My two cents (literally!)

If you’ve ever been in Santiago de Compostela and entered a coffee shop, bar, or restaurant in the old city, chances are you’ve seen dozens of small coins on the walls. Not framed or hanging from some exhibit cases for decoration, but simply put on cracks and stones by natives and visitors alike. Some of the coins have been there for so long that they’ve turned green, which also means that the owners of those establishments don’t collect them, but leave them on the walls for years. And this has the trappings of a form of offering to the local wights, which appear to have been very popular in Galicia in pre-Christian times. In the form of Lares Viales, the guardian spirits of pathways and roads, They were very popular in Roman Gallaecia, at least judging from the amount of altars dedicated to Them that have been found in the region and the still existing practice of pilling rocks on road sides. You can see it, for instance, by the road that leads to Cape Finisterra, itself long associated with pre-Christian practices and later made part of the route for Santiago by English pilgrims.

Besides being a fascinating piece of information for a polytheist, those coins on the walls in Santiago also prompt me to ask myself what do I do to honour the wights of my home and city, the genii who dwell or preside over buildings, gardens, isolated trees, hills, and rocks, riverbeds and mouths, streets, crossroads, and alleys. Those who live in the same place I do and are, in the end, my neighbours. Before going to Galicia a year ago, I occasionally poured water on trees, but ever since I came back I’ve been increasing the kind and number of gestures of respect towards the genii loci of Lisbon. Apart from pouring water or other beverages, there are several other small daily gestures one can do: leave flowers on places that might have a wight, scatter a portion of wheat, hang biodegradable ribbons on trees, leave a rock, or simply salute Them by kissing the tip of your fingers before touching the residence of the wight.

And yes, put coins in wall cracks, though only deep ones where people can’t retrieve the offering. One, two, or five cents coins just like in Santiago.

P.S.: One point that usually comes up in this topic is the question of animals eating the offerings, be it strayed ones or natural fauna. In my view, that’s perfectly alright: those animals are local residents, too, and some of them might be close to the wights, if not a form of Them. Just be sure to leave food that won’t harm them. Especially in places like beaches and woods, always leave eatables that are as natural and organic as possible so it won’t affect the diet of the wildlife and the general ecosystem (which also means biodegradables are mandatory!).

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10 thoughts on “My two cents (literally!)

  1. Very cool; it’s nice to see how people have done things in the past, as well as from around the world. I have found some of the best offerings for landvaettir and vaettir of an area are things like cleaning up the area around where the vaettir might live and pushing others to do the same, transporting rock vaettir to and from locations, and picking up fallen tree branches from tree vaettir that ask Their limbs to be made into something. An oak vaettir once asked me to take its dangling limb (it was connected by no more than the last strips of its bark and pulp), and make Runes from it. I then gave these Runes to the ‘owner’ of the land as a gift; from the oak tree to him for taking care of it.

    Anyhow, just some more ideas for ways to honor genii loci, landvaettir, etc.

    • Those are very good ideas, Sarenth. Broken, but still dangling branches can actually be harmful for the tree, so it’s not surprising that the wight asked you to take it. Cleaning up is also a great idea, especially in urban areas; in rural ones, if my memory serves me right, some tieding up is okay, but the old practice was to avoid trimming the grass or any thing of the sort.

      One thing I forgot to mention was the question of animals eating the offerings. That’s actually alright, from my point of view: they’re local residents, too, and some of them might even be close to the wights Themselves. Just be sure to leave food that won’t harm them.

      • I’m glad that I was doing some good for the tree itself then.

        *chuckles* I wouldn’t want to trim the grasses in the parks and such around here. Too many little critters like to run around in it come springtime; not much fun to have a golf course for a nature park.

        I tend to leave food offerings beside trees when I leave them out, but I’ve asked myself on and off if doing that is harming the local wildlife. The spirits tend to be happy when I do it, but it is something I occasionally grapple with.

      • Well, urban fauna pretty much eats what we eat: every bit of food we drop on the floor, not to mention our trash, is likely to be eaten by birds and mammals that live in our cities; even accidental things like breadcrumbs can end up in the stomach of a pigeon. To change that for the sake of their diets is a much greater task than choosing your offerings carefully. The question takes on a greater importance when it comes to offerings left in wild places, where animals are less likely to eat our food, so the best option will be simple things with little or no processed ingredients (especially if it’s a local product).

        And, of course, avoid things like a necklace with plastic beads or fishing string if you’re gonna leave it on the beach or throw it into the ocean as an offering. Biodegradable is always the best option.

      • Not that I didn’t know that dangling limbs are bad for the tree…but it is nice to have someone say ‘hey, that was a good idea’.

  2. People do the same here in Japan. Not at restaurants, but at shrines, of course, and also outside in general. I’ve seen coins (1 yen or 5 yen usually) around statues and lanterns and big old trees. People are used to it, and they respect the offerings, leaving them where they are.

  3. Cool article – I owe a lot to the wights that inhabit our property and the local area, and love it when people give their own locals or those of a favorite place their props.

    As for environmentally-easy offerings, I’ve had great responses to honey, fruit, and baked goods, but the all time winner with our crowd seems to be peanut butter. I don’t like it myself, but I’ll get a mad craving for it sometimes that won’t go away until I put some out on the wights’ yard altar. If you go with the real stuff, that isn’t jacked up with extra salt and sugar, the wildlife can dine well too, and leave no trace.

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