Purpose and Meaning
You want to thank the gods for their blessings and help, and so you decided to show your gratitude by giving something as a gift, such as food, or flowers, or other things like that. It is a natural thing that we do, even babies know to give their beloved things to others to show gratitude. Ever seen babies handing over their food or toys to someone to thank them? Food offerings to the gods is the same idea, very simple, it’s to show thankfulness, and to express your heart. However, there is more to that, which most people don’t know.
The secret of food offering is that the food is not physically being consumed by the gods, it is the intention inside and your heart that is being consumed. The gods will only need to “see” the food and that is already enough. By putting special intention in the food, you can use this method as a way to communicate with the god to let them know what you want from them too.
The food that is on the altar can be taken down and consumed, you don’t have to trash them out. The food are all just like boxes, they are carriers, for the gods to put their blessings into. After the incense is burnt out, the ceremony is over, the food is also charged up and loaded with the god’s energy. When you consume them, it’s like consuming the magical powers from the gods, which could be what you need to receive the “help” you asked for.
How to do it Properly
You can put the food up, burn incense to tell the gods what you wished and wanted from them, and wait for the incense to finish. Once it is done, you can take them down and consume them anyway you want. However, this is a newbie way. If you want to go more specific, you can learn to “set intentions” into your food.
For the food, use the “relate and connect” method to connect your intention in like how we play word games. Just like saying someone look similar, sound similar, or anything that can let you relate, it will work.
For example, in Chinese we use the big oranges to represent “good luck delivered to me” because they are called 大吉 Daai Gut, which means big good luck. Apples are used to relate to safety because they are called 蘋果 Ping Gwoh, which also sound like 平果 “even fruit” or meaning a balanced and safe result, which is safety.
There are many others in Chinese that you will have a hard time understanding, because you don’t know the language. However, gods don’t care about the language. It is your HEART that matters. If you want to find a way to connect and link your intention in with other languages, you can do it too!
Let’s say I have a curry chicken rice, I want to say it is “Golden Pheonix” which relates to like wealth flying to me. Sure, why not. Anything you can relate, it will work. That’s the secret, using the heart, the intention, and not be bonded by the “traditions” default examples.
Some common meanings for meat:
Oh, now you might think, what if I use pork for this and that meaning? Sure. It’s up to you. As long as you have a way to connect the intention to the food, your god will know what you want!
Taboos and Don’ts
Some people think that it is not okay to put raw meat, instant noodles, beef, whatever. To be honest, if your god is going to “not work” because of these, that’s really lame. Anything can be put on the altar, even raw meat. Ever heard of live-sacrifice? People burn or kill animals in front of their gods to sacrifice for something, and that’s a real thing too. In Taoism, that’s also something that could be done – but it might be a bit too much for the modern society. The theory is real, and it works though.
Some things to consider here – don’t give fake food or flowers, because you cannot consume them. Don’t re-use food offerings as in like you have pray to the gods with this already then you take it down, later re-use it somewhere else. That is disrespectful to your gods. Just some common sense.
There is nothing that you cannot put up unless it’s poisonous. The golden rule is that anything you can eat, your god can consume, no worry.
This might get you interested in building an altar and get started with your food offerings right?! Time to get ordainedand become a Taoist!
Also read up on the food offerings to the human side!