As some of you may have noticed lately I have been building a whole temple room with altars all over the place for various works. I often get compliments when I share images of altars I have erected or when people visit as they are touched by the beauty they shine forth. There are many ways to build altars, it varies greatly by tradition or whatever your spiritual practice is. Altars can be purely devotional, they can contain special ritual tools the witch may use for a variety of reasons. Some traditions are very specific about how altars should be built and may even have rules that go along with building them.
In Feri I was taught that the altar should be something that likened to a piece of installation art. It should radiate beauty, enchantment, power, and take your breath away in some form or fashion. I have always loved building various altars whether it was for the dead, Feri or Kwan Yin as I have a long standing relationship with her through my Reiki practice. To me when an altar is erected it should feel alive and living, it should inspire awe when in the presence of it, and most of all it should not only be beautiful but it should be functional as well.
Over the years I have been asked how I’ve created these spaces that have touched people who have been before them. I start with a basic idea and I begin to build it slowly. I usually start by finding the base/table or piece of furniture for it first. Sometimes this is simply the floor; especially when working with the dead it is my favorite place to build the altar-close to the Underworld. Once I have the base of the altar I then work on the center piece of the space. This could be a statue for whatever deity, a maybe just a candle I have embellished for a deity, other times it could just be a cauldron or a stone depending on what is going to be used for. I then add the other items that I will need for the work it will represent. This is the physical part of how I operate when I create them. Now we will move into the deeper spirit lead part of the process.
When creating the altars I will often do it in an altered state. I will sit in a space and call up memories, feelings, invoke spirits, gods, land spirits etc to be in the presence of the energy I will be building the altar for. For example if I’m building an altar for the Star Goddess I would invoke her and sit with her. Ask her what she would like if anything specific and see what comes. I would draw down the moon and let her power flow through me, informing me in the moment. Then while in that state I begin working and building the altar. This is where the true magic happens. At some point when being in this altered state I slip into the flow of the experience and things just happen. Items get arranged in ways that just seem to fit and flow and when they don’t flow and fit you will be able to feel it. Adding and subtracting from the space until it feel right within me. Once it is built I will do a small ritual to awaken and empower the altar-a ritual to formally dedicate the space to the type of work for which it was erected. The repeated use of the altar over time is what helps to build up its charge.
Feri is known for the ecstatic energy and power that we run, it will either feel good to you or you will be turned away from it-there isn’t much in-between it seems. As Feri priests we can only build the container for ourselves and others to have the experience of the divine. This is what I aim to do when I erect an altar-bring the Otherworld to the Middleworld through the power and connections I have built over years of dedicated practice. Many times I am brought to tears after building an altar because I am so moved by the experience of what it represents and the power that flows through it. Below are some altars I’ve created in the past:
The Kwan Yin altar below was part of a Reiki Temple I built. People would come in and out as a public offering to sit with her. Everyday I would awaken the temple, calling to Kwan Yin to heal and be with those who came into the space. It was also a Reiki room for session with my clients. One day a gentleman came in and was spending time meditating in the room and he opened his eyes from meditation and said he felt moved to take a photo of her, below is the resulting photo from his not by todays standards outdated cellphone-none the less a stunning moving photo:
Let spirit move you and inform you, merge with it and see what happens when you just follow the flow of power and most of all remember to get out of your own way!