sure what to give the gods. As always, I feel that offerings should be of higher/better quality as these are the gods we’re talking about. I’ve broken the list up into categories below.
According to this article, there were 4 main beverages offered in antiquity. All of these beverages served similar meanings, purposes and symbolism – that of rejuvenation. Here are some commonly offered drinks in ancient Egypt:
There are probably hundreds of food selections that could be offered to the gods. However, I will attempt to stick to offerings that are most common and are the safest for all gods. The most basic of basic offerings in antiquity was bread. Bread symbolized Netjer and humans working together to create something that sustained life. Bread in many ways was a pillar in the ancient diet and you could easily offer nothing but different types and shapes of bread to the Netjer. So when in doubt, start there.
- Biscuits (or any baked good in general)
- Wild Game (gazelles and oryxes are cited)
- Water fowl or duck
- Vegetation or Fruit
- Grains (barley, wheat, flour, etc)
Non Food Items
As with food, there are many many different items that could be offered to the gods. Here are some of the more popular items I have found.
- Incense (this was a staple in almost every ritual)
- Natron (also a staple)
- Papyrus (sheets or the plant material)
- Wood for heating and cooking
- Clothing or bolts of fabric/linen
- Oil based perfume or unguents
- Ib Heart
- Wedjat Eye, Eye of Horus, Eye of Ra
Once you have offered your items to the gods, you have a few choices with what to do with them. In regards to food items, it is customary to eat them afterwards. The Netjeru don’t like waste- so make sure you offer items that you’re willing and able to eat! As for non-food offerings, you can leave them on the shrine or you can incorporate them into your life or ritual practice. Many of the non-food items offered to the gods in antiquity were then used by the temple and temple staff after being offered. Use your discretion in deciding what use will be best for your offerings after they have been offered.
Not your style? Want something a little more modern? Check out the Great Netjer Soda Guide instead!
March 21, 2012 at 11:15 am
I don’t think I’ve seen this before, Dev, but I wanted to let you know it’s a great resource! Thanks!
June 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm
What do you mean by Ib Heart and Ma’at as non food items?
June 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm
In rituals in AE, it was common to offer an Ib and Ma’at in a representational form. By offering the ‘miniature’ version of each, you are in a sense offering the real deal. The same was often done with the Ankh.
The Ib looks like this: http://www.antiquitiesonline.co.uk/An-Egyptian-black-hardstone-heart-ib-amulet-c-600-300-B-C_210_3VKEH.jpg
And a representation of Ma’at could be: http://www.paganwitch.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/maat.jpg or http://storage.canalblog.com/07/88/119589/31444557.jpg
Hopefully that clears it up a bit 🙂 Thanks for reading!
June 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm
So you’re basically offer a goddess and an animal heart to the god/goddess?
June 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm
It’s not quite so literal. You are offering the concepts that both represent. In the case of Ma’at, you’re offering truth, justice, balance- and the very substance that the Netjeru are said to survive off of (they live off of Ma’at, or so it is said). In the case of the Ib, it represents the soul. So you are giving them a form of live, enlivening their existence in the statue, the shrine, the world. The ankh, which some surmise is a sandal strap, would be offering life.
June 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm
thanks, that helps alot!
June 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm
Glad it helped! 🙂
April 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm
How long do you leave food offerings on your altar before you eat them?
April 11, 2013 at 7:19 am
I usually leave them on the shrine for the duration of my rite- and then eat them afterwards. If I’m not doing a formal rite, I normally leave them on the shrine for 5-10 minutes before removing them- depending on if I want/need my food to be hot or cold 🙂
April 15, 2013 at 11:35 am
Cool, thanks for the reply! I’ve been told that this is customary for Chinese worship as well, but it’s always felt a bit awkward to me…like what if they’re not done with the offering, you know?
April 15, 2013 at 11:36 am
I had had the same issue as well. I more or less hit a point of ‘eat fast, because I’m taking it off of the shrine in X minutes’ 😛 Perhaps not the most respectful thing I could say (according to some), but I gotta eat too! XD
April 15, 2013 at 11:37 am
Haha, that’s funny. 🙂
September 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm
Um…I usually, when done with an offering, put it outside where it can go back into the earth again. Is it still bad, even though I feel relaxed and at peace after I do that?
September 12, 2013 at 6:30 am
I guess it depends on how traditional you want to be, and whether the gods seem okay with it. If they don’t seem to have a problem- you should probably be okay, even if it’s not the traditional method for it :3
September 12, 2013 at 8:13 am
Aha, okay good; I was worried there for a minute
I may try eating the food offerings after Anubis/Anpu is done with them and see how that goes though. He may like it that way better, so we’ll have to see. Thank you for the help ❤
July 18, 2015 at 1:17 am
What should I Dow its jewelry after I’m finished?
July 18, 2015 at 12:28 pm
You can do a couple of things with it. You can wear it, or leave it on the shrine for the god. Some people will store it in a special box, and wear it on holy or special days. In antiquity, the god would have lots of jewelry, and couldn’t wear it all at once. So many times you’d put some jewelry on the god, while storing the rest away. So that’s an option, too.
When in doubt, you can usually ask the god directly if they have a preference. This is, ofc, reliant upon having solid communication methods with the god, though.
Raven Von Krieger
July 27, 2015 at 12:15 am
I’m glad I don’t simply have to buy beef simply to throw it away after my offering since I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons. However would soy meat count on the offering?
July 30, 2015 at 8:07 pm
I think that soy meat would work just as well. The NTRW tend to understand when devotees have limitations. F’ex, I don’t drink alcohol (because I don’t like it), and Set has respected that and never requested I get it for him. So if you don’t eat meat, I don’t imagine they’re going to get mad if you offer them a soy alternative.
June 20, 2018 at 9:50 pm
Is it ok if I share some of my offering to my dog? I’m devoted to the gods Anubis and Anput, since they’re both dog-headed I wondered if they would appreciate it if I shared. Depending on where I place it she’ll get to it anyway lol.
August 8, 2018 at 6:35 pm
I’ve given parts of my offerings to my animals before. As I understand it, its mostly important that the food doesn’t go to waste, and is less important as to who its given to. So unless a NTR tells you not to, you should be fine.
September 12, 2020 at 5:50 am
Hi again, Devo.
It’s me, Khnumkhufwy.
I was hoping you might be able to answer a question for me.
Over the last few years, I have found your Kemetic Offering Guide to be a very valuable resource about what types of offerings are best for the Kemetic gods. In particular, the fact that all the gods were given the same types of offerings in antiquity, so there aren’t different requirements for each god, has been very useful for me.
However, I have a small query about a situation where I wonder whether specifc gods may have different offering protocols. Specifically, many Kemetic gods are shown in art as animals, or animal-human hybrids. What I would like to know is: how would these animal-gods react to being given offerings containing meat from animals of their own species? Would they view it as akin to cannibalism and so reject the offering and be angry at the offerer? Or would they actually appreciate the offering even more because of its similarity to themselves?
For example, would an offering containing lamb be acceptable to Khnum? Or would beef be acceptable to Hethert or Bat?
What are your thoughts on this?
October 16, 2020 at 12:23 pm
Hi again, Devo.
After asking the questions in my previous comment, and not receiving an answer, I decided to do some research of my own. I looked at some images of ancient offering tables to see if I could find out the answers to my questions.
My question about the acceptability of beef as an offering to cattle-related deities was quickly solved. I found several images of beef legs on offering tables dedicated to Hethert, including one from the walls of the Temple of Dendera, and one from the Papyrus of Ani. As a result of this, I am happy to conclude that an offering of beef to a cow-related deity is perfectly acceptable. If this is acceptable for Hethert, I assume it would be acceptable to other bovine deities such as Bat and Nut as well.
The other question that I asked in my previous comment was about an offering of lamb to a sheep-related deity such as Khnum, but after re-reading your Kemetic Offering Guide I noticed that lamb is not on the list of attested offerings anyway, so it seems my question here was redundant.
I decided to post this here, to let you know of my findings. Hopefully it will help out any other Kemetics with similar worries.
November 7, 2020 at 1:15 pm
Hey there, Sorry I didn’t get back to you. My depression has completely overwhelmed me again this year, and it’s been hard for me to bother with much of anything that isn’t just basic survival. You are definitely correct about the beef and cow deities. The leg of beef is usually considered the Supreme Offering as it were, as its symbolism was very heavy and very potent. In general, I’ve not heard a lot of taboos about feeding NTRW their own animals, but it does seem that certain kinds of animals may not have been offered to certain NTRW due to their symbolism. F’ex, there are those who have been told by Aset that she wouldn’t accept pig as an offering, due to associations with Set (ironically, Nut is the Sow who Eats Her Piglets, so I mean…) and there have been some iffy historical attestations that in certain eras, priests and the king would not have eaten fish due to its associations with eating O’s dick. That being said, most food taboos seem to be highly personal and varied, so I’d say that if you’re unsure, see if you can ascertain what the deity’s rules for you specifically are. Speaking from my own experiences, the general sentiment has always been “offer what you’ll actually eat”, and you may find that your situation is the same.
Sorry again for the delay!