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Tips and Tricks: The B.O.S. and the Altar

Author: Emm
Posted: November 14th. 2010
Times Viewed: 5,118

Imagine: A 12-year old girl in shorts and a tee-shirt on her summer vacation, wanders down aisle after dusty aisle of the library, looking for a new fantasy book she hasn't read a half-dozen times. This girl then runs across a section she's never seen before; perhaps it was fate that led her there. Her eyes hungrily roam across new book after new book. Finally, her eyes alight on a book called Teen Witch, written by someone under the name of Silver Ravenwolf. This 12-year old grabs the book, checks out, and heads for home, eager to start reading. Imagine then, her surprise upon finding out that the book isn't fiction, as she had assumed, but a non-fiction story about a religion called Wicca. Fascinated, the girl continued reading.

If you haven't already guessed, this is how my story began. And a year-and-a-half (and a lots of studying!) later, here I am. A Solitary, Eclectic Pagan, who follows mainly Wiccan principles. I have a semi-accepting mother, a semi-accepting brother, and a dad who regards the whole “Pagan”ť thing as a big joke. I am here, not to give a long, in-dept analysis of my conversion to Paganism, but to instead give some tips and tricks for anyone just starting the Craft, or looking for a new perspective on how they do things. I'll divide this essay up into a two sections, so that is more user-friendly and easy to use.

Writing/Designing your B.O.S.

When I compiled my Book of Shadows, the first thing I did was get a big 3-ring binder. You can easily take stuff out, add things, and re-organize to your heart's content. The one I got was white, but it has a clear pocket on the front that I made a picture for. Binders come in all sorts of colors, so if you don't feel like you're up to doing anything real crafty, get yourself a binder that is pre-decorated. Of course, your second choice is to have a notebook or two that you record things in. Personally, I prefer binders, because to me they're more versatile, but that is totally up to you.

My next step was to divide up my binder using those wonderful colored tabs. Here were my sections:

My Story: This is where I wrote about how I got into Paganism
Journal: I try to keep a journal about spells I'm doing, how my magickal life is going; that kind of thing.
The Basics: I have a copy of the Rede, the Charge of the Goddess, the Charge of the God, etc. here.
Goddess and God: I have pictures of the deities in this section
Correspondents: Here I list herbs and their qualities, colors and their qualities, and elements and their qualities.
Circles and Tools: This one is exactly what it sounds like. I have the incantations for circle-casting, as well as a complete list of all my altar/magickal items.
Rituals and Spells: This happens to be the biggest section of my B.O.S., and is where I have written out all my spells and rituals.
Power Animals: Some people have power animals they work with. If you do, this is the section where you write about them and your experiences with them.
Magickal Alphabet: If you like writing in runes, but are afraid you would forget the meanings, here is where you can write down all the magickal alphabets you use.
Dream Diary: I enjoy keeping a dream diary; I've found it a great way to notice subconscious messages.
Miscellaneous: Do you do something that doesn't fall under any of your other categories? Put it here!

And the final step, of course is to put everything in your B.O.S.!

Now, there are people (me included) who prefer to handwrite the things they put in their B.O.S. However, there are some people who for one reason or another would prefer the typed page. As long as you type it yourself (come on, is “copy and paste” really necessary?) I feel that typing things is a totally legit way of keeping a B.O.S. And for people with un-accepting parents? It may even be far wiser to have your B.O.S. saved to a personal computer as opposed to having it just sitting out for them to find.

The Altar

Ah, yes, the altar. The altar is the hub of your magickal activity. It is where one comes to rest, center oneself, and commune with Deity. But for many, setting up the altar is a challenge. There are so many ways to do so, so many things one could purchase, and, for some, not enough money to purchase those things with. Here are some ideas for setting up a low-cost, functional, elegant altar.

The first thing you need to decide is whether or not your altar will be a permanent fixture in your space. Take into account any pets, siblings, or nosy parents who may be tempted to get into an altar left up all the time. My youngest brother Ben doesn't understand the concept of “don't touch”ť, and consequentially, I had to put my altar in my closet as opposed to having it out all the time. Pets may walk on an unattended altar, knocking things over and whatnot, so if your altar is to be permanent, make sure pets don't have access to your space if you aren't in there to keep them from getting into your things.

Having taken this into account, let's say that you don't think it would be reasonable to keep your altar out all the time. Here's an easy way to have an altar that isn't an altar, if you follow my meaning. Get a typical storage box, trunk, etc. This can be your altar, and your ritual tools (discussed next) can easily be stored inside and packed away when not in use. If you feel you can have a more permanent altar, consider your budget.

You can purchase lovely wooden tables inscribed with magickal symbols, but bear in mind, these are more expensive. For those not ready to spend so much, the top of a dresser, desk, side table, or other level, solid object is appropriate. Now for the fun part: the tools. Of course, tools are not really necessary to the Craft, just as spotlights and costumes are not necessary to a play. But just as the costumes and fancy set the stage for a theatrical performance, so do the tools set the mood for a ritual. Again, there are plenty of websites where you can buy the best of ritual tools. However, in today's economy, that isn't necessarily practical.

So here's how to get the bare basics for an altar. Find something to represent each element. Sea salt or natural pebbles for Earth, a cup of water for...water, a candle, even something as little as a tea light for fire, and a feather (or incense if you're allowed to have it) for air. Then, find something to represent the God and Goddess, even if that's just a tea light for each of them. That is the absolute, bare-minimum altar. Now for some stuff I'm sure many of us have around the house: a knife that can be used as an athame (yes, butter knifes count) , a stick from the backyard that perhaps you care into a wand, a cup or wine-glass for a chalice, and a notebook or binder for your B.O.S. (discussed above) . If you have clay or play-doh, consider sculpting a God and Goddess statue. You can also make a clay pentacle, if you so choose.

On my altar, I have a Goddess statue, and a piece of petrified wood to represent the God. If you have access to other candle, by all means, take advantage of it. Typically, you will see a silver taper candle to represent the Lady, and a gold candle to represent the Lord. You can use a votive candle to represent each element: blue for water, green for earth, red for fire, and yellow for air. It's also a good idea to have an altar cloth. It's great aesthetically, but it also means that rather than staining your family-heirloom chest-of-drawers when you accidentally spill something, you can just take your altar cloth and toss it in the wash.

Finally, be creative. Look up seasonal decorations, add flowers, and find peaceful/meaningful photos to add. The best kind of altar is one where you can sit in front of it and know that it is yours. It's not a start-up mass-produced kit; it's a personal altar, and no one has one exactly like yours.

~Blessed Be

Copyright: Copyright me. Feel free to use these ideas and share them with your friends, but please cite me if you want to copy any part of my essay.



Location: Streamwood, Illinois

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