A few weeks ago, I was sad to be told about an occurrence at the Shrine on Cocidius at Yardhope in Northumberland, in which someone had buried an offering, presumed to be Pagan, before the effigy of the god.
I am by nature an optimist who likes to think that there is good in most people, and I would hope that whoever did this is simply naïve of the far-reaching effects this could have on everyone within the Pagan community. I would also like to think that they did so from a sincere and well-intentioned position, and likely for a good personal reason.
The Shrine is a scheduled ancient monument and so digging at the site is illegal and, unfortunately, this may mean that the guardians may need to rethink access to the land for anyone who wishes to visit the site, as well as meaning that leaders within the Pagan community have to then convince legal bodies that Pagan does not equal vandalism.
We as a community hold this site and many others like it as sacred, as a place where we can feel close to our deities and sense the heartbeat of the land. There is everything right with this sense of place but we must be ever mindful in our actions and of what we take away from these places when we visit them, even if it seems at the time that we are not taking but giving instead. Offerings such as this have an effect on a place, digging the ground can disturb those creatures who live there as much as the environment, and that means we are taking away from its natural state and altering it for our own purposes.
As guardians ourselves, we should endeavour to leave nothing at these sites but our footprints and take nothing away but perhaps photographs and our memories of the place. Physical offerings can be made in our own spaces and will still reach our gods all the same, just as if they were left at such a sacred place, but without the issues of changing the environment or causing access problems to others who wish to visit.
I would like to take the opportunity here to let you all know of the existence of the ASLaN Sacred Sites Charter, which can be found at the link below. It asks us to respect the land and all its inhabitants – spirits, people, animals, plants and stones, and I for one make the sincere promise to uphold this charter and everything it serves. I hope you will join me in that oath.