Many of us, especially when new to the worship of the Theoi, are overcome with doubt and a lack of confidence in our ability to feel our way through how to do it right. This can prevent some people from doing anything at all. This is problematic because more than one of believing, our religion is one of doing. We can’t let fear and broken lineages stop us from actively worshipping our gods.
There is more than one way to make an offering in a correct manner. There are also a few ways to get it wrong. Some of these might be right in one circumstance and wrong in another, which is an additional element that adds to confusion. I am not intending to set myself up as the expert that you should listen to without question; my intention here is to offer an outline of a right way to go about making offerings to the gods that you can follow if you are being held back because you don’t know how to make an offering.
First, wash your hands and your face. It is important to cleanse and purify yourself before approaching the gods in any way. We all collect miasma during our days and nights living as human beings, and we don’t want to bring that miasma to the gods. Miasma is naturally occurring and does not necessarily mean that you have done something wrong, but we attempt to clear ourselves of it before approaching the gods anyways so that we can approach them with our cleanest and best selves present. Many people use khernips (Elani writes about miasma and khernips in more depth here), but if you aren’t ready for that for any reason, you can just wash your hands and face in clean water or soap and water.
Next, set aside an area for the god. This may mean that you set up a shrine to the god, even a temporary one, or it may just mean that you temporarily decide that the base of this tree or this countertop is going to be where you make your offering. Clean that area as best you can. Set down a (clean) dish of some sort to hold your offering (unless you are outside and offering to a cthonic deity, in which case you can put/pour your offering directly onto the ground). If you are going to light a candle or burn incense, set up those things as well.
Third, go wash your hands and face again.
Fourth, if you are lighting a candle, do so and greet the god. I consider the candle to act as a sort of beacon to the god to indicate that something is happening in Their honor and to guide Them to you. Others may view this differently.
Introduce yourself to the god and mention the good things that you have done for them in the past. I’ll admit that I generally only do this when setting up a new shrine for a god or if I’m asking for help with something rather than just making offerings out of love and devotion. It is a traditional step, but we really don’t all do things the same way.
Make your offering – pour out your libation, burn your incense, burn or lay out your food or physical items. I often say something like, “Please accept this offering.”
Extend your hands from your sides or in front of you palms up (for Olympians) or palms down (for cthonic deities). Read or recite your prayers or speak from the heart. There are devotionals written by modern worshippers for many of our gods (and here is one that you can contribute to!), you can use ancient works like the Homeric or Orphic hymns, you can write your own prayers, or you can speak ex tempore from your heart.
Sit or stand for a moment. Listen. Absorb the moment.
Thank the deity for listening to you.
Allow the candle to burn down or blow it out or extinguish it (Some people have very specific views on that. I don’t.) if you have to. If you are outside in a public area, remove anything that isn’t biodegradable. If you are in your own space, remember to check on the offerings and remove them when appropriate. If you can wait until the next Deipnon (the night and day before the next new moon), then that is perfectly appropriate. If you notice that the offering is completely desiccated, is growing mold, or is attracting bugs, then go ahead and remove it earlier.
What you choose to offer is up to you. Sometimes, I get a very clear feeling of what I should offer to a particular deity. Sometimes, I don’t. When I don’t, there are things that particular gods are known to enjoy that I might choose to offer. If you don’t have that information at the time, then some offerings that are generally safe and acceptable to (almost) all of the gods are milk, honey, wine (sometimes cut with spring water), spring water, olive oil, and incense. If you are planning to make this offering in the future, then any competent diviner should be able to help you figure out what the best offerings from you to a particular god would be.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and don’t believe everyone who tells you that you have made a mistake. Listen to the gods. If you truly believe that you have made an error that has caused offense, contact a diviner. They will be able to help you figure out if you did something wrong and how to make amends.