Offerings: The Metaphysics of Giving

Offerings: The Metaphysics of Giving

Ana-Maria Pascal (Regent's University London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1955-3.ch005
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Abstract

The chapter will discuss the key role that offerings play in everyday life in Asian and Byzantine traditions, and the ontological and eschatological beliefs behind it. Other examples of metaphysical gifts are discussed, like the Biblical notion of sacrifice, which is present both in the Old and the New Testament, that is in the Avraam-Isaac episode and Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, respectively. Some relevant pagan rituals will also be mentioned, before reflecting on what all these have in common. Since they are observed through a personal journey, and reflected upon through philosophical analysis, findings do not claim to have the ‘objectivity' of an anthropological study. Instead, they might lead to a kind of practical understanding similar to that, which narratives or images provide. Indeed, Andrey Tarkovsky's last film, Sacrifice, will serve as an illustration of the existential and, at times, eschatological meaning of the range of acts of giving that we discuss – from spiritual gifts, to offerings, and ultimately to sacrifice.
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Offerings In Bali

“Marrakesh... Marrakesh… 41 à l’ombre.” This song would make a good soundtrack for a film set in Lovina, north Bali, this time of the year. It is a hot Christmas day, and one cannot help feeling somewhat out of place on this far away island, where nature is so lush and people are so poor and yet so happy and tranquil at the same time. But one can relate to the simple message of their offering for the New Year. Number one is not only for first of January, but also for God.

Figure 1.

New Year offering

Everyday life is so simple and so undisturbed in Bali. Local people go about setting their spices in place; bringing offerings to their gods; making flower arrangements (a different pattern each day) for their shrines, whether at home, by the sea, or in public places; selling their fruit and their art – their wooden statutes, sarungs and paintings, their shell bracelets and coral necklaces; but most of all, telling their stories.

Each little detail – a petal in the hair, a syllable at the end of a song, an insect on the wall – gets as much care and patience as a whole ritual or ceremony does. You almost get the feeling that each and every detail counts more, in fact, than the whole. They don’t mind if you don’t like one song – they have a hundred others. But they do care about hitting the last note, leaving you with a clear message, giving it their all -- right now, this very moment.

Sun and thunder go together well here. It is the rainy season. Lightning strikes the peaceful night sky, illuminating the sea and fishermen boats. A happy and sad looking man plays his guitar by the sea; younger ones accompany him. With a flower in his hair and darkness on his face, he has that air of “far and away” one often gets around Asians.

All these statues of Indonesian gods present everywhere make one wonder, what spirits might still walk around here right now, on this grass, by this sea, underneath these trees?

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