Category Archives: Shananism

Realizing teachings from spirits

So here is something interesting I thought of recently. I started making my own incense for different workings 10 years ago. At the time I had no recipes. I had no books to guide me other than Cunningham’s herbal encyclopedia and magical herbalism.

I had a mortar and pestal and I had some herbs on hand for different workings (but I was mostly clueless at the time). I realize now that really the ones who taught me how to make incense were not the books. They were in fact the spirits of the plants. Which is why my recipes and practices are as effective and as powerful as they are.

I mention this now because there have been times I have mentioned that the spirits really haven’t taught me all that much. I look back and realize now that the lessons were much more subtle. They actually were more my partners than anything else.

Just like how I’ve always listened to the spirits of the land when it comes to my practice on the sabbats. I’ve always worked and done them really when it felt more energetically appropriate for me and the land that I live on.

The apartment I currently live in was gifted by the spirits of this land. After we left our viewing I said a simple prayer to those spirits asking them that the apartment go to the ones who need it the most, and the right people for the land. The next morning I get a call saying we have the apartment. If that is not spirits working for me and with me, guiding me I dont know what is.

Pagan Blog Project D: Direction, Decisions, & Divination

Crossroads1

 

Direction and Decisions

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

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

Direction

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

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

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

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

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

Making the decisions

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

Spiritual decision making aids

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divination methods of decision making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Practical decision making tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

 

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

A: Altars Phase 2-specific practice and path requirements

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

Phase 2:

Path specific altars and specificity

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

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

The topics covered here will be:

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

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

Eclectic Witchcraft Altars:

Eclectic altar 1

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

Altar direction:

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

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

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

Elemental symbols on the altar

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

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

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

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

British Traditional Wicca Altars

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

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

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

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

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

BTW altar

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

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

Traditional Witchcraft

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

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

altar in a more traditional sense

altar in a more traditional sense

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

Stang as an altar

Traditional witchcraft altar

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

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

My ancestral altar

My ancestral altar

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

Altars for the 8 sabbats

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

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

Imbolc

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

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

Imbolc Altar

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

Ostara: Spring Equinox

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

Ostara Altar

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

Beltaine

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

Beltaine Altar

Litha: Summer solstice

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

Summer solstice altar

Summer solstice altar

Lammas or loaf mass:

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

Lammas altar

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

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

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

Mabon: The Fall Equinox

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

Mabon Altar

Mabon Altar

Samhain/Halloween/Ancestor night

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

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

Samhain altar

Samhain altar

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

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

Yule: Winter solstice

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

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

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

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

My Winter Solstice Altar

My Winter Solstice Altar

Yule altar

Yule altar

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

Ceremonial Magic

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

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

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

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

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

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Ceremonial magic altar

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

Draconic altar

Draconic altar

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

Asatru & Other Germanic faiths

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

I have two sample altars to show you:

Asatru sample altar 2

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

Asatru sample Altar

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

Hellelnismos

Hellenic Altar

Hellenic altar 2

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

Religio Romano: Roman Reconstruction

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

Religio Romano Altar 2

Religio Romano Altar

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

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

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

Pagan Blog Project week 1: A

Altars:

The simplicity and the complexity

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

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

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

Seven points of Phase one

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

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

1) Define Altar

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

Here is my definition of an altar:

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

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

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

This brings us up to point 2:

2:  Figure out what type of altar you would like

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

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

Altar 8 simple and ceremonial altar

or this:

Book Altar Diagram

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

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

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

Permanent or only when needed?

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

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

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

3: Let the altar Build itself

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

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

The simplest altar I have:

Altar 4

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

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

Altar 9 Complex Altar

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

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

4: Tend to the altar regularly

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

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

Dragon altar

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

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

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

Sabbat Altars:

Altar 5 Winter Solstice Altar

Exercise 5:

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

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

5: Gods and spirits will Guide you, Let them

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

 

worship altar 1

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

6: Explore and Experiment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

Dragon altar

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

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

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

Notice any changes that occur in your energetic field. 

If something feels wrong change it and record the changes.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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