From our earliest ancestors-of-faith driving fat clay goddesses into the mud to the multi-layered symbolism of an array of Gardnerian ritual tools to the haphazardly elegant collection of shells, stones, and flowers of our coven's Ostara, altar building is one of the simplest yet most profound statements a spiritual practitioner can make: I am here. This is my universe. These things in this place at this time have meaning for me.
We express our religious creativity and our desires through our altars, and we use their shapes, textures, and layouts to affirm our priorities. Setting up a permanent altar is a very serious announcement to the gods that you intend not only to honor your commitment to Them, but to the space itself, both internal and external. When you build an altar in the physical world you also build one in your heart, making room for miracles, allowing for the possibility of a magical world.
What do you suppose it means, then, when you neglect such a holy creation? I found myself asking that question as I sat in front of my altar, knees drawn up to my chin, pondering the film of dust that covered the objects I had, more than once, declared sacred to me. What does that dust say about the state of your spirit, your commitment to the Divine, and to yourself?
It says it's time to get your house in order.
Monday night's dream shoved me unceremoniously--or perhaps I should say very ceremoniously--out of my torpor, and I knew I had two choices: either drag myself back into practice, or have my ass handed to me by Deity. Having had the latter happen on a number of occasions I thought, just for grins, I'd try the former.
Last night, therefore, found me doing something that I do periodically both as regular maintenance and a sort of spiritual reboot: I stripped my altar naked and reassembled it from scratch.
If you ever feel bogged down and stagnant, look first to your altar; give it the attention you would like the Goddess and God to give to your life. Keep its tools in good repair, its relics purified and clean. Keep it organized. Periodically shake things up a bit, change its hair color, get it some wild red platform boots. Whatever you do, don't let anything on it die, unless it's part of some kind of ritual--nothing says "kick me" spiritually like dead flowers drooping out of moldy water.
I gave mine a pretty significant overhaul yesterday: I replaced the Millennial Gaia statue with the Queen of Heaven; I draped the whole thing in dark purple; I brought out my images of Lilith, my carved gemstone serpents, my snakeskin agate. I moved several smaller items to the secondary shrine beside my bed, and replaced moonstones with labradorite. The overall effect is darker, deeper, and absolutely perfect for the work I need to do.
Once you've cleaned and rebuilt, take the opportunity right then and there to sit down and do something at your altar. It doesn't have to be anything complicated. Usually I light all the candles, spark up some incense, and meditate a while on the altar itself--what the whole of it symbolizes, how much I love it. If there's a particular object I want to replace or that I'm not sure I want there, I contemplate that for a while and usually an alternative comes to mind.
Above all, I don't sit and dwell on the worries that are overwhelming me--I consider the significance of what I've just done, and how that act of magic can now infuse the air around my altar, and me, molecule by molecule, with newfound purpose and clarity. Whatever journey I face, taking it to my altar should be the first step.
Next post I'll put up a picture, if I can get one to come out. The lighting in my bedroom is a bit wonky.