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 Crafting elemental altars

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PostSubject: Crafting elemental altars   Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:30 pm





Making Home Altars
You can have as many altars or shrines as you wish. If you have the luxury of using the layout of a whole room, you can have altars set up to correspond with the cardinal directions: East, South, West and North. Many traditions call or cast a clockwise circle, to bless and protect ritual space, and lighting candles on a series of altars is a frequently seen part of ritual.

Altars and sacred displays often comprise similar items even when they are from very different cultures. Statues and figures of gods or goddess, candles, and incense are seen as part of altars worldwide. Bowls are often found on altars, holding offerings or other sacred objects. Along with directional orientations, many cultures have colors that correspond with the cardinal directions. Many deities also have a specific directional association.

A simple single altar is often the option for more discreet pagans or those with space limitations. A basic altar can comprise just representations of the elements, without any specific deities or imagery. A candle represents fire, some form of incense signifies air, a small dish with some salt is the way to represent the earth and another small vessel can hold water for that element. For a candle, a tiny tea light will work just as well as an elaborately prepared and dressed candle. Incense can take many forms (stick, cone, powder, resin, natural sage, etc.) and should be whatever works best for your situation. Make sure you have enough ventilation to not set off your smoke alarm every time you are in ritual space. If you have to address allergic concerns with scents, please note that many modern pagans are using nontoxic glitter as a stand-in for incense to make more events available to the greater pagan community. After the basics, you can add any other items you wish to your altar display.

Elemental Altars

The Element of Air..........
Air is associated with the East. The gesture for invoking air is to hold the hand upraised with spread fingers while facing east. Air is most associated with the dawn time of day, and the season of spring. The zodiac signs that correlate to air are Aquarius, Gemini and Libra. The fourth chakra, the heart, is associated with air.

Animals: All birds. Popular species include owls, ravens, doves, eagles, and hummingbirds. Dragonflies are appropriate as are bats
Color and Crystals: The colors for air are yellows, light blues and greens, and white. Air relates to communication, travel and the intellect. Related stones include clear quartz, aventurine, mottled jasper, mica, pumice and sphene
Eastern and Air Deities: Aurora, Bau, Changing Woman, Eos, Gna, Iphigenia, Litae, Ninlil, Nut, Tatsuta-Him
Elementals and Locations: Sprites or sylphs are the elemental beings associated with air. The locations associated with air are mountain peaks, hill tops, towers and other breezy locations
Offerings: Dried herbs and plants, incense, music, soap bubbles, song, scattered birdseed, and feather
Tools: The athame, sword, wand and censer are tools of air. The first three tools are often used to make gestures to mark the circle or make blessings, or make marks on the ground. The censer can be whatever is appropriate to hold your incense securely. Make sure any item used for incense is heatproof and will not crack during use. Fans are also an air tool. These can be paper, fabric or crafted from feathers or actual bird wings.

The Element of Fire..........
The element of fire is associated with the South. Holding your fist upraised while facing south helps to invoke this element. Fire is associated with noon, when the sun is hottest, and the season of summer. Fire signs in the Western Zodiac are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. The third chakra, the navel, is associated with fire.

Animals: Snakes, salamanders and lizards. Insects with stinging bites, (bees, wasps and certain species of ants) are sometimes associated with the element of fire
Color and Crystals: Fire stones relate to protection, courage, will power, strength and purification. The colors of fire are red, orange and gold. Appropriate crystals include amber, onyx, ruby, carnelian, citrine, hematite, bloodstone, garnet and sunstone
Southern and Fire Deities: Brigid, Durga, Hestia, Nekhebet, Omphale, Pele, Radha, Vest
Elementals and Locations: Dragons, phoenixes - Volcanoes, deserts, natural hot springs
Offerings: Dried herbs and plants, incense, music, papers, dead woods. Most often the offering to fire is something that it can consume. Ritual bonfires can be held if you have appropriate outside space. Wood from sacred groves are used. Indoors a ritual fire can be held in the family fireplace. A heatproof cauldron half-fllled with salt can then have a layer of rubbing alcohol poured on and lit to serve as a controlled indoor fire for apartment dwellers. Although this form of fire is nearly smokeless, watch the drapes, be careful of those smoke alams and use plenty of ventilation
Tools: The wand, candle and staff are tools of that represent fire. For people with curious cats and small children or who are in fire-restrictive environments, tiny electric lights can take the place of burning candles. These could be a cluster of holiday lights. Sometimes you can find battery-operated lights made to look like a candle. An unlit candle can also suffice.

The Element of Water..........
The element of water is associated with the West. Holding a cupped hand to the West invokes the water element. Water is associated with twilight, when day changes to night, and the autumn, when summer shifts to winter. Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio are the water signs of the Zodiac. The second chakra, the sexual center, is associated with water.

Animals: Dolphins, salmon, sea horses, sharks and orcas (killer whales) are some of the most commonly honored. Any fish or sea creature can be invoked, but most often the creatures worshipped are local to the area where the offering or ritual is taking place.
Color and Crystals: The colors for water are blue, pink, sea green and light gray. Water crystals are useful for healing, compassion, de-stressing, sleep, dreams, love and psychism. Crystals related to this element include amethyst, jade, lapis lazuli, moonstone, mother-of-pearl, sapphire, sugilite, blue-green tourmaline and pearl.
Deities: Aphrodite, Danae, Lakshmi, Miriam, Naiads, Oshun, Rosmerta, Sarasvati, Ved-Ava, Yemanja.
Elementals and Locations: Undines, mermaids - Major waters (oceans, rivers, lakes, etc.) plus local wetlands and watering holes.
Offerings: flowers, water plants, incense, music, salt, song, dance. The lotus is a well-known water plant seen often in Eastern religions. White or blue crystals sometimes represent water. Chalices or bowls of blessed water or drink are often used in ritual. Homemade wines and mead are sometimes used as offerings in harvest festivals.
Tools: Water is most often represented with a cauldron (ritual bowl) or chalice (ritual cup). Try to fill the container with the freshest and purest water you can for the ceremony. Rainwater can be ceremonially collected for this purpose, or you can use ordinary tap water that is blessed. For the truly ambitious, you can try collecting dew. For stationary displays like an altar, a tiny fountain could provide bubbling movement and gentle white noise. As water can evaporate or grow stagnant over time, remember to refresh and refill the container regularly.

The Element of Earth
The element of earth is associated with the North. You can help invoke earth energy by holding your hands flat and parallel to the ground while facing north. Midnight is the time of day associated with earth, and the season of winter. The earth signs of the Zodiac are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. The first chakra, the base of the spine, is associated with earth.

Animals: Bulls, dogs, deer, cow, bison, mice and rabbits. Animals that graze off the land, or live underground earth all have strong associations with the element of earth. Be sure to honor any animals that live on the land when doing ritual work in outdoor locations.
Color and Crystals: Earth colors are black, brown and green. Earth stones relate to grounding and centering, and are used for business and money energy, stability, promoting peace, and gardening and agriculture. Appropriate crystals include emerald, malachite, dark tourmalines, green agate and jaspers, turquoise and jet.
Earthly and Northern Deities: Ama, Branwen, Caillech, Demeter, Helle, Ki, Lilwani, Louhi, Medusa, Ninhursag, Obatala, Persephone, Rhiannon, Themis
Elementals and Locations: Gnomes - Caves, mountains, deep forests and deserts. Sacred earth spaces are most often remote and unspoiled. Lands previously used by ancient peoples for ritual work are often still used for those purposes today. It is important to remember to be respectful of sacred lands and earth spirits when using preserved lands for ritual workings. Earth goddesses have strong connections to places that are farmed or gardened as well.
Offerings: Plants, incense, music, earth, food, stones, wine. Foods are best offered when fresh and seasonal. Nearly all holidays and harvest festivals have traditional foods associated with them. For those of you who do not have objections, fur or animal skins are sometimes used as offerings. Gardening and other earth-oriented actions are sometimes offered to the spirits of the earth.
Tools: A Pentacle (five-pointed star) or Pentagram (five-pointed star inside a circle). The pentacle is usually made of a metal (brass, silver, etc.) or a natural material (wood, clay, etc.) Other items are placed on this plaque, or it can be hung as a sign of protection. Often a bowl of salt is found on altars for the element of earth. A bowl of sand from a sacred place can also be used. Ashes cooled and saved from ritual fires are also good for earth altars.

The Element of Spirit..........
The element of spirit is associated with the “above” and the realm of the gods. After the four other elements have been called, Spirit is most often invoked, sometimes as specific goddesses and gods, and sometimes as an entity unto itself. Raising both hands is the gesture most often used when calling Spirit. The fifth, sixth and seventh chakras all tend to relate to spirit more strongly than the lower ones. The Pythagoreans believed there was “quinta essentia” or a fifth element, some energy that gave life its diversity and individuality.

Animals: A person’s totem animals are the ones often invoked when working with spirit. Use whichever creatures to which you have the strongest affinity and connections.
Color and Crystals: The colors of spirit are purple, white, silver and gold. Very clear quartz, crystals with gold rutilated inclusions, phantom crystals. Crystal skulls are supposed to have been used as recording devices by ancient peoples and would be appropriate for spirit work. Any stones or stone-carved objects used for scrying would also qualify as spirit work. Akasha is another word for the fifth element and crystals associated with this are often organic in nature: coral, amber, mother-of-pearl, jet.
Deities: Your vision of the Divine, whichever personal goddesses or gods you work with for spiritual growth. Specific rituals might involve specific single deities, or you could choose to invoke your personal pantheon or spirit guides.
Elementals and Locations: Angels, in the planet Earth, in other persons or living creatures - Sky, clouds, stars, present now, in the Earth. Where your vision of the Divine manifests.
Offerings: Incense, music, crystals. In some traditions, you give up something or make an act of discipline as a way of showing devotion to Spirit. In others, gestures of kindness or acts of generosity are ways of connecting to higher intentions.
Tools: Items or tools used for no other purpose than ritual. What makes a tool for Spirit is most often the fact that it is used for no mundane purposes, only sacred ones. These can be clothes, jewelry, accoutrements, musical instruments, or special places. Chapels, sacred groves, and temples are tools for Spirit in that they are where people gather to share their spiritual beliefs and worship.


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