Yes, I have an altar.
I know: shocker, right? Like anyone who proclaims to be a Pagan, or a Shamanic Practitioner, or an Earth-based Spiritualist wouldn’t have some sort of altar in their home.
Then again, you might be surprised. Some people don’t like altars. Others feel they’re unnecessary, or too extravagant for their purposes. Other people might not have space for an altar, or just don’t have time to maintain one regularly.
But there are those of us who do have altars, and they’re not just for formal rituals or ceremonies.
For those of us who keep altars, there are generally a few things we do in front of them that are pretty standard. Of course, by “standard,” I don’t mean everyone does the same things. Instead, I mean “standard” in the sense that they’re activities performed fairly consistently.
What are some of those activities?
Here are my top five activities I do in front of (or at) my altar.
I used to cringe when I heard or said the word, "prayer." It felt very Christian to me, and that caused the word to carry a negative connotation for me. Because of my Christian background, and the abuse heaped upon LGBTQ+ people by that religion, I refused to use terms associated with it for a very long time after I'd left.
But over time, I came to realize that prayer wasn't just for churches, or Christians.
By my definition, prayer is, "a method of communication with the Divine."
Notice it is communication with. In other words, prayer isn't just asking for help, or blessings. Prayer is a two-party (or more-than-two-party, if you're me) communication. Prayer is a dialogue. Or, at the least, it is a giving of thanks, and then listening. In other words: prayer isn't just you talking.
I have a very specific form of energy work that I do. There is one particular method of energy work that is taught by the spiritual tradition I practice (Feycraft), and that one's under oath of secrecy.
But I have other forms of energy work that I do, and my favorite is something I call, "Running Earth And Cosmic Energies."
You might've (if you've been part of the world of the occult) heard of Israel Regardie. There was a thing he taught called The Middle Pillar Exercise. It starts with the Qabalistic Cross, then you draw light down through five energy points along the body (crown of the head, nape of the neck, heart, genitals, and feet).
It's useful if you're into the Judeo-Christian imagery.
I wasn't. And even though I have overcome some of my issues (like the use of the word prayer, and the word faith), I still don't like to use archangels, angels, or names of a megalomaniacal sadist god.
Also, I've always been very nature-oriented. I've always loved trees, mountains, rivers, streams, the woods, and so on.
(What can I say? I'm an Animist.)
So rather than do the Middle Pillar, I do ...
So I sit in front of my altar in a chair with my feet flat on the floor. My hands are usually resting on my thighs, palms up. I visualize roots extending from my perineum, and the soles of my feet, and see them burrowing deep into the Earth. I get my roots down as far as I can - past the Earth's crust into the mantle, where my roots come to rest in a pool of lava.
With my roots planted here, I gather up the negative stuff - anger, frustration, stress, muscle tension, negative emotions picked up from other people, and anything that's just been annoying me lately. I gather all that up into a ball of energy at my solar plexus chakra (about two fingers above the navel). And then I let my roots take all of that stuff, and - like a straw - suck it all out, and push it down into the lava to be recycled into positive energy.
Once that's done, I move my roots up, back into the Earth's crust, where I can find a clean patch of soil, and positive Earth energy. I let my roots rest there for a few minutes. Then, I take long, deep breaths, and, on every inhale, I pull clean, grounding energy up from the Earth. I move it through all of my seven chakras (root, sexual, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown). I see the Earth energy (usually copper-colored, for me) cycling through each chakra, where it enlivens, and brightens each one of them.
"... I pull clean, grounding energy up from the Earth."
After that, I put branches up out of my crown chakra. I extend them high into the sky, straight through the atmosphere, and through the O-zone layer. I send my branches out to touch the moon, and the sun, the other planets in our solar system, and as far out into the Milky Way as I can to touch stars, planets, and other cosmic bodies.
Then I start visualizing that I'm pulling energy from those cosmic bodies into my branches.
And I move it down my branches, and through all of my seven main chakras. First, the crown, then the third eye, then the throat, heart, solar plexus, sexual, and root chakras. This energy usually appears as a silver-white light for me.
Then I bring the two energies to meet in my solar plexus. The copper Earth energy, and the silver cosmic energy blend together. And when they merge, they form an energy that appears to me as a mottled blend of copper, and gold. Sometimes I see the energies mix completely, and it becomes a golden or brass color for me. But generally, I see two colors swirling around each other.
And my next step is to move that blended energy, gathered into a ball, down into my root chakra. I usually pull up my roots, and pull in my branches. I then see my aura as an egg surrounding my body. I put new roots down, but just inside my aura - not into the Earth this time.
And I take that mixed energy, and move it up through all my chakras - root, sexual, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. And once it reaches the crown, it showers out in a fountain, hits the top of my aura, and runs down the sides to the bottom, where it pools around my roots. And I use the roots, on each inhale, to cycle the energy up through my chakras, out of my crown, and down my aura.
This way, I'm in a meditation where I'm constantly moving the blended energies of the Earth and the Cosmos through my seven chakras.
I love the act of making offerings.
Making offerings can be viewed a number of different ways. Some folks like to think that making offerings is only about paying for a rendered service, or for appeasing spirits that you don't want to futz up your life.
But I often make offerings for a variety of reasons. I have made offerings for various spirits for a service rendered. I've also made offerings just to feed the spirits that are part of my life on a regular basis. And quite often, those latter types of offerings are made with a feeling of gratitude, and appreciation for those spirits remaining part of my life.
Offerings at my altar usually consist of food, and/or beverage. I've made offerings of:
"offerings ... should be something that the spirit likes ..."
Offerings can be just about anything. But the bigger takeaway I'd like you to get about offerings is that they should be something that the spirit likes. If you've asked them for something they'd like (prayer-as-a-dialogue, yo), and you're able to afford it, and don't mind giving it, then by all means, do it! Or, if there's something you already know they'd like (such as sweets in general), then give them the goodies.
When you have a guest in your home, don't you offer them food, and drink? I mean - it's just polite, right?
Journeying is kind of a whole thing all by itself. It takes me time to get into the mode to do full-on journeys into the Otherworld, so I have a full Ceremony I perform for it.
But the gist of it is that I sit in front of my altar after smoking the room, saying a prayer, and singing a couple of power songs. And then I drum or rattle (depending on the type of journey, or my mood). I enter the Otherworld, meet up with my Spirit Council or my Power Animal(s), or some other Spirit Beings.
And once I'm finished with the conversation, I come back to the present time, and space, say thanks, and go on about my day.
I don't journal just in front of my altar. I take my journal on trips with me, and all that jazz, too.
But one of the things I like to do is journal right after I've done any of the above activities in front of my altar. While things are fresh in my mind, I like to get the key takeaways down on paper.
Journaling helps me to keep the results of those activities top of mind.
I learned a long time ago (in high school) that I learn very, very well when I physically write notes. The kinesthetics of writing put the words I'm writing deep into cell memory. The awareness of the physical movement of writing solidifies what I'm taking notes about into my brain.
… remember that your activity doesn’t have to be formal. You can enjoy time at your altar just sitting, and looking out a window (provided your altar is near a window, of course). Or you can journal. Or just contemplate life. Or have a cup of your favorite tea or coffee while you listen to your favorite music.
Also: it doesn’t have to be permanent to be an altar. Light a stick of incense, and/or a candle, and you’ve got yourself an altar.
By and large, my favorite altar is the random flat stone or tree stump I find in the woods. But that’s a different story for a different day.
(By the way: yes, the pic at the top of this post is my altar. Wink.)
What are your favorite things to do at your altar?
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