B is for Brooms and Brickdust

    The candles are creating little pools of black wax on my table as I gather my supplies. Three yucca brooms, dust made of five red bricks, iron filings, dragon’s blood resin, and a vial of sunflower oil.

    I feel the Circle spin around me as I place the iron filings and dragon’s blood into the vial of oil. With a quick shake, I mix the oil and bless it the name of Ares, God of War. With my hand over the dish of dust, I invoke the names of Deimos and Phobos, the son’s of Ares, who represented Fear and Panic.

   The Circle spins faster as I push it’s boundaries to surround my house. I anoint the brooms with the oil. As I hang them over the entrances to my home, I ask that Ares declares war on anyone who walks beneath the broom who would cause me harm. I sprinkle the dust over the thresholds of the door way and every window and ask the son’s of Ares to cause fear and panic in the minds of anyone who crossed into my home uninvited.

With a clap of my hands the Circle is released  and my spell is cast.

– Joe (spell date 8/23/13)

A is for Aspecting

I stand across the Circle from her. Even though I am inside a friend’s home, even though I am standing among what feels like thousands of candles, the December chill still makes me shiver. I cringe at the thought of the Circle being cast. I’m always cold inside the Circle. My host steps to the altar and mentally reviews her checklist to make sure everything is present. She unsheathes her athame and lays it across the altar. With a quick smile, she rings the altar bell and the seven of us turn our attention to the altar. The ritual is about to start.

She removes her hair from the loose ponytail and slips on a fragile circlet with a piece of moonstone resting on her forehead. Our host quickly explains that purpose of the ritual. “Tonight”, she says ” We are going to use the waning moon to rid ourselves of our fears. You each have a piece of paper. On it, I want you to write what you want to be rid of.” She left the room to give us a moment to prepare for the ritual. When she returned, she was no longer wearing the simple white skirt and tank top, instead she wore a long black dress. Her circlet was replaced with a simple black veil. “So dramatic” I thought to myself.

We gathered back around the altar. Our host, lifted her athame and led us in a visualization to cast the Circle. I shivered against the cold as the Circle spun around us. Our host requested that we speak the names of Dark Goddesses as she attempted to invoke Her in her darker aspects.

“Kore,” a faceless voice called out.

“Oya,” another followed suit.

“Morrigan”

“Kali”

“Sekmet”

“Hecate”

“Lilith,” I finally said. I said finally. I looked across the altar at our host. She struck a match and tossed in into the cauldron. The flames leaped high and lit the room. By the light of the cauldron, I can clearly see our host’s face. Through her veil, I see a gleam in her eyes and she flashes a mischievous smile on her lips. The Goddess is here.

-Excerpt from my Book of Shadows (December, 2012)

A is Altar

In Witchcraft, like most religion, the altar is a sacred place of power. Unlike other religions, in Witchcraft, the altar is not necessarily a place of worship. For most Witches, the textbook definition of worship doesn’t fit what we do. In Witchcraft: Theory and Practice, Ly de Angeles states that “Witches don’t worship the Gods, the witch represents the Gods.” Even with this in mind, the altar is still a focal point of Wiccan religion.

Like most Witches, I keep a permanent altar. Actually, I keep many permanent altars. My main altar sits next to my desk in my bedroom. It’s a small cabinet with six drawers. On it’s surface, I keep a abalone shell with a smudge stick of sage, a small chalice, a small altar pentacle, a few candles, and statues of the God Ganesha and the Goddess Lilith. In front of each statue, I keep an offering dish of water. Inside the drawers, I keep other magical supplies, like incense, candles, herbs, my wand, my athame, and my ritual chalice. This is my main working altar, but I have several throughout my home.

In my basement, I have a huge fireplace. On the mantle, I keep several pictures of my family. Alongside these pictures, I have a candelabra that holds three candles; white, red, and black to represent the three phases of the Goddess. Next to the candles sits a statue of the Virgin Mary in her aspect of Patron of the Household. A yucca broom rests behind her. The hearth is elevated and made of stone. In front of the hearth is a black circular rug (fireproof, of course). In the Winter months, I light a fire and meditate before the fire. I also use this altar to perform magic for the home.

In my kitchen, there is a simple altar consisting only of a green candle and a quartz crystal. This altar is mostly a reminder to pause and be mindful whenever I walk past it. When I cook, or anything else that involves me being the kitchen for an extended period of time, I usually light the candle and practice mindful breathing.

Finally, in my bathroom, I have an altar of sorts set up for the various Gods and Goddess of beauty. It consists of red candles, pieces of river glass, sea shells, and rose quartz. The main focus of this altar is to help remind me that inner beauty can shine through as outer beauty with a little bit of focus. Believe me, sometimes, I need as much help as I can get.

Despite having all these altars at my disposal, my job requires about 80% travel each year, so I am rarely home to use them. Instead, I have to be creative. When I travel, I make sure to take power items with me. For example, I am currently in the Philippines. In my toiletry bag I packed a few crystals (quartz, citrine, and tigers eye), a small elephant statue, and a small bottle of lavender oil. During my stay, the small, circular table next to the window in my room will serve as my altar.

In the past, the bathroom counter, the desk, even the bathtub have served as a sacred space. In my experience, I have learned that it’s not important what your altar is, it’s most important that your altar is used.