Tag Archives: altars

another simple daily devotional

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Lately I’ve gone through a period of very little personal spiritual practice. I’ve been wanting to get back into using my altars; I have kind of a sprawling altar on the mantle and adjacent shelves in the den, and a compact version in the kitchen. Most days I do a variation of Sigrdrifa’s prayer at my bedroom window in the morning. This seems to be my default setting for bare minimum personal spiritual practice. I have had several kinds of daily devotionals in the past, usually taking the form of ADF-lite, a simple CR ritual, or a blot/hussel. For consistent daily practice, however, none of these forms have staying power for me. Also, though my background is in Norse and Celtic hearth cultures, sometimes I don’t want to be very culturally specific. I am a squishy/soft polytheist after all, and I have embraced (my own version of) Waincraft in recent years.

So after much procrastination, I’ve come up with a new routine. It was important to me to find a spiritual routine that has a non-verbal option. There are several reasons for this:

  1. While other people are at home, I’d rather not be overheard.
  2. When I have a spoken daily devotional, I often end up saying the same things every day, to the point of meaninglessness.
  3. There are many times I just really don’t feel like speaking.
  4. Also, not feeling obligated to speak frees up my mind for deeper contemplation and also allows me to concentrate a little more on actions.

So concentrating more on actions and contemplation, I’ve come up with this sequence of events in personal daily ritual:

Altar Refreshing and Preparation

Before doing ritual, I make sure the altar surface and items on it are clean, arranged well, and dusted. Then I refresh the water bowl/cauldron. Before replacing it on the altar, I first lift it in reverence to the deity/spirit images.

Water Blessing

I dab some of the water from the water bowl on my forehead and do a clearing/grounding. I then anoint the statues on the altar with the water. If I’m drawn to saying something here, it may be “Water cleanse me.” or “The Waters of Danu flow through all.”.

Fire Blessing

I light the candle on the altar and raise it to each of the statues as I did with the water (when refreshing the altar). I then set the candle back in place, cup my hand above the flame, then touch the same hand to my forehead to receive a fire purification/blessing. Here I might say “May the fire of the gods, hallow.” or “Thunor hallow.”.

Incense (and other) Offerings

I light an incense stick or cone and circle it around each of the statues/images. I say a simple hail to each entity being honored or make a mental connection equivalent to an evocation. Occasionally, I may place other offerings in a bowl on the working surface of the altar, if I’m at the altar in the den. At this point, if I’m not rushed, (and especially if I’m at the altar in the den instead of the kitchen,) I take a little time to meditate, contemplate, and further connect to the deities/spirits/powers.

Omen (optional)

I ask for guidance (mentally or aloud) and draw a rune for the day.

Giving Thanks & Closing

I end this daily devotional with simple words or thoughts of thanks and touching the edge/feet of each statue/image in reverence. When I feel the need, I use my usual words of ending inspired by the Carmina Gadelica: “As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be, with the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”.

This may be the simplest daily ritual I have ever adopted that still involved the use of materials and an altar. There’s really nothing to memorize nor ways to goof it up, and though I’ve just begun to use it, the feel of it is timeless. If it inspires you too, feel free to use it.

kitchenaltar

a Lord of Plenty sculpture

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Abundance, or the Lord of Plenty- as I like to call him, is the third primal Power in Waincraft, the second born of Mother Night, and bright twin of the Wild Father. In creating a sculpture to represent him for my altar, I drew on imagery of what this Power represents for me from Germanic and Celtic sources, but also a lot from intuition.

As for how I made the sculpture, just as I did with my Wild Father sculpture, I started with a regular batch of salt dough (2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, and about a cup of water). After kneading, I broke off a big chunk of the dough and formed a rectangle and rounded off the top edges for shoulders. I rolled out some more dough and cut a circle shape with a drinking glass. This I placed above the shoulders as a backdrop to the head and celestial objects around the figure, making the basic size and outline match its twin sculpture.

Lord of Plenty construction
The beard and face were all one rounded rectangular piece. (When attaching a new piece, always dampen the base surface.) I used a cutting tool to add details to the beard. A tiny rope of dough was used for the nose/eyebrows. After making soft indentations for the eye-sockets, I attached tiny balls of dough for the eyes, poked holes for the pupils, and cut horizontal slits to suggest eyelids.

I cut grooves into the sides of the figure to suggest arms of a robe. The wheat-like texture on the right of the figure was made with little scissor snippets.

The cornucopia, pig, and bird shapes I added to the base were cut out of dough flattened with a rolling pin. Ropes of dough were used to make the tree branches and the sun rays. The apples and leaves on the tree, and fruit in the cornucopia were all made from small balls of dough. For the leaves, I flattened small balls of dough and pinched each end. The stars around the head started out as tiny balls of dough also. I cut and carved their shapes after attaching, pressing down with a small tool, the areas I wanted to recede into the background.

For the opening to the cornucopia, I pressed into the base a little with my thumb, then attached a rope of dough around it, smoothing with dampened fingers where the rope joined to form a circle. I then pressed ridges into the cornucopia basket.

When completely done shaping and blending, I baked it at 250°F for several hours.

After cooling, I painted all the grooves and crevices with an acrylic craft paint in the shade of burnt umber to get a good contrast. I used a paintbrush dipped in water to blend a little bit of the color to other areas for lighter contouring. When this was dry, painted the rest of the piece. When all of this was dry, I sprayed the entire piece with a coating of clear acrylic.

My new altarpiece now sits upon the fireplace mantle next to a small cauldron. I hope this description of how I made it was useful to anyone wishing to make something similar.

Lord of Plenty

a Wild Father sculpture

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Wildness, or as I prefer to call him- the Wild Father, is the second primal Power in Waincraft, the first born of Mother Night, and dark twin to the Lord of Plenty. In creating a sculpture to represent him for my altar, I drew on imagery of what this Power represents for me from both Celtic and Norse lore.

Instead of telling you which deities I drew on for this, I will just say that one was a deity I followed in my early days as a Pagan, and one is a later patron. The idea that both deities draw from (or are aspects of) the same Power, holds deep spiritual meaning for me. Many other deities come to mind as well when I gaze upon this altar piece. I don’t want to name specific names here because I want others to see what is most meaningful to them.

As for how I made the sculpture, I started with a regular batch of salt dough (2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, and about a cup of water). After kneading, I broke off a big chunk of the dough and formed a rectangle and rounded off the top edges for shoulders. I rolled out some more dough and cut a circle shape with a drinking glass. This I placed above the shoulders and a backdrop to the head and antlers of the figure.

crafting the wild god

Working with salt dough is pretty simple. The shapes I add are usually rolls (for hair, beard, antlers, snake…) or balls of dough (like for the head). When attaching a new piece, always dampen the base surface. With dampened fingers, I continue to shape and blend pieces after attaching to the base.

Small flattened balls of dough are blended on the face for cheekbones and a tiny roll of dough for the nose/eyebrows. For simple deep-set eyes, I poked holes with a toothpick. You may not be able to tell from this photograph, but one eye is closed.

I cut grooves into the sides of the figure to suggest arms of a robe, and I dug deep grooves into the center to form a tree. I scratched texture into the sides to represent vining spiraling wild growth. When completely done shaping and blending, I baked it at 250°F for several hours.

After cooling, I painted all the grooves, crevices, and backdrop of the antlers with an acrylic craft paint in the shade of burnt umber to get a good contrast. I used a paintbrush dipped in water to blend a little bit of the color to other areas and for lighter contouring of the hair and face. When this was dry, I sponged on brighter colors on many of the raised areas and painted the snake a sage green. When all of this was dry, I sprayed the entire piece with a coating of clear acrylic.

My new altarpiece now sits upon the fireplace mantle. I hope this description of how I made it was useful to anyone wishing to make something similar. Check in next week and I’ll tell you how I made my sculpture of the Wild Father’s twin- the Lord of Plenty.

Wildfather

shifting paradigms and the star goddess

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Over the past few months I’ve been contemplating a new paradigm for my personal spirituality, not so much a “changing of the gods” as when I went from Celtic Recon to predominantly Heathen, but rather, something that could combine the two or even take the focus a little bit away from culture-based spirituality. Also, something that acknowledges squishy polytheism.

At first I looked into Proto Indo European religion and liked a lot of what I read. However, the harshly patriarchal mythology left much to be desired. Waincraft kept popping up as a possibility. I really liked a lot of the ideas, but coming from scholarly traditions like ADF and CR, I was a little put off at first by the amount of UPG or SPG. However, the more I started looking into it, the more it resonated. It is really well thought out. I’m actually gaining a deeper understanding of Northern European Paganism through this system.

So I began to really contemplate the world view, Powers and new mythology of Waincraft. After a while I began to think about how I might rearrange my altar space to reflect my new framework and incorporate some new deities and combine Waincraft and ADF symbolism. So one day I was doing my daily (or semi-daily) devotionals, asking the Kindreds for guidance as I shuffled my tarot cards. One literally jumped out and landed in front of me face-up and upright. I took it as a sign that this card was my omen. A chill ran through me. The visual of Queen of Pentacles made me immediately think of the Star Goddess (Night)–the first deity of Waincraft.

queen of pentaclesI took this to mean that the Spirits wanted me to go forward on this new path. I decided I would rearrange my altar tiles and buy, make, or re-purpose an image to represent the star/night goddess on my altar. As I picked up one of the tiles to rearrange (the Heimdall tile I made three years ago), it crumbled in my hands. The tile had broken into several pieces the year before, as did most of the others I had at the time, and I had glued them back, but I guess the damp spring we had this year was just too much humidity for them. Upon examining the other altar tiles, I discovered they were in the same ready-to-crumble shape. I hadn’t planned on such a big change in altar layout, but it seems this was meant to be. I will still be honoring my same gods, but their representations are going to be different, as are the way I think of them in relation to each other and the world.

So starting at the beginning, I made a representation of Mother Night. I wanted to re-purpose an already made statue for this, for the sake of sturdiness and longevity, but unable to find the right one, I decided to go with making one of salt dough to serve for now. Instead of using “strong salt dough” like I’ve done in the past, I just used the regular formula: 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, and about a cup of water. And instead of air drying it, I decided to bake it at 250°F for several hours.

I went with a flat back like for the tiles I made, and flattened the bottom end so that it could be stood up when finished. I wanted her to have long flowing robes and outstretched arms. Since the robes drape down from her arms and flow into her diaphanous dress, it forms a good solid shape with no small parts to break off. The resulting piece was thick, solid, and sturdy after oven drying. Oven dried salt dough seems more bread-like than air dried, and less grainy. It may still break eventually, but maybe not crumble apart like the other ones did.

crafting a star goddessThe first coat of paint was glossy black. I then sprayed on small spurts of various shades of purple, some blue, and a little bit of silver. Later I sponged on some lavender to highlight some places that needed it. Finally, I splattered on white paint with a toothbrush to make stars.

I’m still working out how to combine ADF with Waincraft for my personal spirituality. But this beginning feels right. I feel like I’m being true to myself and reconnecting with some powers and energies that I had long forgotten about.

“We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.”
-Joni Mitchell

salt dough star goddess

semi-daily devotionals

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Here lately, I’ve felt the need to revamp my daily spiritual practices. For a long time, I was only doing an adapted version of Sigrdrifa’s prayer at my bedroom window upon rising every morning. But you’ve got to change things up now and then, and I wanted to start using my den altar space more often. So I came up with a simple devotional that has a light touch of ADF structure. My aim was to do this once a week, but I’ve made it simple enough that I often do it several times a week, thus the title “semi-daily”.

I actually have started using a Gatekeeper in my personal practice (something I only did for group rituals or dedicant rites before), and I call upon Raven for this. I think of the spirit Raven as one of Odin’s birds, but I like the idea that ravens are sacred birds of many other deities from other cultures also. My hearth culture is mainly Norse/Anglo-Saxon but I call upon Celtic deities sometimes as well. So calling upon Raven as my personal Gatekeeper seems right and fitting and has a timeless feel. For offerings I usually use incense, and blessed or herb-infused water.

I Beginning
Fire Hallowing (I only do this periodically, the effect is very long lasting.)

•“Water, make me pure, that I may reach the infinite.” (Forehead anointed with water.)

•“I’m here to honor the Kindreds. Earth, Holy Mother, may you receive my offering of love and bless my time with the Spirits.” (Bend to touch the earth and send love.)

II Cosmos
Tree of Life Three Realms Meditation
“I am at the center of the worlds, and I light a sacred flame.” Light central candle, and from this, a stick of incense.

•Gatekeeper “Raven, you who fly between worlds, messenger of gods, wise and clever bird, I offer you my friendship and love.” (Anoint bird figurine with blessed water. Circle incense around it three times.)
“May you share your magic with me, guide and ward me as I open the ways.”

“Kindreds, I open the Fire Gate of my mind that I may know you.” (Hands at temples.)
“I open the Well Gate of my heart that I may feel you.” (Hands over heart.)
“I open the Tree Gate of my body and soul that I may experience you.” (Arms outstretched.)

III Worship
•Kindred Invocation: Sing “Prayer for your Druid Beads“, circling appropriate altar figures with incense for each verse. (I’ve changed some of the wording for my personal tastes, but use the same tune.)

•Personal prayers; this is my general formula for any personal prayer–
“Beloved Kindreds of my heart, (name personal deities/spirits)
I thank you for all you have given, (name examples)
May you continue to bless and guide me and mine.”

IV Blessing
•Omen of the day: draw a tarot card or rune, first asking the Kindreds what they wish for me to know today.

V Conclusion
•“My love and thanks to all beings.
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.
With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”

semi-daily devotionals

home and hörgr

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Earlier this year I posted an article about moving and settling into the new place. Lately, I’ve been feeling a renewed sense of contentedness and belonging, of gratefulness.

Last year, we spent several months house hunting. Each time we found a house in our price range that we liked, it either had too many repairs, or it was bought up before we could make a bid. We began to get very discouraged. At one point, I planned out a home-finding spell to do at the next full moon: I was to make house-shaped cinnamon ginger cookies and mark them with the rune othala, making them with intention and sharing them with my family. If any of you readers are house hunting, you can use that spell and let me know how it works, because I didn’t quite make it to the full moon…

One day, I was inspired out of the blue to just pray to Odin and Frigga that they would lead us to our true home- not a fancy shiny new home, but our true home, one that suits us, a place where we belong. A few days later, I got onto one of the real estate websites that I frequented, and saw a new listing, one in our price range and with the main things I wanted (a fireplace, wood floors, and a porch)- and it was in our son’s school district. Looking at the pictures, my heart leapt. This may sound a little crazy, but I marked an othala rune over the computer screen with a saliva dampened finger and said some spontaneous spoken charm that I no longer remember. We went to see it that day, it’s first day on the market. It didn’t even have a real estate sign in the yard yet. We made an offer and had the house inspected. As the house is over 50 years old, it had some issues. We negotiated an allowance for certain things to be fixed. We moved in at the turn of the year.

It felt like home right away and I wasted no time in unpacking and getting everything set up. As time goes on, I’ve developed a rhythm to my days and a feel for the rooms. I love the way the wood floors feel under my feet, and the way some of the boards creak. I love the old stone fireplace. It has a (non-functional) gas starter, installed when such things were popular; the inspector thought it was a gas fireplace, so I was very disappointed until I learned that it actually burns real wood and is no longer linked to a gas line. I’ve placed Three Hallows symbols on the fireplace mantle and set up altar items on shelves next to it. The house is old and patched up strangely in places. It has the original roomy hardwood kitchen cabinets with old fashioned handles, and extra large utility room that doubles as my craft room. It is quirky and imperfect like us. It is our true home and I thank the gods for it.

stalli

Now, as the weather is turning warmer, we are becoming more familiar with the yard and starting a garden, an herb patch, and a flower bed. One day after gardening, I had noticed a lot of large stones laying in various places. Before we moved in, I had decided that when the weather was warmer, I was going to find a large stone to use as a small hörgr to place offerings. But I was finding many large stones, so I figured I could make a proper sized hörgr. I built it on a hilly place in the yard close to the garden and close to a line of tall pine trees. I found the large square stone last. A hörgr doesn’t usually require a flat top (as libations are usually just poured over the top to trickle down over all the rocks), but I was delighted to find it, as now I can use it as an altar surface. Through touching each stone and balancing them with each other, I feel that I have come closer to the land. In shaping this hörgr, I have crafted a deeper level of belonging.

hörgr

Frigga Tile

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Recently, I finished a series of seven Norse deity tiles for my altar. There were some long gaps in time between making each one, and originally I aimed only to make tiles of the gods, and as for the goddesses, I made flat-backed figurines to hang on the wall in between the god tiles. However, at some point I thought it would look nicer to have them all be tiles.

My seventh tile was also my first craft project done in the new place. The inspiration for my Frigga tile was an illustration of Frigga from “Myths of Northern Lands” by Hélène Adeline Guerber.

In all my tiles, I’ve tried to include a specific feature so that each may be easily recognized as the deity they represent. So for Frigga, it was her distaff. It was actually harder to get the arm and hand shaped the way I wanted it than it was to form the distaff.

But the hardest part of the entire project for me was the face. Overall, I’d say my style of sculpting is “primitive”, though I have achieved much more detail than I ever thought I could with salt dough.

Frigga Tile

After the dough was completely air dried, I gave the tile a good coat of blue acrylic paint, them after that was dry, I sponged on light blue, mainly just getting the color onto the raised parts of the tile, letting the deeper lines and indentions remain the darker color. I let it dry for several days before I sprayed on a protective acrylic clear coat.

The tiles are roughly five and a half inches square. This one was made with regular salt dough, though most of the other ones were made with a stronger formula. All of them have a tack hole pressed into the back for hanging, although now I use plate hangers instead of hanging them from a tack since late last summer the humidity caused most of the ones I had made at that time to fall and break. (Don’t worry, I glued them all back- good as new, and gave them a clear coat.)

salt-dough altar tiles