Appropriate Worship - Honoring the Gods the Way They Want

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One issue that comes up often for people learning about modern Pagan spirituality is the concept of appropriate worship. There tends to be some question about what, exactly, is the right offering to make to the gods or goddesses of one's tradition — and how we should honor them when making those offerings.

Did You Know?

  • Not all gods and goddesses are the same, so it's important to take the time to get to know the ones you're working with.
  • Start by researching and reading to learn more about your gods and the cultural context from which they come.
  • Ask yourself what it is you hope to obtain by making offerings, whether you're trying to gain something, or merely show appreciation and gratitude.

Not All Gods Are the Same

Sage bundle with incense and goblet
What do your gods want from you?. Matthew Benton / iStock / Getty Images 

Let's imagine that you have two friends. First, we have Jill. She likes French cuisine, Meg Ryan movies, soft music and expensive wine. She's someone who lets you cry on her shoulder when you're feeling blue, and she offers some wise and thoughtful insight when you can't solve a problem on your own. One of her best qualities is her ability to listen.

You also have a friend named Steve. He's a lot of fun, and sometimes shows up at your house at midnight toting a six-pack. Steve likes watching movies with lots of explosions, took you to your first Metallica concert, and can rebuild a Harley with his eyes closed. He eats mostly bratwurst and Funyuns, enjoys picking up strippers at bars, and is the guy you call when you want to have a good time.

When Jill comes over, are you going to have a nice quiet dinner with a glass of wine and Josh Groban playing in the background, or are you going to hand her a cheeseburger and a beer, pull out the xBox for a round of first-person shooter games, and stay up until 3 am seeing who can burp and fart the loudest?

Likewise, if Steve shows up, are you going to do things that he enjoys, or are you going to say, "Hey, Steve, let's watch Steel Magnolias and talk about our feelings?

What Do Your Gods Want?

Much like our friends Jill and Steve, the gods have certain things they like and value, and certain things they don't. To offer one of them something better suited to another is not only disrespectful, it shows that you really don't know them at all and worse yet, haven't even taken the time to learn about them. What do you think Steve is going to say when you offer him a vegetarian soup and turn on some chick flick? He's going to bail, that's what he's going to do. Because not only did you present him with something he dislikes, but you’re showing a fundamental lack of knowledge of someone you claim is your friend.

Sure, you love Jill and Steve equally, but they're not the same person, and they don't have the same likes and dislikes. The gods are the same way — you may honor both the goddess Aphrodite and the god Mars, but that doesn’t mean Mars wants to you to leave him a bouquet of flowers and a glass of milk while you sing him Kumbaya. You can also be sure that Aphrodite probably isn't interested in offerings of blood and raw meat, or warrior chants.

Get To Know Your Gods

Young woman reading book
Read and learn what your deities expect of you.  Tetra Images / Getty

The idea of right or appropriate worship is not about someone telling you what's "right or wrong." It is simply the concept that one should take the time to do things — including worship and offerings — in a way that is conducive to the demands and needs of the god or goddess in question.

So, how do you do this? Start by researching and reading. If there are myths and legends of the pantheon your gods belong to, study these stories. For instance, are you a devotee of the Greek gods? Read the Homeric hymns and the writing of other Greek philosophers. Do you follow a Celtic path? Pick up a copy of The MabinogionDo some meditation, reach out to them, and see if they just flat-out tell you what they want.

When you honor the gods, take the time to put some thought into it. Ask yourself what it is you hope to obtain by making the offering — are you trying to gain something, or merely show your appreciation and gratitude to the Divine? Learn about the types of deities you're about to honor, and study the specific gods and goddesses of your tradition, so that when you do make an offering or present a ritual in their name, you can do so in a way that truly does them honor.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Appropriate Worship - Honoring the Gods the Way They Want." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Wigington, Patti. (2023, April 5). Appropriate Worship - Honoring the Gods the Way They Want. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Appropriate Worship - Honoring the Gods the Way They Want." Learn Religions. (accessed June 5, 2023).