A libation is a ritual pouring of a liquid as an offering to a god or spirit or in memory of those who have died. It was common in many religions of antiquity and continues to be offered in various cultures today. It is more than a simple ceremony and in fact, the simplest and oldest surviving ritual that you may participate in. It marks important events across the spectrum of world religions as a deep and emotional offering.
Various substances have been used for libations, most commonly wine or olive oil, in Japan this offering is sake, and in India its ghee. The vessels used in the ritual, including the patera, often had a significant form that differentiated them from secular vessels. The libation could be poured onto something of religious significance, such as an altar, or into the earth. Among even the modern Celts (Irish and Scots) a wee dram might be shared with the fae or the departed, as a libation to honor those who have passed.
In its original form Libations were in fact Offerings. From your table to the gods. Like an ancient form of saying grace a meal blessing to prevent or cure illness and shield your family from being seen as giving insult to the gods, a guard against hubris for the person who will receive the acclaim from preparing the meal.
Anyone who has participated in any sort of ‘bottle pass’ knows the strength of pouring a drink for someone who has passed away.
In modern Witchcraft, our rituals often include was is referred to as the Simple Feast at the conclusion of the right in order to assist in the grounding of excess energy and shift us back to the mundane world. In this portion of the ritual, each participant partakes of ritually prepared bread (cakes) and carefully selected seasonal Wine or Ale. While the group never completely consumes the Wine that is placed in the chalice to bless nor the bread itself. Once the ritual is complete and the circle is open the remaining Libations are set to earth, returning the blessings to the Gods with proof of our labors. Eating foods and drinking spirits charged with magical incantations is a common practice in Celtic and modern Wicca. The practice is said to be most effective when working towards fertility or prosperity goals because of the earth and water imagery of most foods.
Cakes and Ale is a traditional ending to the Esbat or Sabbat ritual. Cake represents earth and the physical, and ale the forces of spirit and transcendence are blessed, dedicated to the deities, and consumed. These ancient beliefs manifest themselves in Christian and Jewish tradition today through blessing the bread and wine of communion.
Recipes for specific purposes will be made available on the Sabbat and Esbat pages. There are many recipes available regarding Kitchen Witchery, but the basic premise is whatever you prepare for the ceremony should be done with intent and concentration on the festival at hand or the Esbat magick you hope to accomplish.
Blessing the Bread: The cakes are as mentioned previously (like a Eucharist), symbolizing the fruitfulness of the Goddess and God, as well as symbolizing the gifts given to us by the Earth herself. Ritual cakes may vary by tradition many say that the cakes should be made with flour, wine, a pinch of salt, and honey, which are then shaped into crescent moons. The Silver Moon Crow Coven embraces the change of the seasons, using rich pumpernickel or light herb bread crafted with seasonal herbs. One loaf is prepared for the feast after the rite while another is shaped smaller for the rite itself and usually carved before baking with the sun or moon symbol. This is not unique to us, in practice, most groups working together will use cakes, bread, or biscuits which reflect the celebration. For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to use a Yule Log when celebrating Yule, bread baked from corn for Lughnasadh, or something sweet for Beltane! As long as you have enough to reserve a share for the Gods, our Ancestors, and the Fae.
The cakes once prepared or selected are placed on a platter or special saucer which is then placed on the pentacle. They are blessed by the High Priestess, who touches each cake with the tip of her athame, visualizing the energy flowing from her through the athame into the cakes.
“May you never hunger.”
You can choose to say something more wordy or poetic:
“From the seed to the grass, from the grass to the grain which we mill for this cake. Though we have little may we always remember there are those who have less. Blessed be.”
Blessing the Wine: The blessing of the wine in Wicca represents the sacred marriage as it symbolizes the union of Goddess & God, considered to be one of the key mysteries of Wicca, which can only be fully understood through direct experience. This act mimics the great right and has powerful symbolism even outside of libations.
The Chalice symbolizes the womb of the Fruitful Goddess, and the wine shows the fecundity of the Earth and symbolizes the joy in this life. It is traditional to use red wine, but mead, or if you prefer apple or grape juice, can also be used. The athame represents the phallus of the Horned God, the fertilizing principle. Symbolically the chalice and athame represent the elements of water and fire, and when the triangular symbols of these two elements are conjoined, they produce the hexagram, representing the universe. The sacred marriage of the two divine principles is thus expressed in the creation of the universe through their union, embodied in the sacramental drink within the chalice as their life-giving fertility.
The fruit juices used have specific symbolisms. Apple juice represents the fruit of wisdom, sacred to the Goddess and containing the pentagram within it. Grape juice is the fruit of the vine, sacred to the God as the Lord of Liberation and Wildness, in forms such as the Greek Dionysus and Roman Bacchus.
When working in a group it is usual for the High Priestess and High Priest to perform the ceremony together. The High Priest holds the Chalice, and the High Priestess lowers the athame into the Chalice saying:
“As the Athame is to the Male so the Chalice is to the Female. And as they are joined in this symbolic act, so may they be joined in truth.”