Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Art of the Diaspora Altar

Being a modern occultist without a trust fund or part of the gentry (though I do own land! ..well.. a condo.. IT COUNTS!) it can be exceedingly difficult to have practice space and "life space." Deb's post about our house Altar and Jason's about his altar revamp got me thinking, what if a dedicated temple room isn't ideal?

It's cool. Hell, it's swanky as hell, but is it ideal for the average pagan/occultist? On reflection, I think not so much. We consolidated altars because honestly they were spreading like kudzu in the south, and then promptly falling into disuse. If your spiritual places are gathering dust and falling into disrepair this isn't a good thing. Doubly so when this is in your own home.

So what is the solution to Pagan Sprawl?

1. Trim the fat! What do you use? Honestly.. What do you REALLY use? What is window dressing? Statues for statues sake are fine, but Altars have a purpose. If you want a statue as decoration, that is cool, do that thing, but it would serve a purpose far better if it were placed artfully as decoration rather than a dust collecting fountain of neglect. Use the 80/20 rule. You will not be using about 80 percent of your brick a brack regularly.

2. Keep what you use! Keep altars to those practices and beings you do ON THE REGULAR ONLY! This is only for convenience sake. It's a pain in the ass to set up something every day if you are doing it every day, much like it is a pain in the ass to navigate around something you don't use and takes up space every day. You will be using about 20 percent of your brick a brack regularly.

3. Camouflage! Remember those statues and and other assorted oddities that you think are pretty but are no longer part of your daily practice (because they never really were..), and so you have worked them into the fabric of your household as objects d'art? Being a worker of Magic they CAN be camouflage spiritual devices for your practice, and now they don't interrupt the flow of your life! ACTION makes something a spiritual aid/device/whatever, not window dressing. A functional altar can be anywhere or anything.

4. Remember Fight Club! Like fight club a camouflage diaspora altar is an altar from the moment the rite begins to the moment the rite ends. In the ADF we have the three gates of the Well, Tree, and Fire, and in our grove those are a stick, a bowl, and a candle. Before the rite they are stick, a bowl, and a candle. After the rite they are a stick, a bowl, and a candle. DURING the rite they are the three great gates to the unseen. A statue can be just a statue, even one with profound resonance, when not awakened for its purpose in ritual. You wake them up, you put them to bed. It is more respectful that way than them to be always on and unused. Like any relationship, really. You call your besties all the time, but you don't hang on the phone in silence with someone you don't really interact with. It is a waste of both of your time.

5. Remember purpose! Your altars should have a purpose. If they don't rethink them. Jason has described a working altar as a control panel. I would also like to add there is also the telecom altar for communion with whatever powers you commune with. Think the view screen in Star Trek. Weather it is the Eucharist, or a consecrated Idol being in the presence of the Divine is a practice in and of itself. But once again, you have to practice. If not then reverently pack up, and put away.

A dedicated temple room is awesome if you are using it every day on the super regular, that is if you don't have more pressing needs like children, a guest room, office, etc. Otherwise it is a waste. A waste of space, and resources. What's worse is that it separates your practice from your life. It makes it "other". If you are going to practice constantly, which I recommend, you need to weave these things harmoniously into your life, and home, otherwise they become an obstacle to your practice, your home life, or yes.

Think small, profound, and harmonious.

1 comment:

Pallas Renatus said...

Somehow in my head I've associated having a dedicated temple room with having a static practice that is nearly exactly the same every day... maybe that just comes from reading Regardie at a young age, lol!

For me, at least, the "out of sight, out of mind" principle applies. Odds are it would make me (more) lazy.