Category Archives: Hellenismos

Basics-What they are and why they are important

Basics:

What are the basics of any path and why they are important

Today we are going to talk about an important topic.  Today we are going to discuss what it is when they mean “tell me about the basics of X religion or X path”  This is a question that many seekers often ask in forums and on mailing lists.  In some ways this question seems obvious to answer, but it also at times seems to represent a lack of previous research.  The lack of previous research is not necessarily a bad thing as at this point in the seekers stage they may be looking for bare bones information from which to refine their search for their path.  This is why it can be important to look at some 101 books before you read to much lore on a specific culture.

What the basics include

The basics of any religion or spiritual path are easy to outline.  While not every path has every belief or idea I am going to outline, the idea and concepts behind these basics are found in enough spiritual paths across the world that they can be considered what the basics would be.  Basics of a religion include the pantheon or pantheons involved in that particular path (this covers the basic mythology of the path), the style and types of rituals involved and a rough idea of what ritual entails, views on the afterlife and the soul, views on spirits and spirit realms, holidays, and ethics.  Each of these basic components provide excellent insight into what each religion essentially believes in and what may be involved in being a part of that particular path.

As I cover the basics of what religions and spiritual paths include I am going to use a few different pagan paths as examples.  Most of the references in this post are going to come from either Germanic paganism, Witchcraft (many different forms), or Hellenic Paganism as these are the paths I have the most experiences with.  However in general use the examples as an idea for what you may encounter with the paths that you are looking to explore and study.  These examples are going to illustrate why these aspects of a religion are important to understand for those paths and why they form the basics.

Pantheon, Pantheons and Spirits

Every religion and spiritual path out there has a unique set of spirits and spirit beings that they work with.  These beings do not need to be Gods or even called Gods.  They can just be a set of spiritual entities which are worked with for spiritual development.  The establishment of which beings are in which path helps a seeker to know which myths are going to be the source for knowledge on the Gods.

It also gives the seeker a culture to research and in some cases a specific name for a path to follow.  For example if you know you want to work with the gods from Shintoism you would be following a Japanese pantheon and set of spirits.  If that was our path you would now also want to do research on the culture and the history of the Japanese people.  You may even want to learn some of the language.

Style and Type of ritual

Different cultures and religions had different rituals.  The rituals in Asatru (A Norse/Germanic Paganism recon pagan path) are not the same type of rituals you will encounter in Wicca.  The rituals in Wicca are different than the rituals in a Kemetic (Egyptian style of paganism).  The rituals in each culture and path are a reflection of the ways that humans and Gods interacted in those cultures.  By understanding the basic outlines of different types of rituals you can understand a bit more about the cultures that religion and ritual style is dedicated to.

In Wicca and many forms of religious witchcraft the rituals involve typically a circle being cast.  That circle creates a sacred space. The elemental forces are called.  The God and Goddess are invoked.  Here we have the workings either magical or sabbat related.  There is an offering given to the Gods.  The Gods are released from the circle and the other elemental forces are released.  The circle is taken up and the ritual is over followed by a feast or grounding with food.

This ritual outline there gives a seeker an idea of what exactly will happen during a worship service and ritual.  This information gives a person a vague idea of what they will need to do if they seek to follow that specific path.  This is useful information because if a person doesn’t like the basic outlines of rituals in a path then that path may not be for them, or they may need to study further to see if there are other ways that they can adapt rituals.  It is a starting point for ritual work concepts any way.

Views on the soul and the afterlife

Many religions have views of some sort on the soul and the afterlife.  For many people their belief in the afterlife and the soul is a large defining aspect of their path.  So in many paths this is a basic concept.   Many people will choose spiritual paths which reflect how they personally feel about their beliefs in the spirit and the soul.

Christianity for example does believe in a soul and in an afterlife.  The specific views on the soul and the afterlife play a large role in the beliefs and works of this religion and as such it forms a good example of why the view on the soul and the afterlife are basic components of a religion and or spiritual path.

Spirits and Spiritual Realms or Spirits and Cosmology

Different paths have different spirits that they work with and believe in.  In some of these paths there are many different realms where different beings and spirits exist.  One of these realms is typically the realm where the Gods live and at least one other realm aside from the physical world is the world of the dead.  Other paths like Asatru teach that there are many different realms with different spirits that live in those worlds.  For example in Asatru there are nine different realms.  These realms are Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotenhiem, Midgard, Muspelheim, Swarvelheim, Alfheim ,Helheim, and Nifelheim.

Here is a meme depicting the cosmology of  Germanic and Norse Paganism.

Asatru world tree

Each of those realms have a few specific type of beings that live in them.  Asgard is the realm of the Gods in Norse Myth.  Here Odin lives.  Helheim is the realm of the dead.  Jotenheim is the realm of the Giants.  Vanaheim is where the Vanir live.  Alfheim is the realm of the light elves.  Swartvelheim is the realm of the dark elves or dwarves.  Midgard is earth.  Nifelehim and Muspelheim are realms of fire and ice.

In Norse religion understanding how these realms interact and how they work together is a part of the basics.  Here you have seen the realms that are involved in this cosmology and you have been introduced to the concept of a few of the spiritual beings that are encountered in the Norse/Germanic Myths.

Holidays and special occasions

One of the main things people think about in religions are the holidays.  What are the sacred and special days of the Gods and spirits of this path.  These holidays provide times for worshiping and or strengthening relationships with the Gods and spirits.  Some times holidays provide further ways to examine the lore and engage in cultural activities that were specific to that holiday and that time of year.

Some cultures have massive holiday schedules.  The Hellenic holiday calender is very complex and long.  Those who seek to practice Greek Paganism often have a long list of holidays to choose from.  Each of the holidays had a specific reason for being there and some of them were specific to certain Gods and cults.  The major holiday in Hellenic paganism that most look into the the festival surrounding the Elysian Mysteries.

With pagans who have complex festival cycles and associations they can often choose which ones to follow.  Typically you find the holidays that were the most important to the Gods that you are worshiping in that culture.  For example those who are close to Dionysus, Demeter, and Persephone would definitely be doing something for the festival of the Elysian mysteries while a Greek Pagan dedicated more to Pan would find festivals for Pan.

This illustrates the key point I wanted to make with the holidays.  There is a major misconception that all pagan paths follow the 8 sabbats or the wheel of the year as it is known and seen in Wicca and Wicca flavored Pagan paths.  Asatru does not have the 8 sabbats.  There are 4 of them but not all 8.  Hellenismos has lots of festivals.  Other religions have only one or two that are key components.

Ethics and Morals

Every path out there seeks to teach the idea of what is right and what is wrong.  Many spiritual paths form the basis for how we as individual treat each other.  Some paths have been so influential on cultures that the ethical considerations of that religion have formed the basics of how that culture interacts with people.  Basically ethics influence how we act as a person and how we act in society to other people and with other people.

The rede is the basic ethical outline considerations for Wiccan styled pagan paths.  The idea is that you basically do what ever you want so long as you harm none.  The rede even states: “an it harm none do what ye will”.  This is the way many witches who follow Wicca inspired paths live their lives.  Other witches follow different ethical considerations that are more informative.

Some paths don’t call their ethical or moral codes ethical and moral codes.  Some paths call them virtues.  The Germanic paths idea of how you should live life has a set of what they call the nine nobel virtues.  These virtues outline personal behavior as well as different types of actions that can be found.

Here is another meme that lists the nine noble virtues:

Nine Nobel Virtues

By knowing the ethical standards of a path a person can get an idea of what sort of lifestyle they can have.  The idea of the morals and ethics are the ideas behind how the Gods want their followers to behave.  Often times these ideas include day to day life as well as during conflicts and social settings.  The ideas in the ethics are what that path considers to be a good person and living a good life.

Conclusion

This entry here has given you an idea of what the basics of any particular faith are.  The examples given come from some of the most popular pagan and spiritual paths.  Its important to understand what the basics of a religion or magical path is before you start to get to deep into studies.  The basics of the paths provide everything you need to know to understand the beliefs and practices of that particular path and practice.  If you understand the basic concepts before you step too deeply in the path, you can have an understanding on if those beliefs and concepts resonate with your personal beliefs and concepts.

Once you understand the basics of a path you can then start to take your studies deeper.  With Norse paganism you can start to spend time to study and experience the various realms.  You can look at other practices including magical traditions in the Norse belief systems.  You can find ways to look at the basics and become deeper involved with them.  Once you know the basics its all building from there.

Though a true seeker knows that revisiting the basics is at time a good thing to do.  It strengthens foundations and deepens experiences with more advanced concepts and practices within the belief system you have chosen to follow.  Once you know the basics you can start to also go off and create your personal understandings and developments spiritually.  The basics give us a strong base from which to grow our understandings of that universe.

 

Pagan Blog Project D: Direction, Decisions, & Divination

Crossroads1

 

Direction and Decisions

The last few posts have given you several things to think about as a seeker.  As you have thought about those things and your own beliefs you should have compiled or started to find a list of belief systems or religions that match up to what you are looking for to some extent.  These religions and spiritual paths should have as many things related to your beliefs as possible.  You may find there are a few which only have a few of your major beliefs in them but not all of them.  That is ok.  The point is you have a list of paths and options.  No what do you do?

You need to make some choices.  You need to make some decisions on where you want to go now.  There are options.  Now you need to choose.  So how to choose?

Direction

Right now you may have a list of belief systems you are eager to explore that have things you want to explore.  There may be many parallels in beliefs to what you hold.  This is a good position to be in.  It means you know what you believe you are just looking for more structure and concepts to develop from.  You are looking for direction.   Having a direction in which to focus allows stability and confidence building.  Focusing on one specific direction can and will deepen spirituality.

Choosing that direction can be difficult.  I myself look over all the paths I have studied that have things I believe in and wonder where I should go in my studies. I’m sort of in a cross roads right now myself as well which is part of the reason for writing this post.  Directions can and will change in your studies and as your path and your spirituality grows.  This is also a good sign that you have learned a lot in one area but need to grow in another.  By changing directions and choosing a new direction when you start you already really begin to grow.

So to begin choosing your direction you should look at two of the paths or religions that inspire you the most.  These are good places to start your exploration.  These will be the focus of your deciding factor. You will still want to read about and research the other paths out there that interest you.  There is a reason they are interesting to you.  They have something to offer that you will benefit from.  For now though having one direction or focus is essential.

This direction will for some time be the focus of your studies and growth.  You will use this to establish your foundation if you are new to exploring spiritual options.   Here you will start to establish relationships with specific gods and spirits according to the path you choose to walk.  Here after you do additional study you may want to then do a dedication and deeper studies for a while before exploring elsewhere.  The point is the direction you pick will be the foundation of your spiritual home and your path.

If you have been exploring spirituality your new direction will add a new level to your spirit house and you will have a deeper knowledge base to choose from.  This will expand your spiritual awareness.  You will probably meet new guides and spirits in the new direction you choose to explore.  Your previous understandings will develop and may slightly change.  You are reaching the next level in spirituality and practice as it were.

Making the decisions

Now that I have highlighted the reasons for choosing one direction rather than exploring multiple paths at once it is time to explain and go over how you can make the decision for yourself.  There are many ways you can make the decision about which path to take.   I am going to list them here and then go into each one in a bit more detail.  In the end there are two ways you can really go about making this.  You can do a soul and spiritual searching of it or you can do some practical work.  You can also do a combination.

Spiritual decision making aids

Here are the spiritual and insightful methods. There is a meditation method.  There is the prayer method.  You have divination through cards or even using a pendulum.  You finally have the what does my heart say about what I know about this path right now method.  All of these methods involve working with a spirit or some aspect of the hidden self you have to contact in some form.  Now I will expand on each of those methods.

I am going to start with the meditative method.  The meditative method actually comes in two forms.  The first form involves contact with your own spirit guides and guardians for advice.   The second form of the meditative method is a bit more introspective yet just as effective.  Both are in a meditative state so they are both the meditative method of making your decisions.

The first meditative method to discuss then is the method where you contact your spirit guides and guardians.  Here you can go into a meditative state and contact your spirit guides and guardians for advice.  You can give them an idea of why you are having difficulties with this decision.  You can ask them where they think you should go.  They may give you an idea or they may show you something that you have to think about.    Either way through contacting your spirit guides you have been given their insight on the matter which should prove useful for your own decision making.

The second meditative method is less about spirit guides and more about yourself and your thoughts.  The idea here is that you will get into a meditative state and you will be able to focus on asking yourself the question “which path is mine?”.  You may find symbols appear that relate to one path.  That is your answer.  You may even find yourself brought on some sort of vision quest by your higher self.  That quest there and that experience there.  Either way your answer comes from yourself, your heart, and your spirit.

The prayer method is a method that many people use.  Here you will work on praying to spirits or guides for the answer.  If there are specific Gods and Goddesses in either path that you are interested in more than others you can pray to them.   If there is a specific type of spirit found in each culture you are interested in you can also pray to them. You can also pray to both pantheons in a general reaching out prayer and see who answers.    The same thing applies to the various spirit entities found in the different paths.

When you are working with the prayer method you are leaving the answer to the question up to the Gods and the spirits.  In the end it will be them who make the decision about accepting your worship or working with you or not.  You can not force a deity or spirit to work with you that is not willing to work with you.  For this reason many people recommended prayers above other methods.  All of the methods I am telling you about are useful and worth trying.  I do have to agree that prayer is one of the more powerful ways to connect with willing spirits and Gods.

Divination methods of decision making

Divination is a method that takes many forms.  Here you have tarot cards and oracle cards.  You also have pendulums and scrying.  Channeling is also a form of divination.  In using divination you are spending the time contacting the spirits directly.  From how you connect to the spirits the various forms work to provide the answer.

In the oracle card methods (tarot decks and other decks) the answer comes out through the meaning of the cards pulled. By looking at the order the cards were pulled and where they stand in the reading your answer can be interpreted.  There are thousands of different oracle decks out there.  Tarot cards are one form.  Doreen Virtue has several oracle decks out there as well.  In working with these decks you will find that some card decorations and symbols speak to you more than others.  Those are the decks you want to work with.

On to Pendulums! With the pendulum you will have a movement answer for yes and a different answer for no.  One of the best ways to use a pendulum in this fashion would be to hold the pendulum over the text of the paths you are interested.  Ask it if its for you.  The answer will be in the movement.  Do it over the other text and see the answer.  If you don’t get an answer from either of those you may just need to take more time or try another method.

Now not everyone has a stone pendulum.  That is ok.  I am going to share a secret with you.  Ready?  Every one can make one themselves.  Yes.  You can make a pendulum yourself with objects you have around your house.  If you have string or something to suspend the item with you can make a pendulum.  The best examples are taking a necklace chord unused and put a ring in the center.  Then hold the necklace with the ring suspended.  Ask it for yes and ask it for no.  Presto instant pendulum.

Scrying is the next item on the list.  Scrying is basically starting into a reflective surface and relaxing your gaze.  After some time an image will appear.  There are many methods and ways of accomplishing this methods.  You have the fire method which can include candles, campfires, wood stoves, and much more.  There is the water method.  Here you can use ice, a glass of water, a lake, a pond, or basically any form of water you can think of.  Other methods include using a reflective mirror made for that purpose or through using a crystal ball.  Other people may be able to use incense smoke of fire smoke to scry.  Try it and good luck.

Channeling is the final method that was mentioned as a way of working divination.  In channeling you basically call a spirit into your body or mind for the answer.  You ask them the question and they will be answer.  This is the process that mediums use.  If you are not comfortable speaking you can try the same method with automatic writing using a paper and pen to let the spirit basically write down the answers to the question.

So I have given several different ways you can work divination to get an answer.  The idea behind divination is that you are working with a spirit or your higher self for an answer.  The answer is coming from outside of you.  The only real difference between these styles mentioned is the fact that they all use different techniques.  The philosophy behind their use and why they work though is basically the same.

Spirits and Gods can be powerful allies in answering questions.  They have access to wisdom that we do not have.  They can also be very powerful teachers in our spiritual development.  All of the above methods are ways of contacting these guides and beings for assistance in making the decision about the path you are about to take.  I must be mentioned however the above methods of making a decision with spiritual aids can be used for other situations in life.  Here they are just used as tools in choosing your spiritual paths.

 

Practical decision making tools

I have just spent some time illustrating ways that you can combine looking for a spiritual and religious path with doing active spiritual path work and spiritual development.  While these tools are important to be used in working with spiritual choices there are other options.  You can use your day to day decision making tools as well to work with this. 

What are your day to day decision making tools?  Well there are a few.  You have pros and cons, evaluating available information on the topic at hand, space and time, economic, and you also have emotional aspects to play into this as well.  Anything you would use to make a decision in the rest of your day to day life you can use for spiritual choices as well.

I’m going to start with a basic tool.  The pros and cons tool.  This tool allows you to list all the good things about taking this path.  It also gives you a place to list any issues or problems that could come up because of practicing this path.  You can if you feel the need to make a column for places of thoughts that are not an issue or a great thing but just there, or something you are not sure where it goes.  That would be the column for that.  When you have listed everything you can think of in one page for one path do it for the other path as well.  When you have done both take some time to rest before looking at them and comparing the three lists.

The tool of evaluating the amount of available information on a subject is actually quite important when choosing a path to work with.  There are some paths out there which have a lot more information on them than others.  This may have already been a consideration in the Pros and Cons aspect of the path.  For some people the lack of or overwhelming information of a spiritual paths practices can be a key reason in their interest in pursuing it.  You should consider this as you look at your options for paths.

The factors of space to practice, time to practice, and the economic aspect may actually all fall together under one thing which is can I practice this path where I am now with what I have now?  Some cultures have rituals that require elaborate dances or at least a lot of movement for space to work the spiritual paths.  Other paths may work with herbs that are expensive and exotic or out of your reach.  How much time will it take to perform the ritual?  These are all things to think about.  If you can’t effectively perform the rites where you are with what you have is it worth investing your spiritual energy into spirits and Gods that may not respond for lack of traditional rituals?

Finally one thing we all use in our day to day decisions is our emotional reactions.  Some of us are going to have stronger emotional reactions to the tales and legends of spirits and Gods than others will.  Looking at the emotional reactions we have to thinking about the culture, the myths, and the powers we read about in some cultures may be where we should be looking for answers.  Here is a personal example.  I for one have always been fascinated by Egyptian Gods and myths as well as their culture.  Yet when I read the myths I feel no emotional response.  I had no interest previously in looking at the Germanic Gods.  However when I read the myths and legends I had an emotional response.  This proved to give me insight into my spiritual direction.  I urge you to look at your emotional responses to myths and legends as you read them.

 

Conclusion

In this blog post I have given you several tools to use to make your decisions regarding which paths to study and follow when you are attracted to multiple paths.    You can always go back and explore the other paths after you have done some study and practice of the first path you choose.  I strongly believe that we can all find truths in every path out there.  It is just up to us to find them as individuals.

 

*Photo found on http://www.alanbrookscrossroads.com/*

D: Dedication

Dedication

The subject of this post is something that I actually have to think long and hard about.  Lately when I think about it I can’t honestly say that I have been fulfilling my honest statement of being dedicated to serving my readers and myself on my personal spiritual journey.  The last few weeks have been full of self doubt and self assessment.  To be honest I even asked myself what right I had to run and even continue to post on a blog dedicated to helping newbies and seekers find their own paths.

I honestly felt that there was no reason for me to continue posting this blog.  I have had a crisis of self esteem and self worth.  It just hit me recently that while I may not be exactly where I thought I would be at this point in my life I am exactly where Fate has dictated I belong.  This for me was a central part of accepting my current situation and current feelings of worthlessness.

During this time I have had to take a look at where I stand spiritually.  I have to admit I have never completed any training beyond my Reiki 1 certification.  I am proud to be a dedicant in the Temple Tradition.  This to me also shows and states quite a bit about the truth regarding myself.  I consider myself dedicated to the truths of witchcraft and finding my own path.

So this post is about the process of dedication and what exactly dedication means.  It is actually something that I consider several times a year as I look at my studies in witchcraft, paganism, philosophy, and magic.  With everything that I want to do in my life I have to make sure I study diligently .

Dedication or Initiation?

One of the most common things that new witches find in books on solitary witchcraft is a self initiation ritual.  A self initiation ritual does not work.  One can not self initiate.  To be initiated means that you are being brought into the religion or tradition.  You can not bring yourself into a religion or tradition.  You can however perform a dedication ritual announcing to the Gods and yourself that you are going to be following their path.

As a person seeks their spiritual path they are going to have to decide at some point if they want to a solitary practitioner (alone or maybe with a close friend or family member or if they want to seek out a group.  There are benefits to both of these choices.  I have never been a member of a group so I can’t speak for the benefits, though I am seeking one for fellowship and joint worship.  Groups may call for initiation rituals (Any British Traditional Witchcraft coven will require it and other traditions are also initiatory).  This is choice will found the rest of your path for the near future.

Types of dedication rituals

As dedication rituals are personal there are many different ways and many different types of doing a dedication ritual.  When I am exploring the worship of a religion I have not studied I perform a different type of dedication ritual than I do when I committing myself to the worship of specific set of deities.  All of these dedications are important rituals to be taken seriously.  Each type signifies a different level of commitment to a relationship with deities.

The first type of dedication is one of an introduction.  An introduction ritual is one where you are telling the Gods that you want to learn about them and their worship.  That you are opening yourself to them and that you are finding your path.  In this way you are not saying that you are going to stick around forever but that you are exploring and wishing to get to know them.

Here is a simple introduction ritual.  It is this ritual I have used when I introduced myself to the Germanic pantheons.  I will make similar rituals when I go back and study Hellenic Paganism, Roman Paganism, and Kemetic recon.  This ritual is only used when I am simply saying “Hi.  I’m…. I want to learn more about you and will try to honor you as I study about you, your culture, and your history”.  For me it is a sign of respect to introduce yourself before you start blindly studying and working on a base relationship.

Introductory Ritual:

Supplies:

White Candle

Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense

 Sea Salt

Table to work as an altar  (see Altar entry 1 and Altar entry 2 )

Water

Ritual:

Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”

Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water.  State “With salt this water is pure”

Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.

Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.

Go to the altar and light the candle.

Here is where the ritual is going to essentially different for each person.  Every culture and every religious tradition out there will have a different sort of prayer style.  Some prayers are invocatory and others are more free form.  This is where a seekers early research should pay off as they should have some sort of idea as to what rituals the Gods of that pantheon like.  This is where you will state in ritual and prayer you intent to learn about them and is the first step in developing a relationship with the deities.

Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind

Sit in silence for a few minutes.

Go to the what ever you are offering.

Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”

Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.

Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day

You have to keep in mind that was just a simple outline for some one who has no real experience or any real knowledge of ritual structure and organization.  The more experience you have the more complexity you can add to the ritual if you so choose.  This ritual was simple because it is simply an introduction and they can be very simple.

The second type of dedication ritual is one that is sort of like a marriage.  You are committing yourself to your path for actual service to the Gods.  During this point in time you will have many trials and tests as you figure out your role and what the deities want from you.  Some its teaching, others it’s healing.  Some people never quite find exactly what the deities they worship want out of them for service, so they do what comes naturally to them or they simply continue to hold rituals in honor the memory of the Gods they worship.

One thing I did for the longest time to help me gain confidence and keep on track with my spiritual studies and practices was to do a renewal ritual.  This ritual always renewed my spirit in the process.  It also always brought me back into myself and into my place in my studies.  It also always seemed to bring me closer to the deities I had introduced myself to.

Recomitment ritual:

Supplies:

White Candle

Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense

 Sea Salt

Table to work as an altar  (see Altar entry 1 and Altar entry 2 )

Water

Ritual:

Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”

Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water.  State “With salt this water is pure”

Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.

Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.

Go to the altar and light the candle.

Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind

Sit in silence for a few minutes.

Go to the what ever you are offering.

Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”

Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.

As you place your offering state your promise to start serving with more honesty and more dedication.  Announce proudly that you are giving yourself to service to these Gods for however long you are planning to keep at this level of service.

Look for any signs in your dreams or day to day life that the deities are listening to you and ready to accept your service to them.

Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day.

The ritual you see out there is one of my reasons for having such a strong connection with the Germanic deities.  I have spent a lot of time working ritual in honor of the Germanic deities.  It has fostered my relationships with several different deities in the Germanic pantheon.  In some ways this is a connection to my believed ancestral path.

The last name of Boynton is very Germanic.  There is a shire in Yorkshire England which holds the name Boynton.  My research has indicated that this shire would have been under control of the Saxxons.  This is a place I need to visit when I next visit England. I mean a shire which has the same name as my biological surname?  How can I not visit that place?    In which case the Germanic pantheon (which includes the Anglo’s, The Saxon’s, The Franks, The Norse, and several more tribes) would be a home coming for me which is what it felt like to me.

The third type of ritual is one that indicates a more serious commitment. In this final dedication ritual you are completely giving yourself to everything any anything that the deities you worship desire.  This is a very difficult and very important type of ritual that will cement your future.  Here you are asking to become an active priest or priestess.

The final dedication is one of an initiation from the Gods.  When witches talk about how only the Gods can initiate and make some one a priest or priestess of their path this is the sort of ritual that they have in mind.  This is a life changing ritual and is one of deep meaning. It is this ritual where you finally accept what it is that the Gods truly desires.

This is where one becomes a true servant of the Gods.  You are not only doing rituals for the Gods, but you are also offering services to the community.  You may start doing more volunteer work, you may teach a few people, you may even become an interfaith Chaplin.  In accepting the true mantle of what it means to be a member of the clergy (a true priest and priestess) one has given all that they are to their deities.

Remember when I said that a person would have to choose between being a solitary practitioner and as a member of a group and how I mention that BTW requires an initiation of sorts? The level of commitment that this dedication entails is the same as an initiation into a BTW Coven.  How can I say that with out actually being initiated into BTW?  It’s simple.  I have enough friends within various BTW traditions both with valid initiations and one oath breaker related tradition to say for sure that initiation into BTW makes you a priestess of those deities.  That means that within your coven and in your day to day life you are serving the needs of those Gods in what ever way they need from you. That is the sort of commitment that this level of dedication and initiation requires.

I am actually at this point in the development of my own witchcraft tradition.  I have yet to formalize the arrangement through a ritual.  This is something I am working on.  I have some what reluctantly accepted the mantled of priestess.  Perhaps this is the only way I can develop access to the mysteries that my Gods have instore for me.  For this reason I can not give a sample ritual.  If you are looking for some ideas you might want to look at:

  • A witches Bible By Stewart Farrar
  • What witches do by Stewart Farrar
  • Solitary Wicca by Scott Cunningham
  • Witchcraft for Today by Gerald Gardner
  • Wicca for One by Raymond Buckland
  • The Outer Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczack

A: Altars Phase 2-specific practice and path requirements

Last week my post was dedicated to the beginner and the start of building an altar.  As I said building an altar can seem very overwhelming to a beginner.  The same problem can be seen to occur with people have have been on their path for a while or have finally chosen their specific paths after a lot of exploration.  This post here is going to address how a more advanced pagan can develop altars specifically dedicated to their paths.

Phase 2:

Path specific altars and specificity

Last week I mentioned that some paths have very specific altars and there are some times reasons why you may need to change your altar for a specific sabbat, spell, rituals or activity.  The more you read and research the more ideas and concepts you may want to try.  For this reason it’s important to understand the rituals and the magical practices you are exploring .  You may need to have different supplies from those supplies that you started with.

This post will cover a few specific points on the topic of seasonal, magical, and path specific points.  Each one of these points will illustrated why there really is no wrong way to set up your altar unless you are on a very specific path.  Like I said in my previous post exploration, trial and error are going to be all you need.

The topics covered here will be:

  • Eclectic witchcraft altars
  • Brittish Traditional Wicca altars
  • Traditional witchcraft altars
  • 8 sabbat altars (Wicca and witchcraft)
  • Ceremonial magic
  • Asatru altars and items used
  • Hellenic (Greek worship)
  • Religio Romano (Roman worship)

Each of these paths have very specific altars and ritual tools.  Each of these paths have specific ritual forums for which their altars are designed.  Each of these altars has a different use and different specific ways to be used in the altars.  I’ll start with what I practice myself.  That way I can ease into the paths I have explored but have little to no personal experience with.  I am always studying and I am always willing to try something new, but lets start with that which I know.

Eclectic Witchcraft Altars:

Eclectic altar 1

As an eclectic witch there are really no real limits and style for the altar.  However there are some common themes in the altar set up.  Ultimately each witch has to choose how to make their own altar based on what works for them and how they worship the God and Goddess or the spirits they work with.  This is where the comments of my last post and directions of my last post come into play.  I will however list a few of the common traits and guidelines I have come across for more dynamic and specific worship set up.

Altar direction:

One of the most confusing things about an altar can be what direction it’s supposed to face in ritual.  Some authors say the altar should face north.  Other say it should face east or west.  Very few authors I have encountered over my studies have suggested that the altar should face south for fire.  When a seeker or an advanced practitioner may set out to set up their altar for ritual they still may ask themselves where they should place the altar in the circle and if they want to have the altar face a certain direction.

I have found for myself that ideally my altar would be placed in the center of the circle facing no specific direction.  While yes the altar will ultimately be facing a direction I find no reason for me to be worrying about if my altar faces the wrong way.  For me the altar is the center of my worship structure.  It is there where I place my offerings and where I place my tools during the altar.  Which is why I would prefer to have it in the center of my circle.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always work when you have limited space for ritual and moving all the furniture is not a reasonable option.

One of the other reasons I like having the altar in the center of my circle is that during ritual if I am going to use ecstatic practices such as dance, scourging,  movement, or even the basic circle dance it becomes much easier to move around.  It also makes it easier for me to define a very specific ritual area and I’m able to work ritual with in that area thus creating such a special sacred space.  For many reason this makes it easier for worship and magical practices.

Elemental symbols on the altar

Most of the books out there mention that as part of ritual and practice there should be some basic symbols of the elements on the altar.  Much of the modern witchcraft philosophy plays into the thought that each of the elements is involved in every part of magic and worship.  Many witches believe in the Gods and elemental spirits that rule the winds and the powers of those elemental. This practice was firs seen in the Golden Dawn.  Since modern witchcraft as we know it has its origins with the OTO and other forms of ceremonial magic as well as the local natural magic and folk practices of the Isle of man I can understand how Gardner (father of the witchcraft renaissance) formed the practices together.  I appreciate this practice and have come to my own understanding of the elemental spirits and guides.

As a witch or magician there are many ways to work with the elements in magic and ritual.  For many people there is a red candle for fire, a bowl of salt for earth, a bowl of water for water, and some form of incense for the representation of air.  In my early days on my path this was something I had chosen to do on my own. It was simple and it was a very effective mode for my early years and some of my time when my living arrangements were less than grand for  my religious and spiritual practices.

Aside from symbols that are literal representation of the elements there have often been tools used in ritual to invoke and call in the elements during the practice of circle casting.  Sometimes the water and salt mentioned above are used in the invocation, but more often than not there are other tools involved within the rituals.  Typically these are the athame (ritual dulled dagger), the wand, a bell,  and occasionally the drums.  There will be more talk of the elements and the common elemental tools when I make my post on the elements.  For now I’ll post an altar that has the elements mentioned and get on to the next type of altar, a traditional Wiccan altar.

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

British Traditional Wicca Altars

There are only a small collections of  BTW traditions.  The traditions that are identified as BTW are:

  • *Gardnerian
  • *Alexandrian
  • *Mohsian
  • *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
    • -Silver Crescent
    • -Kingstone
    • -Daoine Coire
    • -Assembly of Wicca
    • -Majestic

    there are some very specific structures to the altar and it has to be set up this way.  One of the reasons for that is that Wicca is a tradition defined as:

  • *Inititory
    • *Lineage
    • *Oathbound
    • *Orthopraxy
    • *Mystery
    • *experiential
    • *fertility
    • *witchcult

It is the orthopraxic nature of Wicca which is addressed in this post.  The set up a BTW altar is going to be very specific.  While they may change with various rituals in general the set up of BTW altars is set up a specific way.  This plays largely into how they work rituals and how it’s vastly different than how eclectic practice rituals and use their altars.  BTW is a coven based religion as such there would only be the coven’s set of tools on the altar and personal tools would be on your person.

BTW altar

There are different set ups for initiation and different sabbats.  The Farrar’s in their book A witches Bible they had diagrams for the various altars that they were using.  While it’s true that there are oathbound practices and lore, the Farrars gave enough information to get the concepts needed behind the placement and purposes of the items that a seeker would be able to have some concepts behind what they were exploring.

I have never been initiated into a Wiccan coven.  So I have nothing more than the understanding of a seeker.  I have a few friends that are initiates and I have been seeking more and more.  While I am not specifically seeking Wicca at this point I am seeking truth and wisdom found in witchults and witchcraft traditions.

Traditional Witchcraft

Traditional witchcraft is yet another form of witchcraft.  The basic difference between those who identify as Wiccan and those who are practice the common form of Eclectic witchcraft is that Traditional witchcraft is more focused on the practices of witches that occurred pre-Gardner.  Traditional witchcraft focuses on folklore from various cultures and the central theme is ancestral worship (which is discussed in my other blog).  In many ways the tools and the actual worship is more land based and more nature oriented than the typical eccelctic path as it explores in depth all aspects of life and creation as well as death and destruction and the relationships between them.

This is reflected often in their altars.  There are two ways traditional witches can set up their altars.  The first is:

altar in a more traditional sense

altar in a more traditional sense

The second type of altar is the prefered style of many traditional witches.  Traditional witches in many ways prefer to have their worship outside as the conection the the land is much more powerful.  Even a few of their sacred space techniques would be much more powerful outside than inside.  It’s the nature of their practice:

Stang as an altar

Traditional witchcraft altar

The third image is what the second image often starts out with during the initial prep.  Instead of a table the Stang (the forked staff) when planted into the earth is used to hold ritual tools and items as well as be the center of the worship.  The stand is often associated with the world tree and thus is a central part of the worship in traditional witchcraft.

I have a stang and a staff.  One day I will use them in ritual together.  For now I have other influences from traditional witchcraft in my path which I will get into little by little in these posts or in my other blog.  My main influence from traditional witchcraft now aside from my underworld views, is having an ancestral altar:

My ancestral altar

My ancestral altar

Now I am on the last topic that is directed specifically towards the nature of witchcraft religions and practices.  This last practice is tied directly into the lore of each of the sabbats and how each witch practices those sabbats.  So here we go,

Altars for the 8 sabbats

The 8 sabbats in the various forms of religious witchcraft are one of the primary ways they connect with and worship their deities. Each sabbat leads into a key point or mystery of the nature of the universe and the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth.   The sabbats also go over the nature of the dynamic relationship of the God and Goddess they worship.

Each sabbat will there for have a unique altar setting.  In many witchcraft traditions the winter solstice or Yule is considered to be the start of the cycle.  I however feel that the cycle actually begins with the midwinter holiday of Imbolc.

Imbolc

Imbolc has always been associated with the birth of new animals.  There is the symbolsim of milk being the first food for mammals and it’s prcesseses.  Here we are able to really plan for the start of the year and the growing season to come.  Its where in ancient times Farmers would finally start to have a source of income from the milk and cheese which would provide needed nutrition and additions to the diet that has been upon them since the last harvest.

I see this as where the God is born of the Goddess.  That is why I believe the wheel of the year starts here at Imbolc.  The altars at this time of year are decorated with signs of the light really returning and plans for the future.

Imbolc Altar

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

Ostara: Spring Equinox

The next sabbat in the cycle is the sppring equinox.  The sun has really returned.  The day and night will be of equal length.  The light has been increasing slowly since Imbolc but now it has returned.  Here is really the symbol of rebirth.  The trees have spread their leaves and there are more buds coming from the ground.  Planting is in progress and the animals born at the time of Imbolc are starting to be more independent (baby chicks and bunnies for example).

Ostara Altar

Here at Ostara the Goddess is as a maiden young and innocent and the God is a boy of around the same age (I typically picture between 4 and 7).  They are just starting to explore and understand the world.  This sabbat is essentially about the freedom of inspiration and imagination that is often lost after childhood.  Its about growth and development hopefulness and a zest for life.

Beltaine

This is one of the highest holy days in many of these traditions.  Here sex and sensuality are explored and celebrated.  In the cycle of the year the God has reached sexual maturity and is going to be taking the maiden he met at Ostara and enjoying the nature of sexuality and sexual contact.  This is also known as May day.  Here the God will give the Goddess his seed and she will be carrying his child (to be born at Imbolc).

Beltaine Altar

Litha: Summer solstice

Litha is the height of summer. Its the summer solstice.  The light is in full swing.  Crops are starting to be grown and some are being harvested already.  The Goddess is pregnant with growth and glowing with maternal pride.  The sun gives her fertility for growth every day.  As the sun heats so do the crops grow and develop.

Summer solstice altar

Summer solstice altar

Lammas or loaf mass:

This is the first of the three harvest festivals.  The summer is reaching it’s end.  The grains of the summer are ready to be harvest at this time.  This will be ground and separated into feed for the animals and flour for bread and biscuits and the like.  Some fruits are enjoyed and loved at this time.    The rituals here are typically around harvesting the first hard work of the spring and enjoying the fruits of that labor.  There are a lot of rituals involving the sacrifice of grain and the blood of the “sacrificed king”.  It is believed that the God is sacrificed here so that the land will remain fertile between now and the end of the growing season.

Lammas altar

The lord of the grain has been given up so that the lord of the animals and winter could take over the land slowly.  The blood spilled will nourish the land.  This can also be seen in how the sun seems to be dying at this time of the year.  The difference in light has started to be more noticeable with more night starting to be more in control.

This summer I experienced that change and power during the camping trip that I mentioned in my welcome back post.  I was able to forget everything and just revel in the power of nature and the dying of the sun enjoying the last of his life before the darkness takes control and his real underworld journey to be reborn begins.

The wheel continues to turn and we turn to where the light and the dark are equal.

Mabon: The Fall Equinox

Mabon is the second harvest.  The majority of the harvest is being harvested and enjoyed.  There is plenty of food to go around.  In many ways this harvest has been described as the witches thanksgiving and I wold have to agree that that is true.  The god’s essence is being given to the people through the food they eat.  The Goddess is mourning the loss of her love and is nurturing his son growing with in her womb.  Here the focus starts to be more on the animals.  This is the time of year when hunting and gathering would truly begin.  This is why we have hunting seasons to this day.

Mabon Altar

Mabon Altar

Samhain/Halloween/Ancestor night

This is the most famous holiday of witches.  Many of the traditions associated with the Halloween stories and decorations have roots in various witch lore and history.  The green skin, the crooked teeth, the hat, and many more come from witch trails and lore as well as other folk lore.  The dressing up as goblins or other “scary” spirits was done when traveling from place to place at this time to scare away malevolent spirits crossing over.  The essence of the “haunted season” is in that spirits of all sorts are more active on this week.

This is also the last harvest festival.  It also the night where the ancestors can cross over and visit their living loved ones.  This is why there are so many traditions relating to crossing over at this time of year.  The veil between the underworld and the world of the living and life as we understand it is at its thinest.

Samhain altar

Samhain altar

As you can see the altar both represents that which is alive and that which is dead.  The seeds of the harvested plants can be gathered and prepared as the stalks and leaves fade and dye.  The  seasonal leaved trees have almost all lost their leaves while the evergrees are still vibrant.  Life and death are equal here and now.

The God has descended into the Underworld and is ready to start his journey to be reborn.  Part of his essence remains in the land and in the forest as the Lord of the wilderness and in the Goddess as the Lord of the sun and grain yet to be born).

Yule: Winter solstice

This is the final sabbat in the wheel of the year,  This sabbat is the day when the night overcomes the day.  Here we are now in a time of the underworld.  Nothing can really grow at this time of year and we are dependent on the food that was stored during the harvests.  The animals have been slain so that now only the strongest and best remain.  It is the time to reflect on everything that was done that year and to start thinking about how the new year will bring new opportunities and will be a time for changes of what will be needed.

In essence the spirit of the God is reborn with in the people.  They feel the sun and inspiration and hope for the future growing with in them.  They also start to understand that even though some real tough times are ahead until planting begins they can get through it.  It will be the last time they can really celebrate and renew themselves for the next year.

The sun is reborn on the morning after the solstice as it is from that that we know the sun will overcome the darkness.  This is how we know the God lives and will exist again.  His shadow is still slightly in power as the symbols of this time are reindeer and evergreen forests.  These are symbols of the God as the Lord of the Hunt and the Lord of the animals and how they live together.

The first altar will be one of my own Yule altars and the next altar will be one for a generic concept of the season

My Winter Solstice Altar

My Winter Solstice Altar

Yule altar

Yule altar

Now the wheel turns and brings us back to Imbolc which was the first seasonal altar I posted.  I hope this gives you and understanding of how different altars can be made and created for specific holidays and celebrations,  Now I will get into the last real magic and directly Occult type of altar I planed to discuss.

Ceremonial Magic

Ceremonial magic is one where the altar has direct symbols for the elements and is focused on a connection with the God head.  In many ways it is often connected with Christianity and Christian mysticism.  The truth is the early forms of ceremonial magic were based on Christian Occult and mystery practices.  Here was where you could find the practices of “Christian Magic”.

Many of the rituals are based on calling in the arch angles and the invocation of their power into the magical space and to help empower the magical actions being taken.   This rite can be traced back to the Ritual in short hand known as the LGBRP which means the Lesser Greater Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  I am trained in this ritual and have used it many times. This is a complex ritual which I will go over in length when I have my post on ceremonial magic. In essence you call in the four arch angles to protect the space while vibrating the various names of Yaweh to sanctify the space and prepare it for magical ritual and practice.

I have said before that I practice a form of dragonic witchcraft and magic.  This is very true.  That practice is very ceremonial.  The opening ritual is very much designed after the LGRBP.  I call upon the dragon guardians and guides that I have a relationship with rather than angels.  The symbolsim is in the structure of the ritual, the tools used, and the altar.

The tools mentioned in the eclectic witchcraft altars can trace their origin to the LGRBP and many other rituals performed by the OTO.  Gardner who was the one who crafted the new form of religious witchcraft as we know and see it to day was a member of the OTO and other occult practices.  This played into how he crafted the religion of Wicca.

The altars I have shown above may very much resemble this altar:

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Ceremonial magic altar

It is what I would use more often than not in the presence of a Christian friend who wished to attend my ritual.  This is also where the heremetic philosophies of the Kyballion allow for there to be witchy changes and views.  All of them are essentially the same practice, but the rituals are designed to be related to be specific to that path and that practice.

Draconic altar

Draconic altar

Finally I can start getting into some of the more path specific altars regarding more culture specific altars.  This next section is directed more towards those who have found the deities and the paths they follow.  Some of these are more recon style (recreating in modern day to the best of their ability the ancient religions of various cultures) and some are still semi inspired by previous eclectic practices.

Asatru & Other Germanic faiths

Asatru is the recon of the Norse beliefs and religion.  The focus is typically on the Aesir.  The primary sources of their lore is the poetry and the sagas of the Norse and Germanic people.  These inclde the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Sagas of the Icelanders, The Vinland Saga, and many more.  The altars and worship style is very simple and elegent.  Their rituals are known as a Sumbel or a Blot depending on the content and the like.  Both of those are other topics I will bring up over the course of this year.

I have two sample altars to show you:

Asatru sample altar 2

This is an altar that some one shared online.  The tools are simple and the ritual is still rather joyous and intimate.  The next altar shows what each item is called and as I said I’ll be going over this in more depth when I discuss Blots.

Asatru sample Altar

The next two religions are often discussed together as they are very much associated.  The first is Greek reconstruction often known as Hellenismos and the second is Religio Romano which is the reconstruction of the Roman paths.  There are some very substantial differences between the two paths.  To be honest I haven’t explored either of these paths as indepth as I would like.  While I do have an interest in both of those as they were the first deities I met and worked and worshiped as a teen my path and practices have lead me in other directions.

Hellelnismos

Hellenic Altar

Hellenic altar 2

Both altars are dedicated to the Olympic or Cthonic Gods.  There are very interesting cleanliness restrictions of these rituals and in their worship that in some ways to me is ridiculous.  However they also had the most sophisticated sanitation and irrigation systems than any other cultures of their time.

Religio Romano: Roman Reconstruction

The altar in the traditions of ancient Rome was called the larium,  There are specific designations for what goes on the larium and in the practices of their religion.  They also have very strict cleanliness requirements.  They also hold that if there is any mistake in the performance of a ritual they must cleanse themselves and the larium and start the ritual over from the begining.    It is a orthopraxic religion much like Wicca though they focus on any and all of the Roman Gods.

Religio Romano Altar 2

Religio Romano Altar

As you can see there are some very different altar structures and set ups for the different paths one may encounter as they seek.  You may find yourself attracted to one culture and want to learn more about how they were worshiped in ancient times and then find that you may find it’s to strict for you so you do something inspired by them.  That is why the first post was about seeking and basic introductions and the second post was mostly directed at specific paths and how they are different.

A: Altars-Phase 1- 6 key points and exercises to building an altar

This is the first post of the new year.  Once again I will be participating in the Pagan Blog Project.  The Pagan Blog Project involves one post a week on Friday based on the prompt of that week which will be a letter of the alphabet.  With 52 weeks that means each letter will be done twice.  So it’s appropriate that my first post of the year be a part of the project which got me writing and developing my audience.  With out further Ado:

Pagan Blog Project week 1: A

Altars:

The simplicity and the complexity

One of the first questions that many seekers ask themselves and look for an answer when they read a book is how to set up an altar.  To be honest this is something I have often asked myself.  Every path has a different style of worship and a different type of an altar.  This is why altar creation is often a confusing topic for seekers.

I have found that altar creation often goes and works in two phases.  The first phase is one of basic simplicity and progress of development spiritually, magically, religious or what ever.  The second phase is one of more specificity.  Here the path and orientation of the altar is more specific and designed for a specific path and practice.  While a person develops spiritually they may end up going through both phases multiple times to expand horizons and to develop the way they wish to.

So with out further ado here are the seven key tips and pointers I have found for altar creation and development during the first phase of the altar and spiritual guidance.  As a person evolves in their spiritual path their altar and how they use it will evolve with them.  The first stage may see a lot of changes rapidly and that is completely normal.  It’s important you try to be like water and adapt.

Seven points of Phase one

  • Define Altar
  • Figure out what style of altar you have in mind (ceremonial,shrine,easily hidden, permanent, easy up&Down, travel, indoors, out doors) each of these types of altars have different things to take into consideration.
  • With no specific deities or altar set up in mind let the altar build itself until you get a feel for where you are going (maybe start with a candle and some incense a statue, things that relate to your path, ect)
  • Tend to the altar regularly (spend time working with it, using it, making things for it, cleaning it, ect)
  • The Gods and spirits will guide you-let them
  • Experiment till you find what works for you

So let’s start with the first point as it then gets into the second point.

1) Define Altar

Any person who has spent any time reading books on meditation, psychic development, witchcraft, magic, spirituality, paganism, occult philosophies, magick and the like has read several different definitions of what an altar is and why it is used in that manner by that path.  For this I can understand why it can be difficult to try and understand how to develop your own altar and what you might want to put on it.

Here is my definition of an altar:

1: A work surface for magical workings (spells, crafting magical obejcts, consecration, ect)
2: A place for placing offerings for spirits and deities
3: A focal point in ritual to direct and manifest energy to be sent out during worship
4: A place dedicated to a very specific spirit or deity where prayers and rituals are offered

When I am working a ritual I typically use all four definitions at one time.  I often feel that in my religious and spiritual practices as well as philosophical experiments and practices I find a way to implement and use all four definitions.  In that way I have an altar for every need including two for a two very specific types of spirits (Dragon and ancestral).

Exercise 1:
Take a piece of paper and at the top of the page write out your concepts and ideas for what an altar is.
Include diagrams of how you might picture your own altar or altars

This brings us up to point 2:

2:  Figure out what type of altar you would like

In my outline and introduction I mentioned that there are many different types and styles of altars.  There are altars outdoors, altars set up in Temples, altars that take up a wall, simple altars, complex altars, path specific altars and many more.  In many cases books will provide some diagrams for altars, or can provide altars that look so complex and overwhelming that a new seeker and practitioner will get overwhelmed.  That’s why before any one starts to form an altar they need to have their definition and an ideas.

So remember those sketches I had you do?  You might have ended up with a diagram like this

Altar 8 simple and ceremonial altar

or this:

Book Altar Diagram

The important thing is that you may have some sort of idea in your mind.  This is great.  Part of coming up with your definition of an altar was coming up with how you were going to be using your altar in your spiritual and religious development.  With your definition you now have some idea where to start.  The second point here is to decide exactly what type of altar you are going to construct.

When you consider what type of altar you are going to build there are many considerations.  For one do you want to have an altar outside or do you want to have it inside?  Is your altar going to be up permanently or is it going to be put up and taken down when you need or desire to use and work with your altar?  Is you altar going to be open for any one to see or is it going to be hidden?  Before one can construct an altar they need these questions answered.

Exercise 2:
On a new piece of paper (or the back of the same paper) answer the following questions about your altar
Inside or out?
Hidden or open?

Permanent or only when needed?

Once that is done we can get onto the next set of questions related to figuring out what type of altar you are going to be setting up.  How you answered the above questions is going to dictate what happens next.  For example I myself want to have an outdoor altar but I don’t have one because I can’t.  For years I had to decide if I wanted to hide my altar or if I wanted it open and there was a time when it had to be hidden.  There were times when I could keep my altar up all of the time and there were times when I had to dismantle it after a ritual and setting up the altar actually became a part of the ritual.

Third exercise:
On the same piece of paper under the last three questions answer the next set of questions
Is my altar going to be ceremonial?
Is it a focal point for energy in ritual?
Do I want something simple or something complex?
Does my path require something specific at this point in my studies?

Now that you have decided on how you ultimately are going to set up your altar you can get on to point 3.

3: Let the altar Build itself

Now that you have an idea and decided what you want to do it’s time to start letting the altar build itself.  The first step is choosing where to place your altar.  If the altar is outside figure out where and how you are going to use it.  Think about if it’s going to be environmentally friendly (if permanently established outside or in a closed area).  Once you have that it’s time to build your altar.

Here you need to think about what you actually want to put on the altar.  As a starting point you may want a candle holder and and incense holder.  You may also want to put on any objects which seem to be spiritually important to you and help you focus.  What you start with may be impacted by your location and supplies on hand.  Never forget that you can use household candle holders and the like for your altars and rituals.

The simplest altar I have:

Altar 4

Here you can clearly see a single candle in a candle holder and two religious symbols one for the God and one for the Goddess.  You can also see that I am simply using the top of my dresser as the altar.  It’s a simple altar for basic daily affirmations and meditation exercises.  It was also used for focusing energy towards the spirit of the home and land before I could give the offerings to the spirit in person.

Some people freak out when they see an altar like this (not mine):

Altar 9 Complex Altar

Early in my seeker years the above picture is how I always figured a magicians and witches altar would look like.  I never felt my small altar (like the one pictured above) would actually work for magic.  Though all the books I read stressed the importance of making sure that your altar reflected yourself and what you had, I never felt comfortable and that I was doing it right even though I was doing what seemed to feel right.  This goes into the next exercise I have for you:

Exercise 4:
Find where you are going to build your altar and clean it.
Gather up the items you are going to place on your altar and place them to the side of the location.
As you put the items on the altar focus on the altar and it’s new purpose and keep an image in your mind of what you are using the altar for.
When done stand up and say something like a dedication prayer:
“I now call this my altar and it shall be consecrated and dedicated to all my spiritual, religious, and magical pursuits”. 
Focus your energy into a ball and “throw” it into the altar
Now that you have an altar built and established it’s time to talk about the fourth point which is tending to your altar regularly.

4: Tend to the altar regularly

Tending to an altar seems like a simple task right?  Well it’s not that simple.  Tending to an altar can be simple but it can also be very complex and require time and effort.  This ties into the first point about understanding and defining an altar and then figuring out what you are going to be using the altar for.

An altar that is dedicated to a specific spirit type such as a Dragonic Altar:

Dragon altar

Tending to the altar is a daily task.  The management of these altars is the primary way to  maintain relationships with these beings.  Here you will give offerings, keep the place clean, offer prayers, focus energy in worship, and use as an aid in both magic and spiritual endeavors.

A meditative and simple focal altar like the one on my dresser are simply tools for practice and serve specific purposes.  Maintaining them is about using them to build practice and strengthen your meditative and trance practices.  They are primarily magical tools and working with them exercises those magical mussels.

Altars set up for generic rituals, and specific sabbatts are designed to be created and maintained as part of worship and a development of a relationship with the Gods and spirits.

Sabbat Altars:

Altar 5 Winter Solstice Altar

Exercise 5:

Once your altar has been established spend about 5-10 minutes a day working with your altar.
Fondle the items on the altar, light the candle,  give a prayer, etc.  Build energy and focus the energy into the altar.
Record each day your experiences.
After two weeks feel the energy of the altar before you begin your altar maintenance and after.  You will be seeing how an altar starts to develop ts own energy and persona.  Take that energy and mix it with your own and put the new combined energy into the altar.
Record and repeat.

This brings up to the fifth point of developing an altar.

5: Gods and spirits will Guide you, Let them

As you begin to build your altar and your relationships with the spirits involved you may start feeling the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits directing you over time as to what may and may not belong on the altar.  It is important that you listened to these voices.  The altars I have posted above are always evolving and changing.  With each change I try to capture a photo of it that I can eventually place into my BOS for prosperity.

 

worship altar 1

For that reason there the final point of this essay is important.

6: Explore and Experiment

Over the years my altars have been experimental.  Sometimes the layout and the rituals just failed.  Sometimes the ritual worked, but the altar layout failed and didn’t make any sense.  It’s through these trials and errors that we finally start to figure out what works for us and our path as well as the spirits and deities that we are involved with.

The experimentation should also reflect growth and trials for new things and development.  You need to be willing to fail and willing to try something before putting it aside.  You need to have the courage to develop on your own.  You can use what others have shown and have it be a base, but in the end you need to make it your own.

As you evolve the different aspects of your spirituality may evolve and start to merge together into one cohesive path.  This is what starts and evolves into a tradition.  Things that were separate blended together to make one, a syncretic path.    A key way to discover this and see how they are becoming one is to watch you altar over time (this is why the pictures are important).

As I understand my deities and my path I hear their voices and my instincts have started to guide me in developing my altars to reflect my path.  Every once and a while when something doesn’t sit right a new altar is created and it allows for new insights and different types of worship.

That is the essence of exploration.  Now my path has three distinct altars one for dragons, one for ancestral and home spirits, and one for worship.  With out exploration I would have never found that this was the best balance for me.  The worship altar does change as I have a different sabbat altar than I would a ritual and prayer altar.

My Dragon altar evolved from God and Goddess with a Dragon too being it’s own altar:

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

Dragon altar

Exercise 6:Once a month try a new set up to your altar.

Draw a diagram or take a picture of the differences and record the physical changes.

During the month continue the maintenence exercise as above and record the differences.

Notice any changes that occur in your energetic field. 

If something feels wrong change it and record the changes.

  If you feel more powerful or more positive record the changes and start to expand and understand the way the energy works. 

You may find that one setting is better for you than an other

I hope that this outline and guide has helped you as a seeker.  As I said this only covers the first phase and part of altar making and development.  The second phase is a bit more indepth and will be the focus of next week.  If you have any questions or thoughts please post them in the comments section.

~Loona Wynd 1/5/2013 12:01 am~

 

 

 

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