Radical Altars

photo 4 - Edited (1)

I’ve had an altar in my bedroom for about 20 years – since I started practicing my own version of Wicca after leaving the Christian Church. I stopped practicing Wicca a few years later, taking pieces of the religion on with me as I created my own spiritual path. My altar has always held items of special and sacred meaning to me and provided a focal point for Sacred Time with the Divine.

Originally it looked like a pagan altar – candles, sage, an athame (ritual knife), bowl of water, purchased and home made goddess and god representations, shells, stones, a deck of Tarot cards, etc. It was a big deal at the time because I was following a path that my parents believed was sinful, harmful to my soul, and perhaps even some kind of devil worship. When my mom learned that my girlfriend brought Tarot cards into the house, she asked to bring some of her church lady friends over to cleanse my home of demons. Seriously. I let her do so in my absence because it made her feel better.

Now my altar has taken on quite a different shape and meaning. It’s primarily full of gifts from others – sacred items that were given to me by soul mates of one sort or another. There are some inherited items from my Mother. And there are a few items I purchased because they spoke to me.

The two items in the picture above are unusual and profoundly meaningful. The bottle was gifted to me about five years ago by a dear friend in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters fill these tiny glass containers with glitter and make-up collected from table tops at fundraising events they produce, as well as with the ashes of Sisters who have passed. This sacred vessel is filled with years of Radical Faerie and Sister Magic. I’m not exactly sure why my friend honored me with this gift, other than knowing that by the nature of who I am I tend to have a spiritual impact on some people in my life. But I am deeply grateful for it and always keep it in the center of my altar space.

The other item is a new addition. It;s a Kavadi spear tip. A Heart Sister of mine recently did the Vel Kavadi ritual at a tribe gathering. The ritual dance involves a framework of spears that pierce into the skin. It is a body rite that takes the dancer into an ecstatic state. Soon after the ritual, she came to Portland to stay with the family for a bit. She is going through radical transformation in every aspect of her life and needed to be held in the metaphorical and physical arms of Chosen Family who love her unconditionally. She gave me the spear tip shortly before she moved on to the next arms of tribe who would hold her while she re-forms in the chrysalis of conscious evolution. I am honored beyond words by this sacred gift.

April's Altar

Other meaningful items on my altar include:

Images of Jesus* inherited from my Mom. She and I shared our devotion to the Divine, it just looked different after I left the church. She committed herself over and over again to Jesus and the Christian concept of God. She even became an ordained minister. I believe she was almost a mystic, in that she had the deep love for God, but she could never believe in her own lovability in return. Within the framework of sin, she believed she had done too many bad things to truly be loved and held. It made me sad to witness her give her power away again and again rather than see the pure beauty of who she was as a Divine Spark. She sparkled with humor, love, devotion, strong will, and the incredible strength to reinvent herself over and over again. She deserved joy, but she couldn’t seem to find it. She died because of her relentless physical and emotional pain.

*I share my Mom’s love for Jesus. He’s still my favorite spiritual Master (when you strip away the religious doctrine that perverted his story and teachings). There is something about the powerful mythology of the crucifixion and resurrection story that resonates deeply with me. Likely because my own superpower is creative generosity. The story of Jesus is full of generosity. He didn’t fill convention centers with people paying hundreds of dollars to hear his teachings. He kept himself accessible to the poor, the untouchables, and the radicals. He did miracles for anyone who asked and believed. I imagine from his stories that he built true community, based on caring for and serving each other’s needs, rather than based on someone making large amounts of money to serve their audience.

A small bronze Buddha, a golden wax Goddess sculpture, and images of particular Goddesses whose archetypes I relate to. I like some of the Buddha’s philosophies and I am particularly drawn to the archetype of the Bodhisattva. My central Goddess image is Kuan Yin (Infinite Mercy & Compassion). Again – it’s about generosity. In this case, the dedication to work toward ending the suffering of all beings. The other Goddesses are The Lady of the Lake (Emotion, Renewal, Creativity), Selene (Moon, Bright, Shining), Isis (Mother, Giver of Life, Emotion), Hel (Fiery Woom, Renewal, Divine Mystery), Aphrodite (Spiritual & Passionate Love, Relationship, Feeling), and Inanna (Mother, Spiritual Death, Resurrection).

A fiery heart shaped pillow handcrafted by a Heart-Sister who shares my capacity for deep emotion and love. She’s one of the few Radical Mystics I’ve had in my personal life.

A stone heart from another Heart-Sister and member of our family. Camille gave me the heart as a Blessing Way gift for the birth of our Magic Baby. It holds a lot of the emotion I’ve processed from the birth and adoption.

A dream box from a friend at my last workplace – a going away gift for planting the seeds of my dreams of my adventure in Portland.

A beaded bracelet I made with a Heart-Sister at our see-you-later lunch before leaving for Portland. The bracelets represent our Enoughness, something both of us have struggled to feel in our selves. We are learning to love ourselves through acceptance rather than through constant (and violent) pushing to be better, better, better all the time.

A string of prayer beads that I crafted with a long lost spiritual community. The Radical Mystics of that community planted many of the seeds that I am now harvesting in my mystical practice and in this project.

A handmade prayer book from someone who gifted me after receiving a Transformation Doll package from my previous project, The Conspiracy of Blessings. I filled it with my favorite prayers from poets and mystics of several different spiritual traditions. I don’t pray every day. I reach for prayers when I need them.

And the picture of me as a child, on my knees praying, that I have on my About page. This reminds me that I am a God Girl – a woman who has always loved the Divine no matter how my brain and heart perceived Him/Her/It.

Part of being a Radical Mystic is having sacred space and time for connection with the Divine. Of course it can happen spontaneously – out in nature, while dancing, in intimacy with others. But the connection needs to be nurtured regularly or I start feeling disconnected from everything in my life. It’s my on-going relationship with the Sacred that makes my life healthy and vibrant. My altar reminds me of that need, to keep it as a conscious intention, and gives me a place where I can easily connect to the expansive feeling of Oneness through my relationships to the loved ones who’ve played a precious role in my mystical evolution.

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