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Pagan Blog Project A: Altars- Temporary workings

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.

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~

 

 

 

Pagan Blog Project: G is for Grounding


Grounding

Returning to reality

I promised this week that I would have a post containing information and a few exercises on contacting your spiritual guides.  I was not lying.  I realized however that at the end of my work on trance states I never explained exactly why I had the plate of cheese or nuts by your side at the end of the exercises.  To be honest this entry has come out of a need for my to do exactly what this essay is about.

Grounding is the last part of any trance, ritual, magic, or energy work that I do.  It is the also the first thing that I do.  In this way my concept of the circle being the symbol of perfection does into play.  Grounding is what allows us to switch gears and allows us to focus on one specific task or goal at a time.

In some ways I see the techniques of grounding as techniques of getting into a trance or at least of altering ones state.  This is why grounding is the first part of getting into a trance and it is the last part of getting into trance.  For people who suffer from anxiety disorders or even who wish to learn how overcome anxiety before tests, interviews, presentations, ect grounding is a good skill to learn.  It is something that really applies to every day life and all parts of life.

I have somewhat of an anxiety disorder.  When I have worked in fast food I have had the problem of beings one of the few employees who would try and do everything they could.  In many ways this made it harder for me to do my job which was always to take the orders at the front counter.  I ended up over coming my anxiety at being overwhelmed by imagining one leg being a root taking in new energy and the other leg being a root pushing out my anxiety.

What I have just illustrated is a practical use for grounding that allows me to work and earn my own income.  That is a technique that for me connects me to how I truly see the concept of being both grounded and centered,  That illustration for me is that of a tree.  For me the image of a tree becomes very important and you could say that the trees are the the central key to the mysteries as I understand them.

So why are trees sacred to me and why did I use that specific example for grounding?

The first thing that comes to mind for me is my location.  Location and land relationships are very important to me.  I live in Maine.  I constantly see the trees taking nutrients from the ground up to the crown to be filled with the light from the sun back down through the heart to the roots and back into the ground.  For me that is the perfect example of how life is constantly changing and being recycled.  The best form or grounding is one where you don’t remove the energy and emotions that bother you, but transmute it by changing it’s vibration and polarity.  It goes from one state into another at your will.

The manipulation and change of energy from one form to another is the definition of magic.  The only real difference here is that instead of directing the energy out into the world you are directing it through yourself, into the ground and back up into yourself in a different form.  They say that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply changes forms.  That is grounding.

So here is your  first exercise:

Grounding energy 1:

Get seated in a comfortable position.  Close your eyes and breath deeply and relax.  Take a few breaths with an inhale of five and an exhale of five.  This will get you ready to focus on the exercise at hand and clear your mind of everything that you have experienced that day.

Place both feet flat on the floor.  From each foot visualize a set of roots connecting and digging you into the earth.  Once you feel as if you are connected with the earth see any energy that feels “off” (anxiety, anger, exhaustion, ect) into the ground through your right leg.  Direct that energy back into the ground around and between your feet.  Once the energy has been reenergized so to speak pull it up with the left body and direct it up towards you crown and into your hands.  With your next exhale release the energy into your body and feel the changed energy.

And there you have it.  Your first exercise with magic.

 

The Reflection & modifications for other exercises

Now once you have done that exercise a few time write down in your journal how you feel.  The out come of this exercise should be that you are reinvigorated and ready to go.  This is an exercise to relax as well as a grounding exercise.  It’s a grounding exercise because you have come from one state to a more centered state by directing and manipulating various energies.  You have performed a small bit of magic.

 
The why this exercise works will be discussed in an upcoming post when I deal with the basic Hermetic Philosophy laws and how they apply to magic.  For now I will leave you this photo which describes magical practices perfectly:

 

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