You Are Here And You Are Needed

Alchemy and Magic

B

lessed Full Moon in Aquarius, Miracles. needed 

Today I have something special – a ritual designed for this Full Moon – that speaks to a trend I have been seeing of late.

In so many of the conversations I have had with students, clients, and folks who write to me after (or while) they are reading Making Magic I have heard the same refrains:

I am tired.
Worn out.
Tapped out.
Exhausted.
I just want to take a nap.
I’m over it.
Does any of it matter?

Underneath all of these perfectly understandable feelings I hear a bigger question: do I even matter?

And it can seem, in the face of global pandemics and crisis upon crisis, that we don’t.

It gets easier every day to believe there really is nothing a single person can do to make things better, to heal the hurt places, or mend the tears or protect what is precious.

But, here’s the thing, you are here and you are needed.

Mathematically, the odds are against you from the outset. Ancestor upon ancestor, the event upon event had to come together in just the right way for you to be right here, right now.

As is often the case, math points the way to magic.

You are here and you are needed because you have one of a kind, perfectly unique, and absolutely required magic for this world right here and right now.

This is a ritual that on the one hand, reminds us of that, and on the other, calls that magic – and whatever sustains it – forward. Because really loves, now is the time.

Ritual ~

If you want a PDF version of this ritual, you can download one right here.

Prompts for Ritual Petition/Prayer:
What magic do I have to share?
Who/What is it for?
What nourishes that magic and keeps it flowing?

Time:
As long as it takes. This ritual could be 5 minutes or 5 days or 5 weeks

Materials:
Ingredients for Sacred Bathing pre-ritual work. For more on Sacred Bathing go here.
Petition/Prayer
An object/image/word that represents the magic you know you are meant to share.
An object/image/word that represents whatever it is that nourishes that magic and keeps it flowing.
Birdseed
Any other ritual accouterments that you would like (candles, incense, altar, rocks, dirt, plants, talismans), students of mine will want to have their cords for this rite as they should for all rituals and ceremonies.

Timing:
You may begin this ritual on the day of the Full Moon but it need not be completed on the same day and most likely will not be. Feeling, thinking, and knowing your way into the prompts is, as always, the most important pre-ritual work that you can do, so as always, take your time with this piece, it may need several days to unfold, answers may come to you in bits and pieces, through dreams and snatches of song, and found letters – let the magic have its time to work and do not rush it. On the other hand, if you immediately know the needed responses then honor that as well and get down to the writing of your petition/making of your prayer.

Process:
There are two pre-ritual actions required for this work. The first is to work with the given prompts (or the personal prompts that they inspire) and from your answers craft your petition/prayer. You may craft your petition in formal language, in rhyme, in image or movement or song. You may craft it with beads or sacred waters or sacred smoke – it is up to you as always. I recommend words, uttered or written, straight from the heart. If you find you need a little extra assistance, here is a guide:

Blessed Ones whom I hold most dear, thank you for this day, for all the days that I have known and for all the days I have yet to experience. Today I come ready and willing to share (name your unique magic) with the world and whomever or whatever has need of it, especially (name who or what your magic is especially for). I honor this deepest part of myself by ensuring that it is properly cared for, fed, and nourished by many acts, especially (name the actions that most nourish your magic) so that I am able to give and receive in right and good measure. For I know that I am here and that I am needed. I hear the call and always will respond as I can in the ways available to me. Amen/May it be/And so it is

Once you have your petition/prayer you may gather up the rest of the needed materials, including the ingredients you will want to incorporate into your pre-ritual bath.

I will not tell you what ingredients to use because this is your pre-ritual bath and I trust that you know what ingredients are most appropriate for YOU and for this particular work.

Set up your working area so that the image/word/object that represents your magic is at the center of your working space and the birdseed is on top of it. Below the pile of birdseed is the image/object/word that represents what nourishes your particular magic. It is positioned below because what nourishes your magic is the foundation from which your magic springs.

Arrange any other ritual accouterments as you like. Those who work with a cord or lasso, make sure that it is applied to the part of your body where it will be most supportive.

Cultivate Calmness.
Open the space for ritual in whatever way you are accustomed to. If this is brand new to you, you may simply say:
I stand between the worlds where space and time are limitless and absolute. As I talk, may I speak, as I hear may I listen, as I look may I see, as I smell may I sense, as I taste may I savor. May my Holy Helpers, Ancestors, and Descendants bear witness to my work as I strive for right relationship with all beings. Amen/May it be/And so it is.

Scoop up some of the birdseed into the palm of your hands.
Take in a deep breath of gratitude for your physical body and as you exhale in thanks blow your breath into the birdseed.
Take in a deep breath of gratitude for the land where you live and the creatures seen and unseen who are part of it and as you exhale in thanks blow your breath into the birdseed.
Take in a deep breath of gratitude for the ones that you love and as you exhale in thanks blow your breath into the birdseed.
Take in a deep breath of gratitude for the many paths you travel and as you exhale in thanks blow your breath into the birdseed.
Take in a deep breath of gratitude for the ones who have come before and the ones who will come after and as you exhale in thanks blow your breath into the birdseed.
Finally, take in a deep breath of gratitude for your magic and as you exhale in thanks blow your breath into the birdseed.
Place the birdseed back where it was.

Utter your petition/prayer over the working space in whatever way is best. If your petition/prayer is a dance then you dance it, if it is a song then you sing it, if it is a painting then you show it, etc.

As you are ready take the birdseed outside and either fill up a bird feeder or scatter it on the ground, as you do so, you may say the following:
With each seed taken up by each winged, furred, or fanged creature, so my magic is taken up and into this world that so sorely needs it. For each life that is somewhat sustained by this food, so my magic is sustained by (insert the name of what it is that nourishes your magic) and I commit to ensuring that I am as well nourished as I can be at all times. Amen and may it be so.

You may close the ritual space as you like or say the following:
Gratitude to my Ancestors, Descendants, and Holy Helpers for bearing witness to my work. Gratitude to the winged, furred, and fanged creatures for carrying my magic forward, here in between the worlds I have learned anew to savor, sense, see, listen, and speak. May these acts bring and keep me in right relationship with all beings ever and always. Amen/May it be/And so it is.

Conclude the ritual with whatever it is that nourishes your unique magic.

Place the images/words/objects that represent your magic and that which nourishes it somewhere where you can see them and learn from them over the next month.
needed needed 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Balancing Acts

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles,

Today is the Autumn Equinox in my part of the world (and the Vernal Equinox for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere). So I want to wish you all a Happy and Blessed Equinox and mention just a few practices that I do every year around this time – you might want to adopt some of these into your own practices or they might give you some ideas about different things you might want to do.

Deep Cleaning – We talk about Spring Cleaning but Fall Cleaning is a thing too! My family takes time around the Equinox (depending on when the Equinox falls it is not always ON the exact date of the event) to physically and spiritually clean our home. This includes doing things like breaking out all of our fall, Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos decorations, setting up an elaborate ancestor altar, and also creating the shrine to celebrate the Feast Day of Archangel Michael which happens at the end of the month.

I do a ceremony that usually lasts about an hour and a half that includes banishing and blessing work. I work with a ceremonial sword I inherited to cut away any unwanted influences and to seal and protect all doors and windows in our home. I sweep out the house from back to front as this tradition has precedent in both the conjure and currendera traditions I grew up with as a child. Then, I go through the house with Florida Water and I cap it all of my lighting a candle in each room and censing the house (again, back to front) with an aromatic scent like copal, frankincense, or ethically sources palo santo. I round off the entire event with offerings, usually made outside in our magical garden.

Practically speaking I also use this time to do an inventory of our home – do batteries need to be replaced in the smoke alarms? Do any minor repairs need to be seen to in or around the house? Are there any areas in dire need of re-organization? Have I made appointments to have our chimney swept and our furnace checked out once the weather starts to turn? These banal tasks are the exact kinds of things that I always forget and really don’t want to attend to, but when I put them into a ritual context – when they become the practical actions that ground my magical rites – all of a sudden they are much easier to remember.

Caring for Sacred Arts Tools – Caring for our sacred arts tools is an extension of spiritual cleaning. For many magical practitioners the summer is a chaotic, crazy time as is the start of the school year. Go check out your altar, your desk, or wherever it is that you do the bulk of your magical work and make your spiritual devotions. Chances are there are objects in your space that have just kind of ended up there – they are not really adding anything to the space. Do a quick inventory: what is here? What, of the objects that are here, are you actually using? Of the objects that you are using, how might they need to be cared for? Is your lodestone covered not just in magnetic sand but also dust? Time to clean it off and give it a good splash of whisky! Is your cord looking a little tattered and frayed? Snip off the loose ends and make it a ritual by naming any physical loose ends with any loose ends currently at work in your life. Is there a truly funky food or libation offering that needs to be taken care of? Clean it out, clean it up, and put something back on the altar that will be appreciated by your Holy Helpers. Do you have a bunch of sigils and petition papers lying around? Gather them up and decide on a time to ceremonially burn them in order to release their energy (I always do this on the last day of the calendar year).

Tending Your Altars – One you begin caring for your sacred arts tools you might find that you actually need to clean up, re-organize, or perhaps create for the first time, your altar and sacred working space. This is a good time to begin setting up an ancestor altar if you plan on doing one for the season of the dead – you can and will add to it in the coming weeks. If you have children this can be a great time to help them create their own altars. If you find that you need more working space then you might consider creating different altars for different purposes – placing one in the East to draw things to you and one in the West for banishing work, or perhaps creating a space for working on love and relationships and a different space for working on money and prosperity. Don’t forget about the first altar, your own blessed and physical body. Have you paid attention to it lately? Are you listening to what it has to tell you? How do you incorporate your physical body into your spiritual practice? Perhaps you need to bless it and maybe one way of doing that is scheduling a doctor’s appointment, getting a massage, or taking up a new form of physical activity.

If you decide to take on any (or all) of these Equinox activities then you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed (and being pretty busy for the day), but you may also discover that one of the subtle joys of living an enchanted life is the tending and taking care of your own magic. Your practice, your Holy Helpers, and your space will thank you for it as you bring the various elements into balance once more.

What are your favorite ways of celebrating the Equinox?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

All About the Altar ~ What, Why, and How

Foundations

W

hat is an altar?

Many of my soulful seekers know what an altar is or they at least have heard of altars before and a number of you have altars that you spend time at on the regular. But for those new to the sacred arts the entire idea of an altar may be a foreign concept.

What are they? Why would we want one? And of course, how do we create an altar for ourselves?

We can answer the first question easily.

An altar is a place where one goes to enter into communion, make offerings, and create or participate in ceremony. Click to Tweet

AltarAltars are often described as points of power or points of focus and they are found in every religious and mystical tradition – from the stripped down altars of the Baptists to the luscious altars enshrining various deities in the Hindu tradition, altars are an aspect of the sacred arts that we all hold in common.

These sacred places are also fashioned and created in a number of different ways, with each tradition giving precise instruction for what must and must not be included in the erection of the altar.

One of my favorite examples of this are the consecrated altars that you can find in any working Catholic church; in order for the altar to be officially usable and working it must have a relic, a personal concern such as bone or hair, from one of the Saints venerate in Catholic tradition.

Sometimes when we think of altars we assume that they are only found in public places and/or religious spaces like churches or temples. But people have had altars and personal shrines in their individual homes for millennia; these personal altars serve many purposes at the same time: in times when individuals lived far away from a central place of worship the personal altar allowed people to still participate in the rites and ceremonies of their traditions; and in other times the presence of the personal altar has allowed people to be in communion, make offerings, and make ceremony without the oversight of the dominate religious institution but in their own, vastly creative, ways.

But before we talk about the altar as a place outside of ourselves we must look at the very first altar that is much closer than you might think.

“Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.” – Joseph de Maistre

Body as Altar

The first altar is the altar of your own blessed body. Click to Tweet
For it is with and through our bodies that we are able to come into communion with that which is vast and timeless, and it is with and through our bodies that we begin to make offerings; for any kind of adornment the is beautiful and pleasing and good is a gift we make unto ourselves.

altarThe word “adornment” reaches back into the one of the great mother languages – Sanskrit – and means “cosmos”; this tells us what really happens at an altar – worlds are created and sometimes destroyed.

When we view our body as a holy place then we make slight, or in some cases significant, changes in how we eat and drink, how much sleep and rest we make time for, what kinds of physical rituals we engage in, and even who we choose to associate with.

Body as altar is a useful practice because it is true, it is good for our bodies, and it allows us to start thinking about altars in a different way – not simply as points in space and time but as living, breathing, creations that we have an ongoing and dynamic relationship with.

“If your altar is not active, your voice will not be strong.” – Steven Chuks Nwaokeke

 

Communion at the Altar

Communion is a religious term that is related to words like community, commune, and congregation – in all cases the words indicate the action of coming together, bringing people together, bringing all of the pieces together.

To participate in communion is to participate in right relationship. In some traditions this participation is made concrete through acts like ritual eating and drinking or blessing one another; in other cases it is more of an internal process.

We can start to get a sense of what the basic requirements for an altar are by thinking about communion; with our selves, our Holy helpers, and each other. Some of these include:

  • Designated space – altars have to be erected or built in some way so they do require some space. I have seen altars in bathrooms, desks, and taking over a dining room table. If you do not have any space at this time for an altar but wish to have one then you can create a portable altar by making a shrine with a cigar box, mirrored box, or other container.
  • Distraction-free zone – once you have worked at your altar consistently you will find that you barely register distractions, and indeed some of the most sumptuous altars are in public places where there are many people. But in starting out it is smart to set yourself up for success and ensuring that you will be as little interrupted as possible during the time you spend at your altar is smart.
  • Safety and respect – it is essential that you create an altar with an eye to safety, especially if you are going to do things like burn candles on it. Likewise, if you have a permanent altar that is in your home and you share your home with others please communicate to them that this is a special and sacred place where you go to pray and that they should not touch objects on your altar, remove anything from your altar, or add anything to it, without your express permission.
  • In your daily practice, you will want to decide what you do to designate communion for yourself. What do you do to call yourself back to yourself is the way that I like to ask this question. It can be a short series of movements, it can be as simple as taking a deep breath, or it can be more complex, the point is to decide and then make sure that whatever you need to do it is present at the altar.
  • Proper placement – much has been said about where one should or should not place their altars and, wait for it, not everyone agrees. I encourage you first and foremost to look at where you live. If you are planning on putting up an altar that will remain year round then first look at where in your home you can be least disturbed and distracted.

If you have friends and family who are not yet hip to the idea of a personal altar and might be distressed or offended then take that into consideration as well – you may not want to have your altar in your living room!

altarRemember that you can make use of the outdoors as well, many altars were traditionally meant to be outside to take that into consideration and also note what the climate is like where you live – maybe an outdoor altar in warmer weather that moves inside when the weather gets cooler is the way to go.

Assuming that you have some flexibility with where you place your altar; begin by walking around the space(s) that are up for consideration and feeling them out. Ask the space if it wants an altar and if so, where does it want the altar.

Listen. One of the most common places to erect an altar is in the North and another is in the East. In traditions where the four elements are honored or where various saints or holy helpers are worked with there may be several different altars so keep that in mind too; you are not limited to just one.

An altar in the North may well have a grounding influence on your work. Long ago we oriented ourselves to the North Star and we still use due North to give us direction and help us navigate. An altar placed in the north can function in the same way. If you feel scattered, not sure whether you are coming or going, and easily distracted then an altar in the North is a good choice.

An altar in the East honors the major even that occurs in that direction everyday, the rising of the Sun. Working with the sun is something that our ancestors did regularly and we depend on the sun’s rising and setting to designate the length of our days, our sense of time and season, and of course for life itself. The rising sun is the growing and strengthening sun, radiating more light and life into our lives as it ascends. So an altar placed in the east is aligned with these qualities as well: vibrancy, new beginnings, strength, growth, possibility and potential.

South, West, and the point at center, also have their own qualities to consider and now that you know how to think and feel into proper placement I am sure you can figure out what those qualities are for yourself.

 

Cleansing and Preparing your Altar

After you choose where you would like to place your altar as well as what basic material(s) it will be composed of, it is time to cleanse the space. Spiritual cleansing is a very old practice and can be done in a number of different ways. Usually some kind of water is involved such as holy water from a Church or water that you have blessed yourself. You may also use commercial or homemade Florida water to cleanse the space. In my  own practice I have used the following rhyming prayer to get rid of negativity:

“I banish thee, I banish thee!
I send thee out and set thee free!
To dwell among root, tree, and stone
And never through my halls do roam!”

Feel free to use that or to simply pray straight from the heart that your new working space is cleansed and purified. At this point some people like to pass a bit of incense or an essential oil diffuser over their working space with the intention of bringing it into attunement with their desires for the work ahead.

I anoint the four corners and center of my working space with an anointing oil appropriate to what I will be working on. You may also use olive oil to do this.

“Ritual will always mean throwing away something: destroying our corn or wine upon the altar of our gods.” G.K. Chesterton

 

Offerings at the Altar

altarOne of the primary functions of an altar is that it is a place where offerings are made. So obviously the next part of building your altar is feeling into who and what you will make offerings to as well as what kind of offerings need to be made.

You may just build an altar to honor yourself and a venture that you are working on; in that case, what offerings would you like to have on the altar? If you are working with a specific spirit, deity, saint, or holy helper then you will need to spend some time with them discovering what kinds of offerings they would most like to have. At this point we should note something that long time spirit workers are very aware of, when working with other energies and intelligences, it is very common for the requests for offerings to change throughout the course of your work.

Consider what offerings you will make on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) and make sure that the practical things you need to make this process as seamless as possible are present at the altar or easily at hand. For instance, if your practice is to light a candle then you need to have the matches close by. If your practice is to offer up red wine then you will need an offering bowl on the altar.

Some offerings are edible and others (like candles or incense smoke) are not. Every serious spiritual teacher and seeker I have worked with has agreed on the point that your altar space should be kept as clean as possible.

This means that offerings that are edible should either be placed on the altar to be blessed and offered up and then consumed by you, or, after a reasonable period of time ritually disposed of; they should not be left to mold on the altar.

Bits of wax, ash from incense, and old matches should also be routinely removed from your working space. This also means that if you go to a place where there is a public altar, please leave items that will not create a mess once you have gone. Pure spring water is a very traditional offering that carries little negative imprint on a holy place or the land where it lives.

Ceremony at the Altar

altarIn my experience most people create an altar with a specific ceremony in mind, the ceremony comes first and the altar building comes second. So chances are that you already know what you will be doing at the altar and what rituals you will make.

Those who have a longstanding or permanent altar up would do well to choose one or two days a month (I go by full and new moon most of the time and sometimes the balsamic moon) to take the items off of their altars, clean them thoroughly, bless them and consecrate them anew, and then either replace the items as they were or rearrange their altars to reflect the next cycle of ceremony they will be engaging in.

If you are looking to begin a daily practice and have created an altar in order to support yourself in that endeavor then I recommend starting simple: blessing yourself, pulling a card of the day from your favorite tarot deck, stating your full name and your intention for the day, and of course my two favorite practices: cultivating calmness and my version of grounding, centering, and anchoring are all good places to begin.

I’ll leave you with this final consideration, altar building changes the way that you look at and inhabit your physical space. Before you know it, you will have several altars popping up for different purposes and not long after that you will look at every room you occupy as well as places outdoors with an eye to what about them is most beautiful, restorative, magical, and sacred.

Enjoy your altars and the magic you will make at them!

{Image credits in order of appearance: Personal altar, image by author. Sacred Heart altar Parish Church of Urtijëi photo by Wolfgang Moroder. Jacob de Backer – Paris Being Admitted to the Bedchamber of Helen. The Old Woman in the Wood by Arthur Rackham. Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Pomegranate by Jacob van Hulsdonck. Bonfire, image by author.}

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.