Okay, so house warming gifts aren’t something that “belong” strictly to animists. But there are a lot of animist values that are demonstrated in this practice, so I wanted to talk about it.
What values? Generosity, hospitality, reciprocity, and caretaking to name a few.
The animist world is symbolic. Your home is your sanctuary, so inviting others in is a way to be vulnerable and intimate. It’s a place to create and nurture connections. Regardless of your relationship outside the home, it’s a place of safety and care for all within it.
The hearth is about survival. This is where food is made and warmth is created. It’s the gathering place that ensures that life goes on.
A new home is a place for a new start for a family. To give a gift at this time is to set the family off with support so that they can build a solid foundation and happy future. So, what to give? Here are some suggestions.
Bread, Salt, Wine
It’s a Wonderful Life has been a favorite Christmas movie for decades. When the Martini family moves into their first new home, Mary gives them “Bread, that this house may never know hunger, salt, that life may always have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.” In my opinion, a great house warming gift is always symbolic and means far more than the thing itself. It’s a blessing.
Brooms can represent a clean start. If you have a superstitious slant to your thinking, a broom can also be used to clear a space of evil spirits. A very common purification ritual involves the sweeping of things out the back door.
Candles bring light in the darkest times. We all know those times come. It’s a blessing to be prepared for them and have comfort when they arrive.
What’s life without sweetness? Honey, sugar, chocolate, and baked goods symbolize this blessing. Since eating good food in company releases endorphins that create good feelings, it can also be a way to strengthen the bond between family, friends, and neighbors.
Giving knives as a house warming gift symbolizes protection for the receiver. However, many traditions see knives as instruments to sever ties between the giver and receiver which is generally not the intended result. To cancel out that energy, tape a coin to the knife before gifting it. When the receiver returns the coin, it is seen as payment and breaks the spell.
Plants are symbols of life. Giving someone a plant is a way to bring aliveness to the new home. Of course, it has to be cared for to keep that energy present in the home, so choose wisely for the space.
If the new homeowners are young and want children, rice is a gift that symbolizes fertility. A less desirable (perhaps) option are guppies. My grandfather’s medical practice had an aquarium that was packed with guppies. I was always delighted to see them swimming around. I have seven siblings and my dad always called us “guppies” so my preference is for guppies! Pomegranates are another symbol for fertility if you don’t like rice or guppies.
Coins are symbols of abundance and good fortune. It’s kind of cheesy giving someone coins, so you might want to get creative with this one. A Chinese money frog might work well instead. A commemorative coin or something that is worked into a piece of art might work too. Pomegranates also symbolize abundance. You could get two blessings for one with pomegranates.
Spirits slake your thirst and spread cheer. If it’s red wine, it’s also good for your heart health. So wine can symbolize a blessing for health and happiness.
Up until the 1920’s most people raised their own eggs. Chickens are enjoying a resurgence in popularity now days, so you may know that a rooster is a great protector and makes the hens happier. So a rooster can symbolize protection and speaking up or strength. Of course, it’s not a great idea to give someone a live animal unless you know they actually want one, but I still think it’s a cool tradition.
Wood is a symbol of stability. If you want to give wood, it can be actual wood that can be used to burn in the fireplace, anything made from wood like a decorative piece or utensil, or a tree. If the property was cleared of trees, a tree would make a great guardian and friend.
For me, animism is about seeing the symbols and relationships within things. There are so many beings who don’t speak in words, but in energy. The only way to relate to them is by being an energetic, symbolic being myself. I think gift giving from that spirit does that beautifully!