Rooms, Storage, and Doors – Thoughts on Altars

This Exploration I welcomed seven new Powers into my life, and left space for an eighth who will come later. This was a big deal. I’ve worked with my Lady, the Ancestors, and the Land alone for so long and with so few interruptions that adding anyone else to the mix is difficult for me to conceptualize, much less do. But time? It approacheth, and I had to hasten to get everything together before Their arrival.

 All Southern girls are trained in hospitality from the cradle. Mix in working primarily for a Celtic deity and the idea of Hospitality gains both a capital letter and an even stronger emphasis. Taking care of guests is damn near instinctive at this point.

 Prepping to welcome these new Powers was in many ways like prepping for any important guest. I did all the typical things, like clean and cleanse the house, air the place out, etc. My house is a reflection of me, and I want it to be neat and orderly and serene for guests. Especially serene. That’s important.

 Unlike my usual preparations, however, those coming to visit don’t really use the front door. They have another way to access my space. So I completely restructured my altar.

In Vodou practitioners use veves – highly stylized lattice-like symbols representing a given Power – as a type of homing beacon and doorway the associated Power can use. I don’t use veves, but providing doorways to energy has always been part of my practice. In the past it’s been an action (invocation and/or offering) but I finally – finally! – found images that suit each Power I’m now working with. (Cue the peasants rejoicing here. This took YEARS.)

Every image is up on my wall now. The whole thing feels “done” (except for a shelf I’m adding next week below everything to hold offerings). Here’s what I came up with:

Image 

All neat and tidy, isn’t it? I’ve got representation of my Lady, the Ancestors, the Land, AND the new Powers I’ll be working with. I even have a space ready and waiting for the Power I’ve been told will join me later. All the Kindreds have a place now! Thrilled does not begin to cover it.

It was only this morning, when I was completing my devotions, that the difference between my altar and most of the others I’ve seen finally occurred to me. It’s not “busy”. I don’t have tons of stuff. Some pictures, a shelf under my Lady’s image for two of Her things and an offering bowl, and another shelf holding my prayer beads and the like. That’s it. I thought about it and eventually understood the reason for the difference.

 In general, altars are a designated space for spirituality/magick and a place to store the myriad of tools needed for same. I approach both of those ideas from a non-standard angle, and that is reflected in altar construction.

 First, the designated space idea. The altar is seen as liminal space – sacred, protected, a space where we can commune with the Kindreds and do magickal work separate from our daily lives. It’s like a little cubby with walls of energy instead of sheetrock.

I am directly opposed to that view, at least in my own practice. If the altar is the space in my home that is sacred and protected, then that implies that the rest of my home is not. If I need a liminal space set apart from life to interact with the Kindreds then I’m trying to keep Them compartmentalized somehow. That’s just not how I approach my spiritual life. Integration is my keyword and has been for years. I mean, I sleep with my phone. Friends and family can contact me any time I am not at work (since one has to eat, and that takes priority). Why would I not be at least as accessible to the trusted Powers in my life?

Physically an altar is supposed to be the place that containerizes all of your magickal bits and bobs. It holds your tools, your BOS, herbs and stones and divination tools. Some people keep their books there too. The need for storage is why so many people have altars with storage ranging from bins to whole closets.

I simply don’t do much magick. I’ve always come in more on the devotional side of things, and that trend has only continued over the last decade or so. Now I’d say that 95% of what I do is devotional, not magickal. Tuning forks are the only tools I use regularly – most of my magick is based on direct energy manipulation and perspective shifts. My magickal library is extensive, but it and my BOS are electronic and thus need no shelf space. In short I don’t really need my altar to be a centralized place for magickal workings. I don’t do enough to justify the dedicated space.

So my altar? It’s not a place set apart or a storage area – it’s another door into my home, where I endeavor to make the guests who use it comfortable and welcomed. I’ve locked that door, because safety consciousness is never a bad thing, and the pictures of the Powers I work with are simply a different kind of key. That works for all of us.

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2 thoughts on “Rooms, Storage, and Doors – Thoughts on Altars

  1. lisaspiral says:

    The distinction you’re making, in my terminology, is the distinction between an altar and a shrine. An altar, as you say, is a place to DO magical things and so must have handy tools and references. A shrine is a doorway and/or a home for a particular manifestation of the Divine. Although people do devotional work at shrines and leave offerings they are primarily a welcoming space. Sort of like giving a guest a room to make their own. I wish I could see the art better. It looks lovely!

    • Lady Caer says:

      *blinks* You are ABSOLUTELY right! *laugh* I’m so used to seeing both crammed together and not being distinct things that I totally missed it! Thanks so much for the comment – it has sent me down a whole other rabbit hole!

      I feel truly blessed by the art I was able to find. I have been searching high and low for images that matched what I had in my head, both visually and emotionally, for all of the Powers I work with. Arianrhod? I’ve been looking for that for literally 20 years. I’ve even COMMISSIONED art, and none of it ever encapsulated what I felt. I found this image posted to my Facebook feed as a Solstice countdown thing and was SHOCKED at how perfect it was. All of the art was like that, really. Sometimes YEARS of “this isn’t right” and “why am I so picky?” finally ended with “Ah HA!”. All of them, over the course of about 6 weeks. There will be some changes over time, as I get to know everyone better, but so far I could not be happier! This truly was a case of fate-directed timing.

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