Category Archives: Holidays/Sabats
Pagan Blog Project: A-Altar management
One of the things that I have been lacking in my practice is proper altar maintenance and management. Now what is altar maintenance? Not to mention what is altar management? Well that depends. There are many things that it can mean. It can be as simple as remembering to pray there regularly to build up power. It can be washing the items on the altar regularly so that dirt or dust don’t accumulate. It can be many different things. Proper altar maintenance is part of establishing a healthy spiritual practice with regular applications in daily life.
For myself altar maintenance actually means all of those things I mentioned and more. For a long time I have had my altars set up as a part of my house decoration. I would nod at them in the morning occasionally as a reminder that each day is a gift from the Gods but aside from that they weren’t used often. Seeing the altars set up did make me feel connected to my spirituality so it did serve a purpose but I wasn’t letting it serve its main purpose which is to serve as a focal point for workings with the various spirits that I work with.
I have lacked altar maintenance. Altar maintenance would be cleaning the dust off the altar. Making sure that there is fresh water daily for the spirits, cleaning the altar cloths on a regular basis, bathing the statues ritually, cleansing and consecrating the place on a regular basis. These are all little ritual items that I could have done and should have done on a regular basis that not only would build my connection to my spirit allies but would also keep my spirit soaring.
Altar management for me is a bit more complicated than that. Altar management is the actual use and working of an altar. Here we have decorating for rituals and sabbats, we have performing offerings, prayers, and magical workings. All of these things are part of altar management.
This is yet again and area that I have lacked in my spiritual progress and development. I rarely decorate the altars for the sabbat or esbat at hand when I do work those rituals. I haven’t been good about praying at my altars as a regular communication practice and as a way to build a relationship with them. Nor have I been particularly good about giving them offerings either.
Altar management is also for me changing the altars around periodically. For me it is about really letting the Gods and spirits know what sort of items they want on their altars. Each spirit and altar is going to be different so its important to make them all unique. So if the Gods and the elements tell you to use one tool over another in ritual and on the altar that is altar management.
Most of my magical workings are not done on my altars but on any space I can find. The only times they are is when I am typically doing a healing work of some sort and need the assistance of my guides and allies. Then I work at my altar and pray. The rest of the time its not done at my altar. Though I may occasionally burn the incenses I have made on them. Working magic on the altars would also be a way of deepening spirit contact and relationships.
These two things that seem simple are things that I have been lacking in my life. These are also things that I have been working on correcting in my life. For me right now I have a goal of working on developing a more consistent daily practice of my path. I am really working to integrate my beliefs and my studies into everything I do part of every day. Its a challenge but its been worth it.
The first real thing for me has been developing my new ritual room and ritual space. There is still some more work I would like to do and things I need to get. For now though it really looks like a sacred space or at least a place for performing and working various rituals. Part of getting this room set up was finally getting the altars to where I like them and what I want to do with them.
In setting up my ritual room I now have a place to perform daily rites and workings with spirits. So now I can really work on digging into my spirituality and developing those relationships. The first thing I am working on is altar maintenance and altar management. These two things can be worked on together by creating daily prayer and offering routines.
The first part of the maintenance though was in the creation of some new altars and some new sacred space for those prayer workings and ritual workings. Here now are the new altars and shrines I have created for my new ritual area.
The first altar I am going to discuss is my main working altar:
This altar is where all my actual worship of Gods and Goddesses occurs. On the wall there is a Pentacle with a Stags head for the God and a clay plate impression of a Goddess who is mother earth. These are on the wall to show the places of the God and Goddess as well as to form a background. In the center of the altar there is a birch wood circle which I use to hold the candle lit for prayers and devotions. In the back you can see my wand. My stang and my broom are on either side of the altar. This is set up and basically ready to go for any ritual at any time.
The next altar is my Dragon altar:
Here I am actually performing altar maintenance and management by burning incense for them and lighting a candle. You can also see how that altar is clearly focused on being there for the dragons. The incense that was offered was Dragons Blood. Dragons Blood is a favorite incense of many dragon spirits and they feed off its scent and love. I’ll get into working with dragons another time. For now I performed maintenance then by giving them an offering.
This is my ancestral altar:
Every item on my ancestral altar has importance to me. This altar is actually a new design. My original ancestral altar was much smaller and less formally organized. This altar on one side you see several different pictures. Those are the photos of my deceased loved ones. There is also a photo on there of my biological mother and her father. I don’t know if either one of them are still alive. The photo is there is symbolic of my ties to my blood ancestors so that they know they are not forgotten. The large goblet there is the chalice for them. It contains water I give them as an offering or any other liquid. The candle next to them is light and fire giving my prayers a vessel. The skull actually serves as a place for them to manifest during working rituals. The bottle of GlenLivet on there is a connection to my fiance’s grandfather. Finally the red tie across the altar comes from my grandmother’s robe. I use the red color to be symbolic of blood but also of spirit and all the ties and bonds that we share together.
The next two altars are works in progress. They will grow as my relationships with these spirits grow. I am also going to see about getting more storage containers like the one my Dragon altar is on so I can set up a few more altars and shrines. I feel I should set up one for my Norse God practices. I also sort of feel like there are other spirits wanting to work with me and have altars built for them.
This is my altar to the arch angel Micheal:
Micheal is the protector. He is also called the prince of heaven and is the leader of heaven’s army. This is why there is a sword on the altar. The candle is lit for is prayers. The candle also symbolises the element he is most often associated with which is fire. The water is there to offer him a drink. The plate is there for offerings.
This is my shrine for Moses:
The large staff there is going to be a conjure/hoodoo tool that I am making with the power of Moses. This staff will be used to call on his name and power in basically any rite that I would associate with him. The candles again serve as a place to show the prayers the water is his drink and the plate holds offerings of various forms.
You have now seen my altars. Part of my altar management now and altar maintenance now will be regular saying prayers at these altars. I will be offering fresh and clean water every day. I will wash the altars physically and make sure that they stay clean and fresh. I will in some way work at my altar each day building a relationship with the spirits therein.
Altar maintenance and management now to me is the simplest way I can work on making my religious and spiritual practices an active part of my day to day life. All in all it doesn’t take a lot of time. Its maintaining the practice, the sense of the sacred, and giving the time that becomes the issue in our lives. By writing this essay I have given myself some tangible tasks to do each day to work on my altars and with the spirits there in the altars.
So what gives about the blogs name? Forging the Pentacle?
The explanation is simple. The path I have started to develop is called Pentalism. There are five aspects to almost all parts of the practice. There are five primary influences, five Gods, Five goddesses, five parts of the soul, and more. The pentacle for me shows how while there can be five individual points, in the end they can all be connected and are always interwoven in peace. The Pentacle is an extremely sacred symbol for this path due to the importance of five. Pentalism is meant to be experienced in a group setting. However I have not really developed each of the degrees and practices (related to each of the foundational traditions of types of craft) I can’t really teach and initiate people until the first degree has been formed (I’ll develop the second degree material in my personal practice as I teach the first degree and so forth).
Ok, so that explains the name, what about content?
I already mentioned some of the content you will be seeing. There will be information on ritual content as well as some basic sabbat or holiday information. There will be some basic information about the deities involved (this is going to be an initiatory oath bound tradition). There will also be posts about failures and successes and everything in between. When I fail I want to have people laugh at it and also help me find out where I went wrong.
By writing this blog I am sharing the basic outline of what will become my tradition. I process information best when I write out my thoughts and my experiences. By putting the information and the process on a blog I hope to get input from other people in the Pagan community . I want that input to challenge me. I want people to point out mistakes in my research and logic. I also want people to tell me why they like something or find something useful. That way I can become a better writer and explore the things I write about in a different light.
This blog will also be participating in the Pagan Blog project. However all of the entries on this blog will reflect this path specifically and only this path. My other blog (Seeker sight) is more about my search for knowledge and wisdom which I can find any where. There will be some cross over as they both will cover some of the same beliefs and practices. That said both blogs should be treated as unique and individual blogs.
You said the title is “Forging the Pentacle” right? So what are your tools and what are the foundations and origins of Pentalism?
There are five primary spiritual and religious practices which form the basis of Pentalism. All of them are different forms of witchcraft as a spiritual practice. Each of them has provided me with many different ways of working my craft and my religion. They have all had an effect on how I have experienced the Gods and Goddesses of Pentalism. I don’t belong to any one of these practices, but have combined them all. Which is why I am and Pentalism will always remain an eclectic religious witchcraft tradition.
The first witchcraft path I must discuss is Wicca. When I say Wicca I don’t mean the works of Silver Raven Wolf, Edain Mc Coy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland, or even Scott Cunningham to name a few. I am refering to the books by Janet and Stewart Farrar (What Witches Do, 8 Sabbats for Witches, Way of the Witches, The Witches God, The Witches Goddess), Gerald Gardner (Witchcraft Today and The meaning of Witchcraft), and some of Doreen Valientines work as well as the writings of Alex and Maxine Sanders. Those are actual Wiccan initiates who have lineage via initiation which is cross gender and that can be traces back through Gerald Gardner to the New Forest coven of witchcraft.
A brief explanation of how I define Wicca is required here. I define Wicca as an Oathbound, Mystery, Cross Gender initiatory, Orthapraxic Witchcult where every initiate is a member of the clergy That is a lot to swollow. So I am going to break it down into little bits. I’ll cover each section in it’s own paragraph. Once you’ read each paragraph you’ll see why that simple definition required extra explanation. You’ll also see why I have such a strict view on Wicca and why I am only Wiccan influenced and Inspiried.
Let’s start with the term “oath bound”. By oath bound I mean that the rites and rituals, mysteries, names of deities, and practices are known and only taught to initiates after initiation. Prior to initiation the rites and rituals a seeker and pre-initiate experience are Wiccan flavored and Inspired, but Not Wiccan. There are many religions whose practices are oath bound. In history the Eluisian mysteries come to mind as only the members of that cult ever experienced those rituals and knew what those rituals entailed. There you go. A historical reference to a religious practice and set of mysteries that are oath bound.
The next term in my definition is mystery oriented or based. So what does this mean? By Mystery I mean that there are some aspects of the religion that are based on expereince in ritual which are deeply intimate and can not truly be expressed by words. All witchcraft traditions have mysteries.
The Cross Gender initiation is self explanatory. Only men can initiate women and women can only initiate men. This goes into the power myth described in the decent of the Goddess. There is also an issue of polarity. I’m sure all the reasons for this practice are explained after initiation. It’s something I have experienced. The “public” rite I went to basically said that in their circles it’s male-female-male-female as much as possible (based on the ration of men to women). I actually think it’s a great way to raise energy.
The orthapraxic aspect of Wicca is something that many people can’t grasp coming from orthodox religions such as Christianity where having specific beliefs was the important part of the religion. In Wicca it is not the belief that is important rather it is the proper practice and performance of Wiccan rites and rituals (which can only be performed in a coven setting) that is important. It is the proper performance of these rites and rituals that allow the clergy
The witchcult aspect is important to note as well. Upon the seeker or dedicant’s initiation into Wicca they are made a witch. This is especially important if that person never identified or used that term before. All wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan. In fact most witches are not Wiccan. Wiccans are witches because they use witchcraft in both practical day to day life and in their worship of their deities. That is what makes them witches.
The final aspect of my definition of Wicca is that they are all members of the clergy. That is right. Once you have been initiated into Wicca you have become a priest or priestess of the Lord and Lady. For this reason every one is a part of the clergy. If you are not called to serve the Lord and Lady of the Isles (the two specific deities in Wicca) then you are not a proper person for Wicca.
Ok. So you explained what Wicca is. You didn’t explain why you say you are inspired by Wicca. Can we get an explanation for that please? Afterall you even said that you aren’t an initiate. There for you don’t actually know the rites and rituals of Wicca. So how are you influenced and inspired by Wicca?
There are a few reasons why I say that. The first thing is that I cleanse ad consecrate my holy water in the same fashion, often times using the same words outlined in 8 sabbats for witches. The second thing is that part of my understanding of the deities I work with (with in Pentalism) was influenced by the Oak and Holy King battles (also described in 8 sabbats for witches). Finally there is the full ceremonial outline. When a full complex ritual is performed it often includes all the elements described within Wicca. These form the first foundation of Pentalism.
The largest element found within my path is the central fact that this path is eclectic. Generic eclectic-neo pagan witchcraft can be found in many different books. My favorites include Christopher Penczak, Laurie Cabot, Ellen Dugan, and Doreen Valientine. I have however also been influenced by Starhawk, Silver Ravenwolf, Edain McCoy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland, and Scott Cunningham (you see there was a reason I mentioned them before). All of these author claim to teach eclectic Wicca. There is no such thing (as shown above). There is however essentially a core tradition of eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft loosely based on Wicca and ceremonial magic as outlined by Cunningham in his book “Solitary Wicca” and “Living Wicca”. At the end of his life he did drop the association with Wicca and simply called it a witchcraft tradition, but the publisher kept the title as is.
The books by these authors all have different views of the God and Goddess and the wheel of the year. However there are some key and central similarities in the practices that lead me to believe they are essentially practicing the same religion, but not always the same way. It is a witchcraft tradition or set of traditions and way of thinking/practicing that has it’s own mysteries and basically a freelance style of ritual. Every eclectic is different, but they are all the same at the same time. We embrace the similarities and celebrate the differences. That is what being a true eclectic is all about.
The MMC concept here is one of the reasons I came to the 5 god and goddess concept for this tradition. It seemed with in the various discussions about the forms of the Goddess with in the wheel of the year there were some things described which never seemed to fit to the MMC concept. I started to see five different Gods and Goddesses described with in the lore and the rituals. That, along with the outline in Wicca lead me to the format that became the Gods and Goddesses of Pentalism.
The ideas about experimentation and the different types of ritual and altar set ups encountered through these books gave me the foundation of how to explore and experiment. That is what has lead me to know what does and doesn’t work for me in my religion and spirituality. That is how I have been able to begin to piece together this tradition. I am very thankful to be an eclectic and to have started to form a cohesive eclectic tradition that I am going to be proud to pass on to others.
Hedge witchcraft is a practice of witchcraft that not many people are aware of. While there are more books available on the subject these days, originally there were only a few websites out there that had any information out there. I am not entirely a hedge witch, but I do embrace and participate in the practices. I say I am not a hedge witch because it is not the only practice I engage in for my craft. While it has played a central role in my access to mysteries, it is not the only or the central aspect of my practice.
So what is hedge witchcraft? Hedge witchcraft is based on the concept of the hedge representing the border between the civilized world (towns, farms, and cities) from the wild (forests, open fields and stretches of road where no one is in sight) and the practitioner being able to be in both this world (civilized) and the other worlds (wilderness and forests). This is the European native form of shamanism.
One thing about hedge witches and hedge witchcraft it is essentially a solitary practice as each hedge rider must find there own way of getting into those trance states, and they need to find their own connection to deities and the sabbats. The other thing is that often time hedge witches will celebrate the sabbats through their trances. This is where the myth of the flying to the witches sabbat comes from. I haven’t used trance as a sabbat celebration yet, but I bet it would be powerful.
However due to my use of various types of trance and trance states to acces the mysteries and to contact spirits I have to add this as one of the foundations of Pentalism. It has been a major part of my practice for years. In fact it was during a workshop on “shamanic witchcraft” that I met my first formal teacher Christopher Penczak. That is also one of the reasons I consider hedge witchcraft to be one of the points on the foundation of Pentalism.
In many ways it has been equated to traditional witchcraft in it’s truest form, but I personally think there are other things. This goes into traditional witchcraft. I had mentioned it in my foundational forms, so I will discuss it briefly here. This is an aspect of the foundation I am still developing. It is a new addition to my practice, and as such it is something that needs a lot of exploration.
So what is traditional witchcraft? I thought that Wicca was a form of traditional witchcraft? Am I wrong?
There are many definitions of traditional witchcraft. The most common definition is that of “forms of pre Gardnerian witchcraft”. By default that makes Wicca not traditional witchcraft, and there are a few reasons for this. Wicca is a more ceremonial form of witchcraft than most traditional witchcraft practices. That is the first and primary difference between Wicca and traditional witchcraft. The other is more of a focus on a personal relationship with the land. While there are some correlations and the like, there are many differences between them. I have explained why Wicca is not traditional witchcraft, but I haven’t explained what it is yet. So here goes.
For me traditional witchcraft is pre-gardnerian forms of witchcraft. There are some forms of this practice which are initiatory (The new Forest Coven for example) and there are many forms which are solitary. The sources I have read on the subject come from both solitary and coven based books. So my view has a bit of both. That still doesn’t explain what exactly traditional witchcraft entails.
Well it is an underworld tradition. The rites and rituals typically involve some sort of physical and spiritual travel which symbolically and spiritually bring us to the underworld. That is where the Gods reside in this tradition. It is also where fate is woven and where the ancestors reside. That is why I say traditional witchcraft is an underworld tradition.
Traditional witchcraft also involves a lot of ancestral worship and veneration. Who and what the ancestors are and what the ancestral worship and veneration mean will be covered in another post shortly. For now they are those who have passed beyond the physical veil and into the underworld reals and they are those who are yet waiting to come back and return (they will be future witches and will create future ancestors). The ancestors are of blood and body as well as emotional and spiritual ties.
The final difference between traditional witchcraft and Wicca is the way the rites are performed and the tools used in rituals. The rituals in traditional witchcraft are less formal and theatrical/scripted. They are more spontaneous, yet they have some structure. All of these are factors in why this form of witchcraft has become part of the spiritual foundation that is Pentalism.
The final point in the Pentalist foundation is that of Hermetic witchcraft. This is a style of witchcraft in religious and spiritual terms as well as magical practices that highly engages the mind. When the tradition will be taught this will actually be the first degree. The points and lessons of this degree are outlined in the book “The Kybalion”. There will be many more essays on the Kybalion and how it relates to this tradition.
The is also tied into the first degree of the Temple tradition. That is where I have started my official training as a witch. For the last three years my magical practices and my rituals as well as meditations have been based entirely off of the teachings in the first degree of the Temple tradition as well as the Kybalion. As I begin to develop more and develop techniques for each of the key principles I can begin to further develop this.
Ok. So there you have the foundation. This should give you a basic idea as to where the ideas and concepts in this tradition are found. Things will become more clear as I post more. Every post will add insight into this path and how it comes together. This has served as your basic introduction and foundation to Pentalism. Some of the basic practices will be covered in an upcoming post. Please enjoy!