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.
One of the common themes out there in the world of Paganism and alternative spirituality is the concept of generic Goddess spirituality. There are many different things that people mean when they say that they follow Goddess spirituality rather than a specific religion or spiritual path. In all honesty like all spiritual paths Goddess spirituality is a very personal path. There are some common themes and traits among Goddess spirituality so I am going to cover a few of those themes today for you to follow and understand.
What is Goddess spirituality
What is goddess spirituality? Goddess spirituality is in the end a relationship with one divine great Goddess. This Goddess is the mother of everything. She is the creator of everything. She has no name but is mother to every one who follows her path. The Great Goddess is both apart of this world and separate from this world. The Goddess is in everything and is a part of everything.
Goddess spirituality is actually as old as time. The earliest figures that we have found appear to be mother Goddess figures. It is believed that because women are the ones to give life that the ancient and primitive cultures believed that it was a feminine divine entity that created life. They also believed that it was to her that we returned when we die. She was the womb and the tomb.
The great Goddess is a theme that comes in many different forms and styles. Goddess spirituality is essentially focusing on the Goddess as the source of all life. Its celebrating her form through all life. The great Goddess in Goddess spirituality is the one who can heal, who can protect, and can do everything.
In Goddess based spirituality all you focus on is her energy. The Goddess is the one who gifts you with everything that you need to have in life. She is abundance. She is sexuality, she is passion. The Goddess is the fertile fields, the growing tree. She is the laughter of children and the fiery protection that parents have for their children. This Goddess is love and light but is also fierce and protective. She is also darkness and fears.
Theism and Goddess spirituality
In many pagan paths you find the concept of polytheism. That is a belief in many different Gods and Goddesses. When it comes to traditions and practices of Goddess based spirituality it ca be hard to define exactly if it is a polytheistic path or not. Goddess spirituality can be a polytheistic path or it can be simply a path with out any real form of theism. For now I am going to cover a few of the different theistic or deity centered ways that Goddess spirituality can be experienced.
In Goddess spirituality there are several ways that it can manifest. The primary form of Goddess spirituality is a form that is that of Panentheism. Here they believe that the Goddess is everything in the universe and beyond the universe. The great Goddess both made the universe and makes up the universe. The Goddess is here at all times and everything.
A related view of Goddess spirituality is that of Pantheism. In Pantheism the Goddess makes up all of the universe and all of the known reality we live in. She is everything here. The Goddess is the universe manifested. Just by living and experiencing life we experience her. There is no need for prayer or worship. Simply live life and enjoy the beauty and you have found the Goddess. The Goddess would be in all the food we eat, all the plants we see and any and all animals that you encounter.
Many people who follow Goddess spirituality are soft polytheists of sorts. These people believe that the Great Goddess has many faces and names. They believe that all Goddesses are aspects of the one Goddess. In soft polytheism they believe that she is so vast and so great that as humans we can not fully understand or appreciator all that she has to offer or even all of her mystery. So we created and experience her face in many different forms. In short those who follow a soft polytheistic path believe that no matter what name you use for the great Goddess you are worshiping her.
The other way that Goddess spirituality manifests soft polytheism is believing that one great Goddess created everything and that this Goddess is both male and female. In other words its not just the Goddesses that make up the Great encompassing Goddess. In this view they believe that even the Gods or male aspects of the divine make up aspects of the great Goddess as well as the feminine. This great Goddess is male and female all at once.
Hard polytheism . In Goddess worship through hard polytheism the great Goddess isn’t one Goddess. In this form of Goddess spirituality you are contacting the feminine divine forces through individual Goddesses. Some one who follows Goddess spirituality through the form of individual Goddesses as separate entities worships the Goddesses as feminine divine forms. Here they may worship the individual Goddesses for different reasons for their associations or for what ever reasons the Goddesses they worship call to them.
Then you have monotheistic Goddess worshipers. The monotheistic Goddess worshiper believes that there is only one divine force in the world. That one divine force is the Goddess. They believe that no other divine force in the universe. All the divine power and all divine influences come from this Goddess. They believe that everything came from this Goddess and to her everything will return. This is probably the most common form of Great Goddess worship and Goddess spirituality.
How to practice Goddess Spirituality
In Goddess spirituality the idea is that there are many different ways to practice Goddess spirituality. Like any spiritual and religious path it is going to be a very personal path and choice. Like all paths there will be different ways that you can go out and find the Goddess. There are many ways you can work and make a relationship with the great Goddess and be a part of Goddess spirituality.
The best advice I can give on Goddess spirituality and practicing it is to remember how important feminine energy is to life. All things in this world need both masculine and feminine energy in order to produce offspring and thus survive. Life is the gift of the Goddess. By appreciating life and enjoying life you are living with the Goddess and enjoying all that the Goddess has to offer you. That is a form of Goddess worship.
In the poem the charge of the Goddess there is a line that states “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. This is one of the truths about true divine Goddess spirituality. In true Goddess spirituality doing the things that you enjoy, the things that move your spirit and make you feel whole are ways you can honor and be one with the Goddess. Yes sex and sexuality are implied in that wording but it means more than that. If you live to perform find ways to dedicate your performances to the Goddess. If you paint involve her in your activities and let her direct your painting. By being true to your inner self and your real joys and pleasures in life you are being true to her and letting her move you.
If you are the type of person who likes to do formal ritual than go for it. Goddesses and the divine in general do enjoy formal worship. When ever you are working with any sort of spirit of divine being its important to give them offerings of types at different times. This is how you worship them and stay in their presences. With the great Goddess and Goddess spirituality its not really any different. It just depends on how you interpret the Goddess in your version of Goddess spirituality.
Now you may think that Goddess spirituality is just for women. This is not true. While you may find and will find a majority of Goddess central or Goddess based spiritual paths are women only, this is in part because the Goddess spiritual movement has been tied in with feminine power and movements to empower women. Goddess spirituality also in many cases and ways focuses on women mysteries hence forth it is a female central path. There are men on this path its just different for them and they often times feel out of place.
Paths and traditions
The following is a list of known Goddess central and Goddess spirituality based paths.
Dianic Wicca-Formed by Z Buddapest
Reclaiming- Starhawks tradition a mixture of Dianic Wicca and Feri witchcraft
Goddess spirituality is not one of my expertise. It is an area that I have only done some vague research into. I have presented you with the information I have found. I am providing you with some resources now on Goddess spirituality that may be more beneficial to you,
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
The Book of Womens Mysteries by Z. Buddapest
The White Goddess Robert Graves
If you have a book or link on Goddess spirituality that you would like to share comment and I will add it to the list. I will also add them to the links pages as I get those resource pages up and running.
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.
Asking and Answering Questions
Why we ask questions of ourselves
The process of seeking spirituality is a difficult one. There are a lot of questions that come up as you being to question your path and your beliefs. Many people when they leave their previous belief systems don’t really understand what they are looking for. They may feel something missing but be unsure of what it is exactly they need. During this period its good to read anything you get your hands on. You should read basically any material regarding religions and spirituality you are drawn to. There may be something in those sources that fits what you are looking for, or it could provide you with more confusion.
When you begin seeking a path there is often more information out there than you can handle at once. There are so many texts and websites all offering different insights on how to start and where to begin the practice. They all offer different insight into the lore and the belief systems of various religions and paths. Its too much to take in and can cause confusion and ultimately frustration. Don’t worry. There is something you can do to fight this problem.
So before you throw out all your books on the different topics out of frustration, before you find yourself hopelessly lost in the sea of information you should ask yourself some questions. Wait? Ask myself questions? You got it. Ask yourself-your higher self (spirit guide, soul, how ever you want to see the part of you that is connected to the divine and exists in the spirit worlds) to answer some questions. Your spirit will answer. Even if the answer is not exactly specific pr uncertain you will at least have a place to start.
OK so I get asking questions now. So what are these questions? These questions are questions that will help you find the path you are looking for. They will shed light on what you personally believe. You may think you know what you believe but have you ever really asked yourself what you believe? Many haven’t considered their position on many beliefs out there that you might not find in traditional religions or spiritual paths.
Asking the questions
So here are the questions. There is one big overall question with some smaller questions for each section. This is to make you really think about all aspects of the questions. They may seem simple but these are deep questions that you need to think about. As you write down these questions create a journal and write your answers down. You may want to focus on one question or question set at a time.
1: What is your belief in deity?
Do you believe in multiple Gods or just one God? Do you think that one God can manifest in different forms? Do you believe that the multiple Gods are all different individuals? Do you believe that the divine exists in everything and everything is part of the divine?
2: What do you believe in regards to spirits?
Do you believe that all things contain spirit (animals, plants, rocks, trees, rivers, oceans, mountains, etc)? Do you believe in different types of spirits (Dragons, Fairies, Elves, Dryads, Nymphs, etc)? Do you believe in angels and or demons? What are the relationships these spirits have with humans? With the divine? Do you believe in spirit guides?
3: What is your belief in the soul?
Do you believe in a soul? Do you believe in an eternal soul or does the soul die/change after death? Does the soul have multiple parts (like a mind, the spirit guide, etc) or is it one thing? How does the mind relate to the soul? The body? Is the spirit and the soul the same thing?
4: What is your belief in death and the afterlife?
Do you believe in reincarnation? Do you believe in heaven? Hell? Do you think that there is a place where we go after we die till we are reborn or till our memory fades away? Do you believe in multiple afterlives and multiple realms of the dead?
5: What is your belief in magic?
Do you believe in magic? What is magic to you? Is it something you want to use in spirituality? Is it something you want to be a part of your religion? Are you looking to use magic for more practical means? Do you think prayers are spells and magic?
6: Religion or spirituality?
What does religion mean to me? What does spirituality mean to me? Do I need one to have the other? What do I want out of religion? What do I want out of spirituality?
Answering the questions
I just gave you a lot of questions to answer and think about. I don’t expect the answers to come to you easily. The idea is that you will think about these questions. You might be wondering how do I answer these questions? I can’t really answer that. You have to find the answers yourself. I can show you how I answered these questions myself, and continue to answer them myself.
I have a journal that I have used to write down these questions and the answers I have come up with. I have one page that lists all of the questions. I start with the first question I asked. I center myself through breath and focus. I call to my higher self and spirit asking that they provide me with the direction to go in. I then focus on the question and just start writing down my thoughts related to the question.
Don’t limit yourself. Write down all the thoughts that come into your mind when you think about the question. Don’t worry if there are questions you think of when you answer it. Write them down as part of your response. This the gives you something to work with. When you feel that you can’t say any more on the subject you have channeled all the answers you will have for the time being in regards to that question.
Write down your experiences with any of these things. If you have experienced the divine write about that in the questions about the divine. Write about spirit encounters under spirit beliefs. Experiences often say more than beliefs. If experience something you don’t necessarily need to believe in it as you have first hand knowledge and experience of it. If the experiences made you question something or want to know more about something write that in. Most pagan and spiritual paths are mystery and experience based. That is why including personal experiences with these entries is important.
What if I can’t think of anything to write? What if my answer is I don’t know? Then you start with that. Just keep working the pencil. As you repeat “I can’t think of anything to write” you will eventually find some thoughts coming into the page. If you keep repeating I don’t know eventually you will have a few thoughts or ideas filter into the writing. This is your answer. Your starting point.
Once you have answered a question give yourself a day before going on to the next question. Do not underestimate the amount of spiritual energy and mental energy used when writing these answer and thinking about these questions. You do not want to overwhelm yourself when you first begin seeking. The more time you spend writing about and thinking about spiritual concepts, practices, and the like the more comfortable and aware you will become of the energy used around you.
Using the information
Once you have answered the questions you have asked yourself give yourself a day or two before reading them. This will give your mind and your soul a little rest. You have been asking and looking deep at big questions. A day or two to wait before reading your reflections and thoughts is not a bad thing. You have given yourself a lot of information from deep down and processing it will take time,
So where do you go from here? The next thing you need to do is look at each question group specifically. Start with the deity question. If you found answers along the lines of multiple deities than you have an idea that looking at pantheons may be a good place to start. From here you can then think about any cultures you feel drawn to and start with those myths and god concepts. Then you look at the spirit question. If you already have a pantheon look within other myths and fairy tales or folklore to learn about the spirits in that culture. If you don’t have a pantheon or god concept to start with then looking into shamanic practices is a starting point. I think you see where I am going with this.
The idea is that by answering the questions you can find cultures and spiritual paths that deal specifically with those beliefs and concepts. You may find several different paths that hold similar beliefs. At this point you will be able to read and look at them all. Now is the time to write down as you read what you agree with in a path and what you don’t agree with. You’ll already have an idea of your own beliefs. So finding where you fit in is easier.
The journal you started with answering these questions is going to serve as your spiritual development journal. This is where you will continue to write down questions you have. You will write down what you agree with in certain paths, what you don’t agree with and the things you are not sure about.
As you continue you will find more questions and more answers. You may find that when you review your original answers you have questions there to explore. You may have found the answers to those questions. If you do write a page about that question, when you asked it, and when or where you found the answer in your journal. There will probably be some repetitive entries, but that’s ok. It is your journey and it is going to be unique to you and you alone.
For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian. If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen. Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition. I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans. My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.
The heathens of today are often hard to define. For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path. For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.
You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible. There are several Germanic cultures to choose from. You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes. Each tribe had slightly different lore. By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.
It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from. It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest. Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders. These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette. From these sagas we learn how they lived. That is why they are excellent sources to use. The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:
Right now I am in the process of reading Heimskringla. I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla. Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods. Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.
My Heathen Practice
My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts. Witchcraft as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture. There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki. Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant. That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.
Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning.. These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like. As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative. I have gained much wisdom from those practices. Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.
So what makes me a Heathen? Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun. I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines. The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd. There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.
The Norse were very much a warrior culture. For them it was about honor and the battle. Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless. Yes. The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes. It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.
My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can. It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like. The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry. For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.
What my heathen practice entails
I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism. While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that. My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods. It involves prayers and obviously magic.
I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic. Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes. Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism. It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom. There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.
My practice also entails a lot of study. There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me. My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions. I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual. One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.
The path to wisdom is never ending. This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.
The subject of this post is something that I actually have to think long and hard about. Lately when I think about it I can’t honestly say that I have been fulfilling my honest statement of being dedicated to serving my readers and myself on my personal spiritual journey. The last few weeks have been full of self doubt and self assessment. To be honest I even asked myself what right I had to run and even continue to post on a blog dedicated to helping newbies and seekers find their own paths.
I honestly felt that there was no reason for me to continue posting this blog. I have had a crisis of self esteem and self worth. It just hit me recently that while I may not be exactly where I thought I would be at this point in my life I am exactly where Fate has dictated I belong. This for me was a central part of accepting my current situation and current feelings of worthlessness.
During this time I have had to take a look at where I stand spiritually. I have to admit I have never completed any training beyond my Reiki 1 certification. I am proud to be a dedicant in the Temple Tradition. This to me also shows and states quite a bit about the truth regarding myself. I consider myself dedicated to the truths of witchcraft and finding my own path.
So this post is about the process of dedication and what exactly dedication means. It is actually something that I consider several times a year as I look at my studies in witchcraft, paganism, philosophy, and magic. With everything that I want to do in my life I have to make sure I study diligently .
Dedication or Initiation?
One of the most common things that new witches find in books on solitary witchcraft is a self initiation ritual. A self initiation ritual does not work. One can not self initiate. To be initiated means that you are being brought into the religion or tradition. You can not bring yourself into a religion or tradition. You can however perform a dedication ritual announcing to the Gods and yourself that you are going to be following their path.
As a person seeks their spiritual path they are going to have to decide at some point if they want to a solitary practitioner (alone or maybe with a close friend or family member or if they want to seek out a group. There are benefits to both of these choices. I have never been a member of a group so I can’t speak for the benefits, though I am seeking one for fellowship and joint worship. Groups may call for initiation rituals (Any British Traditional Witchcraft coven will require it and other traditions are also initiatory). This is choice will found the rest of your path for the near future.
Types of dedication rituals
As dedication rituals are personal there are many different ways and many different types of doing a dedication ritual. When I am exploring the worship of a religion I have not studied I perform a different type of dedication ritual than I do when I committing myself to the worship of specific set of deities. All of these dedications are important rituals to be taken seriously. Each type signifies a different level of commitment to a relationship with deities.
The first type of dedication is one of an introduction. An introduction ritual is one where you are telling the Gods that you want to learn about them and their worship. That you are opening yourself to them and that you are finding your path. In this way you are not saying that you are going to stick around forever but that you are exploring and wishing to get to know them.
Here is a simple introduction ritual. It is this ritual I have used when I introduced myself to the Germanic pantheons. I will make similar rituals when I go back and study Hellenic Paganism, Roman Paganism, and Kemetic recon. This ritual is only used when I am simply saying “Hi. I’m…. I want to learn more about you and will try to honor you as I study about you, your culture, and your history”. For me it is a sign of respect to introduce yourself before you start blindly studying and working on a base relationship.
Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense
Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”
Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water. State “With salt this water is pure”
Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.
Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.
Go to the altar and light the candle.
Here is where the ritual is going to essentially different for each person. Every culture and every religious tradition out there will have a different sort of prayer style. Some prayers are invocatory and others are more free form. This is where a seekers early research should pay off as they should have some sort of idea as to what rituals the Gods of that pantheon like. This is where you will state in ritual and prayer you intent to learn about them and is the first step in developing a relationship with the deities.
Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind
Sit in silence for a few minutes.
Go to the what ever you are offering.
Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”
Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.
Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day
You have to keep in mind that was just a simple outline for some one who has no real experience or any real knowledge of ritual structure and organization. The more experience you have the more complexity you can add to the ritual if you so choose. This ritual was simple because it is simply an introduction and they can be very simple.
The second type of dedication ritual is one that is sort of like a marriage. You are committing yourself to your path for actual service to the Gods. During this point in time you will have many trials and tests as you figure out your role and what the deities want from you. Some its teaching, others it’s healing. Some people never quite find exactly what the deities they worship want out of them for service, so they do what comes naturally to them or they simply continue to hold rituals in honor the memory of the Gods they worship.
One thing I did for the longest time to help me gain confidence and keep on track with my spiritual studies and practices was to do a renewal ritual. This ritual always renewed my spirit in the process. It also always brought me back into myself and into my place in my studies. It also always seemed to bring me closer to the deities I had introduced myself to.
Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense
Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”
Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water. State “With salt this water is pure”
Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.
Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.
Go to the altar and light the candle.
Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind
Sit in silence for a few minutes.
Go to the what ever you are offering.
Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”
Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.
As you place your offering state your promise to start serving with more honesty and more dedication. Announce proudly that you are giving yourself to service to these Gods for however long you are planning to keep at this level of service.
Look for any signs in your dreams or day to day life that the deities are listening to you and ready to accept your service to them.
Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day.
The ritual you see out there is one of my reasons for having such a strong connection with the Germanic deities. I have spent a lot of time working ritual in honor of the Germanic deities. It has fostered my relationships with several different deities in the Germanic pantheon. In some ways this is a connection to my believed ancestral path.
The last name of Boynton is very Germanic. There is a shire in Yorkshire England which holds the name Boynton. My research has indicated that this shire would have been under control of the Saxxons. This is a place I need to visit when I next visit England. I mean a shire which has the same name as my biological surname? How can I not visit that place? In which case the Germanic pantheon (which includes the Anglo’s, The Saxon’s, The Franks, The Norse, and several more tribes) would be a home coming for me which is what it felt like to me.
The third type of ritual is one that indicates a more serious commitment. In this final dedication ritual you are completely giving yourself to everything any anything that the deities you worship desire. This is a very difficult and very important type of ritual that will cement your future. Here you are asking to become an active priest or priestess.
The final dedication is one of an initiation from the Gods. When witches talk about how only the Gods can initiate and make some one a priest or priestess of their path this is the sort of ritual that they have in mind. This is a life changing ritual and is one of deep meaning. It is this ritual where you finally accept what it is that the Gods truly desires.
This is where one becomes a true servant of the Gods. You are not only doing rituals for the Gods, but you are also offering services to the community. You may start doing more volunteer work, you may teach a few people, you may even become an interfaith Chaplin. In accepting the true mantle of what it means to be a member of the clergy (a true priest and priestess) one has given all that they are to their deities.
Remember when I said that a person would have to choose between being a solitary practitioner and as a member of a group and how I mention that BTW requires an initiation of sorts? The level of commitment that this dedication entails is the same as an initiation into a BTW Coven. How can I say that with out actually being initiated into BTW? It’s simple. I have enough friends within various BTW traditions both with valid initiations and one oath breaker related tradition to say for sure that initiation into BTW makes you a priestess of those deities. That means that within your coven and in your day to day life you are serving the needs of those Gods in what ever way they need from you. That is the sort of commitment that this level of dedication and initiation requires.
I am actually at this point in the development of my own witchcraft tradition. I have yet to formalize the arrangement through a ritual. This is something I am working on. I have some what reluctantly accepted the mantled of priestess. Perhaps this is the only way I can develop access to the mysteries that my Gods have instore for me. For this reason I can not give a sample ritual. If you are looking for some ideas you might want to look at:
- A witches Bible By Stewart Farrar
- What witches do by Stewart Farrar
- Solitary Wicca by Scott Cunningham
- Witchcraft for Today by Gerald Gardner
- Wicca for One by Raymond Buckland
- The Outer Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczack
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.
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
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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:
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):
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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~
Samhain and Hallowmas:
The Holy Week:
Death and Rebirth in the cycle becomes complete
Part 1: The Spiritual Aspects and implications
I write this as Samhain and Hallowmas come to a close. The festivals of the dead and the transition from the lords of the land to the lords of the underworld completes the transition. I figured that as part of my job to help seekers on their search for questions I should provide some insight as to exactly what this sabbat is about and why people celebrate the sabbat in the ways that they do. Like everything else there are many ways to explain and experience the mysteries of these sabbats and not every ones view will agree with yours or even make sense to you. All I can do is provide my own insight based on my personal experiences and sources.
As I have started to develop my own personal theology this sabbat has come have a different meaning to me than other people might have. That is why in my own practice I call the holiday I celebrate Mortedon. However since most people are familiar with the names Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day that is what I will use here.
According to many sources this time of year could easily be considered the witches new year. The God is officially dead and in the underworld. He wont be born again until the Winter solstice and as such he is dead and in the underworld. This is the time to transit between one working season and the other. It is a time of completion and reflection that may bring about the planning ad start of the new planting season for the next harvest.
In many ways the major difference between those who call themselves Traditional witches and those who consider themselves Wiccan is that the majority of the rituals in traditional witchcraft deal with ancestral veneration and ancestors as divine while the rituals found within Wicca focus on the God and Goddess or Lord and Lady rather than the ancestors. This is alright. Not every one is meant to worship and venerate the ancestors. Anthropologically it has been said that ancestral worship was the first form of worship, which is why for me it has become a source of my foundation.
I actually appreciate these different theological styles. There is one holiday in which they both meet and they both share the same view. It is viewed by both paradigms (Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) as a day to honor both the dead and the ancestors as well as the God and Goddess. It is also an acknowledgement by both sides that the season of reflection is upon us. It is now that we must spend our time upon reflection and preparation for the new year and seasons.
Samhain, All souls Day, All Saints Day, Ancestor Night…all of these are names for essentially the same festival. This festival is an acknowledgment of every one who has gone before us. It is also an acknowledgement that there is life after death. It is here we can really see how even though the people we love and cherish may have passed on from this life, they really are still near by and watching us.
In many ways this is the time of year where the festivals a person honors and celebrates explains at least in part what their view of the afterlife is. For some people who believe in reincarnation this is also a time to connect with any of their past lives so that lessons they have to impart may be gives. This is the second festival where the veil between the worlds of the living and dead as well as spirit worlds is lowest. That is why contact with spiritual allies at this time of year.
Part Two: The Theology and Mythology of the Sabbat
Folkore and myth united
This is according to many sources the last sabbat of the year. For many witches the year starts at Yule and ends at Samhain and begins at Yule. In reality there is no real start or finish to a cycle. Cycles are circles and will always come back to a point and start again. This is how the world and the universe exist. Everything in the universe will be used again in the universe at some point in time. Every thing physical you see on this planet is made of of a star that existed eons before we were born:
Theologically, spiritually, and mentally it makes sense that the world as we know it would work in cycles. The physics at work in the universe simply provide a non-disputed example of how reincarnation exists. Here at Hallowmass and Samhaintide we are really able to see and understand how death and destruction/decay are essential to the growth and development of future lives and crops.
According to the Cycle of the Year and the 8 sabbats within Wicca and Eclectic witchcraft Samhain is when the God is dead. He was sacrificed at Mabon to ensure the fertile grounds of the next harvest. At one point in history it was believed that the king was sacrificed to bring life to the land for the next year. This was symbolic of the God’s death for the fertility of the land. Latter corn dollies were sacrificed instead of a human.
Blood was and still is the essential life force. If a creature is alive it bleeds. By the God sacrificing himself his blood (his life force) goes into the land giving life to the land. He knows that he will be reborn in his son in the end of winter and he will from the underworld guide and symbolize his son’s birth and his return by the return of the sun’s light starting at the Winter solstice (Yule).
It was believed that once a person died their body became the land. The blood of the sacrificed victim nourished the spirits of the land for the winter and would gain their favor for the spring.At Samhain the ancestors and other spirits from the land of the dead returned to give their blessings for the following year to their descendants.
The God at this time was in the Underworld understanding and being reborn. At Beltaine he had impregnated the Lady, his lover and wife, who would bear the child of promise who would carry and light the way for the Lord to be reborn at Yule (the light returning slowly) with his actual birth at Imbolc. The rest of the sabbats continue along this line. So in some ways Samhain is both the start and the finish.
The knowledge that there is life after death and life in death is symbolized no better than with ever greens (one of the reasons why those trees are decorated at Christmas). It’s also one of the reasons I feel that the hope to get through the winter for the spring exists. To see something that is alive and producing chlorophyll in the winter while the rest of the trees are inherently dead proves that there is life in death. It is one of the reasons I can see that death allows for the continuation of life.
With these thoughts in mind it is time to get to:
Part 3: A sample ritual
Ways that honoring the ancestors can be done
Now that it has been established why honoring the ancestors is so important I can start to give you some ideas as to how you as a seeker or as an active Pagan could honor your ancestors and the Gods and celebrate this sabbat and simply begin or further expand your understanding of this sabbat. For myself I gained even deeper insight into the mysteries this Samhain. As I post this the gates start to begin closing and the path seems to close, yet the creepy and spooky nature that is Samhaintide and Hallowsmass remains, the time to honor the ancestors comes to a close.
I have had a week to reflect on what I wanted to write for this entry and I have finally come to the last part of the entry where I can really start to explain how one can go about celebrating this sabbat. For many years as a seeker I was honestly unsure of what to do with my offerings for any sabbat. Samhain was another one that left me confused, so now I feel it it is time to give some sort of explanation as to how you can give your offerings to the Gods and the ancestors.
So here is a very simple ritual:
Ancestral Ritual For Samhain:
Apple or Pomegranete Juice/alcohol
Red Apples or Pomegranete fruit & Seeds
As you pour your drink concentrate and think of your ancestors and the Gods and the land. Focus intently and place this light into the food and drink blessing it in the names of the spirits, the ancestors, and the Gods. You then pour two drinks one for the Spirits, ancestors and Gods and one for your self.
As you take your drink say a prayer for what you are thankful and towards any ancestors you wish to contact and communicate with. Take a moment and think of them. Then get into your trance position. For this it may be best of you lie facing down with your hands working as a head rest head in a comfortable position. After you get into position think and state to your self:
“I Vibrate in harmony with the Underworld and the Gods of the Underworld”.
Repeat this statement over and over until you reach a state where you see and become one with the God or Goddess of the Underworld. Continue the trance until you have gained all the insight you will receive. Slowly reduce your vibration into yourself. Once you are back into yourself take another drink in honor of the Gods and the lesson you learned.
Eat the red apple or the pomegranate seeds. If you eat the apple place the seeds aside till the morning. If you eat the pomegranate seeds place a few aside till the morning.
Go to bed expecting dreams based on the rite you performed. The following morning write down any dreams you may have had. When done and dressed for the day take the seeds and the same drink you had the night before and place them in a whole at the trees base.
Reasoning behind the ritual:
By taking in that blessed drink you understand that the drink is the fruits of the Gods who you worship as well as the ancestors who literally are the land. This drink is their blood after the sacrificial blood of the god had been spilled, this is their response. When you eat the fruits of the land or drink of the liquids you are taking in the essence of the land and your ancestors.
When you let a drink in a cup evaporate overnight that drink is consumed by the air and the essence of life. The ancestors who have returned to visit partake of this liquid. In the morning the seeds and the remaining liquid are returned to the ground. This nourishes the ancestors and the spirits as well as the gods. This is how we can honor and nourish them.
Part four: My conclusion:
For me this really explains a lot. Through the ritual expressed above I was able to understand the roles of the Gods and the Goddesses that I worship. I was also able to understand exactly what the underworld does to work with rebirth and reincarnation. Finally When I look at astrophysics and how the creation of new universes begin and what black-holes really are I can see how my theology and philosophy line up with science.
I really recommended that any seeker of the wisdom of the cycle of destruction, reformation, creation, growth, and development take a basic physics course. This course will explain how the various galaxies came into being, how stars and suns are born, and how new universes are created. In some ways it may also lead a seeker to see how magic could be seen to be the force that keeps all of these things working in balance. That is what Samhaintide and Hallowmas is all about.