Finding A Space To Call Your Own
Article ID: 13488
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: November 29th. 2009
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Altars are kind of common knowledge, I know, but I thought I should add my two cents. This article is mainly for those Wiccans, Witches, or Pagans out there who for one reason or another can’t have a typical altar or sacred space.
Many teens seem to get into the mindset of thinking that they HAVE to have an altar candles, incense, and athame, a wand, and many other things to be Wiccan. This is not true.
Yes, these things can make your rituals more of a deeply spiritual experience. And it's true, that maybe more experienced Wiccans that have all these tools at their disposal may judge based on what tools as if it is a qualification of some sort. But ultimately, you don’t need expensive (or cheap, for that matter) tools to be Wiccan.
Unique Altars... ( I-Disappearing Altars, II-Portable Altars, III-Materials, IV-Large Scale Altars, V-Mental Altars, VI-Garden Altars)
Keep in mind that the idea of a sacred space is all about you. Divinity, be it the God and Goddess, or in any other form does not favor one place over the other. You are never in a place devoid of spirit, no matter where you are. Therefore, the point of a sacred space is so that you associate it with spiritual workings, and thus it is easier for you to get into a calm and open state of mind.
So, given this, it is also very possible that you can take any space available to you and make it sacred, simply with your own intent.
But of course, we all have treasured objects that we want to use, we want to recognize and represent the elements, etc. And for those of you who run into problems along the way, I leave you with these pointers:
An altar is, for the most part, any flat surface that you can use comfortably as the surface for your ritual. It can be a large table with pentacle carvings on it, or it can be a coffee table.
For a long time when I started out, mine was a plastic storage tub flipped upside down and covered with a cloth. This worked quite well, because if I was having someone over and needed to tuck it away, all my belongings fit inside it.
Now I use an old dresser surface and the first drawer in it for storage. I have also used a bookshelf. One of the most experienced and respected Wiccans I know uses a piano stool.
Anyway, being a teenager, the space that we call our own is usually impermanent. You may be in a temporary living situation, you may be moving out soon, or perhaps you have nosey siblings and family. I even have kept contact with a few in colleges, who have less them the most respectful roommates, and here are some of the better recommendations I know of:
I. You do not need fancy materials to have a disappearing altar. You may just simply have a special hiding place for items when not in use. For example, ideal for those of you hoping to use desks, there are letter-writing desks that involve a panel being folded down when in use, and folded up and locked again when not in use so that it closes. These are ideal for most people, as you can leave all your materials inside, and simply fold it back up.
The only thing I have to suggest for those of you that do this is be sure that you keep both the storage place for your items and where you set them up and hold rituals safe, and for lack of a better word ‘pure’ places. Even if you set up in a place that you have cleansed and purified, you should be careful that your objects are not stored in a place full of bad vibes.
II. The portable altar. A favorite for those of us that can't keep everything at home all the time. There have been numerous books about it, and I'm sure a quick Google search would do you wonders... I have one of these that I use on occasion, but it could be your main altar if you so choose. For example:
Instead of having an altar surface, you could contain all the objects you with to carry in a cloth or small box. This way, when you set up, you can either spread the cloth over the surface or set the objects on top of the box. You can also make your cloth into a bag for your items.
Now, for what put inside your portable altar, I suggest any combination of the following:
(1) One or more divination tools. I choose to bring one of my pendulums, as it seems to not suffer from being in a different environment. I would bring my tarot cards if I were bringing this in a several-day trip of some sort, but not for everyday outings. However, the choice is yours. I also bring my I-Ching coins, but I use them for other things besides just divination.
(2) A pentacle of some sort, or other symbol with meaning to you. Instead of buying another pentacle, I choose to simply take the pentacle charm off of my necklace and use that on occasion. You can buy your own or make them from clay. Or, perhaps you could buy a disk of wood and draw or burn the symbol on (all materials for this can be bought at a craft store for under five US dollars) . If you want to focus on having an object of each element, this can be your tool for Earth.
(3) A crystal. There are infinite possibilities here. You may want to select a few crystals based on what purposes you are likely to need them for. You may choose your birthstone or crystals with personal meaning. Also note that your crystal does not have to be in raw form. Many of mine are tumbled and I even use crystals that are shaped and placed in jewelry.
For example, I work with the bit of moonstone set in my pentacle all the time. If you were trying to have an object for each element, the crystals would be for fire. However, I find that tigers eye and red tigers eye seem to work the best when I need a specific crystal for fire.
(4) If you do not want your crystal to be for fire, you can bring a match (do not light it) or a candle (I would suggest you don't light this...but who knows, you might find a good time and place) or perhaps a battery powered candle that uses a flickering light bulb. You might laugh, but the battery powered candles work wonders sometimes.
(5) Should you decide you want to actually bring the elements, you may put them in a vial of some sort. For example, you may want to bring a small vial of water, salt, dirt, sand, herbs, and so on. I personally don't do this just because I think those plastic vials are annoying. I would avoid glass simply to avoid the disaster of breaking open a jar of whatever you brought and having it spill all over everything.
(6) For air, many people get stuck on thinking they need incense. I say rubbish. Your possibilities are only limited by your interpretation.
For portable altars, you can use (unlighted) Incense; a feather (or something in the shape of) ; a fan; something the colors yellow or white; or even symbols and carvings of birds butterflies, or other flying bugs; something to represent a God, Goddess, or Deity of Air; a carved piece of wood or stone with the characters for air written on it in magical alphabets; a symbol of the zodiac signs rules by air (Aquarius, Gemini, Libra) ; or perhaps another crystal corresponding to air. I have heard some people prefer to use even their own breath, or visualize the air around them in motion.
(7) For water, if you choose not to bring a vial or container of water, a symbol of it should do just fine. Perhaps you would like a small figure that's blue in color, or a symbol of an aquatic animal. A crystal with properties that correspond to water can work as well, or you can bring a seashell.
(8) For portable or small altars, you may wish to include small figures or statues. the choice is yours.
NOTE: If you're stuck on having something to represent each element, one of the best solutions I've come across was purchased at a local department store for fewer than 10 US dollars. You know those pendent that open up so you can change what stone is inside? Mine was gift, a simple heart necklace with interchangeable stones. However, instead of using my locket, I simply keep the stones with me if I need to bring crystals somewhere. It consists of a heart shaped red jasper (fire) , blue agate (water) , jade (earth) , clear quartz (air) , onyx (spirit) , and rose quartz for emotional matters, though I have not used it for an element.
Somewhere on the net, I found the ultimate portable altar. In fact, it can fit right in your pocket, and to most people it would just appear as a pocketful of miscellaneous objects.
For a container, you can use a simple empty film canister. As suggested above, tiny crystals can work wonders for you. However you can also keep inside pebbles, salt, small shells, a twig, or even objects of various metals for earth (like a penny, for example) .
For more on portable altars, go here: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/shoppingandsupplies/ss/Portable_Altar.htm
So anyway, onwards to...
Usually easy to come by or lying around your house right under your nose. Incense, oils, and candles are commonly used, either charged for the purpose or just to set the mood. A word of caution: don't rely too heavily on these things. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that you NEED candles. That is a load of rubbish. You don't need to light a candle to be Wiccan.
For candles, there are alternatives. You may choose not to light it, which requires visualizing the flame and the heat. I have heard that this isn't a good idea because you can "get lazy". I disagree wholeheartedly. While it's true, you want your rituals to be as rich as possible, this is a wonderful exercise for enhancing visualization skills. It keeps you on task, because instead of your practice seeming like to no more than a mundane task, the visualizing practice here will actually enhance your ritual.
Battery powered ones are also a good idea. Unorthodox and even sometimes a mood-killer, they get a bad name. But I know people who were formerly in the Navy and these things were perfect for them.
Also, don’t be afraid to make your own tools and materials. Hand dipped candles or scented oil candles are incredibly easy to make as long as you have the essential materials (which can all be bought at a craft store) and Carving a wand, making an Athame, etching a wine glass for your Chalice and making clay altar pieces are a wonderful idea.
So, if you can't have a full altar, it has been suggested that you have a small temporary one... However, the opposite can be just as worthwhile.
IV. That's right. Make a HUGE altar. Use your entire room, for example.
Should you choose to do this, Suggestions for such methods are as follows:
1. Put four candles and candle holders in your room facing the four cardinal directions.
2. Keep a vessel of water or a chalice of some sort somewhere.
3. Keep a dish of salt or potted plant in your room as the earth element, and if it is a plant, it is already perfectly disguised.
4. Keep a paper, fabric, or traditional fan of your choice on display somewhere in a holder that keeps it upright (for air) . Feathers, whether they are natural bird feathers, craft feathers, or even just décor shaped like a feather are great ideas, too.
5. Keep a comfortable blanket or pillow that you may decorate as you chose for meditating or sitting on when you work.
6. Keep little charms out, such as statues, paintings, seashells, etc.
To work in this space, it is much like having a massive altar. You would purify your entire room before your start and when you work, light the candles (should you choose) and acknowledge the elements in the objects you have placed around the room. Instead of keeping your circle only a portion of the room, your space would be expanded. I would keep your pillow/blanket that is special for these workings in the center of the room during rituals, where you would keep most of your Magickal or Spiritual workings.
The nice thing about this is you are making a place spiritual in a way that does not keep you confined. You can move around the room as needed, and cast the circle wide enough so that all your scattered objects are included.
The only word of caution I would say to people that use this method is that you should be sure to keep your room free of clutter as often as possible, but at LEAST during your workings. Otherwise, it heavily disrupts the flow of energy in the area. Plus, you wouldn't put trash on a conventional altar, so why would you do this should you choose a larger one?
And, for those of you who, like myself, embrace Feng Shui, you might try re-arranging the furniture in your room to suit you purposes.
V. Yet another solution, which I think, deserves more credit than it gets, is to simply do this all in your mind. You can hold a ritual mentally, because ideally you want to grow spiritually, not just expand how much equipment you own.
You may, especially if you have no access to any tools or even the simplest of materials, chose to cast a circle, meditate, and cast a ritual or prayer mentally, conjuring energy with only your will and visualizing the use of your tools.
However, as this (to my experience) either hails spectacular results or none at all, you should try it at least a few times to get into the beat of things. Worst-case scenario is that you decide this is not the right method for you, but in the process you have advanced you visualizing and meditating skills.
You can set up a space in your mind, and hold regular worship without owning tools. As I said before, there are no materials that make you a Wiccan. You may simply meditate and hold Esbat before the Moon, or give a prayer of thanks while you watch the sun rise.
VI. And thus, I bring you to my final example: the garden altar.
This can be a tree stump. A heap of dirt. An abandoned dandelion field. The place on your garden where your favorite flowers grow. Near a river. Near a stream. Near a puddle. A little corner shaded by several trees. Even up in a tree, if you so choose. The possibilities are endless.
This is also ideal for working with plants, because you can use the herbs and plant life at your disposal without actually "using" them up. For example, should a working you choose call for, say, a rose, why not meditate in your garden next to a line of roses you planted a while back?
I like this method because it teaches us that everything in nature is connected, and if you look at it a certain way, plant life is almost a cousin of ours. It is also a good skill to be able to harness the energy of plant life, and be able to use its properties to our advantage without using them up once. You don't throw away your crystals once you've used them once, do you? This teaches you the same respect with plant life.
For those of us following the “green path” it is also excellent for connecting with nature. Even if you don’t like the idea of doing your workings outside, having a private space outdoors to reflect is defiantly worthwhile. Plus a little planting or nature walk on Sabbat days can work wonders.
The only ‘con’ I see to this alternative, is that you may have difficulties with the weather, so I would suggest you also keep your magickal tools in a safe place elsewhere. Perhaps, if your primary space were outside, a portable altar would also suit you well.
I hope these suggestions have helped those of you with unique situations think of a possible solution. Of course, the possibilities are endless, and perhaps those of us that have had to go through a bit more to create a sacred space will feel more connected to it. Even if you already have a functioning altar, I’m always amazed to hear how some people managed worship with limited resources, and I love to see the beauty of someone’s altar once they have put a lot of love into it.
And All That Jazz
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