I've been thinking a lot recently about offerings - maybe it has been spurred by my research on curses and binding spells in the Greco-Roman world (for my thesis) and it got me wondering about my own opinions on offerings. These are my thoughts as they pop into my head so I apologize for any disjointedness and grammatical errors.
In my studies I've been looking a lot at the difference in opinion between religious offerings to the gods and what was viewed as magic working demanding something in return and I thought about how we view offerings today and whether we even do give offerings and how we rationalize them in our minds.
Firstly, I don't think I know a single person who gives forth offerings for the soul purpose of binding that entity to do something for them - it isn't a contractual arrangement. That is not to say that I don't believe their are people out there who do this, I just don't know them. And to be honest I have to wonder at how different this really is from those who offer up prayers only at times of need asking that if only deity will do A they will do B. But that is for my discussion on prayer later.
I've read a lot about offerings in modern pagan practices that draws heavily on ancient traditions and beliefs regarding what to offer to which deities etc, and that is great, for those who truly believe that their deity exists. However, I find also that many people participate in practices because they read/are told that is the way it is without really thinking if said practice actually reflects their own belief system. If you are like myself and don't believe that the deities many refer to actually exist, but rather that they are aspects of the greater whole whom we use to allow our minds to fully comprehend, than who are you really making offerings to and how does that affect what you do?
I guess the answer to that comes down to how you're working when you make those offerings. If you are working with a particular aspect that you wish to draw from than perhaps you will make offerings appropriate to those representations as a reflection of your desire to strengthen/accept what they represent into your life, but do you have to? If the offering is in the end all to the same spirit what difference does it make what you offer? If the spirit is in all, and all deities are one are you going to offend by offering flowers to Ares?
Anyway, those are my ramblings for the day.