Or at least for the Spirits.
Some general guidelines:
You do not need to give physical offerings to a Spirit. You can offer them prayers, time, attention and acknowledgement. These are wonderful powerful offerings in their own right.
Furthermore, If you ever have to choose between feeding yourself and your family. You should always choose to nourish those who have physical bodies. In some traditions it is common to share meals with Spirits. As always unless you have initiation or training in a specific tradition that embraces that practice. Err on the side of caution and do not eat the food of Spirits.
In the case of offerings to the Dead. The physical offerings become an embodiment of Death energy. Death energy is entropic in nature, it devours life energy. This could theoretically weaken you over time and shorten your life energy. It is safe for animals to eat the physical remains of offerings to the dead, they are not Human.
Quantity is also not a factor in offering. As a point of respect to the Spirits I will always serve them their offerings first from any food I prepare. (This will ultimately be dependent on the cultural experiences of the Spirit and they will always inform you of their preference). But in general a tablespoon amount is absolutely acceptable. Shot glasses of liquid offerings are also perfect.
What are favorable offerings to give?
Water is always a good start as it is essential to life. It is cool and refreshing and can calm down a Spirit.
Bread is a fantastic offering as it has been a staple life sustaining food since we began to practice agriculture.
Grains and lentils/legumes are staple offerings to the dead due to their association to the ‘Underworld’ and their commonality in agricultural societies.
Tubers and root vegetables are similar in their chthonic association, they also tend to be hearty nourishing foods.
Fungi is also a food of the underworld, as it is born out of decay. It is very nourishing and life affirming. But check with your Spirits as to their preference. Not everyone will enjoy these as offerings.
Coffee is an exceptional offering to ‘wake up’ Spirits. When I brew a pot of coffee each of my Shrines gets a shot glass. I get yelled at if I don’t share.
Now lets break offerings into the 6 flavor categories and discuss their general actions.
Sweet: This can bring favor and a generous disposition. You can literally sweeten the relationship you build by offering sweets. I prefer to use a local and sustainable honey when ever I need to sweeten. But common sugar will also do. Fresh sweet baked goods also gets you extra literal brownie points.
Salty: Salt is grounding and purifying. It also has excellent application in exorcism and when you literally want to salt the earth. Too heavy handed and this can be the destruction of a relationship. Delicate application and it can keep things ‘on the level’.
Sour: Sour brings focus and cuts through the chatter. It can help making thing move faster. but it can also make a Spirit resentful.
Spicy: The best way to heat things up and stir the pot. It can also light a fire under bum’s and get things moving. Though too much can cause anger and fights. A touch can get the creative spark going.
Bitter: A hint of bitter add complexity to sweet dishes. So it can add depth of flavor. However, bitterness much like sour can cause resentment. Bitterness can bring focus and clarity, in small doses.
Umami: Savory, delightful and nourishing. This is ultimately what delights tastes buds outside of desserts. It is strengthening and can help give a spirit endurance and stronger ‘form’.
My recommendation for a good ‘general’ offering is: some bread and apple wedges drizzled in honey and dusted with cinnamon. I have only ever found this be well received. Sweet, nourishing and dusted with cinnamon for a dash of extra good favor.
Every Spirit will have their favorite offerings. It doesn’t even need to be food.
I have a Zio that loves a particular band and so when I want to speak with him I play their music as part of the devotional practice.
You can even introduce them to new foods with time. Anytime I cook Nonna’s recipes the whole house waits in anticipation. But if I make sushi? That’s all for me. Tofu and seaweed has not been adopted into the wider food culture of my family.
Experiment and find what works best for you and your Spirits.
May the Kindly Ones bless and nourish you.
Love and Manyfold Blessings