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Monday, October 26, 2009

My Altar

As a child who grew up Catholic, I have fond memories of building an outside altar with friends in honor of Mary during her month of May. I remember borrowing my Ma's statue of the Blessed Virgin and adorning her with a crown of clover stems and flowers. We picked various flowers from gardens, as well, to put at her feet. The whole process of setting up an altar and praying by our altar gave me much joy.

A few years ago it occurred to me that I could have a year-round altar of my own. I remember the wise advice of friend, Jenna. She said, "Now Jenny, don't go putting your altar in a place where Chris can trip over it or where he'll feel like it's being stuffed down his throat." She was right. After all, it's not like I'd ever had an indoor altar in the then 27 years of our marriage and it would likely take Chris awhile to get used to the idea. I took Jenna's sage recommendation and decided to place the altar in my garage dye studio; a place that, for the most part, only I frequented. This arrangement worked well except that my dye studio tended to get messy, which I eventually began to feel was not a proper environment for my altar. Add to that, the cement floor was cold (despite a space heater) and it was not particularly pleasant to meditate/pray by the altar for any extended period of time.

After our youngest son, Alexander, flew the coop, I took over what was his bedroom and made it into my "spinning room." The spinning wheels, a futon-made-into-couch to knit/read on, the computer, a TV, and the 55 gallon fish tank (complete with 4 imported goldfish: Aristophanes, Aphrodite, Eros, and Andromeda) are in the room. What better new place for my altar?!!! I put a red and green plaid cloth over a small table sometimes used to mount wool combs on and have the following items of importance (to me!) on top~
  • An amethyst cave that has a naturally embedded white, circular moon of quartz in the middle of it.
  • A small copper, incense cauldron with a spinning wheel motif on the front and sand inside.
  • Two brass candlesticks. The left candle is green for Mother God. The right candle is red for Father God.
  • An orange-petaled candle holder with a white candle, for the Holy Spirit.
  • Small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and another of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus.
  • A small carved statue of a female saint enclosed in a wood "cave" of sorts...not sure which saint this is, but I remember buying her for 25 cents when I was very small, at a jumble sale held at a school. I've always loved this little statue and one day it fell off a shelf and the head of the saint broke off...eek, decapitated!!! I glued the head back on and no one is any the wiser.
  • Various rocks, crystals, shells, etc.
  • A crystal glass with a bird on the stem, holding a variety feathers.
  • A little cupped dish with flowers painted on from my Grandma Mayer.
  • A larger, flatter dish with flowers painted on and with three sides (maiden, mother, crone).
  • Three tiny brass bells.
  • A wee purple Teddy bear in honor of a friend's mother who is fighting cancer.
  • Two small vases that my Alexander brought back for me from Japan; one is pink and one is blue. Because excellent black cat Chloe is allowed into my spinning room, I shall make sure whatever flowers/plants I place into the vases are non-toxic.
In front of my altar I have placed a chair with a comfortable cushion. Already I am finding this spot the perfect place for meditating, praying, and simply resting.

At present I am enjoying reading the book, "Second Sight," by Judith Orloff, M.D.. I LOVE this book and am savoring each page. A few days ago I came upon Dr. Orloff's section on altars. She wrote that her Tao teacher suggested her altar face the east, which mine does. Judith writes, "...in the Taoist tradition, the birthplace of spiritual power..." is in the east. Judith continues, "When my life gets hectic, I know that I can return to my altar to rejuvenate myself. No matter how stressed out I am or how fast my mind is spinning, just sitting in stillness makes everything slow down." Dr. Orloff writes, "It's your own private sanctuary...like a church or synagogue. But it doesn't have to be conventionally religious unless you want it to be. The important thing is that you sit quietly with yourself, find your intuitive voice, and begin to listen."

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