Creating small inconspicuous, sacred spaces all thought a Witch’s home.
What is with us Pagans and our Altars? I love looking at a clear perfectly arranged space. In fact, it causes a lot of hostility in my home, because my roommates don’t have the same need for organization and cleared space as I do. I would say a large portion of my need for cleared space, i.e. uncluttered empty counters and table space, is due to the teachings of Paganism. In every beginner’s book, there is a section dedicated to removing unwanted and unused things. Normally in a spring cleaning or emotional baggage type section. They encourage a working witch to get rid of energy suckers; and that these clear spaces help our thoughts and our magick stay fresh. Maybe when I was younger I didn’t ascribe to that philosophy as much, but now I can’t stand clutter of any kind! Everything I have put on display has a place and gives me nothing but joy and if it is a necessary item that does not bring me happiness with a single glance it better have a place to go where I don’t have to look at it.
As a “compromise” I enforce stringent regulations on my spaces and try to respect shared space. I am really bad at the respecting shared space bit. Now on top of that, I have thrown embarrassing tantrums and had fits over my spaces being touched and in prep for spring cleaning I think I found out why. Every space I set up is an altar of some kind that I have devoted a large portion of energy in setting up and caring for. Each one, in turn, gives me satisfaction on a spiritual level and could be used to invoke certain feelings, Deities, or emotional states. Whether you maintain a standing Altar in your home or not, if you have been in the craft for any length in time you keep your tools in a certain place in a special way. You know the sting of your magickal space being disturbed and work to prevent it at all cost. You may let others touch your tools but if they have been disturbed out of your presence it’s a break of trust.
High Priestess Syrai RavenWynd’s (of Circle of the Spiral Moon Coven) “Witchy Closet” The closet door has a lock to keep unwanted eyes and hands out. This is where a practitioner of the craft for over 2 decades keeps her tools safe.
So, what is with us and our altars? I know a lot of practicing witches who have multiple places in their homes and outdoors that they can go to recharge their witchy batteries. Why if the Earth is our “church” do we construct these places? Altar construction and devotion is an ancient art found all over the world. It is in our DNA, and if you ask me our ancestors built these physical places of worship for their convenience. The first altars were just as much for spiritual need as much community. These slabs of stone and art that have survived were there for the people. Used as anthropologists and historians speculate on more than religion but politics, education, and Judaical proceedings as well, but in these ancient times, all of these communal acts would be considered interconnected. In short, the ancestors built these places to bring the people together and to give a place that was everyone’s space and no one’s at all; because they are the Gods’ space.
Moving away from historical speculation and to Neo-Paganism, there is a large focus on altar building. All the books talk about altar decoration and set up and most of us that don’t have a stationary altar wish we did. I personally find myself very lucky after fifteen years of not being able to maintain a constant altar I now have one; and as I have said before have been finding that some spaces I once considered mundane are not so much anymore. If you do not have the luxury of freedom to have an open and stationary altar consider some options.
My Altar currently midway cleaned from Ostara.
Not all altars have to be large and elaborate. I have seen plenty of altars that get the job done on just a small floating shelf. Also, your altar does not have to be just your altar. Sometimes space has to pull double duty. If half the time your altar is your desk due to space, that is not a problem. Your altar also does not have to be covered in pentacles, and Goddess symbols. A candle and some images of nature can be all you need to know what it is and not freak out your gusts. Also, fold-out tables that come out only when its ritual time is just fine too. For a long time, I had to flatten a TV dinner tray when not in use and then pull it back out when it was time to set the circle. The main importance here is to do what you need when you need to and do what you feel works for you. Yes, a lot of books will tell you how to set up an altar, but most of the advice they are giving is rooted in Ceremonial Magick and that might not work for everyone.
Before I end I did want to share some of the spaces I never planned on making into altars that have organically become so. I have a large garden tub in my master bath. It is not a shower and tub combo and because of this I have decorated the edges of the tub with candles, large shells, rose quartz, and a marble statue of Michel Angelo’s Birth of Venus (see top picture). The Goddess of beauty and love has infused that space to a place of self-care and worship. With the offerings surrounding her, the whole tub is infused with love and care whether I am using it or not! My nightstand was a bit of a labor of love, to begin with. I wanted a very specific piece of furniture and once I got it I wasn’t going to stop there. I ended up replacing the knobs with much prettier blue and white painted porcine and found a tile coaster that matched. At home, I had two tea lite holders. One blue louts flower and a blue Moroccan Lantern. I was gifted a beautiful purple incense holder and with all of that strategically placed the table gave off a warmth and peaceful vibe. So even the most simple and mundane places can become magickal and full of spirit. How does your altar look? Make you feel?
This week I suggest music by Onmia. I can’t get their title track song Earth Warrior out of my head!
Blessed Be, Autumn Wolfe