The Shamanic Offering
Sometimes in the course of your shamanic practice the spirits may demand some offerings. It is important to keep in mind that these offerings have to be in relation to the deeds done by your spiritual friends. These offerings range from simple prayers, small sacrifices, taboos to more complex things like rituals or quests. Spirits are easy to satisfy, usually. Fresh fruits or vegetables, tobacco offerings, honey or milk, small coins, incense sticks should be sufficient for everydays use.
However, offerings can be more subtle. For example the creation of a dancing-costume or the shamanic garment. The time and energy invested by the shaman to complete the costume does somehow sanctify and energize the garment a lot already. The need of time and energy to finish something actually is a kind of offering. Due to such offerings the spirits get much energy and can become organic and grounded.
Offering of blood is within the normal borders, as long as it is your blood in question and not the blood of others. Using your own blood for offerings keeps you away from loosing the connection to reality, unless you are suicidal. Women can use their monthly menstruation secretion for blood offerings - a great chance, most woman don't even think of.
Animal sacrifices are a completely different thing, however. In comtemporary cultures with living shamanism, animal sacrifices are common to ensure the spirits benevolent attitude to the shaman or the community. Justifying animal sacrifices in modern western cultures in much more difficult due to the lack of cultural and moralic acceptance and background for such offerings.
Horses were being sacrificed very often in asiatic and sibirian cultures. These sacrifices were offered to the master of heaven or other main spirits to calm them down that humans can achieve more wealth and richness. Nomads are depending much from weather conditions and so this interdependence between nature and human conditions is much more obvious then in urban cultures. The shaman guided the souls of the horses through the shamanic upper world to the lord of heavens.
If your spirits start to demand animal sacrifices you should be very careful with the interpretation. Most of the time these demands are symbolic and can be interpreted much less bloodthirsty. It is simply not necessary to sacrifice animals in most cases. Within black healings and some kinds of divination techinques however, these kind of sacrifices are well placed. Of course you must have a good relationship to the spirit of the animal you must sacrifice. The cadaver usually ends up in the kitchen of the shaman or is being burned or burried. Ask your spirits about this. Animal-sacrifices are nothing for beginning shamans and are nothing to play with foolhearted. They should never become normal to you. Sacrificing animals can awake a kind of bloodthirstiness within the attendants, which slowly leads you to become more and more obsessed by the blood and the sacrifice and you loose the important relation to reality. Christianity condemns animal sacrifices. Shamans with this cultural background should keep that in mind. Which huntings in any form are quite usuall, even nowadays. The brainwashing by the church was really effective on that point, well knowing that the eucharist is nothing other than the symbolic devouring and thus the spiritualization and grounding of their own shamanic teacher.
The kumandin spread the skins of the sacrificed horses on large poles in order to offer the horses souls a good opportunity to reach the lord of heavens by their own meanings. The offering of horses were being practiced by the jakuts for the "Raising of the Bones" rite (for example). Some powerful siberian spirits demand horses to be sacrificed for their needs before they take action.
Within urban settings it is also a question of general practicability. A professional killing (the actuall sacrifice) of the animal should be standard. In rural regions this in common knowledge and practiced everywhere every day. So animal sacrifices are more common and accepted in rural regions then in urban regions, naturally.
Animal sacrifices are among the most powerful forms of offerings to the spirits. The lifeforce of the sacrificed animal is food and energy for the spirits and medium for grounding and even materialization. Of course the psychic effects of such sacrifices on client and shaman cannot be underestimated.
Another kind of sacrifice which is condemned by the sheepish moralistic codex is the offering of sexual secretions like sperma, for example. Sexual offerings belong to the most dangerous kinds of offering besides the blood offerings and are as powerful as the animal sacrifices. Sexual offering is archaic creation in its purest form. A combination of blood and sexual offering can be used to give spiritual life to aritificial created servitor-beings. Using this kind of offering more regular can easily become obsessive, too. The shaman needs much discipline in using blood or sexual offerings to avoid becoming obsessed by the sacrifice itself.
Horse Sacrifice: Abakan, Region Atschinsk, Katschinen; Photo by Sch.D. Majnagaschew, 1914.
Sacrificed Horses: Altai, Kumandin, Photo by Jermolin, 1900.
Both photos: © Russian Ethnographic Museum, St. Petersburg.