Altars and Shrines

I swear to all the possible deities in our universe and beyond… it took me twenty minutes to open up this new post page. I wish I could blame it on the extreme wind outside, but no. Our internet provider is just the worst possible provider, ever.

But you cannot stop old determined Mori. I get what I want when I want it – well, maybe with a twenty minute delay – and I eventually managed to get this damn page loaded. No thanks to my internet provider.

I’m going to talk to you today about a topic I really, really love. Altars and shrines.

Altar vs. Shrine: What’s the Difference?

I wish I could tell you that there is some big important difference in order to make this post longer and more interesting, but in reality… there isn’t a very big difference. Many people will tell you that the difference is, more or less –

Altar: the space where you do your workings, or a generally religious space where your workings and meditations and that sort of stuff is carried out.
Shrine: the space dedicated to a certain god, goddess, spirit.

They are not wrong, that is a difference, of course. But for the most part, you’ll often see people with what is a space dedicated to a certain god, goddess or spirit and call it an altar. You’ll see small spaces to do one’s witchcraft workings that are called shrines by their owners. In the general sense, considering that people will call what is supposedly an altar a shrine and vice versa, they are a very similar thing. Above all, though, you call your sacred or working space whatever you want to call it.

To me, the difference is a little bigger than that. I personally see an altar as a place of work for witchcraft and a display of one’s crystals and similar items. Those crystals aren’t simply being displayed, as they are constantly releasing and absorbing energy and working while just looking pretty on that shelf. A shrine, for me, is the religious one. For example, I have my witchy altar where I do my witchy workings, but my Kemetic shrine is a totally different story. I do my religious rituals there, I give offerings… My worship differs from my work, and I like my sacred spaces to show that difference.

Overall, your sacred space is yours, and if you prefer the term altar or shrine, it is entirely up to you.

How to Make an Altar or Shrine

This is the fun part, because you get to be creative. Ideally, before you set your place up, spend some time thinking about what you want it to reflect. Depending on your preferences, you may want to use only items of a specific colour, or you might want to show more of one element or another, or you may want to have a lot of space to do your work… The possibilities are endless.

Can’t think of anything? No problem – sometimes it comes to you by just putting stuff on that space.

Here is a list of things you might find useful on a pagan or witchy altar(or shrine).

  • Things to represent the elements. This can include feathers for air, candles for fire, a small jug for water, and a potted plant for earth. If you also include spirit in your elemental list, you could put a talisman or special candle there. These are especially useful if you are an elemental witch or if you want to honor all aspects of nature. You can even take the elemental pentagram and put items on your shrine in places according to the positions of the elements on the pentagram diagram.
  • Candles. Good for simple candle magic, the fire element, offerings, symbolism, and making your place look nice and cozy when lit. Try out different shapes, scents and colors for different deities, elements or intents. Want a constant flow of money into your life? Keep a green candle lit on your altar and enchant it with positive energy and maybe surround it with gemstones and herbs that correspond with finances. You can even take an old pentacles(coins) Tarot card and put the candle on that card to allow for that monetary energy to bring you some cash. Make sure you watch that candle, though. It might burn out on its own but it can also burn down to the bottom and set that card on fire and you don’t want that.
  • Crystals, gemstones, good ol’ plain rocks. Decorate it with cool looking rocks that match your intent, or decorate it with those that don’t necessarily match your intent but you feel drawn to. Do you like violet colors? Cover that shelf with Amethyst. Like a pretty palette? Use Fluorite or watermelon Tourmaline! Or maybe you’re like me and get easily distracted and amused by reflective or shiny things? Try Labradorite, Opal, or Moonstone. Feeling crazy? Crazy Lace Agate is your new best friend, or Malachite if you’re feeling crazy and green. Feeli– okay okay, you get the point. Another thing you can do is make crystal grids. I will speak more about those in the fifth week when the letter C comes in. You might also like to stack up little Sodalite towers and use them to charge your other crystals. The possibilities here are endless. You could even pour out a box of a gemstone mix onto a table, and if that feels right for you, it counts. You can use stones with correspondences relating to your current situation or magical intent. Kinda like that money candle, but with crystals instead.
  • Wand. If you use a wand, a good place to keep it is your altar. You can even bless, enchant or protect your altar using the wand when you put it all together, or every morning if you want. Plus, it looks nice on an altar.
  • A deity statue(or two). I have an obsession with statues. My Kemetic shrine has a few of them and I am constantly looking for more. I have been lucky to get two from fellow Kemetics, so if you worship deities and want a statue, see if there’s someone on Tumblr or wherever giving one away. (Of course, be careful giving out your address to random strangers. You want a statue after all, not postal spam.)
  • Bones. If you use bones – and it’s okay if you don’t – you can keep them on the Altar, too. Bone magic, divination, or even as offerings, they make a nice addition to your little space.
  • Book of Shadows. Or a Grimoire, or a notebook if you will. The Altar is a good place to keep it and if you have a chair at your altar, you can actually write in your BoS while at your altar for that ultimate witchy feel.
  • Offering bowl. Or a plate. Or anything, really. Something to put offerings for deities into, again if you follow deities. You could also use a bowl for water for offerings or even for non-religious, spiritual workings.
  • Incense holder. You can offer incense, or you can burn it for a spell, or you can burn it ’cause it smells damn nice.
  • Jars, sachets, and boxes. Good for storing all those tools or for making spell jars and similar things.
  • Athame. Not everyone uses one and that’s okay. I had one for a while, then I decided I didn’t really need it, then I had one again, and now I’m not using one again. An Athame can work similarly to a wand in directing energy and such.
  • Books. You can put books relating to paganism, witchcraft, or whatever your practice is. You can also throw in a mystery novel if you like that, too, because after all, your sacred space is supposed to be a positive place for you. Which brings me to my next point…
  • Valuable or positive things you like. You want your altar or shrine to reflect your practice, but you also want it to be a place you enjoy being in. My witchcraft altar has my Aloe Vera plant sometimes because I have no other place for it in my tiny room but also because I love my plant and even though I very rarely use it for witchcraft it makes me happy and adds a positive note to my altar. I even have a small statue of a dragon that doesn’t really relate to anything of my practice, just that I really like it and it makes me smile. This makes my altar a pleasant place to be. I think it’s one thing to have a sacred space and another to have a truly sacred space.

You can also put on it a bunch of other stuff, like a cauldron, mortar and pestle, canvas prints, chalice, whatever you want. You can also have an altar that doesn’t have any of the things I mentioned in this post. That’s the cool part about having an altar or shrine, it’s totally yours. The look of it and the amount of stuff is all up to you. You can have a table full of crystals, tarot decks, statues, herbs, whatever else – or you can have a simple plant and candle if you will. It is not any less of an altar or shrine or sacred space if it has less items than someone else’s does.

Where Should I Put My Altar?

Wherever you want. Some people might say it has to face a certain direction or be at a certain height but, in the end, whatever makes you comfortable. Most people usually choose a shelf or a small table or cabinet. (Personally, I use a windowsill. But one day, when I have my own house, I’m going to dedicate one entire room and make an outdoor shrine in the garden. But that’s one day…)

Altars and Practices: Reassurance for the Atheist(Witch)

If you’re an atheist witch, you can still have an altar. As said above, not all of them are religious and so, you can adjust it as it fits. If you don’t even practice witchcraft and don’t believe in any deity you can still totally have an altar. It’s not just for religious or spiritual purposes, it can also just be a place to meditate and relax. Different colors and gemstones work differently on the mind from a psychological point of view, so if you find green stones to be calming, you could set up a green-colored altar. All up to you, again. It’s a good place to sit in to clear your head, do some writing or reading, to relax, or even to sleep and recharge.

 Where Does Everything Go?

You can put things anywhere on your altar. You can make a layout, have your candles or gems form a shape, or it can be random. Usually the general outlook is that a statue stands in the middle or on the north of the altar, surrounded by everything else like candles and stones. Offering bowls and plates are usually put in the middle in front of the deity statue, but again, this can vary. You could even take two statues and put them on the left and right sides on the altar, and put everything else in the middle. You do you!

Travel Altars & Shrines

You can make small travel altars to take with you when you… well, travel. You can use a small tin box, or a plastic box if you will, and put in a small candle, an image of your deity, a stone or two, a herb, maybe a small scented gel ball for scent. Some people use a locket, and some people use a plain necklace. They will pray while holding the necklace or just use the necklace to calm down or recharge. They could wear it for protection as well. Another form of a travel altar is a simple small candle with the intents or deity names engraved in it. Light it at any time when you travel and you’re all set to go! You can even use birthday candles for this as they are smaller than tealights and thus, more portable. If you want to use incense in a travel altar, use cones, they take up less space.

And there you go!

As you can see, an altar is a very creative process and it can be very positive and beneficial for you. Give it a try if you’re new to this, and even if you already have an altar, send me pictures! I’d love to see what you come up with.

That’s all! I hope you enjoyed this post, forgive me for rambling at times. I’m a bit of a chatterbox on the web.

By the way, I’m taking suggestions for all those topics! From B to Z, if you want me to cover something, just let me know.

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☽ Mori ☾
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Alchemy: A (Very) Brief, Somewhat Opinionated Introduction

Morning!

Remember how I said I was in hospital with an infection? Well, make that four infections. Ridiculous, I know. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna go into details. It’s now eight in the morning and I should be sleeping, resting to kill off all those illnesses. However, my body clearly decides to fight infection by staying awake at the early hours of the day. Not that I complain – I love being up early.

I hope that the new year has been treating you all better than it has been treating me.

So, to keep busy, I decided to write the first article of the year – beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, of course. The first topic I’ll cover on this blog is Alchemy.

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Alchemy: The Basics

Many people think of potions and chemical reactions when they hear this word. Makes sense, there is a chem in there, after all. You aren’t really wrong if it makes you think of chemistry. So, what exactly is Alchemy?

According to the Oxford dictionary, Alchemy is the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.

Sounds really old and outdated, right? Well, it’s still practiced today. For the most part, modern Alchemy is a practice of many options.

If you are not very knowledgeable in the periodic table of elements or in chemistry in general, base metals are the less expensive ones. These would include lead, zinc, aluminium, cobalt, nickel, and a bunch of others. One of Alchemy’s great aims was to convert those cheaper, more common metals into something more valuable, usually gold. Is this possible? Yes. You need a nuclear reactor which is… maybe just a little hard to get… but hey, it’s not impossible.

Is Alchemy still practiced?

The truth is, with the advance of science, many would consider Alchemy dead. It was fun while it lasted, and now it’s gone, and all it gives is the mental image of some old dude with a long beard trying to connect magic to science via chemical reactions in a test tube, surrounded by old leather-bound books and wooden furniture.

Many others though, myself included, don’t believe that. I mean, Alchemy was essentially a bunch of people thinking, “Hey, I wonder if I can use these cool materials to make these cool potions that will give me infinite wisdom, youth and immortality?” and then experimenting with various equations and physical examples. Today, people still try to achieve that in a way. Some look for a cure for the supposedly incurable illnesses, others attempt to make mixtures to make your skin soft and moisturized. You’re not exactly turning metals to metals, but you can certainly try to. My point here is that everything advances. Years ago people used chalkboards in schools. Today, these are slowly turning to projectors and electric boards. They still have the same purpose, but their methods are changing.

Today, this “advanced” Alchemy is still used by some to create elixirs. Sure, you won’t get an elixir of eternal beauty and youth, but you can easily create potions with healing properties that could act as probiotics or even medicine. That surely would make you live at least a little longer, right? (Some people do believe that they can eventually create the philosopher’s stone.)

In the modern times, however, a lot of people – even those who do practice Alchemy – have a more magical view of it. While science and magic can indeed work together, a lot of people consider Alchemy to be a set of symbols with correspondences that could be used as sigils and spells. Some people see the word “elements” in relation to Alchemy and immediately they assume that Alchemy is potion making in regards to elements such as Earth, Air, Fire, Water or similar – without paying attention to the other elements that are important in Alchemy, specifically those you see on the periodic table!

None of that is a bad thing, though. Like I said, practices advance, and if you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else, then how you choose to see Alchemy is on you. It is nice to know the history, though, and certainly very helpful if you do decide to follow the path of Alchemy.

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How To Get Started in Alchemy

First, you have to decide what Alchemy is to you. It was probably a lot easier to give a one sentence definition way back when alchemists were all doing something very similar, almost identical to one another. Ultimately, there is one common practice here and it is the study, creation and perfection of objects and substances that can be used with benefit to the user, usually in magical ways. So, if this interests you, ask yourself:

  • Do you want to learn about and try alchemical experiments from way back, before the twentieth century?
  • Do you want to try a more modern take on Alchemy and follow teachings of modern alchemists?
  • Do you want to take on a totally new modern approach to Alchemy by utilizing the information you get from studying the history?
  • Is your goal to make potions and elixirs or to become more knowledgeable?
  • Do you want to simply study the symbols and use them in your workings?
  • Do you want to only study the subject in depth without putting it to physical use?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you get started. In any case, it is simply foolish to head into a practice without knowing much about it. Before you walk into the sea, you test the water for temperature. You should do the same with philosophies, religions… hell, even restaurants. If there’s a menu on the outside wall, check that out first so that you don’t get disappointed by the prices and lack of menu items when you sit down at the table. With Alchemy it is the same. Read more about it, and not just blog posts like this one. Check out at least one book. You don’t have to go through the entire thing, but at least sift through some pages. See if your local library has something you can look through. Then, if you are still interested, figure out what you want to do, and ask yourself the questions above.

Then, test it out! Study some ingredients hard, then make something out of them. Rate it out of ten, and try to make it even better next time. Until you feel it’s perfect and ready to go.

Or just become a chemist.

Witchcraft, Paganism, and Alchemy

How does this relate to witchcraft and paganism? Well, if you haven’t already noticed, alchemy was often related to magic. It’s pretty much the study of transformation. You use something to make a new thing, and boom. You have the new thing. The thing before it has disappeared into thin air(not really, but that would be so cool, no?) and now you’re left with your result. If that isn’t an example of magic, I don’t know what is.

To add to it further, some people use their personal alchemical studies to gain a better understanding of their beliefs and practices. In witchcraft and various pagan religions, the more you can learn about an element, season, potion, and even science, the better. It opens up new doors, helps you gain information that could be beneficial, and can even get you hooked on a new interest. If you’re a particularly cautious practitioner, you might want to know everything there is to know about a specific symbol, mineral or element, so as to not misuse it or accidentally invite something uninvited into your space. Alchemy can be of good help here, given its associations with sorcery, magic, astrology, and science.

Research?

If you’re only looking to see if it’s a practice you’d be interested in, check out websites like Gutenberg, Open Library or any other website that offers free e-books. However, remember to support the authors if you can at all!

Otherwise, go buy some books. Real Alchemy by Robert Bartlett is very well received.

Try out some potion recipes.

Study people associated with Alchemy. There’s a lot you can learn from just researching Newton’s work alone. He’s a good place to start.

If you really get drawn into it, perhaps consider studying biochemistry, chemical physics, or just chemistry or physics. Having a scientific understanding is often helpful.

I hope that this was somewhat informative. Remember that this is simply a brief introduction and there is a whole lot more to Alchemy itself. I apologise for any repetitions, spelling mistakes, or if I made no sense at some point – I feel nauseous and terrible and want to honestly just curl up and sleep. Can’t, though. 😦

And remember, especially if you want to go messing around with something like Alchemy, be careful when handling various herbs, minerals, or metals! They can be harmful and dangerous and you don’t want to hurt yourself now, do you?

That would be all for now! My eyes are stinging from the Olbas oil, owww.
See you all again next week.

Love, light and only positive vibes,

~ ☽ Mori ☾ ~

Revival and a Greeting

Happy new year to those of you who didn’t have a particularly happy old one.
If you did have a good year, well, I hope that this next one is even happier.

Me? I ended 2017 exhausted after waiting for eight hours at the ER until a doctor came to see me, then another hour for blood test results. At that point I had been awake for almost twenty four hours, and I still had to stay up past midnight and drink champagne because that’s what you do – and because I kind of really like my champagne. (I don’t care if it’s the cheap overly sweet kind. It’s nice.)
So after those twenty four hours I got home and slept for a short while before waking up for another twelve hours, totaling up to thirty six hours of being awake. My brain was fried. I thought there were wolf spiders walking on me and that there were cobwebs in my eyes, which made me panic as I finally fell asleep. And I’m not usually scared of spiders. You can probably tell that I don’t do well on lack of sleep.

I do, however, get great ideas when my brain is sleep deprived and going a little mad. One such idea was to create four Tarot decks in 2018 by drawing one card a day – we are already on the third day of January and I haven’t even finished the first card. (That’s okay, though. I prefer to work in groups so I will likely catch up by drawing sixty cards in two hours or something. Just you wait until inspiration strikes.)

Another idea was to attempt the Pagan Blog Project. If you are new to the online pagan community you may not know what this is – or rather, was. The PBP was a project created by, uh… someone. I’m having trouble remembering who. It went on for a few years and you could submit your blog to a long list of participating blogs so that others could read your posts. The aim was to write something each week for an entire year that started with the letters of the alphabet. Because there are 52 weeks in a year which (just in case you didn’t know the obvious) is much more than there are letters in the alphabet, the list usually went more or less as follows:

First week: A
Second week: A
Third week: B
Fourth week: B
Fifth week: C
Sixth week: C
Seventh week: D

See the pattern?
You carried this on until the end of the year, once you’ve reached Z, the absolute end, the Armageddon of Blogging, and a new year would begin, enforcing the Great Circle of Life. *Lion King music playing in the background*

I’ve been around in the online community for about seven years now. I don’t remember exactly when, but two out of those years I have attempted the Pagan Blog Project. Back then, however, I was a kid in school who was so busy with the homework I wasn’t doing that I could never finish the Pagan Blog Project.
Then… then, it ended. The creators decided to abandon the project and move on. People stopped writing blogs that I looked forward to reading every week, anticipating articles on topics that started with each letter of the alphabet. I moved on too. I took a long break from pagan blogging around that time and only came back maybe two years ago or so, eventually taking another break and returning for good last year. Since coming back to the online community I have decided that I wanted my blog to be informative, rather than it being simply Tumblr reblogs of pretty photos. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

So, in 2018, I am going to complete the Pagan Blog Project, even if the idea of it is long dead. I don’t intend on reviving it and asking people to do the same – I simply like the outline and pattern of it. It fits the idea I have in my head of having an informative blog. But also, I’m a mess after 2017 and I need a distraction, sooo… get me talking on a topic of my choice and there is no end.

With that, expect a new post every weekend this year about various topics related to faith, spirituality, witchcraft, religions, nature, and other cool pagan stuff. Feel free to suggest what topics you’d like me to cover in the future, and when I get to that letter, I will consider it.

~ Mori

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