As you know from yesterday’s post, our group is working with a Likely Prospect. As part of getting organized around all that I wrote a bit about creating daily devotions. In the off-chance it might be useful to you, here it is:
An altar is a sacred place or structure where offerings and devotions are made to the gods, spirits or ancestors. Permanent, rather than something to be put away when the rites are over.
There’s only one good reason to make an altar, and that’s because you already have or want to start a regular practice of devotion, and need a place to support that practice. A liminal space. A common ground for you and the god or spirit you’re working with.
If you haven’t already done so, get to know the historical context for your patron by reading pertinent anthropology and mythology. Look at how the god was adored in the past, before His or Her veneration was supressed. Do remember that not all gods get along with each other. An altar to your ancestors is a fine idea; They’ll enjoy each other’s company. A shared altar to Thor and Hecate? Not only impolite, but a really bad idea.
Locate where your altar will live. Think of this as dowsing, but without the rods. Start by walking about, keeping open to the feel of a right place. While you walk, let mind rest on your patron and your desire to please Him or Her. Guard against having expectations about the location. If they float up, gently release them. Respond to where feels right.
When you find such a spot, cast a practical eye over it. Is this place workable? How could it be set it up? Outdoors, you might use a large rock, a garden table, a cut piece of log. Indoors, maybe you’ll use a table, shelf, counter top, cupboard or even closet. As long as your choices don’t get you in trouble with your family, neighbors and local law enforcement, there is no wrong answer.
Once you’ve got the practical set up worked out, it’s time to consider the heart of the matter — your regular devotion. Start with the following steps, but listen to your patron and change your devotion accordingly.
Call upon your patron. It’s best if you use the same invocation each time. It will be more easily heard and answered if it becomes familiar to Him or Her. Used repetatively, it will alert your subconscious mind that you are about to be in the presence of the gods, and may help you enter a light trance state. There are a couple of routes you can go with your invocation: writing your own works well for building a very personal, individual connection. Or you may decide upon a historical invocation. An invocation which has been used by many devotees over a long period of time has built-in resonance, but with it you get the morphic “ruts” — that is, assumptions about how the relationship will be structured.
Make an offering. This can be pretty much anything, with the usual ones being incense smoke, food, wine, crops and/or actions (dance, poetry, song). Ancient Greeks made burnt offerings of meat. The meat was dedicated, then cooked over a fire; the scented smoke rose to the gods, the devotees ate the leftovers, and a good time was had by all, gods and men!
Adore. Really. Let the feelings of love and awe well up in you. Raise them up (or down) as an additional offering.
Commune. Ask your patron what would be pleasing to Him or Her. Take a minute or so (which will feel a lot longer) to listen for the answer. Take the answer in, making notes if you need to. Once you’ve built up a good relationship, this is the place to ask your patron for specific help.
Salute. This can take the form of a sala’am or bow, kissing your right hand and then touching the altar, whatever sign of love and respect feels right. This is also a polite leave-taking,
Don’t be surprised when the altar and your devotional practice change over time. This relationship, like any other, will deepen and enrich with time and attention, which is really the most satisfying part of the process.