Category: Ritual - The Witches Table
 
I have had a meditation sitting on my computer for a long time (about 3 years) and I have been meaning to give it a quick tweak and publish it for ages.  Well tonight with a little bit of an Imbolc push and some help from Bridgit's inspirational fire, it is done.

Meditation on the Source

I have put it up in the free resources section.  At this stage it is only a transcript - one day I hope to record it with my plummy Brit accent.
 
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 it did   honestly come and go 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 vice versa) and I felt a definite uniting of body, mind and spirit during some parts 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 done recently. This was quiet surprising as I had always assumed I needed to get really calm and chilled out in order to meditate, and that getting my heart rate up (as with all aerobic exercise) would be terrible for meditation.  Whilst this was true in a way it also helped me to achieve a different sense of altered consciousness.

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!
 
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Let's break some bread!
I am a big believer in the post-ritual meal; especially post-group-rituals. You know the sort of thing, after a big Samhain ritual, when the circle is closed everyone starts to pull out bread and cheese and mulled wine in thermos flask and a post-ritual feasting ensues. 

There are two main reasons why I am so keen on this practice: Grounding and Community.

Rituals can take you to places of incredible spiritual highs.  You can open yourself right up psychically and whilst this is great and feels wonderful it isn’t a good idea to walk out in the world in such a state of openness.  Being psychically open means attracting and absorbing all energy with no filters.  In a cleansed and sacred space with trusted friends this is no problem, in the big wide world you face attracting and absorbing everything from other people’s anger and frustration to spirits looking for mischief.  In particular I seriously counsel against anyone driving back from a ritual in such a heightened state as it simply isn’t safe, your senses may be heightened but this means your reaction time will be slowed as you will be taking in far more information that you can realistically process.  Eating a meal after the ritual is a fantastic and earthy form of grounding.  Nothing gets you back in your body quicker than having to digest something!

But on to my second reason for a post-ritual nosh…the dissection!  It is really important for groups to discuss what happened in the ritual they just performed, share what you experienced and listen to the sharings of others.  Usually you will find that in this process of sharing, absorbing and rationalising you will get better insights and bond more closely as a community. 

I have worked with groups where a post-ritual meal was an unspoken expectation and other groups where barring a bit of drinking everyone scooted off home without talking about the ritual.  In every case the former rituals were far more spiritually satisfying that the latter.

Historically in many cultures breaking bread together is a vital ritual in itself and that is something you should be capitalising on for your post-ritual meal.  Whilst sharing yourself in the energetically charged circle is a close and binding thing, nothing makes people closer than sharing it all again over a meal.  It brings the spiritually sacred experiences straight into the middle of your mundane world …for what is more mundane than eating, we do it 3 times or more a day.

The key to a post-ritual meal is low prep food or food you can easily prepare in advance.  You are not throwing a dinner party, people are primarily coming for the ritual; the food is just a bonus. Choose simple but nourishing food which is cheap and filling.  I find it easier to making vegetarian food as standard since it is cheaper and many pagans are vegetarian and obviously always check if people are vegan or have allergies to wheat, egg, nuts, dairy etc.  A post-ritual meal help to create an inclusive atmosphere and continue the sense of “safe space” created in the ritual, to help facilitate this ask about allergies beforehand to avoid making anyway feel awkward afterwards. 

Shortly I'll be posting some of my favourite, no-fuss recipes for post-ritual feasting!

 
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!
 
Following on from Tuesday's post.

My name is Antara.  That isn’t my only name and certainly isn’t the name by which I am known.  But I am going through a process of exploring what it would mean to be more open about who I am.

Because I am taking baby steps I am not yet ready to put my other name on this site.  Nor will I be marching into the office, standing in the middle of the open plan room and announcing I am a Pagan and Witch.  Yes that would be honest, it would also make everyone feel uncomfortable and I am not up for being the source of other people’s unnecessary discomfort. However I have wanted to start putting videos up on the website.  Little video diaries, possibly workshops and other interesting things.  I haven’t done so because that would mean putting my face up here and I have been paranoid  this would mean someone with enough technical ability could use that to “hunt me down and out me”.  Well, perhaps it is time to open the door a little crack.

Baby steps means that this video is only accessible via a password link on Vimeo.

So if you just go to the link type the password below and press play you’ll get to see my face…one more step to authentically living who I really am.

Password:  Authent1cm3

Eventually I'll work out a better way of getting these up here.

 
Of the many books and techniques I have read over the years one of the themes which recurs is Affirmation.  The idea of making a positive statement to change how you feel or think about something.  Bear with me...this does get magickal.

I have found when I have used this technique (in various forms) that the one problem is that it never seems to last.  I am sure that on a sub-conscious level it makes a difference but even if I do 20 mins of yoga and pledge to maintain that sense of calm, serenity throughout the day it doesn't usually stay.  All manner of things can disrupt that moment of grace and drive it away; perhaps I run late for work, get a deadline unexpectedly brought forward, encounter some sexism, realise I have library fines.  Good things can disrupt those intentions as well; I'll get lost in a book, enjoy an amazing dinner with a friend or watch a favourite TV series. Suddenly the intention is gone from my mind.

What I need is a way of calling that Affirmation, or intention or sense of serenity back to my conscious mind once something mundane, or delightful or stressful has ejected it. One of the current goals in my personal practice is develop a better joined up thinking about magic and the rest of my life.  To be able to bring a spirit of magickal mindfulness to work and everywhere else.  Being able to recall and re-invoke magickal affirmations discreetly, consistently and effectively would be great.  Enter triggers (the good sort this time, not the bad).  When I make my Affirmation, set my magickal intent or complete my yoga I can have a symbol, a token or talisman to excite my senses which I can come back to throughout the day to remind me of that moment.  Simple yet effective.

If I am at home, I'll light a particular incense.  Sometimes I'll forget about the incense but when I do remember it again (perhaps after re-entering a room after fetching a drink) then at the moment I notice the incense again, I will deliberately call to mind that earlier practice and reinforce it.  The moment of noticing is the trigger to remind you to replay the Affirmation or magickal moment. So the item or token must be something which I will notice again and again at little moments throughout the day. That way I spend the day re-affirming my intention again and again.  I have found this is very effective for both doing background magickal practices, sending absent healing or re-affirming statements and concepts I am trying to abide by.

Some ideas for such discreet tokens of remembrance:

1. Jewelry, that you do not normally wear daily, so you "notice" it when you see it. I particularly like anything that jingles and jangles as tinkling silvery noises playing on my awareness is a very magical way to remind yourself of anything.
2. Clothing or a particular colour which is unusual to you.  I am using red a lot at the moment for manifesting things. You can't fail to notice bright red, sunshine yellow, lime green or magenta.  These are colours made to stand out!
3. A bunch of flowers, are discreet on a desk at work, yet the smell will remind you as will the sight of them.  They are unusual on your desk, unusual enough to remind you why they are there, but not odd!
4. Perfume/essential oils/incense -we do get used to smells after a while and cannot smell them anymore.  But it takes a while for this to happen and before that occurs it is quite hard to tune out smells.
5. Candles (probably not appropriate for work or if you are on the move) are fantastic as not only is your eye drawn back again and again to the light, but also to the slight movement generated by the flame itself. Equally anything that catches the light will work nicely, as a sudden flash or flicker attracts your attention.
6. Photographs or Pictures placed somewhere obvious.  This is my least favourite way of using this practice as I find it all to easy to tune out background clutter after a while. But you may find your eye being constantly drawn back to an amazing picture.

I would shy away from alarms, since I always find them so jarring to my mind and sense of wellbeing; and the idea above is not to be forced into remembering, but gently led there as if by accident.  I have no wish to blend the sense of annoyance and interruption an alarm generates with the magickal manifestation I am attempting - but someone else may find that very effective.

The key though, is not to over-use the particular trigger you pick. If it is over-used it will become a part of the background and no longer prompt you to notice it. It is the sudden moment of noticing which reminds you to redo the working so that must be maintained and kept fresh.




 
So as I was working on Project Antara this afternoon my mind turned to ritual preferences.  Over the years I have tried lots of things I have definite preferences for things I want in the rituals I attend.  I am not bossy enough to insist on every single ritual I attend falling into line with these wants and frankly that would be dull, variety is the spice of life.  But I think I have some preferred ways of getting me in the mood so to speak.

I have mentioned on this blog before about a "ritual head space" and what I really mean by that is the state of alternate consciousness where you can feel the energy in a ritual flowing about you, there is a rhythm to the universe which you hook into and it is as if you are vibrating in alignment with everything, everywhere.  That alignment then allows me to do magick just like rowing a boat down river along with the current.  But being a fickle and earthly creature how I get there and whether I can maintain it is based on lots of things outside my own willpower.

So this is my version of a sort of magical foreplay to get me in the mood.

1. Ritual clothing - I need to change into something special to shed myself of the associations of everyday work I am carrying in my work-a-day clothing.

2. No Scripts - I almost never achieve this one, unless I am working on my solitary ritual.  I'll be honest as well and admit that sometimes I need a script as much as the next person - being too lazy or busy to memorise what I need/ought to.  But the constant rustling bits of paper (including by me) is a real distraction for me and even when I use a script I try to be discreet.

3. One or all of music, candles and incense - all of these make it very easy for me to move into my ritual headspaces.

4. People who don't seem to take it seriously - I don't expect everyone to be sombre, ceremonial ritualists never speaking except to intone their Latin incantations. But I would prefer that everyone who goes to a ritual with me at least pretends they are taking the rite and magic seriously and acts respectfully.  A few laughs is fine, and important to alleviate nerves and be welcoming to new comers.  But making witty quips throughout a ritual - really not ok by me! Especially when people are interrupting quarter callers etc. to make their jokes.

Hah! I doubt anyone will want to get into a circle again with me now!
 
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?