Learning With an Altar-Space

Around Bealtane (Spring) 2012, I set up my first altar. It was confusing at first, because I wanted an altar for a few different reasons: one was to honour my ancestors and guides and whomever else may be out there helping me out; the other was to have a place to do a daily devotional to my HP (higher powers); and another was to have a working altar where I could sit in circle and work on things like making tools, journeying and working with energies, in a more formal way than I have been doing so far.

So I set up three altars at first… and it didn’t work.

I felt like my energies were too scattered. I realized that the working alter would have to be opened and closed – like, assembled and disassembled, unless I wanted to be feeding it every day – which I initially did do, but having three alters to ‘feed’ every day actually takes up way too much time for me. I get about ten minutes in the morning to myself, to pray etc, before my little one starts bugging me to come and play. Being a busy mom, there is little time for me during the day to set aside for meditation and prayer. It has to be fast and efficient, yet meaningful.

Plus I figured out that the working alter really just needs to be a secluded place for me to be able to go to and actually complete tasks, whereas a place for daily prayer and gratitude is something different.

I ended up with a nice spot in my kitchen, on top of my piano, where I put a bunch of pics of relatives gone past and some friends who have passed. Each morning, I would bring them coffee and oranges and sometimes other things that seemed appropriate – rose petals, a bit of scotch – there are some personal items there as well, that belonged to these people. I would light a candle, and a stick of sandalwood and state their welcome out loud.

Then, it also became a place where I would put ‘gifts’ that I would find out in the world during my days. Rocks that wanted to come home with us, a white feather, a crow’s feather, some sparkly gold leaves, my crystals, some animal figurines that kind of just show up in my house here and there. Crow, Bear, Hog, Cat.

So the altar space morphed into a devotional space to ancestors and to the Goddess/God/Creator and to Pachamama as well. Rocks and earth. Fire and water. Animal guides and feathers for the angels. It kind of all came into the space on its own, and my confusion evaporated.

The results are this: I’d forgotten how much daily prayer can really work.

Of course.

I always forget when I stop doing it.

So now, when I pray in the mornings at my new altar space, I state my gratitude for my life and all that is in it. I state my intentions for that day. I state my devotion to the planet and her spirit. And I ask for help with whatever it is that I’m finding difficulty with at the time. I use smudge to clear negative energies, ‘see only good things, hear only good things, feel only good things, say only good things.’ Some mornings my little boy says some ‘thank-yous’ with me; ‘thanks for the sun and thanks for the rain and thanks for the love in our family.’

And a few weeks later you know, I feel better, in subtle but remarkable ways. No miraculous turn of events or new skills or amazing stories to tell. Just a constant, quiet relief from the fear and anxiety that usually plagues me. I realized that I feel much more calm about the future. I feel less afraid of some random other shoe dropping and destroying me. Other words, I have received help in relinquishing the need to try to control those events that are uncontrollable. This is a relief because let me tell you, trying to control the future is impossible and therefore, exhausting! and time-consuming. Time, mind and soul consuming. Anxiety really people – it sucks.

Some other things:
I now can easily slip into an altered state when I smell smudge and sandalwood. That sacred space for me has been created. Loving this.

I now have a place to decorate to honor the seasonal wheel of the year.

I have created a daily discipline of prayer and devotion, which is having the effect for me of, actually living my spiritual journey in my life every day. It’s an action, rather than just more reading and researching. This is my first building block, the foundation for my next steps. This feels good. Like I am walking my (inner) talk.

And it’s good for my son to see me pray every day, as I’ll be teaching him about the world as he grows, and passing on the things I learn to him.

Here are some things that have come into my path since I’ve been working on all this stuff:

Daily Spiritual Practice by Alex Stark

I love this article – though I have no idea how to find the time in the mornings to do it. But this is something I want to work towards (do people actually get up at 4:00 am to pray?). Anyways – he advises a daily practice of purifying, breath work, invocation, receiving, thanking, feeding and then closing the altar. It’s quite beautiful and complete. See the whole article here.

Power Prayer by Chrissie and Gary Blaze

So far a good read. Help with techniques to kick it up a notch and actually start seeing things happen as a result of prayer. Prayer magic.

Love and light,

xo SM

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