How to pour a libation to deities & spirits the right way

A libation is a ritual pouring of a liquid as an offering to a deity or spirit or in memory of the dead. It is one of the most important and frequently performed sacrifices and occur frequently in the sources from all over the Indo-European world. In this guide you’ll learn how to pour a libation depending on whom it’s offered to. The Indo-European word for the verb ‘to pour’ has the same etymology as ‘divine’ or ‘godly’ (in fact also as the Germanic priestly title go∂i). To make a libation is to act like the divine, and to call upon the divine. Something poured is something ‘spilled’, that’s to say a gift that can never be taken back. A libation is therefore like a tear – it can’t be uncried. Just like a word can’t be unsaid. That’s the power behind it. Once it’s out there it’s out there.

Libation to celestial beings 

🍷 Offered outdoors under the open sky & in daylight, but can also be performed at home. 

🍷 Pour with your right hand.

🍷 Face the east (the new-born light)

🍷 Dedicated to the god(s) & poured slowly on an altar, stone, tree etc, together with prayers. 

🍷 The sacred drink, wine, milk, beer, honey, water, ghee, grains & oil are traditional libations (with milk being the primordial offering), but other things are fine too – as long as they’re of good quality and you yourself like it. 

Libations to chthonic gods, ancestors & the Dead in general 

🍷 These libations should preferably be poured at or after sunset.

🍷 Pour with your right hand.

🍷 Face west (symbolizes the dying light)

🍷 The sacred vessel is turned upside down with a quick movement of the hand so that the fluid is emptied on to the ground all at once. 

🍷 The fluids are poured out completely & no one partakes of them whatsoever (this would be associated with pollution). Pour the fluids upon the earth, a grave, pit or into a small hole in the ground. (To the dead it’s good to make a threefold libation – wine, milk & honey.) 

Libations to e.g. heroes, Dawn & Sun (also most nature spirits) 

🍷 Poured at dawn/sunrise.

🍷 Should be a Nephalia*, i.e. sober, libation. (Water, juice, oil etc)

🍷 Pour with your right hand.

🍷 Face north when to the heroes, east when to the Dawn & Sun

🍷 Pour out the liquid slowly on an altar, or in a source of water, before anyone else drinks. 

🍷 After the libation the rest is shared freely among the participants, as a blessing.

* Nephalia is the Greek name for libations that are non-alcoholic. The name actually means ‘calm’ or ‘not drunk’. The most common nephalia mixture is of water and/or milk together with honey. All deities and spirits aren’t supposed to be offered alcohol. An example is that both the Sun and Dawn were worshipped in the morning, with a libation of nephalia. We see this among the Vedics too.

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