ALTARS: THE MAGICIAN'S TABLE
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
MY PERSONAL ALTARS & SACRED SPACES
How much do I love my altars? So much so that it wasn’t until months after I’d intentionally created my first personal altar, that I realized I already had several small altars in the house. I’d been tending a tiny, yet beautiful sacred space in the kitchen from the moment I moved into my house. It’s so simple: just a picture of my grandmother Myrtle alongside a flower in a bud vase nestled against a little candle on the furthest left hand corner of the breakfast bar. It’s only teeny tiny little space, but I just love having it there. Whenever guests ask me about it, I always enjoy telling them the absolute truth: my grandma had really strict standards for how stuff was supposed to go down in the kitchen and I keep her memory and image close to this space because I know she’d be (and as an ancestral presence in my home I know that she is) happy with the love and laughter that emanates from my kitchen, which spills out into the dining table and great room area where my family spends most of our time.
I decided to put my first ancestor altar in my walk-in closet, because I really did want to carve out a little space of my own aside from my bedroom that I share with my DH (darling husband, not designated hitter to all of you baseball fans out there.) I used an old trunk that we brought from our time as expats in London, and I draped it with a clean white pashmina scarf that I already owned and of course, it's
laden down with some really beautiful and cool photos of my ancestors. My hubby is an amateur genealogist and a former marketing exec at Ancestry.com so as you can imagine, our family tree is pretty extensive and well researched, so grabbing photos of my departed ancestors was a piece of cake.
Now, if you don't have (or want) photos of your ancestors on your altar, there are so many different items that you could put on your altar to help honor their memories and lives lived. One of the items I love most is a comb carved from bone that I purchased in Southeast Asia a few years ago, that reminded me so forcibly of my paternal grandma, Halicue. Grandma Halicue (yes, I am proud to be her namesake) had very long white hair that she wore in a braid down her back. The comb makes me feel very close to her--especially when I hold it in my hands during meditations.
My maternal grandmother Myrtle loved flowers, perfume and pretty jewelry so I keep costume jewelry arranged there for her and all of the fresh flowers that I can haul in from my garden or the market. A few years ago I planted a little rose garden in her memory and I’m especially proud to place those blooms on my altar spaces.
I keep a little tobacco in a little stoppered blue glass bottle for my Grandpa Needham. I have to admit that I am a little conflicted about this because Grandpa smoked a pipe until he had to have half of a lung removed. I am very intentionally alcohol free. Like a lot of us, addiction runs in our family so I don't leave alcohol on the altar, but I always take care to leave out food offerings whenever we bake or cook something particularly delicious. I delight in "feeding the ancestors" treats that my 12 year old daughter creates because she's the only other member of the family that likes to cook and I know how pleasing that is to ancestors. Since I happen to have a brilliant chandler for a sister, my altars are always aglow with candlelight. TalulehO’s Reverence candle is my personal favorite and is always front and center in each of the sacred spaces throughout my home.
THE MAGICIAN'S TABLE
This week’s dive into our study and discussion of Altars was brought to you by THE MAGICIAN Tarot card. What I love most about this card/energy/archetype for this particular exploration is the sheer simplicity of the spiritual message and “recipe.” No matter where you live or what your tradition, the instructions are clear and the promise is exquisite: that we mere mortals are capable of amazing, powerful and catalytic change if we create our connection to the Divine, gather the elements, set our fervent intentions in order to generate and focus energy so that we can make change here in the corporeal world.
This archetype is often interpreted as a trickster figure, and while, as Nichols posits in her excellent book, Tarot and the Archetypal Journey: Jungian Path from Darkness to Light, the comparison to the Magician Tarot card to Mickey in the Sorcerer's Apprentice might seem just and pretty darn accurate, I have a different hot take. I tend to see her intentional pointing of the wand both upward and downward as a constant and very sober reminder to take my Craft and rituals seriously and to always act responsibly with every stage of the spell craft because I know that it will have real consequences in the mundane.
I cannot emphasize this enough: The Magician Tarot card is a brilliant anchor for our discussion and this topic because this Tarot card illustrates how very simple it is to create your own personal altar or sacred space! You really only need four things and each of those items is actually displayed on The Magician Tarot Card itself.
MUST-HAVE ALTAR "ELEMENTS"
The first step in building an altar is to choose a surface and clear space. This can be a table, shelf or any other object that you want to use as your sacred space. Once you have chosen the surface, next up is choosing the ways in which you will bring in "the elements" into this space. The four elements, which are crucial to all spiritual and magical workings, but are crucial to creating altars are earth, air, fire and water. I encourage and empower you to find at least one item from each of these elements to place on or in your altar space. And if you keep reading you'll see how you can do this WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME. I promise! 🤗
EARTH represents stability, grounding the awesome power of the natural world. Gaia energy to the max! Items that may represent Earth are flowers, a branch or twig. Soil, river rocks or crystals are also excellent to include on your altar. I have a gorgeous fallen branch that looks very much like Gandalf's staff that I keep near my ancestor altar.
AIR represents knowledge and creativity; it brings about the light of understanding, which illuminates our paths and helps us find new ways of looking at things. Air stands for balance, mental acuity, and the myriad modes of communication that we employ. Try feathers, stick or dried incense, or even gently playing music or a favorite book to represent this element. One of my favorite altar items that actually does double duty is Maxwell's Mystic gorgeous little palo Santo matchsticks. I take them everywhere, especially when I travel.
FIRE symbolizes energy and creativity. Fire represents energy – life force or prana- as well as transformation; fire purifies objects by burning away impurities. Spiritually I identify as an eclectic hoodoo and a fire witch. I am a Leo Sun, Mercury and Mars (🔥🔥🔥) so you'll always find TalulehO candles on all of my personal altars. And when I like to keep my altar continuously well-lit and glowing during Autumn and Winter, I use LED fairy lights from my favorite (and most affordable and consistently accessible) store, World Market.
WATER signifies self-care and healing. It quenches thirst, nourishes, and cleanses. Water symbolizes the emotional body in its many forms: love, joy, sadness. you feel depleted, ungrounded or out of flow – – the healing properties of water can restore balance. There are so many items that capture the energy of water: Shells, sea glass or figurines of sea creatures are just a few. But when all else fails, all you need is a vessel of clean, clear water to bring in the power of this element to your sacred space. Also, just a little FYI, my favorite book on the magic of water is Water Magic by queen Lilith Dorsey!
And if all else fails, and especially if you are living and surviving in an abusive or repressive situation where you don’t feel safe or comfortable creating an actual physical altar structure in your home, remember that you can still create sacred space with the intangible aspects of these four elements. If you can simply connect your feet to the Earth, still and quiet your mind, honor and all yourself to sit in and feel your emotions AND stoke the passionate fire of your heart space, you’ve created the most perfect, powerful and portable altar there is. And now, a vibe, color soaked Beyonce break! ⬇️
LET'S STAY IN TOUCH!
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