Category Archives: Ritual
As many of you may or may nor know I don’t consider myself a strict traditional witch, though I do have a lot of traditional leanings. I feel that I needed more direct experiences and practices within Traditional witchcraft to consider myself a traditional witch. Training in the Feri tradition is a part of that.
The other reason I didn’t consider myself really a traditional witch is that I didn’t work really directly with local land spirits and forces. I worked more with my personal energetic forces rather than spirits. That has been changing recently with my studies in the Feri tradition and in Hoodoo/Conjure.
So recently I did a prayer and asked if there were any fairy spirit in the area to make themselves known. A few days later a mushroom ring appears in my backyard. For the first time in my life a fairy ring appeared in my home. It made me feel like the local fairies and spirits did take the first offering I gave at my home/house spirit shrine.
Its just something I thought I would share. I have never experienced a fairy ring in my yard before. So for me its a special gift of the fairies. To me its a signal that my connections with the local forces and spirits is growing and they are listening to me.
The Heart of the Initiate is a wonderful book. This book was created by Victor and Cora Anderson for their students and those interested in the Feri tradition of witchcraft. The forward states:
“THIS BOOK IS A VALENTINE from Victor and Cora Anderson to you. For those of us who are their initiates, the Andersons live on through the many personal recordings and letters we held close and treasure. We’re grateful for this great opportunity to share rare insights into the Anderson’s teachings, and offer you an imitation of what it was like to be their student.”
It is clear that the Andersons wanted their teachings to be preserved and shared. That they wanted more people to understand and know what their tradition was and is all about. The proof is in the quote mentioned above. For this reason the book was created which allows seekers like me and students of Feri to see what the actual founders and high masters said about the tradition and their teachings.
Due to the nature of this book there are not chapters. The book reads like correspondences which is what they are. There are a few sections in which various teachings are written about in letter or essay form, but not your traditional chapters and sections style.
The first section of the book is called Some Pictish views on the old religion. Here we learn about some origins of the practices and how the religion is different from others. It talks about the origins and how sex is sacred. There is a little bit on basically all aspects of the Craft in this section written by Victor.
The second section of the book is called Commentaries. In this section there are a few specific articles on points important to the specific Feri tradition of witchcraft as they teach it. Topics include Raising power to divinity, Sexual Initiation, Sexual ethics, Training and Initiation, The Consort, The Guardians, The morning prayer, Possession, and Salvation. All of these concepts are teachings important in the Feri tradition to some extent and these basic articles express how they work and what they mean.
The third section of the book is the most informative section of the book. Here there are glimpses at some of the rites and materials actually presented to their students. There are exercises and explanations given. The letters are written by Victor and Cora presented to us as they responded to their students. The only thing missing in this section would be the letters from the students to their teachers so the context makes more sense.
The very last section of the book is important for seekers like myself. In many books on traditional witchcraft there is an exercise to switch from a Christian path to a Traditional witchcraft path which involves the reciting of the Lord Prayer backwards. Here Victor describes yet another prayer that can be used which is essentially a modified version of the Lords prayer for seekers trying to be open to new paths and teachings.
Today I am going to talk about Pagan pride Day. In the US there is an annual festival at different times in different states where Pagans can come together and celebrate being who and what they are. Its a day for rituals, friendship, exploration, and much more. There are workshops and there are vendors. You have a ritual for the harvest (all are harvest themed) and sometimes other mini rituals in workshops.
I love my local Pagan Pride day. Its been going on for 11 years now. Its been a great way for me to meet friends and be a part of a community. The vendors are typically the same year after year (with new ones from time to time) and many of the attendees are regulars. There were many people I saw once a year at the Pagan Pride day that I still considered friends. It was a fellowship of a kindred mind and spirit that kept us close.
For many years I went just as an attendee. I went for the workshops and the vendors. The ritual component was always nice but they didn’t always make much sense to me. The people were the reason I went. I learned a lot from workshops. One year I learned the LBRP by heart by the end of an hour workshop. Other years I did ancestral work and learned about kitchen witchcraft. One year I learned of a completely new way to look at herbal work from a different perspective.
Pagan Pride days are great. Even when I volunteered for a few years I was still able to see my friends, go to the workshops, and participate in the rituals. I became such a regular scene there and was often so lucky with the raffle that it became a joke about my entering raffles in the Pagan scene. Its still a joke today for those who remember those days even though the event is being run by other people now.
With the change in leadership my role at the event also took a change. I went from being an attendee and a volunteer to being a vendor. This is where I launched Mystic Echoes last year. With this change I gained even more appreciation for vendors and attendees of Pagan pride Days. I was supported by the community in my venture to open a New Age and Metaphysical store. I now knew and understood why vendors came back year after year. I also now understood why people liked the vendors. Its all exposure to different products you might not see or have otherwise. Its also a great place to learn about making new things and how things worked.
Pagan Pride Days are a wonderful thing and need to be embraced more. They offer community for those of us who practice alone but want fellowship every once and a while. They offer education to the general public. They offer understanding, small business sales and development, and do a community service. The fee for the local Pagan pride day is a canned good of some sort. The non-perishable goods are given to a local food pantry so that those in need can have food to eat. Last year they also raised food and toys for the local animal shelter as well ensuring that the animals had food and toys as well.
If you are interested in seeing a world of different pagan religious practices, and in exploring them I can’t recommended going to a Pagan Pride Day enough. The website: Pagan pride Day organization provides a link for you to find local events. They are non judgmental so all are welcome. You don’t have to be Pagan to go and enjoy it. So please go check out a local event.
Grimoire: My Record system
Most witches out there have books that they keep their rituals and spells in. Many traditions call this book a Book of Shadows. In this book they write down all their rituals, all their spells, and any work that they do with spirits and spiritual beings. This record becomes in many way our personal sacred texts and documents. In some cases witches can use their experiences within their records and books to in effect create the lore for their own system and practices.
Like most witches I do have my own magical book and record system. I actually used to have several different books that I would keep. In an effort to keep all of the rituals from the different systems I studied separate as they were all separate systems I decided to keep my notes and my notes books separate. Its only recently that they have been combined back into one book, at least for the time being.
As a solitary and primarily self directed witch I have the freedom to basically record any information I want in any way that I want. This means that I can have articles from magazines in there as well as any personal reflections. My book is really personal and is my own record. Though this book will in the end be used as the basis for the tradition I would like to found and teach, in general my book is something that really only makes sense to myself.
Now I call my book a Grimoire for many reasons. The term book of shadows just never seem to fit. For one thing I have never been in the shadows with my practice at all. I have always been open and upfront about it. I have never hidden my practice. Though I might not have discussed it or brought it up in front of some family members I’ve never really made any attempts to hide the fact that I am and have always been a witch. So the concept of a book of shadows when I am not in the shadows didnt make any sense.
The other reason is that my book has more than just spells, rituals, and invocations. My book has theory and exercises. It has lore and poetry. My book basically contains the sum of my spiritual knowledge and experience over the years. In this book I have recorded the names of spirits I work with, their personalities, and much more. This book could in essence be used to teach my path to another person. It provides step by step exercises with reflections to give an idea of what could be experienced. The book even has some of the realms and other worlds I have visited listed in there with details.
I also like the term Grimoire. So I use it for my own practices. I know that its not one of the great Grimoires of Ceremonial Magic and Invocation traditions, but for me it still is a Grimoire. Other people when they have read my book will be able to look at it and perform the rituals and the works in there and have effective practices. They can use my book as a step by step manual for the works I have done.
The other thing is that I have material from the official Temple Tradition Grimoire for the first degree in my book as well. The Temple material does have its own book as well. However the material also belongs in my book as I have experiences based on the training found in the Temple tradition. That is the other reason I call my book a Grimoire. If the Temple tradition calls its ritual handbook a Grimoire, than I think I can call my book the same thing. I am after all scribing information from the Temple text into my own text as well.
One thing I am going to try and be better about is actually recording and writing down my rituals and my spells. I’m the sort of witch who may not always write down the rituals and spells that they have performed. For this reason there are large gaps in my book of dates. I also don’t have any information from my early days as a witch. That first book is long gone. So working on my Grimoire is actually one of the ways I have started to get my spirituality back on track.
I have all kinds of notes from books I have read that need to be transcribed into my Book. I am also going to sift through my diaries of a couple years. I know in several of my diary entries I have thoughts on Gods, Goddesses, and my spirituality. The notes and the diary entries will provide more material for my book and show me even more places where I have grown and where my spiritual paths have developed. I just need to spend the time to sort my notes and find out where in my book they will belong.
I do hope that in time I can create different books of Grimoire style work. I want to have a book just for Dragon work. That way in that book I have only information that relates to dragons. By separating that information it also makes it easier to find exactly what I am looking for in my books. The same goes for my work with Germanic paganism and Greek Paganism. I’m also creating a prayer book and a specific spell book. The creation of these books is part of my spiritual development and my spiritual practices. It relates to my view of the importance of the sacred scribe.
Over the next few weeks my Grimoire is going to get more information into it. I am going to be adding spells I have posted on websites and I am going to be adding in all sorts of additional correspondence information and the like. I may have to end up making the main book into separate books any way as this one is already quite full. So I may end up with theory and exercises in one book with rituals and correspondences in another book. We shall see how things develop over time.
I know that as I study Hoodoo and get recipes for various items and spells I will be including those in my book as well. I already have a few recipes for different types of water in my book. Soon I am going to add spells to the book. I just got to the spell centric section of one of the books I have been reading and working through. So that in itself is going to add a bit of stuff to my book. I’m always busy developing something spiritually between my business and this new maintenance of my Grimoire there is always something new to do and make.
Beginning your path
Over the last few weeks I have given you a lot of information about researching and answering questions related to your path. I gave you advice on how to choose your directions and even some concepts on divinity to start with. These are all great things to know and have as an idea before you actually begin your path. However once you know where you are going, what your views on deity are and the cultures you are basing your practices off of how do you actually start to begin your practice and path? This is the question we are going to focus on and answer for you today.
There are many different ways that you can actually begin your path. The important thing is to try and spend as much time doing research and reading about new beliefs and practices you want to explore as it is to actually spend the time doing the work. If all you do is read and research and reflect on what you read and research you will have a lot of book knowledge and some great opinions. You just wont have any experience and you wont actually “know” the processes, the spirits, the Gods, or even the effects of the practices you have been dedicating your time to.
Ways to begin your practice
I remember when I took my first steps on my path as a witch I was very nervous. I was afraid of doing things wrong. I was afraid that the Gods and the spirits wouldn’t listen to me. I had no formal teachers or training. I was simply stumbling in the dark. So I remember the anxiety. It was both a positive anxiety as well as a negative or hesitant type of anxiety. I had the same feelings when I started to practice Germanic Paganism. The important thing is that you work through the anxiety and the sensations and start on the path.
So what can you do to start on your path? You can build an altar. You can start a magical journal or spiritual record of your practices. You can start a meditative practice. If you are very confident in your connection to your path you can perform a rite of dedication and direction. Finally the most important thing you can do is try the exercises you encounter in the books and websites you use as tools and references in your studies.
There are as I said many different things that you can do to start walking your path. You may not be able to do as much as you would like right away and that is ok. You may miss sabbats and opportunities for rituals and worship as you learn the important dates and times in your chosen spiritual path. The Gods know you are human and you are learning. So long as your heart is in your path and you work hard you will be amazed at the path you will create for yourself.
One of the things you can do to begin your path is start an altar. Altars are a wonderful way to express your spirituality. By creating an altar you are creating a sacred space in which you can focus on performing your spiritual work and practices. Altars can be very simple or they can be very elaborate. There are many different things that you can put on an altar and there are many different ways that an altar can be set up.
My basic altars when I am working with a new spirit or starting to work with new Gods are very simple. They typically include a candle that I light when I am praying to that spirit. I also light the candle as an offering to them. I also if I have them have an incense burner for burning incense as offerings to the Gods and spirits and to help as a focus when I work on meditation. I also typically have a cup or bowl for any liquid offerings I may give the spirits.
No two altars are going to be the same. If you do decide to set up an altar let it be a reflection of your relationship with the spirits you are working with. Your altar is for you and your practice alone. It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what you have on it at this point in time. Its just there as a focal point and expression of your relationships with the spirits you work with.
A lot more can be said about altar creation. I have written two entries elsewhere on this blog that deal with altar creation. If you decide to start with the creation of an altar I would recommend you look at the articles. They contain several examples and some exercises for you to use as you build your altar.
Magical and spiritual record keeping
The second thing I mentioned you could do as a formal start of your path is to create a spiritual journal. This journal may have already been started if you have been following the exercises and advice I have been giving you on this blog. Some traditions have specific names for the journals that are kept and others are incredibly personal. In all traditions though the personal spiritual journal is a very powerful sacred personal object.
One thing I mentioned previously is that as you do your research into the various paths out there was take note of things that you agree with and things you disagree with. I also advised you to write down quotes that gave you something to think about. I have also given you several different types of questions to answer and reasons for asking those questions.
All of the notes you have taken, the questions you have asked, and the answers you have given yourself are the start of a very important document. This document or well book is very important. This book is going to serve as your record of spiritual growth. This book will have a lot of information in it as time goes on. It is also one of the most personal spiritual items and tools you will ever make.
You may be asking why a journal of your spiritual experiences, thoughts, and beliefs is important. The answer is simple. This book and journal will show how you have grown and developed spiritually. This book will contain things you agree with and things you disagree with. You will basically put anything in here that you feel is important information about your path. There really isn’t anything you can’t put in this journal.
The act of working on this spiritual journal is also a way to connect your mind and emotions with your actual soul and spirit feelings. By writing out your thoughts and reflections to ideas and concepts you are processing how your spirit feels about these things. This allows your mind to understand what drives you and allows your mind to spend time finding ways to include those thoughts, beliefs, and practices in everything that you do.
Writing in a journal is a very therapeutic thing. It helps you process the day and it helps you really sort out how you really feel and think about many concepts and ideas. In many different spiritual paths one of the key concepts or ideas to strive for is to know yourself. Writing in a journal is one of the best ways to know yourself as you are truly honest to yourself about how you feel and what is on your mind. By knowing yourself you also know what your real needs, wants, and desires are. In spirituality this can also mean knowing exactly the type of connection you are actually seeking with the Spirits and the universe.
These books will also serve as your references for your personal experiences. In them you should include exercises you have done (the steps of the exercise and your experiences), prayers you have said and or rituals you have done. It can also include prayers and spells you have found inspiring from other sources. If there is poetry or myths you find inspiring and directly related to your path you can put that in there. Its your guide to your experiences and your development as a spiritual person.
In witchcraft most often there are two terms for these spiritual journals. One of them is occasionally called a mirror book. That book is full of your reflections and ideas. Its where your theories and beliefs are recorded. Its a reflection of your innerself and your soul. This is a very personal book and is often not shared.
The other book is often called the Book of Shadows. The book of shadows is a book containing spells and rituals. It also has the lore of the practice. In solitary practice this book is your sacred text basically. It forms a workbook for formulating spells and rituals. Its your tool in your acts of priesthood. This book can be shared with people if a solitary chooses to share their work. Typically if it is handed down it will be to children or very specific family members interested in the practice all at the individuals discretion.
In covens and in specific traditions there is a Book of Shadows that is specific to that coven or tradition. Members are expected to hand copy or make themselves an exact copy of the book for their own use. Like the individual book this also contains all the materials needed to form the rituals and practices of the coven. It may also contain coven history and tradition history. These books are also used as teaching materials to preserve the practice and and ensure that all members have the same information to go from. Ceremonial Magic has a similar practice called Grimoires, and some witches elect to call their ritual and theory books Grimoires as well.
One element that is common among spiritual paths is some sort of meditation practice. This practice is a way for you to go within yourself and reflect on things. It can also be a way for you to communicate with spirits and Gods. Meditation is a very powerful tool for spiritual development and daily spiritual practice. This is one tool that comes in many different forms and has different uses.
One use for meditation techniques is to understand different philosophic principles. By working with different powers of the mind in meditative states you can learn and experience different philosophies which will create spiritual experiences. Often times these meditative techniques also are building blocks to deeper spiritual techniques and can also be magical techniques as well.
Meditation techniques can also help you learn how to better focus and use the powers of your mind. Through meditation you can travel to the spirit worlds. You can meet many different spirits and interact with them. You can experience the mysteries in the universe. These mystery experiences will provide you understanding and spiritual growth. These are things that will also make your spirit and you feel at home and have deeper understandings and connections to the world around you.
Basically meditation can work for psychic development, spiritual development, mental development, and the development of focus skills. Meditation has many different effects and uses spiritually and practically. Its worth an entry all of its own. When you engage in meditation as the starting point or beginning of your practice you will want to explore many different philosophies and types of techniques. Remember to record and write down what you experience in meditation and what the techniques were.
This is often the first real serious step a person takes on their spiritual path and practices. Dedication rituals are very serious acts and indicate a specific level of commitment. When you are dedicating yourself to your path you are promising any and all spiritual powers on this path that you are there to serve them and to learn from them. You will listen to them and you will do all that you can to live your life the way they ask you to. It also shows that you are ready to make your path an intricate part of all aspects of your day to day life in some manner. You are ready to not just be a student and exploring of the path. You are ready to say this is my path. I will follow you for as long as I can.
If this is what you want to do for your first step on your path than you should go for it. If this is your choice then you have done enough research and had enough of an emotional connection and response that you know that this is where you want to go for now spiritually. Taking the step of dedication is a big step and its one that should not be taken lightly. In some paths a self dedication is the equivalent of an initiation of sorts. In other paths its a phase of learning before swearing a deeper oath and practice. For myself dedication is both a learning period and a way of swearing an oath.
I am not going to write any more on dedication here. It is a first step in a path and it is a way to begin your path. I have written an essay on this blog earlier in more depth about dedication and the types of dedication there are. That post even has two different types of dedication rituals.
Do the Exercises
Many books on spirituality and spiritual paths will have exercises scattered throughout the chapters to illustrate and give you personal experience with the concepts being discussed. Most of the exercises do have a practical aspect to them. When it comes to spirituality and magical practices the only way to really understand the concepts of energy and spirit is to have experiences. The experiences do more to teach you the philosophies and world views than just the books ever could.
Sometimes it may not be easy to see the meaning or reason behind the exercise being placed where it is. If this is something you experience that is fine. In this case finish the chapter. Read the exercises and the rest of the chapter. Reread it a few times if you have to. However once you have an idea of what the exercises and the chapter together are teaching you need to do the exercises. The exercises will actually show you more than any words can.
In spiritual paths the concept of mysteries and how they must be experienced is often brought up. The exercises including guided meditations and occasionally mini spells or rituals are there to have you gain access to the particular mysteries of that path. The author of those exercises has used them several times themselves and seen how they worked for their spiritual paths and development. By publishing those exercises in a book, website, blog, or podcast the author is providing access to the mysteries for others. They want you to share the experiences they have had.
When you do an exercise be sure to write down the exercise in step by step processes so you can repeat the exercise. Also write down everything you experience while doing the exercise. You will find that some of the techniques out there will be more effective for you than others. That is ok. By having the experiences and by doing the exercises and the work you are knowing yourself and your spiritual path bringing both into closer harmony.
In this post I have illustrated several different ways that you can start practicing and walking your path. Each of these first steps has a benefit to them and they also have their down sides to. Each step also plays its own role in your development spiritually and personally. These steps are all good ways to start including your path in your life in a more direct and outward way.
My personal suggestion would be to do a mixture of the journal, meditation, and exercises for a while. Then after you know a bit more about the spirits you are working with and you have gained some experiences I would set up an altar. Now the altar can be a tool for meditative focus and spiritual development. I would work with these combinations for a few months before I performed an act of dedication.
I hope that these steps help you find and develop your spiritual path. As always if you have any questions or comments please let me know. If you feel that there are other steps out there I could have mentioned also please let me know.
We live in a world filled with a rather large variety of plants and animals. Learning about them and their lives is a fun and exciting thing to do. Working with the energy of plants and animals is something that witches do. Lately I have noticed a trend of people looking away and wanting to throw away some aspects of religious and spiritual traditions. The one aspect I see people ignoring more than others is the use of substances in spiritual and religious practices. This is something I personally want to preserve and keep around.
So today’s post is going to be on the use of Entheogens in spiritual and religious practices. As this is my personal blog I feel free to discuss this topic here. On my other blog (Seeker sight) I focus on topics and posts that can help beginners find their paths. I focus there for on subjects that are appropriate for people just starting out in their spiritual path. For me the practice and use of Entheogens even as a curious study and exploration is not something that a beginner needs to read or worry about So it gets posted here.
Using substances to experience Gods and spirits
As I mentioned the use of substances in ritual to achieve a trance state where one can engage with spirits and Gods effectively is a practice traditional among many different cultures. Different cultures have different substances that they use to engage in spirit flight or spirit activity. The various tribal shamans and witches who use these substances are instructed on their use by their masters and their teachers as well as by the plant spirits themselves.
Before I begin to describe an explain why some people may engage in the use of Entheogens let’s look at exactly what Entheogen as a term means and why the uses of these varied herbs is so successful. If the technique and uses didn’t work people would not continue the traditional practices. So they do work for a reason. Lets see what that reason is.
In his book Hedge Rider Eric De Vries defines Entheogens as:
Entheogen means bringing forth the God and is the name used for herbal substances that are used for spiritual and or magical purposes. The important thing to remember is that entheogens are rarely used for recreational purposes. Not because they have limited effect, but because they aren’t really fun
This definition right here says all that needs to be said. Entheogens bring forth the experiences of God and spirit. They are used ritually to create a trance where they can experience, interact with, and work with the force of God. Each herbal substance is going to be different and have different effects on the mind and the body. For this reason it is important to study the substances and their uses. It is also practical to actually be instructed by some one who engages in this practice. Some herbs can be very dangerous if not handled and processed properly.
At the end of the statement about not being used recreational De Vries makes a very good point. Entheogens are not used recreational. Its not that they don’t have an effect that people enjoy or can get use out of. That’s not the issue at all. The issue here is that the experiences are not “fun”. Its not something to do because you are bored. Entheogens are sacred and using them in recreational ways takes away the sacred.
In order to effectively work with the entheogen and the God force you need to work hard to establish a specific mind frame for the work. You need to train yourself to be sensitive to spirits, to calm your mind, and to be able to visualize the experiences with the Gods or spirits. Its difficult to train your mind.
The other thing is that there are some entheogens that take a lot of time and energy to prepare. One of the legendary entheogens associated with witches and witchcraft is the famous flying ointment. This was a salve that the witches spent a long time crafting and making. When the herbal mixture was applied to the body astral travel and spirit work could commence.
Sometimes these mixtures contained deadly herbs. Most of the flying ointment recipes we have found scraps of related to traditional witchcraft involve herbs like belladonna, wolfbane, nightshade, and yew to name a few. The actual recipes and proportions have long been lost. Crafting the flying ointments of the past traditional witches with those herbs is dangerous. This is why today softer and calmer herbs are used in modern flying ointments.
Today there are other more effective herbs that we know cause the same effect as the herbs mentioned above and are safer and better known. While I personally find the past recipes interesting and worth study, and I would watch some one make them, I personally have no interest in working with those. I have found other herbs give me just as powerful of a trance state while being safer. These are also herbs I have studied and done other work with.
My experience with entheogens comes in the form of herbal smokes. I have worked with catnip, mugwort, and Capillaris Herba
Artemisia capillaris also known as Yerba Lena Yesca. My smoke blend currently has a mixture of all of them for a balance. When I smoke this blend my awareness of my mental state increases. My sensitivity to smells and surroundings increases. I can through this also have more control over my awareness and more easily reach an out of body astral state for communication with spirits and deities.
Entheogens alone do not make the experience work though. I also use mental training as well as incenses, sound, lighting, and seated position to engage in trance work. The entheogens give me easier access to these mental states and often allow for more clarity of experience and extended experiences. I am relaxed which allows the trance states to come more naturally. This is also why they last longer.
Entheogens for me are one tool that I have in my bag for working with spirits. I have found it to be an effective tool. I do not smoke the mixture outside of doing some sort of spiritual work. The mixture was crafted and blessed for that sort of work and to use it on anything else to me is a waste of the mixture. It also takes away from the sacred ritual of the preparation, the working, and the blessing that comes with its use in spiritual work.
For years I was interested in the use of substances in spiritual practices. I was well aware of the use of peyote in a Native Church. I was also aware of the fact that shamans and spirit workers for centuries had engaged in this sort of spirit work. I was interested in the use and workings of substances in ritual. I was afraid of trying it, and it also felt taboo. All of the books and websites I had read on my spiritual path had all said that substances of any sort were not a part of witchcraft at all and anything saying such should walk away from that material.
There has been a trend in the modern new age and spiritual practices to discount any experiences had under the influences of any sort of substance. There have been arguments made that today we can leave those tools and practices behind us as we have other less damaging methods of gaining trance. They also claim we have a better understanding of the mind and mental processes today and through that we have learned how to get in and out of these trance states at will without the use of substances.
While all of what they say about mental processes and the ability to get in and out of trance at will without substance use today is true, it doesn’t mean that there is anything less spiritual about experiences under substances. They are sacred plants and it is a sacred tradition for many cultures. I see no reason to ignore this aspect of spirit world work traditions. I have simply chosen to work a combination of the ancient traditions and modern work for effective means of contacting spirits and doing spirit world work.
The use of all aspects of plant medicine and plant properties has always been a part of magical practices. I see no reason to change that now. To ignore traditions and valid ways of gaining knowledge and experience for me is to ignore an aspect of the practices and cultures I have studied that was sacred and important to them. If I am gaining spiritual guidance and inspiration or influences from these cultures and practices I need to be informed of all aspects of practices associated with the cultures.
So I stand outside of many people with this view on entheogens and substances. I know that and I accept that. For me I know that not everything I do and study will appeal to everyone. Not everyone will feel the same way about things as I do, and they don’t have to. So long as no one tries to stop me from using legal herbs in my entheogen work I have no problems with their objections to my use.
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.
The most common question I am asked is how did I actually begin my practice. I’m sure that you readers are now wondering the same thing. You have looked at your own beliefs. You have come to have a decision and a direction, and you have figured out your concept of the divine. Now that you have all of those choices and all that work done what do you do? You actually begin your practice.
Beginning Your practice
The first step on your path is to perform a rite of introduction to the Gods and spirits of your practice. By now you should have read a few books on the practices of the path you are taking. If you have a reference for this then that is great. If not I am going to give an outline for an introduction rite. Yes before you begin performing offerings on a regular basis it is important that you at least introduce yourself to the pantheon and the spirits you intend to work with.
Now it is important to note that an introduction rite is not the same as a dedication rite. That is something we can cover another time. An introduction rite is a more formal way of saying hello. You may have prayed and gave offerings before as part of your decision making. Thats good. Its a start. Now you are formally declaring your intent to study their ways and work with them. Before it was a “Hi this is for you if you want”. Now its more formal.
So what was the point of the ritual before hand if we are beginning with a deeper more direct ritual? This ritual is a step below actual dedication. You have not completely dedicated yourself to their service but you are basically promising to study their ways for a year or so. During that year you will perform rituals, pray, meditate, read, and reflect. If after your year of studies you have formed strong bonds and feel called to do further work on that path then you will perform a rite of dedication. For now a rite of introduction is still important.
What does this rite entail? It entails preparing yourself mentally and physically before the ritual. Its going to entail blessing the offering in their names. Its going to entail prayer and meditation. Its a very simple and basic ritual. However when you put all your emotions into the ritual you can find that even the smallest ritual gesture like lighting a candle with intent can produce substantial results.
- Candle to represent your passion and your flame
- Note book to write down the ritual and any personal messages you get during the meditation
- Fresh soap for the ritual shower & your normal shampoo and conditioner
- Candle for the God and or Goddess
- if you are 21+ an alcoholic drink to share as a communion if not sparkling ciders are good
- An incense you find appealing
Here is the rest of the ritual
- Set the shower at as high a temperature as you can stand and get in.
- Begin to wash your body with you soap. Using the soap suds see the soap becoming all negative energy and all doubts from the day. See them coming from your body into the soap. Put the soap down and rinse your hands. Let the soap stay on your body for a moment and let it continue to absorb your negative energy and thoughts.
- Take your shampoo and lather your hair. Do the same thing you did with the body to your hair. This time focus on intense emotions and thoughts. Focus on stress and frustrations during the day. See those items become the suds in your hair.
- Rinse your hair and place the conditioner in it. Let the conditioner soothe those thoughts and feeling. Let the conditioner bring you a sense of peace and relaxation. Work that sensation all through your hair. Let is set for about five minutes.
- Stand in the shower in a position where your hair wont get wet but parts of you can. Start to rinse yourself off. As you start to rinse see the shadowy soap bubble run down the drain and fade away.
- After a few moment step under the shower directly and rinse completely, This time seeing everything run down that has not already gone away.
- Repeat the shower one more time. This time chanting “Water Water Wash Away. Water Water Cleanse today”
- End the shower. As you towel off wrap yourself up in a white light of positive energy. This will replace and replenish the energy that was removed through the cleansing shower.
- Get dressed and set up the altar or place for the ritual. Make sure you have a container for the water and a container for the salt as well as your offering of food and drink to the Gods.
- Mix a pinch of the salt into the water. You are making Holy water right now. As you mix the salt and the water see any impurities in the water be gone. See the water being filled with sacred light from the great divine forces out there.
- Light your incense
- Take the salt water and either in a circle or simply by sprinkling the water in the four directions dedicate the space as being sacred. Call upon any guards and guides as you see fit to witness this rite.
- Repeat the process with incense. Now you have consecrated the space with all the elements. Earth and water in the holy water and fire and air with the incense. The place is now set for spirits and gods to come and answer. At this point it is best to remain in the ritual area. You should only leave in an emergency situation. If you do say a quick prayer for exiting and a prayer for entering. Other traditions have other ways of entering and exiting the space in ritual but this prayer will work for now.
- Light the Candle for the God and Goddess (both or just one depending on what you had chosen to do)
- Call to the Gods. If you have read an invocation or prayer to them for calling them to a ritual now would be a great time to recite that work. Basically ask them to come with you now and to join the rite.
- Light the candle to represent yourself. State your intention to learn the ways of those Gods and their followers. State who you are and why you are serving and learning their ways. Promise to do your best to learn all you can and integrate what you learn into your life.
- Bless the drink and pour a drink for them and for you. Share this drink with them. You can praise them or you can silently meditate on their presence and the meaning of the rite. You should have an idea at this point if they are accepting of you and listening to you,
- When you are ready thank the Gods and the spirits for attending the rite. If you formally laid a circle or walked a circle you can release it now. If you just sprinkled some water and consecrated the ground by extinguishing the incense and the candle the space is being released. You can then extinguish the candles. You can pick up and put away. You may now say a final prayer of thanks and wishes for continued guidance as things get put away and cleaned up.
- Record the ritual in the notebook. Write down everything you did all your feelings and all your emotions. Write down what you think about what you did and how you felt before and after.
You have now formally introduced yourself as their student. You have now taken a step into letting the Gods lead the way and be your teachers. Now you just need to listen to what they have to say. You may find the lessons come in very strange forms and you may find that things come into your life for no reason after doing this. These actions are a result of your introduction and prayer manifesting. The Gods are listening.
Altars- temporary setups
One of the common issues many people come into when they first start seeking paganism, witchcraft, and alternative spirituality is that they might not have space for an altar all the time. There are also many people who live with unsupported family members, or have room mates, or many other factors that do not really allow for having a full time altar set up. This leaves them asking themselves and other pagans what can they do about this? Some people feel they are less pagan or witchy if they can’t have a full time working altar or shrine. If you fit into any of these, then this post is for you.
It is perfectly acceptable to only have your altars set up when you are going to be doing an active working. Many people have to do this sort of practice and work. There are many reasons why people don’t have full time altars (children, family, pets, room mates, room size, ect) set up in their lives. For some it can be a hassel and for others they embrace it and make it apart of their actual rituals. In this way they can build more power. They will not be suseptable to any and all energy of day to day life when in storage, as such the ritual and power charge in them remains and builds.
In having your altars up only during working its important to still build a powerful personal connection with the tools on your altar. When you have to set up an altar for each working you make that part of the work itself. The set up will help you get mentally and physically prepared for magical, spiritual, and religious work. The set up and placement triggers the body to know that certain actions are going to happen next. The mind gets told that a different sort of mindset is needed and the transition from normal consciousness to ritual consciousness comes a lot easier.
By making the altar set up and preparation a part of the ritual you start building power and energy for the ritual the moment those items are touched and sent out. By unwrapping the items and placing them reverently on the altar they get full of sacred energy. This energy will build in those items and radiate when they are used. This process also puts mental and emotional energy into the item that serves as triggers for magical, spiritual, and religious actions.
Ritual preparation is as much a part of the ritual as the meat or actual working is. By treating this process as sacred and reverently as you would the actual ritual you create an even more powerful ritual working. The power will start building the moment you start setting up your altar and get it complete for the working. The blessing after the set up will seal the power in and set the tone for the ritual.
Yes. That is an important part. If you are not going to be having a permanent altar the altar should be physically cleansed before and after each ritual. This is yet another part of the ritual prep and the building of power over the altar. This will remove any mundane or day to day energy that has built up on the surface of the altar making it sacred and suitable for workings. The blessing when the altar is set up charges them for that specific ritual.
When you take the items down and put them away you have an action that serve as a way to transition in and out of ritual consciousness. This serves to finally disperse any energy raised in the ritual that was not directed. From here the sacred energy can be placed into the objects to be used again. Anything not wanted to be kept will be dispersed into the ground as the altar is taken down and day to day life returns. This is why the blessing and cleansing of the altar items and actual altar surface is essential.
I hope that now you can see that even if you have to use temporary altars you can make the most of it and still perfor very powerful and effective rituals. The spells and ritual workings may take a little longer, but if you put all your intent and focus of the ritual into the items from the beginning the power will still be there. It will not diminish. It will only grow the more you feed them.
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.
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:
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.
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.
British Traditional Wicca Altars
There are only a small collections of BTW traditions. The traditions that are identified as BTW are:
- *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
- -Silver Crescent
- -Daoine Coire
- -Assembly of Wicca
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:
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.
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 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:
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:
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:
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 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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.