When I set out in Spring consciously trying to move all parts of myself into one whole I didn't even think about exercise.  Big mistake. My relationship with exercise has deteriorated since doing my Masters as I feel I barely have enough time in the day to eat and breathe.  Exercise is something which it is easy for me to drop, despite the fact that intellectually I know it is as vital, in many ways, as eating and breathing.  Now I am in the process of ramping up my daily practice I suddenly realised a connection with magick and exercise.  Not that simply doing exercise regularly is better for my magick (which it is!) but that I could be doing magick whilst I exercise.

This though came to me whilst I was in the middle of a rune working meditation on Uruz, the rune of the Auroch, of strength, vitality and courage.  I just couldn't quite get the working right and was thinking about why that might be.  Then it came to me.  In order to absorb and resonate in harmony with this rune I need to be in my body feeding my own vitality.  My practice over the last few months has moved very much into my head (something I will have to watch in future) but in order to fully integrate I need to be really present in my body.  In particular it felt like I wasn't going to get my work with Uruz without bringing it into a very physical place.

So I got up early and prepared my space with fresh water for drinking and an Aerobic Pilates DVD.  I wanted to start with a form of exercise which would allow me to work magick and get a good work out at the same time, Pilates has a great emphasis on core strength and breathing both of which felt very supportive of the magickal working.  The aerobic aspect would give me a great work out but without the ultra complicated steps of some of my other routines.  Then down to business, but only for a short work out - I wanted this to be a test run.

It was a challenge keeping the rune resonation going throughout the whole 15 minutes and I came and went with my concentration.  I sure that this will improve in time.  The session was hard work but focussing on Uruz definitely helped out with some of the postures and I felt a definite uniting of body, mind and spirit during some of the exercise. The best aspect was the 15 minutes of meditation I did straight afterwards - that was some of the most powerful meditation I have ever done. I am going to try and keep up something similar for the next month and move into a more physical realm again whilst bringing that magickal headspace with me.  If I can crack this then I will feel like I have been able to take a big step forwards.  I'll be logging some of my experiences as I try new ways of combining the two.  Hopefully next I'll be combining it with some wild dancing!
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.
I was flicking back through my last few blog posts and they seemed to have concentrated on self empowerment a great deal.  Now that is important and I truly belief that unpacking and examining your own psyche is essential for practical magic work but I felt like it was time to give a little bit more of an insight into the nuts and bolts of Antara’s ritual work personal.

I don’t tend to use a lot of physical tools in my personal magical practice but rely more on visualisations, trance work, meditation and getting my psychology in the right place.  Any physical tools I do use will be as an extension of my visualisation work and deliberately keyed to create certain emotions and thought processes in my mind.  This works in two ways

  1. I have certain formulas, mental exercises, breathing exercises, smells, music and sights which will (if I wish) quickly get me into a ritual state of mind to work magick.
  2. I will use other smells, environments, physical objects, herbs, sigils, drumming etc. to build energy for ritual work, build up new correspondences and to use as physical triggers to execute the magickal work done internally.  That is not to say these objects don’t have their own energy which I might be using to either make the direction of my own will flow more easily or augment what I am doing.

Group work for me involve trying to attune myself as much as possible to those people I am working with and to build up shared triggers and associations. I read widely and practise lots of things but always with a view to building a core of practices, ideas and exercise I can call on with ease and confidence. 

I am a big believer in the value of ritual; from huge festivities with weeks of preparation beforehand to the small and personal rituals which can appear as little more than habits.

They both have their place but have very different effects on our lives. So today I wanted to write about the small personal rituals and what they do for me.  My Little Rituals are definitely not habits. They are deliberately mindful, where my habits are quite the opposite. Little Rituals allow me to live my life in a conscious way, making sure that I don't sleepwalk through my time on earth.  They help me connect in with myself and my life on a regular basis to make sure I am really engaging with the world.

Sometimes my rituals are very short term and changeable, some of them are things I have been doing for ages but all of them root my life and affirm my path. Some of them are magical, most of them are actually mundane, allowing me to practice mindfulness anywhere and bring a little magic into everyday grind.  Because everyone's had a daily grind that they could probably do with injecting with a little sparkle.  At the moment Little Rituals are to remind me that no matter how much time my current career is taking up, there are other things that are equally as important - such as writing this blog!

Some of my current Little Rituals:

1. Lighting candles and incense whenever I settle down to write at home (for work or any other projects).
2. Wearing my silver, purple and blue sparkly bangles when I am not at work.
3. Checking my vegetable patch every morning.
4. Reading for at least 30 mins every night before bed.

What are your little rituals that keep your day and week ticking over?
Today I tried a new magical technique for the first time thanks to the Goddess Circle's Creativity Course.  A sort of spirit walk (an idea I don't really know anything about and could well have go.  I centered myself and connected with the divine and asked to be lead to those things I needed to create my artwork and whilst I did find some interesting physical things, something else happened, several somethings actually.

Firstly the process was really interesting and useful and pretty wonderful.  I walk a lot, but always to either get somewhere or to exercise, I always wear my Ipod headphone (shutting out the world a bit) and although I do notice my surroundings on these walks I don't really notice them in a very deliberate and "conscious" way.  So going on a walk without a particular purpose other than a vague plea to the universe to show me what I needed to see was very different.  Very quickly I found myself in a very calm, spiritual headspace which kept up for the whole hour of my walk, despite the fact I was mostly walking in suburbia through some busy roads.  In fact I had to work very hard to ground myself after the walk and ate something as soon as I got back home because it was actually a little difficult to stop being in that headspace. Definitely a powerful technique even in the way I was doing it.  In fact it reminded me an awful lot of a technique a friend once described to me about 10 years ago.  They said that when they came to live in a new city, they would always go for a long walk in the city to attune.  Each city having it own rhythm and until my friend had attuned themselves to the rhythm then they could quite "get" the city - would find themselves getting lost perhaps or not finding the opportunities they were looking for.
A little over halfway through the walk it suddenly became very apparent that amongst the items I was picking up and the photos I was taking  a message was trying to come through.  Some truth or idea that the universe maybe thought I should know.  Since the point of the exercise was to listen to whatever I needed to hear I let the idea just flow, even though it didn't fall in the category of a feather for me to stick on my artwork.  The message built up slowly though, in layers until I felt I had an amazing idea, an idea which I could translate back into art...somehow.

I began by being drawn to little leaves and veins within them. Noticing that sometimes the colours of the veins was in a stark contrast to colour of the leaf, and sometimes less visible.

Then I saw the cracks in the pavement and the cracks in the asphalt. Cracks which I knew were caused by the roots of trees, breaking through the concrete cages we have built for them.
I thought about the roots of other plants around me all stretching out, connecting and growing unseen in the soil all around me, carrying information, drawing in water and nutrients.

I heard the songs of bird piercing into my mind carrying, messages and connections.

Eventually when I was sitting in a park somewhere I noticed

I had this sudden clarity of vision, of interconnectedness with this little seams of gold running from me to the bird, me to the person mowing their lawn and I thought about this planet we live with with all these precious little roots, veins and seams of interconnectedness and how we connected a million or more times a day without even realising it.  Like the person mowing their law and how they didn't know I was there, hearing them mowing but they made the connection nonetheless.

It was all so joyful and lovely...but that wasn't the point of the message.

I left the park and started for home.  No sooner had I shut the gate behind me when a couple of cars went past.  The noise of their engines was a connection with me.  But not a single clear note like a birdsong, or a deep conversation but a sort of scatter-gun of connection - throwing out the noise of their engines out into the universe with no purpose and not a care in the world about who and how many people might hear it.  This started me thinking that really the seams and veins and roots of the unseen connections in our world have become distorted, instead of these rare and precious moments we are actually deluged with connection all the time;  whether we like it or not. Advertising, TV, Radio, car noises and so many other things are like a tidal wave of connection which both drown out the important things and make it all a lot less precious. Seams of gold, become cliffs of gold and suddenly they are not that valuable anymore.
Now partly this is because I was on a spirit walk and had deliberately opened myself up to hear all this.  But the noise is going on and even if we tune it out, it is still there and we are probably using energy to tune it out.  I am not sure what this means I have to do (at this time), other than write a blog post, create some art and sent this message out into the world for people to ponder on.  I don't think becoming a hermit is the answer, those connections are really precious and we shouldn't run away from them. So I would love to hear any other interpretations of this!
I am polytheistic and firmly believe in a range of deities.  Not as simple reflections of my own subconscious but most certainly as entities who exist outside of me.  Some Deities I have a close relationship with, others of whom I just acknowledge and we go our separate ways for now.  But it has very long journey getting to this point. 

I believe that you can have brief encounters with Deity for singular encounters or magic working, you can have life long relationships with some Deities and others you work with them for a specified time and for a specified purpose.  This makes it sound as though I am advocating having a smorgasbord of Deities at your beck and call and this is not true at all.  Some of these encounters may be initiated by you, the Deities themselves or by taking part in group or coven work where others in the group are in a relationship with Deities and make an introduction. By far and away the most rewarding experiences in my interactions with Deities have been those which were part of a life-long relationship, in the way that long term romantic relationships are usually more rewarding than one-night stands.

All of these ways of interactions have their benefits (and sometimes challenges and trials) and can be important experience on any path.  I would suggest being open to opportunities to take part in these.  You will find out which Deities you have a connection with and which you do not.  As long as you are respectful this is unlikely to be problematic.

I have carefully avoided using words like "worship" in this post for two reasons; for many people (especially pagans) the word has bad connotations, reminding them of a time they perhaps felt trapped by a monotheistic religion.  Secondly because this is never how I have experienced my Deity relationships.  Powerful, mind blowing, complex, yes - demanding of worship, not really.  My relationships have been as sage mentors, ancient friends, challenging teachers, inspirational leaders, and sometimes even parental.  They always involved an exchange of energy and definitely respect; but worship, in the usual sense of the word, has never been on the table.  They have not demanded it and I have not felt moved to it - what I do give in such relationships is far more complicated than simple worship.

I will be coming back to the subject of Deities and relationships with them again and again I am sure, but for now please post with your comments and views - this is such personal ground and everyone experiences it differently.

This post is brought to you by sunshine and temperatures of 24 degrees C - not usual for April round here.
In the beginning this circle was purely a place of protection – covered in magical fire to stop anything disrupting or interrupting me (or even attacking me when I lived somewhere particularly scary).  Then it was a place where I totally controlled the energy and could intensify it as I wished without it dissipating.  Then it was a portal to another world as eventually, within the sphere, a door appeared and through that door was my subconscious, my Gods and Goddesses, my spirit guide and a million worlds to explore and find wisdom within.  But establishing the sphere was always the first step.

Sometimes within the circle I work magic purely within my mind, magic of thought alone.  Sometimes I perform physical rituals. It is a flexible and useful thing.

But when I do a personal practice, even a simple meditation casting my blue sphere is always the first thing I do and this is because it has well outgrown its original purpose.  After using this technique for 11 years it is now a powerful psychological trigger.  Beginning the through processes to cast my circle are deeply ingrained in my psyche so that I hardly have to think about them.  The simple act of going through the motions alone signals to my mind that it is time to get focussed and drop into that particular headspace needed for working magic. 

I would recommend any magical practitioner to get a regular magical practice, something that you could do for the next 20 or 30 years, something simple you can keep coming back to because the discipline of the practice alone is invaluable – regardless of the other purposes of the practice.  Attaining the ability to switch into your magical head state as easily as possible is probably the most important thing I have achieved so far.

One of the first and most consistent magical practices I still use is a variant on the casting of a circle.  The reasons why I use this casting have changed a lot over the years; but the beauty of circle casting is that is has so many applications and uses.  This is probably why this practice has never left me and the nuts and bolts of it have changed little in 11 years.

Everyone has their own needs and style, mine is deliciously dramatic (because in my own private practice I have allowed myself to be as over the top as I feel like) but it starts with my sitting or lying somewhere comfortable and then doing a step by step visualisation.  Firstly I envisage two iron bands encircling me, horizontally and vertically so that they create a spherical space around me.  At this stage I always here an audible “ker…chunk” when the bands lock into place.  Then the rest of the sphere bursts into life with licking tongues of blue fire which I hear hissing and spitting.  Finally bolts of blue electricity arc around the iron bands crackling as they go.  Inside I am snug and tucked away from the world.