Tag Archives: Altar

All Beings in Moderation

I woke up a half an hour ago, but I’m pretending to be asleep still.

My eyes are closed, my face pressed into the pillow, my breathing steady, I’m giving every possible indication that I am still unconscious.  If I fake it well enough, maybe I’ll stumble into the real thing, at least until my alarm goes off.

So I burrow deeper into the pillows, and I cast my mind back, trying to find the ragged edges of departing slumber.  And instead I realize that there is sunlight on my face, streaming through a gap between the curtains.

Áine, the goddess of the Summer sun, rules the daytime sky from dawning Imbolc to the last light of Lughnasadh.  She is said to be mistress of both love and fertility, but on mornings like this, I suspect she has a bit of a cruel streak.

“All right, I’m up already.”

—•••—

Okay, maybe I’m not all the way up.

I’m sitting in bed, trying to bring the words on my phone’s screen into focus.

I really do need to get these eyes of mine checked.

Or maybe not.  Most of what I’m reading are news stories detailing violence abroad and discrimination closer to home, most of it perpetrated by people whose motivation is their impassioned belief in one of the more popular middle-eastern gods.

At issue are differences in the specific hows and whys of religious practice, which I must admit, seem minor to this outsiders eyes.  That, and some differences in opinion on who sleeps with who, seem to be the impetus behind some very unpleasant behavior.

One would think that the belief in a single god would bring unity rather than strife.

—•••—

I shuffle the cards five times, cut the deck, and lay down a single card which will be the ‘theme’ of my day.

0 – The Fool.

There he is, about to step blithely off a cliff and into the unknown, his few possessions at his back, and his loyal companion running along at his side.

Today, it seems, will be a day of journeys, of mysteries explored and unexpected detours taken.

—•••—

There is a high whine in the air as I pass the weed-whacker over the tufty grass in my front yard.

Arc left – half step – arc right – half step…, it is a strange little dance, with it’s own beat, and I find myself humming lightly in cadence.  It is a hymn of sorts, though wordless, which I offer to the land spirits as I go about my work in the yard.

My relationship with the land is not one that the ancestors would have recognized.

I grow no crop.

There are no grazing herds.

I simply maintain what society has determined is a tidy appearance to my particular plot of land.

The ancients knew the names of their local spirits, knew their habits, their likes and dislikes.  The relationship with the land and its invisible inhabitants was a matter of life and death.  But today, for most of us, there is no relationship there to speak of.  We live on the surface of the land, with no thought of any deeper connection.

In my travels I have discovered that some places are more “talkative” than others.  The spirits which I feel around my home, when I feel them at all, are quiet and watchful.  Sometimes I think that they are suspicious of my attempts to speak with them.

And so the wordless song, to sooth their feelings, if I may, as I work at lowering the grass.

—SLAP!—

Almost lost the weed-whacker in my efforts to reach the biting insect on my arm.

I may have spoken out of turn.  The mosquito crop is coming along quite nicely.

—•••—

The Morrígan stares back at me from atop my home altar.

Agent of change, of war and challenge and conflict, she who collects the souls of the dead, prophetess and raven goddess, for some reason my gaze is drawn to her this morning.

I smile and glance up at the Tarot card, the wandering Fool, who rests near her.

So, it’s going to be one of THOSE days, huh?

Well, I’m gonna be late for work, if I don’t get a move on.

And as I lock up the house and head to my car, I hear the caw of ravens in the distance.

—•••—

I slog through the first half of the day until it’s time for lunch.  A few of my co-workers called out today and most of my customers seem to be on the grumpy side, so things have been pretty hectic up to this point.

But now I’ve got an hour to just sit in my car, under the trees and polish off that sandwich I’ve been longing for the last hour or so.

I pull out my phone again, and dip into social media, just to see if anyone has posted anything interesting.

A friend of mine wrote, “Writers romanticize everything, I know this because I am one.”

Hmmm…, I’ll have to think about that.

—•••—

I know that I won’t remember any of my other customers when this evening is over, but I’ll remember her.  Tall and tan and perfect in all the ways of a sun-touched goddess, and with a playful smile that isn’t just put on for show, I can see it reflected in her eyes when she laughs.

And I think I just caught myself flirting – if only gently.

As we speak I began to hear the sound of bark being torn from trees by restless antlers; beneath my feet I feel the thrumming of hooves pawing at the earth.  In the primeval forest that stands just beyond our limited mortal perception, the woodland god is waking from his slumber.

“Sorry, sorry, false alarm, let’s just focus on the job at hand!”

The feeling of disappointment washes over me like a wave, followed by the sound of retreating hooves and then a distant crash, the echoing fall of some unfortunate tree, splintered and broken, in a moment of irritation.

—•••—

I’m home after dark.

I feed the cat, and then myself.

I sit for a while, watching a little television as I digest and allow my mind and body to unwind after a busy day.

Before bed, I take a brief walk in the backyard.  The moon is hanging in the east, nearly full, and the cat is moving along at my feet, a shadow among shadows in the moonlight.

I’m about the head back in when I hear the owls again, making that same lost puppy sound that first caught my attention a couple weeks ago.  I spend the next several minutes watching them hurtle to and fro, over my head and across the yard, to the neighbors and back again.

As I watch them I think about the comment I’d read earlier in the day, “Writers romanticize everything…,”.  Maybe that’s true; it certainly fits with the world as we have been taught to understand it.

But what if the world is filled with a romance all its own, comprised of infinite layers of truth and perception, perfectly nested, each within the other, most of which we pass on our journey, never the wiser.  And writers, along with those artists of a more visual nature, are simply able to bring out the romance that we would otherwise miss, because our art requires us to both see and express the world in terms our audience can understand.

—•••—

The house is locked up, and I’m for bed.

I take a last glance at The Fool, resting there on my altar, and I am forced to smile.

The punchline, of course, is that every day is a journey into mystery and the most important thing we can do is to recognize that fact and take in the scenery we pass along the way.

One last glimpse at the online world and I’ll be done for the night.

Ahhh, another post on my wall, this one extolling the unlimited virtues of surrendering to that ‘one’ merciful god.

Sorry friends, but looking at that news feed, again and again, day after day, I’m just not seeing the benefit in dedicating myself wholly to just the one god, or to any single perception of truth.

I think the healthier choice is to live a modest lifestyle and to honor all beings in moderation.

Now then, until the morning comes, I wish you a good night.

Plato Quote

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Filed under Art, Modern Life, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

Sacred Space: Back to the Altar

Altar Cup and Book

The Sun rises, its light breaking through the naked trees and piercing the heavy bedroom curtains I have drawn against the dawn.  The patterns of branches in a golden glow sway against the cloth, inviting me to step out into the morning, promising warmth and comfort in the dawning of a new day.

These are lies.

Yes, the lizard on his rock would tell you that the Sun’s rays are all the warmth one could ever need, if that is, he were not frozen to that rock in the 20°F air.

It’s cold out there folks!

It’s winter in Texas, and while we may not have to deal with snowplows and the like, it is too damned cold to be doing much of anything outside this morning.  And this from someone who likes the cold, and abhors the sweltering heat of Summer that all my friends and neighbors are already crying out for the return of.

The winter chill, drives us indoors and away from any outdoor project that is not of critical importance.  And so, by necessity, my backyard temple/shrine project has been very much on the back-burner these past several weeks.

AltarCandle

Oh sure, there are things I could be doing – out there.  But I want this project to be a ‘labor of love’ and quite honestly, I find no benevolent inspiration in the numbing of my fingers.

Also, there is the small matter of a recently cracked rib.  Which is, itself, another story and entirely beside the point I was trying to make.

It is enough to say that the cold weather does exactly what it is supposed to do.  It drives us home, and to the sacred hearth, if we have one.

If my small house had a fireplace, it would be dressed as the primary place of worship – the very heart of the home.

Altar Cernunnos

Lacking that, I have instead, a small altar – the expression of Sacred Space within my home.

It is spare, at the moment, in reflection of the Winter season.

It changes in design and content with the passing of each Celtic feast day.

The altar will begin to bloom again with the coming of Imbolc.  It will grow wild and chaotic in Beltane’s passing, and will take on rich, golden hues when Lughnasadh holds sway.

Altar Base

With Samhain, comes the season of closure, of sleep, and of the sacred balance between the light of life and warmth, and the darkness and the cold that lie just beyond.

There is no particular arrangement to my altar.  The sacred geometry of that space reveals itself to me each season, as I dress it anew.  Next winter, it will doubtless look very different, than it does today.

Altar Morrigan

There are some constants of course…,

There are the images of the primary gods and goddesses of my worship…,

There is the great book, where I will record the myths and traditions that shape my belief…,

A cup, for libations and sacrifice…,

A candle against the darkness…,

A sphere of gold-sheen obsidian, to represent the blackest night, and the promise of light that hides even there…,

And, of course, there is the sickle, Druids’ blade and harvest tool, its razor crescent turned outward in warning, because the harvest is done, and this is the season when the Earth bites back!

Altar Geometry

All this, and more, set upon a heavy wooden frame.  Totem and tool, symbol and sacrifice, a physical expression of the sacred, as warming to me as a roaring fire.

It is a place to go, when driven inward by the cold.

The deceitful Sun is moving higher into the air now, and I have much yet to do, this day.  Some of those errands will drive me out into that hard, bright chill, and I will bring the warmth of the gods with me into the day, and then back again.

Back to the altar.

****

This is the sixth post in a series following my progress (or often, lack thereof) in the planning and construction of a small temple space on my property.  If you wish to follow along with my progress you may see other posts in this series by clicking here.

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Religion, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey

Sacred Space: By Design

I suppose one would have to say that the most important thing about progress reports is that there BE some progress to report.

In the case of my backyard shrine project, there has been precious little progress of any kind in these last couple months.  I had intended, by now, to have cleared away the space around the central tree trunk, to have mapped out the area, drawn up detailed layout designs, and to have at least begin the process of removing the excess limbs from the upper reaches of the tree.

However, it seems as if every time I set some time aside to work on this project, something else comes up to distract me, or the weather turns against me.  Just recently we had a nasty winds storm down here.  A straight-line wind, preceding a storm cell, blew through my neighborhood at speeds in excess of 80mph, felling entire trees in its wake.  The streets here are still lined with shattered limb and bough.  Several modest sized trees on my own property came down in the storm, and now I’ll have to find the time to clear them out of the way before I can even think about starting new projects.

It is disheartening, but I knew this project might prove itself beyond me.  I knew also that my own motivation would likely prove my greatest obstacle.

I have not given up yet.  Far from it!

Below you will see some preliminary sketch-work I’ve done, showing the dead tree as it currently stands and then some of my thoughts about how it ‘might’ look in the future.

Tree Concept Sketch

My current thinking has a raised, circular platform, around the trunk of the carved tree.  Immediately to the east of that circle and intersecting with it, a second circle, containing a reflecting pool and a raised fire bowl.  In this incarnation the whole thing lines up with sunrise on Samhain.

I am not even close to a final design for this yet.  Another idea incorporates the Celtic Triple-Spiral with three platforms of varied height providing which tie into the three realms (land, sea, sky).  A third (mostly rejected) idea involves a long arbor-like processional that spirals around the central carved tree trunk, which itself rises up from a circular pool of water.

None of these designs do a very good job of interacting with the other features of the yard and house, and it is important to me that the entire space seems to flow, rather than feeling forced.

And so more time at the drawing board is called for.  As is more time in the space itself, wandering around, feeling for the natural ebb and flow that has not quite vanished under the surface.

Time and attention are what this project needs, and both have been in short supply, with many other projects clamoring for attention.

And speaking of…,

You may remember, several weeks back now, that I mentioned a particularly powerful meditation experience, involving a certain sacred well, and Nuada of the Silver Hand.

Since awakening from the vision, I have been looking for a token to place on my home altar, to stand for the ‘fallen king’ who seems to have unexpectedly entered into my personal pantheon.  Thus far, I have found nothing that seems appropriate to the task, but a friend suggested to me that I should perhaps make my own, perhaps casting it out of pewter or some similar metal.

I have very limited experience in metal casting, but I am actually very excited by this idea and have been putting time into researching the methods, tools and materials involved.  I have also been working, in clay, on a preliminary sculpture that may form the basis of a mold in the future.

Nuada Hand Sculpt

It’s a tad crude as of yet.  I’m still trying to decide if I want to stick with just the symbolic silver hand, or work in a more anthropomorphic rendering of the deity himself, but it feels good to be sculpting something again.  When I work on things like this it feels as if something is waking up in me, some part of my inner landscape comes alive, which I have not wandered in what seems like ages.

Maybe these feelings are nothing more than happy accidents, or perhaps that comes to me by design.  In either case, the more I push back against the work-a-day existence that threatens to drown me in needless tedium, the more I try to shape the world around me into something better, the more human and alive I begin to feel.

****

This is the fifth post in a series following my progress in the planning and construction of a small temple space on my property.  If you wish to follow along with my progress you may see other posts in this series by clicking here.

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Filed under Art, Modern Life, Nature, Religion, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey

Hot Water

Each week, before I sit down to finalize my thoughts on Monday’s new blog entry, I like to reread what I published the week before.  While I avoid sticking to any particular topic from post to post, I do think that each week’s musings are informed to some greater or lesser extant by those which came before.  Reviewing my previous efforts puts me in the right frame of mind to “continue the conversation” as it were.

And so I’ve just been pondering my entry from last week discussing the goddess Bríde and the Celtic holy day of Imbolc.  Looking back on it now, I find that, while I said nothing untrue in that particular post or any other in which I have discussed the gods, the image I present of them could be, for the uninitiated, somewhat misleading.

The gods of our ancestors are like hot water: refreshing to the spirit and beneficial to our lives, but to be handled with great care, ‘less we are burned.

Danu, the great mother goddess of the Irish pantheon, did not unleash a divine band of timid flower-children upon the Earth.  The Túatha Dé Danann are warriors all, who swept out of the descending mists in the early age of the world to wage bloody war on the older powers that came before them.

When the long years had passed and the mortal men came at last to Ireland, they were not welcomed to it’s green shores by loving beings who heaped affection upon them.  Their boats were dashed by wave and wind until the survivors forced their way ashore through fierce determination and magic.  Even then, the gods did not simply hand over their sacred lands to the newcomers, they forced the Sons of Mil to take the land by force of arms, staining the fields red with the blood of man and immortal alike in the process.

Warrior Gods

Our ancestors would not have wasted worship on the passive love-starved creatures that many people today imagine.

The gods may be our friends and yet stand in our way.

They can love us and leave us bleeding in the dust.

And although we may hope to earn rewards when we do well in their sight, what must we expect if we slight them in some way?  Might they not also punish?

These last several weeks have been difficult ones.

Sometimes, life is just hard: loved ones become gripped by illness; aging pets begin to falter; budgets tighten and travel plans are changed or abandoned.  We don’t need angry spirits to rain these curses down upon us any more than we need friendly spirits to bring us our every good fortune.

Sometimes, life just sucks.  And wouldn’t it be refreshing to see that printed in a fortune cookie!

On the other hand, if you are a believer in the gods, and especially if the gods you believe in are not of the “touchy-feely” variety, it’s a very good policy to stay on their good side.

Seriously.  Don’t piss ‘em off.  It’s a bad idea!

A couple weeks ago I moved the altar which I keep in my home.  I was rearranging things in a hurry because I had a guy scheduled to arrive the following morning to do some minor installation work near the spot where the altar normally sits.  I didn’t like that idea of him bumbling around it and knocking stuff over, so I moved it across the room and out of harms way.

I was exhausted.

I was not thinking clearly.

I moved it, quickly and without reverence or ceremony.

And I knew I’d screwed up the moment I did it.

First I sliced a finger on the sickle I keep there, even though my hand was several inches from the blade at the time.  Then I managed to smack my kneecap on the leg of the altar as I carried it across the room.  As I sat massaging the feeling back into my leg, I knew I was in trouble.

On the following day, as I lay napping in an attempt to recover from the exertions of the previous day, a framed poster that hangs above my bed fell from the wall.  I heard the snap of the wire giving way and looked up just in time to see the frame embed itself, corner first, into the pillow not more than a couple inches from my left eye.  Quite a trick when those pesky old laws of physics should have had the frame falling straight down to wedge itself between wall and mattress.

I’ll wait patiently while my atheist friends work out what outward force acted to propel the frame away from the wall as it fell.

There have been many other signs over the last several days, including a sharp decline in readership of this blog.  Of course, I can’t say for certain that there is any actual intent behind these happenings.  I may just be having a run of really bad luck that just randomly corresponds to my haphazardly moving the home altar.  But as they say “It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you.”

They also say that “time heals all wounds” so perhaps I have come through the worst of it.  Perhaps the powers that be, knowing that I have learned my lesson, will ease up with the bad luck for a while.

Or maybe I’m still in hot water.  Metaphorically that is, I haven’t had hot water in my house in almost a week now.  My hot water heater shut down last week and I’m looking at cold showers until I can find either an affordable plumber or the time to replace it myself.

Before I begin that project, I think I’ll take some time to re-dedicate the altar which I keep for the gods and ancestors.  Best to have friends in high places when one is working with natural gas.

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