The Altar

While in the process of considering a revamp to my Altar space it seems as though Anni from MIRTHandREVERANCE fame, has come to the fore with a response to a series of questions not even asked! (Seriously Anni… biteen freaky now!).

For me the main Altar is a beautiful space for me to gather my tools when needed. My Altar has been holding all my tools and implements for my Craft practice because I simply can’t store them in boxes. I have been wondering if there was some work around I hadn’t considered. I’m lucky to have a lot of ritual tools, far more than I’ve actually set time aside to work with and being somewhat of a neat freak I’m loathe to allow ritual items to gather dust.

What can be found on my Altar; is a candle-holder which has two candle holder places with a sweet-bowl I use for incenses and offerings during rites. I have a chalice made of pewter and an incense holder I bought for a group ritual some years back. My pentacle which I made when I was 15 from clay. My Athame and Wand too. I have offering bowls and a bell for ritual too. So a relatively small, round altar holds a lot of items. I have no images or icons on my Altar but while at home I have a black breakfast tray I painted myself at the same time I painted my Altar, it functions as a nice Ancestral Altar or special intentions.

On the subject of boxes I told a fib, I’m sorry! I have two plastic boxes I use to transport my items and currently they are being used to hold up my Scrying Ball, my statue of Ibis-headed Thoth, and my Book of Shadows. I’ve made an Altar from cardboard boxes in the past… *shrug* when needs must you know!

I’d be lying if I hadn’t been thinking about the early Craft books I read on putting items away from the view of non-initiates so that they cannot be profaned. Thing is, I’m not an initiate of a Craft Tradition so who are “the profane” to me? Well, I could theorize that its anyone not in ritual with me in that moment and I know of some solitaries who would so assume. I’ve a believer in my magical rituals forming a pattern unique to me so when Anni points out the practical side of group work it starts my brain buzzing. Within group ritual placement has a significance for the ritual members who have to navigate the space with others too. Placement is not a trivial matter for symbolism and Temple-layout but thats with each person having a job or role to fulfill. If one is alone then surely makes more sense to be more pragmatic than that. Solitary workers often lack the space of a Coven or Temple.

Contemplating on Lora O’Brien’s book, A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality, and its that work again! Practical! There is an element of practicality innate in Craft traditions for people. As a Wiccan friend of mine once asked me, “Where were all the coloured candles 40-50 years ago? We had white and red if you were lucky around Christmas”. There is a visible resurgence in the interest to fashion an Irish Tradition for the modern esoteric practitioner – I’ve met with Pagans, Thelemites, and Qabalists interested in “Celtic Magic”, frankly I think people will be a little disappointed to learn of the work to create such a paradigm because it simply doesn’t exist. What was, was a lot more simpler.

Lora’s book offers the reader the chance to go out an experience Irish spirituality which has always been one of experience of the land. This is fully evinced in the naming of places which tell a story and with the later traditions of Christianity which were largely aesthetic in their outlook (see Beehive Monasteries).

Setting of space is a long held practice around the world and for me personally a very valuable one but I do think we tend to run the risk of loosing sight of other spaces beyond our own when we become dogmatic or even just emphatic about space in ritual. There’s a difference, as I’ve already mentioned, when negotiating space with others in ritual and in particular when everyone either is an initiate or is regarded as one. Though some of that may be more practical than we might first assume too – either way might help to have a safety officer in the group if the High Priestess has a tendency to gesture emphatically while holding the Coven-Sword! 😉

Ritual Staff

Last year, on my old Yola blog, I posted on a strange and wonderful gift I received in a moment of strange synchronicity. While in Sligo town I found myself wandering into a craft shop that I used to go to when I was a kid. The thing about this place is that it is a converted butchers that Michael Quirke took over from his father. Michael is one of these old world gentlemen types who has all the myths and legends off to a tea.
So its my birthday and I LOVE mythology and learning about it all. After what seems like ages and eyes wide after hearing some amazingly rendered tales about the ancient Irish culture. Something must have clicked in the way I was responding to what I was hearing as after a time Michael mentioned a “spiritual fellow” who had dropped in a piece of rowan wood a few months prior to that asking for some work to be done but he never returned. He disappeared for a moment down the back and came up with the rough piece of wood that was between 8 and 9 Foot. I jumped at the chance to take it home so asked him to cut it down for me to about 5’9″ maybe taller.
One of the issues I had was that I missed out on doing woodwork in secondary school and so not a clue how to sheer down the rough parts to get at the smoother wood beneath. Luckily my brother was in a most agreeable mood and started immediately and within three days the staff had been sheered and varnished with clear varnish. There was still something missing, this staff was looking for a home and was calling out to me (anyone else get image of a dancing stick giving weird oogily eyes? Nope? Just me then!) so before placing final varnish on it I went in search of crystals to cap the staff in. This I felt would not only complete the staff but add my own energies to it’s creation.
The reason I jumped at the chance to take home rowan wood was because two years prior to finding the staff I received the gift of a rowan wand from a friend of mine involved in the Craft as well. Down in Limerick I found the crystals more or less were I knew they’d be. They also came in useful when creating altar tiles for friends. With some wood putty I managed to fasten the primary crystal to the top of the staff. I haven’t decided whether or not to paint on sigils before I finally varnish it for the last time. I’m sure that it will come together but for now I wanted to share the result thus far.