February 27th, 2017 – So You Want to Build ad Altar – Part 2
So last week we talked about the first four parts of the altar. These next four come in a number of variations depending on practice. Not all practices will use these items.
Bells are like the Voice of the Goddess. When you ring one, it brings attention to the divine and the divine to you. Not all practices use a bell as a regular part of every ritual. In some, the bell is used only to ring in the New Year or a specific season, like an equinox. I have seen some circles where the bell is used to ring in the four quarters. Bells have been used throughout the centuries in many faiths to symbolize a solemn part of the ritual. Your bell can be plain or ornate, or you can choose not to have one at all. I do not use one.
Candles – Direction Candles/Four Quarters Candles
First, let me provide a little background especially for those newer to the practice. The four quarters are also known as the four directions. North, South, East, West. Each direction is called when casting the circle to join in and help create the sacred space and in essence stand guard. In some practices, there may or may not be a deity or spirit guide called along with the corners. Each corner is also associated with one of the four elements. Traditionally in some, (not all) practices a candle is lit during this calling/summoning. In my practice, I only use candles for long, extensive rituals lasting many hours. For shorter rituals it is not needed because I am calling up a guarding spirit to stand watch.
You will need one candle for each of the directions, color-coded. One will go in each appropriate direction . . .
For North: black, green, or brown (Corresponding elements: earth, ice, snow, trees)
For East: yellow or white (Corresponding elements: air, feathers, wind, thunder )
For South: red or orange (Corresponding elements: fire, torches, daytime, lightning)
For West: blue or aqua (Corresponding elements: water, night time, storms)
You will need different candles of different colors depending on the spell work you are using for additional candles on the altar.
Chalice/Drinking Horn/Drinking Vessel
This is one of the most varied parts of the altar. Every practice has a slightly different use for their vessel. In Wicca the chalice is one of the most important altar tools. It signifies the Mother Goddess. As such, it is a “yin” altar tool. The Wiccan chalice is used for ceremonial drink, offering libations to the Divine, or holding the salt-water solution.
In my practice, we use a drinking horn. The horn is a ceremonial chalice that is passed around with mead. It is shared among the practitioners during the rite. It can be used other ways, but this is the primary use. It is used to honor more than just the Goddess, so it is not gender specific. It is used to honor whichever deity is the primary focus of the rite. In a blot, everyone honors their specific patron, so the horn’s representation changes from person to person.
Images or representations of any gods and goddesses who are special to you are always welcome on an altar. They are more than reminders of Divinity. Statues of the gods and goddesses can actually hold the vibrations of the Divine. It can be very hard to find a representation of your God or Goddess. A symbol representing them can be used in place until such time one can be acquired.
Check back next week for part 3 of 5.