Minimalist, Small-space & Travel Altar Ideas – 03

Not everyone has space for a large altar setup, and if you have to share the space with others, if you’re visiting (or have visitors), or if you’re on the move, having an elaborate setup isn’t always possible. In this series I’m going to be sharing little ideas and photos to inspire you for your own devotional space. Use them as general inspiration, adapting them to suit your needs, the items you own, and your Deities.

They’re highly portable, and you can put them in a pouch for when you’re on the move. If you have guests they shouldn’t freak them out too much, or you can quickly put them away for the duration of their visit. If you’re away from home they’re easy to pop into a draw while you’re not using the room.

This week I’m talking about symbolism. Items of a symbolic nature draw on the myths and associations of a Deity to add a more personalised setup. Animals, different forms a Deity takes, items they use or are known for, elements connected to Them, and items representing Their nature can all be drawn on. Below I give some personal examples so you can gain some inspiration for your own sacred space.

For Loki I made a mini Snaptun Stone. Not only is this one of the few depictions we have of Him, but it represents His connection to fire, and reminds us of the story of how His lips were sewn shut by Brokk the Dwarf. The Fool’s Gold is a play on his modern nickname of Trickster, and the mythological parallels between Loki and other Trickster figures. In the words of J.R.R.Tolkien, Loki teaches us that, “Not all that glitters is gold.” Finally, the fox is another modern association with Loki, but due to their reputation for being wily, sly, sneaky but intelligent opportunists I really feel they are a good fit for Himself. This fox pendant is one I bought on Etsy from TheNatureJourneyist.

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For Sigyn we have the eponymous bowl. It is made of Moss Agate, and I have written before about the connection I feel Sigyn has to this stone. I also have some little paper and wire Roses. Roses speak of love and the heart chakra; both attributes associated with Sigyn in Her role as a Goddess of devotion and compassion. The Rose Quartz heart I have for similar reasons. I also have a dove because there is something about the ‘pure’ and ‘good’ symbolism of doves that I associate with this Beloved Goddess. There’s also a strong energy of Hope around Sigyn, and I believe the dove represents that too. There’s a purity and goodness in Her nature, and I personally have also found her not only to love birds, but to also have strong connections to them.

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The final example I have is for Hella, Jormungand and Fenrir. All are pretty obvious if you know about Their symbolism and mythology, but at the same time they are effective. The drinks coaster has Medieval inspired wolf decoration, the beaded lariat is very snakelike, and the skull represents Hella’s Underworld and death connections perfectly.

(c) Michelle G, Northern Tamarisk, 2018

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Minimalist, Small-space & Travel Altar Ideas – 02

Not everyone has space for a large altar setup, and if you have to share the space with others, if you’re visiting (or have visitors), or if you’re on the move, having an elaborate setup isn’t always possible. In this series I’m going to be sharing little ideas and photos to inspire you for your own devotional space. Use them as general inspiration, adapting them to suit your needs, the items you own, and your Deities.

They’re highly portable, and you can put them in a pouch for when you’re on the move. If you have guests they shouldn’t freak them out too much, or you can quickly put them away for the duration of their visit. If you’re away from home they’re easy to pop into a draw while you’re not using the room.

This week I’m talking about jewellery. Pendants and brooches are multi-purpose, and can be used as decorative items as well as worn. Pick pieces rich in the symbolism associated with a particular Deity or pantheon. This ties in the personal aspect, and means that even if you don’t have much space for your altar, or it needs to be discreet, then you can still have a powerful energy present.

There are plenty of options with jewellery as to how you can use them. You can wear them and few will guess they’re a devotional piece. You can hang them from a hook, a pole, a picture rail or on a Deity statue. You can turn them into a little display. You can turn them into a keyring. They’re easy to pop onto a nightstand at a hotel or guest bedroom, and in the morning you’ll be wearing them again.

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With brooches you can be a bit more creative. As well as wearing them you can attach them to things you can’t with other pieces of jewellery. Want to encourage dreams of said Deity? Attach the brooch to your pillow. Want to be sneaky or playful? Add a brooch dedicated to Khepera (or another insect or ‘climbing’ Deity) to your curtains. You can also pin them to bags, scarves, cloaks, coats or wall hangings. Because of the pin on the back you may be able to add them as a detachable element on the end of prayer beads.

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(c) Michelle G, Northern Tamarisk, 2018

Turning candle leftovers into wax melts

You know those annoying bits that always get left behind when you burn candles? Well, you can turn them into wax melts and save wasting those last bits of candle-goodness.

I usually buy soy or rapeseed wax candles, which are easier to do this with, but it can be done with paraffin or beeswax candles too.

Step one: Release the wax! Use a knife to loosen the wax in the bottom of the jar, then put the wax into a foil cake case.

Step two: Clean the candle container. I would suggest using a paper towel or rag you don’t want to use again for this part. Use the paper towel/ rag to wipe out as much leftover wax bits as possible, and then dispose of it. Next add some washing up liquid into the container, boil enough hot water in the kettle, and pour the water into the container. Leave it to sit for a while, then rinse out. This method is most effective with soy and rapeseed wax, and you may need to use a bit more elbow grease for paraffin and beeswax to get the glass fully cleaned. Re-use or recycle the container, depending on your preferences.

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Devotional Tip: reminders

If you have a chronic illness that affects the memory, or even if you’re a busy person who gets caught up in other things easily, a little reminder can be a valuable tool for devotions. It’s not that devotions and our Deities aren’t important to us, but sometimes the mind (or memory) just doesn’t cooperate.

As a way to help myself I have made a little sign to leave out for Saturdays or Sundays – my usual offerings days – and other times I know I want to do special prayers and offerings, or to give thanks.

(c) Michelle G, Northern Tamarisk, 2018

Project: protective herbal pouches

I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for a while. I love experimenting with herbs, oils, salts, waters and crystals. I’ve been working on different cleansing bath variations for a couple of months now and I have a couple of favourites. While they help I also wanted something I could keep in place as protective charms.

I have my own dried Hawthorn and Sloe berries from our garden, and mum had some Hawthorn tea bags she didn’t want, so I rummaged through my herbal chest to see what felt right. With a bit of guidance from Loki I now have four little protective pouches. It feels great to be engaging with my Witchy side again after she’s been mostly dormant for the last few years.
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Devotional tips for those with chronic illnesses and limited energy

For those of us with limited energy reserves or physical capabilities it can sometimes be difficult to do devotions. So I thought I’d share a few things that have helped in my own practice.

  • Have some sort of visible ritual calendar so you don’t forget important dates. If your calendar has large enough daily sections write the dates on in a different colour to normal entries. A wipe-board is also useful for this purpose, especially if you want to write notes of supplies or ideas for rituals and prayers. If you have to be in bed a lot have this where you can see it clearly.p1050753
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t do the devotions! Just talk to Them, apologise for not being able to do the devotions, but tell Them that you still honour and love Them.
  • Say good morning and goodnight to Them. It’s a simple greeting but brings Them into your daily life even if you’re not able to do devotions.
  • Usually cleansing of some sort is appropriate when entering the sacred space of the shrine or devotional area. If you don’t have the energy to wash, or the focus to mentally cleanse, make up an aura spray for that purpose. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just water and some salt in a spray bottle is a good start. You can add more ingredients if you wish to. Use before devotions or when you want to talk to Them about anything specific or important.
  • If you can manage nothing else try to put a glass of water out for Them. It is a basic offering but shows you’re committed and making an effort.

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Five tips to help with research and note taking

These are some general tips that I have found useful when researching.

1) Buy or borrow the hardback versions of books where possible. Their spines are more forgiving, and are easier to leave open. This is especially useful for comparing texts and translations.

2) Use mini indexing sticky notes/ post-its to mark important passages in books. When you write up your notes you can then review whether you really need to write them down. I recommend reading the book all the way through first as sometimes you can come across a more useful passage later on.

3) With Kindle books take advantage of the highlighting system. You can take the notes from ‘My Clippings’ and create a new document, then review and edit as you see fit. Save the new document and print off.

4) If you have the book or article at home don’t tell yourself you have a set time in the day when you have to do your research unless you really have no other option. Using the index-sticky method I often find I can read through research material better at night. I then write up the notes in the daytime.

5) Use the library, especially for rare and more expensive books. Even if your local library service doesn’t have a copy of the book you’re looking for they can often borrow one from elsewhere. They may charge a small fee, but it’s well worth it and costs less than buying the books yourself. In some cases, unless you are part of a university or academic body, you cannot get hold of a book. In this instance the library inter-loan service is vital. It is thanks to this service I am currently reading ‘The Problem of Loki’ by Jan de Vries; there is no copy available to buy, at any price, and I am not part of a university or academic body.

I hope these tips provide some food for thought.