Rocking on with the last part of the ten steps...

6. Permanent Altar Items.  I liken this to directing a play. If you were directing a play how would you arrange your scenery and setting to enhance the action?  What important and significant items do you want on the altar which will be a constant reminder and inspiration to you; a representation of the Gods and Goddess in some form, a pentagram, chalice or drinking horn.  Perhaps even your favourite tarot deck or runes.  This is the ideal place to really express some of the cornerstones of your religion and magickal practice.  This forms the main and constant backdrop to the altar - but permanent doesn’t have to mean forever, don’t feel compelled to keep something on your altar if it no longer serves you!

7. Temporary Altar Items.  These the things which are on your altar for a defined purpose and for a limited period, they may reflect a current magical working, something you want to keep in your subconscious mind for a particular time period,  or even perhaps seasonal or festival specific decorations and offerings.  The key with these things is to treat them consciously and remove them when their purpose is served – don’t let them linger and become part of the background or start to rot, this will dilute their power and purpose and might start to dilute the powerful associations you hold with the altar itself.

8. Keep it clean and tidy.  I am not the world’s most enthusiastic cleaner, I have a dust allergy as well which only reinforces my view that I was not born to do lots of housework.  But even I make an exception in the case of my altar.  Seeing your personal altar choked with dust and covered in rotting flowers and fruit can give you a shocking insight into the state of your spiritual health so keep it clean.  I try to clean my altar as an act of meditation rather than as part of the same frenetic and hateful job I do all over the house – perhaps one day I sweep the floors and clean the oven in the same way…but I fear that day is a long way off.

9. Make it Personal.  If it wasn’t already obvious I am saying this again.  Your altar is your personal connection to the Universe, the Gods, Spirit, and the Ancestors etc.  So make it all about you.  Don’t accept anyone else’s word for it concerning what should be on your Personal altar – re-examine all your beliefs and associations and pick what resonates for you now.  Then in a week, a month, six months check that this is all still what is right for you. If we were setting up a specific altar for a particular ceremonial magical purpose then I might say something different – but we aren’t.  This is a personal empowerment altar.  Make it personally empowering!

10. And Activate!  My experience of altars as described in my last few posts is that they can be active or passive.  When I want to activate my altar I light the candles and incense I keep on it.  Then I stand before the altar and place my hands palms upwards on either side of the top of the altar.  In this position I close my eyes and feel the power in the altar, I feel and visualise the altar opening up like a door or even a chakra and I know it is working when I feel the energy start to flow into me, through me and around me into the room.  It makes the room feel charged, positive and empowered.  Great stuff.

I can't sum up these 10 steps better than William Morris so I'll leave you with his famous quote...

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (William Morris)

I would love to hear about your altars and see pictures of them so please do comment and let me know how you use this practice!
Here is the first five of ten ideas for transforming your altar:

1. Location, Location, Location. Work out where you want to put your altar. You might want to dowse, or you might just *know* where the perfect spot is. But I would always urge you to consider that the more times in a day you pass the altar the more likely you are to be provoked to use it.  Of course everyone is different and you might have important practical reasons for wanting the altar hidden and out of the way but if you can give it a go in a more public space then trial it for a week and see if it works for you!

2. Cleansing the space. Before you start to use your altar you will want to spiritually cleanse the space.  This has two effects – firstly, psychologically you will feel better about the space if it is cleansed; it will feel more sacred to you.  Secondly it will remove any unwanted energy from the area, this space should be a heartfelt manifestation of your spiritual being so don’t allow anything in the space which you don’t put there yourself actively and with intention.

3. Establishing ground rules with your housemates.  Most people live with someone else and it is polite to establish some ground rules here about what it is and is not ok to do in a communal living space.  Be respectful of their wishes and ask that they respect yours – for example your housemates may be fine if you have an altar in a communal space as long as you don’t burn incense because the don’t like the smell.  Equally you might ask that they do not touch your altar, lean on it or leave mugs of tea on it.

4. Make it special.  In my last two posts I talked about how I treat my altar as a combination of an amphitheatre where I converse with the Gods and the Universe, a workspace, a portal, an energy centre and a part of my subconscious.  Any one of these things is special so dress you altar in a way which reflects how and why it is special to you.  If you need your space to be clear and uncluttered then make it clean and simple but above all I think that altar should invoke a sense of wonder and beauty and it is to this end that I decorate my space with things which are deliciously scented and gorgeous to look at. If you treat the altar as a special place by decorating it and cleaning it in a mindful way then it will be a special place.

5. Getting you in the Mood.  I have talked a great deal in the past about using positive triggers to get you in the mood for spirituality. On my altar I light candles, I burn incense and I keep sweet smelling herbs – all of which are things which I associate with being in a spiritual state of mind and which therefore invoke that state of mind in my when I use them.  I think that the act of candles and lightening incense in itself is a powerful act.  It draws a line under the mundane day and signals to your subconscious that you are ready to start some serious spiritual work.

Tune in tomorrow for tips 6-10!
I am still learning all about this website stuff and slowly tweaking and improving this site and blog.

Which leads me to a short announcement that I have recently tweaked the Free Resources section and put up all the items as downloadable pdf documents.

So if you haven't visited in a while then do have a poke around.  Please let me know in the comments if anything isn't working right :)
Poppet me do.
Recently I took the big step of moving my altar into our main living space (after consulting closely with the person I share the space with).  It is in the living room, where we spend much of our busy time; in fact you couldn’t get a space which is much more mundane.  This might seem like a bad place for an altar – it even shares a room with the TV! But in fact moving it here has radically improved my relationship with the altar space in ways both expected and unexpected. 

As you may remember I am on a journey to integrate and bring myself into alignment, to consciously acknowledge and embrace everything I am.  There is no stronger way of demonstrating that in my mind than moving my altar into the most public and mundane space in the house.  It is a physical commitment to living in the most authentic way that I can, both in terms of bringing spirituality into my everyday life and being very open about that spirituality. 

But there have been two other benefits to the move.  Firstly the placement of the altar has improved and expanded the quality of the energy in the room itself and secondly since moving the altar I now use it all the time.  Because I don’t have to make a special journey up two floors to get to the altar and I am seeing it constantly and thus constantly reminded of it, prompting me to use it more often.    It is now a part of the fabric of my daily life and since bringing it into my daily life the altar has itself been very active in putting a very positive energy into my living space. 

A short period after setting up the new altar it began to take on an energetic life of its own.  The first thing that happened involved my Gods and Goddesses. Very soon after I moved and re-consecrated the altar the Deities moved in. I remember standing before the altar, stilling my mind and breathing in incense and suddenly realising that the Deities I work with were all arrayed in front of me, a little way behind the altar, like a council of wise teachers. Now every time I want to touch in with my Gods and Goddesses then I will usually make a speedy trip to the altar and suddenly they are simply there.

Next I became aware of the altar in a completely different way – as a portal to the magickal world.  Most of the time the portal is closed, however it became obvious once the altar was established that there was a portal which I could open if I needed to something which simply had not been the case in its previous location.

Lastly it can change the energy in the room.  The altar exists in two states, dormant and active.  When it is dormant it is quietly and gently magickal, it is a part of the scenery of the room, just a part of the scenery which is whispering sweet things to my subconscious.  When I choose to activate the altar it becomes a hugely powerful centre of the room which can raise the energy levels of the whole room, meaning that any work I am doing in the space around the altar or even simply writing on my laptop at the dining table is then bathed in that energy.

I am a total convert to the power and usefulness of personal altars especially as a stunningly, powerful tool for deconstructing and affirming your faith and your magickal practice.  But even I didn't realise how much of a life of their own they can take on.

Next post coming 10 Steps to a Personal Altar!
Antara's Altar
Altars are common in so many faiths around the world in both halls of worship and homes. They can be both temporary and permanent but in all cases there are multiple layers of meaning, enlightenment and empowerment within the form.  At its most basic level it is a surface which provides a focus point for religious worship (and magickal acts) on which can be placed a number of objects with religious significance, such as offerings and ritual tools.  It is a sacred place consecrated and dedicated; but the many uses of the Alar are wildly and gloriously divergent according to faith, culture and personal practice. Some faiths are proscriptive about what should (and should not) be on the altar – others like Eclectic Paganism are totally freeform. 

But I want to get into the nitty gritty of what an altar can really do for you and how I underwent a recent altar renaissance which has profoundly changed my outlook on this form of practice.

I use altars in three primary ways: 

a) As a Sacred Space.This aspect is probably familiar enough to most people. I keep the altar clean and tidy, I may put offerings to various Deities in the space as a means of connecting with them but vitally I only place items on the altar which I actively WANT to have in the space. This means that when I stand before the altar and tune in to the sacredness of the space I am turning my thoughts towards the spiritual, and away from the mundane.  It is one of the many ways I use to help me tune in to a more sacred mode of being and thinking from time to time.

b) A physical workbench for doing Magick.Because an altar is consecrated and sacred and therefore contains only those things I want in the space it is a perfect blank slate for performing acts of Magick. Nothing will be jarring in the space, physically or energetically and so nothing will interfere with the Magick in a way I do not desire. Equally doing Magick in this space feels (even more than usual) like I am bringing it to the attention of the Gods and the Universe.  The Altar is a direct and powerful link with the spiritual realm (I’ll talk a bit more about this in later posts) and therefore when I do Magick on the Altar I am asking the Universe and the Gods to pay attention…be very careful about what you ask the Universe to pay attention to!

c) As a Second Brain.Finally, if I have an idea I want to mull over in my sub-conscious then I can put a representation of that on my altar. I will seethe object as I go about my business and it will be a reminder of the thing I want to connect with.  I love this idea of a gentle sort of magickal act forming part of the background hum of my day but nevertheless slowly and quietly changing me.  Examples of this might be a quotation or a tarot card; currently I have an old worn key on my altar as a precursor to some work I’ll be doing shortly.

But as I said before I recently changed my Altar set up. Since then how I use the Altar has radically changed and taken on a life of its own.  Read all about it in the next post!
So all week I have been off my game, magic wasn't flowing, I wasn't writing and everything just felt a little "stuck" compared to before.  I wanted to be doing lots of writing for the Witches Table and other projects, but I just couldn't get down to it and so I set about fixing things in an alarmingly short magickal working on Sunday.  The process had interesting results which indicated a) I should have done this much earlier in my stuck phase and b) I should write it all down in case it is useful to anyone else.

I think my first mistake was a bit of lazy thinking, namely that if I wasn't feeling magickal I couldn't do magick/meditation etc.  I *know* this isn't right but it is such a frighteningly easy trap to fall into and it took me a week to realise I was doing it.  I show up to work when I don't feel like it, so I can do magick when I don't feel like it.

So what did I do?

I started meditating and reaching out to my patrons.  At first this felt like I was pushing through a brick wall, but I kept breathing and letting my mind wander regardless. I find in these circumstances the best thing to do is not try and break through the wall - that just makes the wall more solid, just imagine yourself floating and formless.  Don't try to solidify your thoughts. Let them gently bobble along, observe but don't engage them too much.  For example if you find yourself thinking you're nearly out of milk then;

a) don't sit there worrying about the lack of milk and how you're sitting meditating instead of going shopping, and

b) don't sit there worrying that you are thinking about milk instead of meditating.

Instead try simply shrugging and thinking "ok milk - I'll get to that later" and let it go.  I consider either options a or b above are engaging, the shrugging is allowing your thoughts to bobble along.

Eventually I slid through the wall and then I became very aware of how many elements of myself were out of alignment in that moment - my mind was in turmoil, my body was not being nourished or celebrated in the way it should be, I had stopped a couple of daily practices without really realising it and all added up to a sudden and powerful image.

I had the image of myself as an arrow, the different elements of physical body, mental discipline, openness to spirit etc. were all represented as jigsaw pieces that made up the arrow but which were all very slightly out of alignment so that the arrow was not in its intended shape.  These little mis-alignments were all creating drag on the arrow so that it was fighting to travel forwards against the very air.  In my vision I experimented with moving all the pieces into their perfect slots (something which I knew was a representation of eating really soulful food, doing lots of spiritual study, dressing myself in a way which truely reflects who I am and many other things) and just as I placed the last piece back into alignment the arrow sped off into the distance faster than I could track it with my mind's eye.

Obviously the last scene felt like a complete and obvious resolution.  But it gave me a powerful lesson: there isn't one single thing to be done to get my mojo moving forward but there are lots of little things which will all add up to one great big mojo boost and when I really thought about it, it was very clear to me what those things were.

To summarise.

1. You don't need to feel magickal, you can do magick anyway and perhaps you need to in order to work out how to feel magickal again.
2. Check in with the personal arrow  image from time to time, work out what is in alignment with your life path and goals and what is not.

I still don't feel perfect but now I have a plan on how to move towards greater alignment again, I got some pretty powerful messages that I was on the right track from my patron and my subconscious which was gratifying.

Now all the remains is to consider where the arrow is heading.  This was a clear life path probably in accordance with some Crowley-esque idea of True Will or something.  I don't yet know where the arrow was going...I'm still working on that.
brought to you courtesy of Mercury in retrograde and a wireless router throwing a tantrum.
Roman Chamomile
We have just enjoyed a few days of heatwave in the UK seeing temperatures of up to 30 degrees which is unusual for us.  Lugh was most definitely making his presence known at Lammas. It has been a glorious blaze of Summer for those few days but in a rare fit of stupidity I forgot to put sun tan lotion on and enjoyed the worst sunburn I have had in years.

My skin was so sore I knew I had to do something to alleviate it and so I set to it with my collection of essential oils and a pot of unscented cream base for mixing which would also moisturise my skin after the extreme drying out it had just received. Before application I also had a cold shower to take as much of the heat out of the burns as possible.

My recipe was as follows:

30g of an unscented base cream - they are readily available on the internet for adding essential oils to.

Then I added a 2.5% dilution of oils...about 15 drops.  12 drops of Lavender and 3 drops of Roman Chamomile as it is such a strong scent. After adding the oils to the cream I briskly stirred them with a clean spoon until it was all properly incorporated.

Lavender is well known as a curative for burns I have been using it on burns and insect bites for 16 years.  It not only speeds the healing process but is soothing and antiseptic to help avoid any infections.

I used Roman Chamomile here because that is what I had in the house but really German Chamomile would have been better as it has stronger anti-inflammatory properties. Roman Chamomile is a very calming and soothing oil and give how much discomfort I was in a bit of soothing was very welcome.

I kept the cream base mixture as neutral as possible e.g. no existing fragrances and only a few ingredients.  I wanted something that would simply act as a carrier for the essential oils but that wasn’t an oil like olive olive or sweet almond oil which might keep the heat in and make the burns worse.

If you have not used these oils before, or haven’t used them in a long time I would recommend you do a patch test first on your skin (the crook of your elbow is a good place to try it out as the skin is more delicate there).  The last thing you want to do is slap something on your sunburn which you are allergic to.  People who have allergies to the Chamomile or Ragwort plant family should drop the Chamomile.

If your patch test is clear then apply as necessary.  I found that this mixture speeded the healing time and alleviated some of the soreness and itching I associate with too much sun. One week later and my skin is healed with no sign of peeling. 

Prevention is always better than cure though so the first chance I got I stocked up on sunscreen!

NB: You might find over time the oil and cream separate out in which case just stir it up again.
I have been thinking about this concept for a long time:  The Whole of my Brain. Then this interesting post cropped up on Michelle's wonderful Lets Radiate Blog which got me to thinking.  It got me thinking that there is a whole other side to this problem which I need to explore. Like Michelle says, there are people who feel that because they are creative they can't be organised.  But there are also people who have been told they are left-brained who feel they cannot be creative and alongside all of this appear to be two competing cultures both failing to value the other.

I want to heal that divide.

Which led me to make this short video.

Click on the link and type in the password below.

Password - Wholebrainme

This is my Whole-Brain Manifesto, set yourselves free!

I am not a right-brained person, capable only of creativity, fun and instinct.
I am not a left-brained person, capable only of logic, rationality and organisation.
I am not a right-brained person who cannot write a business plan or practise punctuality.
I am not a left-brained person who cannot dream, imagine, write and paint.

I am a whole person and I can do anything I want.

I am a whole person...and I darkly suspect that you are too!
I so love the harvest festivals. Even in our modern world the idea of taking a breath and bringing in the harvest from all your hard work is just so relevant and powerful. 

Yesterday marks the start of the 30 days of Goddess course that I am taking and today marks the start of Faeriedaughter's One Month of Witchery.  Both things which have helped provoke the whirlwind of ideas in my head and my heart.  Thoughts which have yet again turned to career and such worldly matters.

I am a huge believer that there shouldn't be a mundane and a magickal world, but they are one and the same.  However I am not great at moving in the two worlds at the same time.  I am working on it with plans and to do lists but it is slow hard work. 

Today I have been so caught in this whirlwind that I thought I should take a little time to remember what I have achieved in the few short months since I started this journey.  Many of them need more work but that is not the point of this post, the inner demon of perfectionism can take today off, thank you very much!

1. Got this website up and running.
2. I have got a first draft of an e-book written.
3. I have undergone a big transformation in what I think it is possible to do with my life.
4. I have worked out how to make videos and upload them.
5. I have completed the first 1/3 of a Master's degree.
6. In the earlier part of the year, my Ladies and I completed a multi-part lengthy magical working which was the culmination of several rituals and lots of hard work.  It was great stuff though!

Which is a lot of things.

 I want to encourage everyone on this first harvest of the year to reap what they have sown, take five minutes to recognise some of your achievements so far this year.  Then give yourself a pat on the back!