The pouring of a liquid offering as a religious ritual, or liquid so poured.
This is a very ancient method of making offerings to the gods and have been practiced by several pagan traditions and cultures, such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, pre-Hellenic Crete, Babylon, and the Yoruban.
The practice of offering libations of blood, water, wine, and even of milk and beer, has been widespread. Libations of blood or wine are referred to frequently in the Old Testament (Ecclesiasticus 1:15, where wine is clearly a surrogate for blood).
Libations usually appear as a mere accessory to a fire offering, but there is good reason to suppose that the libation of blood is a common Semitic practice and is really older than fire sacrifices. The libation of wine may be regarded as a surrogate for the primitive blood offering.
This type of ritual liquid pouring was also extensively used in divination, and the offering could be poured onto fires, stones, statues of the gods, people, animals, cups, glasses, basins, fountains, lakes, rivers, the sea, or the ground.
Libations can be poured from any bottle, cup, bowl or dish, but in ancient times special vessels were often created for these rituals, usually in the form of animals. The material from which the container was made could be clay, metal (precious or base), glass, or even a sea shell sometimes was used. In ancient Crete, for example, special apparatus were used, called rhytons. These were usually made from terracotta or fine stone (alabaster, marble, serpentine, etc.). They were often conical or piriform in shape, though many of them were in the format of an animal's head with the exit hole at the mouth and the inpour at the back of the head.
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Sources: (1) Morwyn, The Complete Book Of Psychic Arts, Llewellyn Publications; (2) Walker, Charles, The Encyclopedia of the Occult, Random House Value; (3) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group; (4) Melton, J. Gordon (Editor), Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Gale Group Publishers; (5) Canney, Maurice Arthur, An Encyclopaedia of Religions, Nabu Press.
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