In antiquity the practice to give offerings and sacrifices to the Gods was a very important part of the religion(s), if not an essential part.
The offerings and sacrifices acted like a bridge between the worlds of humans and Gods (or between humans and spirits, too).
For modern minds it is often quite difficult to understand the meaning of the practice to offer foods, incense or symbolic items to the Gods. For many it is just a waste of things. And some of the modern forms of witchcraft and neopaganism- don’t use this practice at all.
To understand the metaphysical and symbolical meaning of offerings and sacrifices better- you can look into religions were those practices are still living and breathing. In Voudou, Santeria, Hinduism and many of the Asian Religions- the practice to offer something to the Gods and spirits is very important and alive.
Different meaning of offering and sacrifices?
In this article I will use the word offering for stuff that is given to the gods and spirits- like food, incense, flowers, candles etc..
When I speak of sacrifices I mean the slaughtering of animals- the sacrifice of the life and life-source of this animal for the Gods (but I will go more into detail during the article).
Why offerings and sacrifices?
The symbolism to offer things to the Gods is strongly connected to the principle of giving and taking. The Gods have given you their blessings, all that you have in your life comes somehow from the Gods. Offerings are a method to give a small amount of those blessings back to its origin in a meaning thanks and respect. You notice through the practice of offerings- that the Gods have brought blessings in your life and you give them a small portion of those good things back.
On the metaphysical level the offerings and sacrifices nourish the Gods and spirits, they take the essence or energy of the offerings, this energy/essence helps them to manifest themselves more in the life of their devotees.
The third meaning is that offerings and sacrifices build a bridge between the worlds- they bring the devotees and the Gods and spirits together (in an shared meal).
And in more magical practice offerings can be a method to gain favours of the Gods an spirits.
Offerings and sacrifices in greco-roman antiquity:
As said in greco-roman antiquity the practice to give offerings and sacrifices was a very important part of the religion(s) and cults. It was not about to believe in the Gods (what is quite important to monotheistic religions today) but to connect yourself with the Gods. Through the offerings/sacrifices the people nourished the spirits and Gods and brought themselves nearer to them. At the same time the offerings brought a part of the divine into the devotees (through the shared meal).
In general there were two kinds of offerings/sacrifices. The one that were consumed by the worshippers in the ritual (ouranic-sacrifice). The food was blessed by the Gods and a small amount was given to them as their part (it was often burned in the fire). The worshippers than ate parts of the offeirngs, too.
The second type was that the offerings/sacrifices were given to the Gods completely (chtonic-sacrifices). Often those offerings were apotropaic (averting of evil), cleansing from Miasma or offered to under-worldly Gods and spirits- and the offerings were than not consumed to not get into contact with the essence/energy of these Gods and spirits directly (or because the Miasma was connected to the offerings to get rid of it).
Often those two offering practices are labelled as ouranic-sacrifices for the consumed offerings and as chtonic-sacrifices for the complete offerings. But some Gods got both kind of offerings- so some of the ouranic Gods got chtonic offerings, too. And many of the ouranic Gods have chtonic aspects, too. And Hekate was one of these deities that had ouranic and chtonic sides (others were for example Zeus, Hermes, Aollon and Demeter).
In antiquity it was quite normal to sacrifice animals in the rites. The animal was slaughtered and the blood was offered to the Gods. Afterwards the animal was prepared and cooked. And than eaten by the worshippers in the festival after the rite or during the rite. So the animal was not wasted. It was no cruel act to just kill an animal to make a sacrifice (what many think today) but the animal was eaten by the worshippers.
The animal was given by the Gods to the humans, in respect of this the slaughtering of the animal was done in the name of a God or Goddess and the deity got the blood as offering- and the life source of the animal through this. The meat was eaten than by the community of worshippers. The animal was treated respectful- and it as quite clear that the animal died to nourish the life. For many common people the sacrifices were the only time to eat meat.
Apotropaic offerings and sacrifices:
These offerings were used to avert harm and negative influences.
Often dogs were used in this rites. The dog was connected to the negative influences (Miasma) and than killed to get rid of these influences. For us today a quite strange practice. But for the people in antiquity it was common.
When in the ancient sources the dog sacrifices to Hekate are mentioned- this kind of sacrifice is meant. The dog was not sacrificed to Hekate in the community sense of offerings and than eaten after the rite- no the dog was slaughtered to get rid of Miasma and negative influences.
Garlic, Onions and Eggs were used in a similar way- the Miasma/negative influences were connected with those offerings and than brought to the crossroads to get rid of those things. To banish the Miasma or the negative energy. And Hekate was strongly connected to these apotropaic offerings and sacrifices.
Offerings to Hekate:
Many people today think that Hekate is a chtonic Goddess and that she because of that got chtonic-sacrifices. And in literature there are plenty sources that describe chtonic-sacrifices and offerings to her. And mostly these are connected to witchcraft or necromancy- so from this background the chtonic-sacrifices were very fitting to the chtonic and under-worldy sides of Hekate (and these aspects were connected to the topics of witchcraft and necromancy).
But Hekate was not just a chtonic Goddess- she had strong ouranic aspects, too. All altars that were dedicated to Hekate, that were found, were ouranic-altars. So it is quite sure that she was worshipped like other ouranic Gods, too. The dog sacrifices to her are quite well known today (see above). But those were more apotropaic sacrifices. In antiquity Hekate were offered normal animal sacrifices, too like to all other Gods. As described above, with a shared meal for the community.
Hekate was a Goddess that had influence and power in all three realms (earth, sea sky- or later earth, Olympos and Hades). So I think because of that she was worshipped with both the ouranic- and chtonic-sacrifices and offerings.
Many sources describe different food offerings to her, special meals that were given to Hekate. But she was connected to the apotropaic offerings, too. Hekate was strongly connected to the cleaning and protective practices- and so got the things as offerings, that were used in those practices.
Most offerings that we know today through ancient sources- are connected to the Deipnon. The offering meals to her and the restless spirits in the dark time of the moon- and to this time the apotropaic sacrifices were done, too.
Here is a list of food offerings to Hekate from antiquity:
Bread,honey, cheese, oil, wine, fish, cakes, Ampiphion (a cheesecake with candles), fruits, milk, eggs, onions,garlic (keep in mind that those were apotropaic offerings, too).
Olibanum, myrrh, bay leaves an storax are named in ancient sources. She seems to love real storax (most stuff that is sold today is not thre real storax- but just charcoal that smells a little bit like storax- the real storax is a very thick dark gum-like resin, with a very strong scent. It was harvested from the liquid amber trees in asia minor, where Hekate had strong cults).
I can imagine that she got other incense, too that was burned in antiquity in general. For example: Juniper, cypress, lavender, rosemary, thyme or Kyphy from Egypt.
All these things work very well as offerings for her today, too.
The animal sacrifices are not practised today by modern devotees. To have a shared meal between Hekate and you (or with a group of devotees)- you can use cakes, fruits and other fruits in a same symbolism today. Offer a part of the food to her and consume the remaining parts in a sacred meal.
There are many other things that can be offered her today. From my experience she likes herbal tea (she really likes tea from green mint sweetened with much honey), mixtures of herbs, she likes flowers, she loves the smell of jasmine (the plant is connected to the moon and many variations open their flowers at night) and I use jasmine incense sticks, jasmine oil or jasmine flowers. And she likes the flowers of lavender, too.
I offer her almonds, green cardamom seeds (as seeds, or in oils and incense), poppy seeds, sesame, sesame-cakes, it is possible to offer her honey infused with herbs (or oils infused with herbs- or herbal salts).
She really loves pomegranates that I give her whole as decoration on her shrine and altar, or that I cut in two halves and then press out the red juice during the rites.
She likes flame offerings, too. Tealights, devotional candles, ethanol fires, real fires, lanterns, oil lamps- everything that creates a living flame. Somethimes I create oil lamps from pomegranates.
Here and there I give her small amounts of the meals that I eat myself. And in her chtonic forms I offered her chicken hearts or animal blood, too (from the raw meat that I feed to my cats and dogs).
How to give offerings:
I use a libation bowl for that- you can use any kind of bowl as libation bowl. Bless it for Hekate and put it on her shrine or altar.
When you give her offerings put these into the bowl during the rite.
First clean yourself and the area with the techniques of your tradition, light the candles, connect yourself with Hekate (through the methods you are common with), when you feel her presence and energy, light the incense and say with your own words that you light this incense for her as offering. Than bless the other offerings. Imagine that they glow in a golden light. Than say to her with your own words that you offer these offerings to her. And lay the offerings into the offering bowl or if you give libations (drink offerings) pour them into the bowl. If you give her ouranic-offerings you can ask her to accept it and bless it. Than give her the first part of the offering- eat something yourself and give her the last part, too.
If you give her chtonic-offerings- don’t eat or drink from these, Give these completely to her (for example on the Deipnon).
Let the offerings stay for some time on the shrine/altar and than bury them outside, burn them or leave them on a crossroad (if it is not harmful for animals to eat it).
Create offering oils (oils that are infused with herbs) for Hekate, offering honey or offering herbal mixtures. Bless them on her shrine. Than you can use this stuff for a longer time to give offerings to her. You can sprinkle during every rite a little bit of the herbal mixtures over her shrine- or into the libation bowl. Give a small amount of honey to the brow of the statue- or into the libation bowl.
If you burn candles for her- you can anoint the candles with the oils or with the honey and sprinkle the herbal mixtures (or powders) into the flames as offerings (be careful with that).
Know which aspects of Hekate you want to address. And honour her with the right offerings. For example if you connect yourself with her darker more fearful sides- give her chtonic offerings that you don’t eat or drink yourself. When you focus on her more benign aspects- give her the ouranic-offerings and have a shared meal with her.
Or if you work with her in witchcraft or necromancy- use the traditional offerings than during the rites (oil, honey, milk for example) to offer them to her and the spirits.
When it is about spirit work and Hekate as mistress of spirits I even offered her graveyard earth or herbs/plants that I harvested on cemetries.
I like it to give her offerings that are symbolic connected to the three realms (earth, sea, sky). Incense for her dominion of sky. Herbal mixtures/powders, oils, or honey for her dominion over the earth. And blessed water for her dominion over the sea.
I use those as daily offerings to her. And give her food offerings when I have the feeling that it is right.
If you give offerings to Hekate, give here and there also an offering to the spirits that are in her company and to the spirits that are around you. Do this in her name. With time you will befriend the spirits that are around you.
And give an offering of her traditional foods on the Deipnon (dark moon) for the restless spirits.
You don’t have to give her food offerings every day. But if you want to connect with her in a daily or regular basis- I would say give her at least incense and candles as offerings. And give her a shared (ouranic) food offering on the Noumenia (new moon- first crescent). And a chtonic-offering on the Deipnon (dark moon). And give her here and there a small food offering when you feel it is right to do this- or when it is about special things (like asking her for help).
And even if you just want to honour/worship Hekate not on a regular level, giver her food offerings on the Deipnon and Noumenia. That will keep the connection with her intact.