Part 3, Altars as Holding a Gathering - Altars as The Rest Between Realms, explores the practice of creating animistic sacred spaces and making altars with intention. We will explore how we become facilitators of communication by 'holding gatherings' upon an altar space. And how our altars are conduits for communication between other realities.
When we walk an animistic spiritual path, we acknowledge that there is an animated and alive presence around us all of the time. This alive presence not only is felt from living beings like the animals, plants and trees. But also from nature, the wind, rain and sky, the rivers, bogs and healing wells, the standing stones, cairns and lay lines. And from the land, the mountains and all human dwellings. Aliveness will also be intuited from man made items, like dolls, jewellery, books and divination cards.
As animists we will feel included in this aliveness. As members of a wild and natural community of interconnected felt sensing. Connected through threads of energy that traverse time, space and all matter. As members of natures communities, some of us will feel more comfortable on the edge of the community looking in from a short distance away. Quietly contemplating our observations. While others of us will want to interact more closely within these communities, exploring, studying and engaging with others. Either way, and anything in between, as animists, we are showing our intention to belong within nature, and to be a part of the day to day aliveness that is all around us.
When we consider all of this aliveness in relation to creating our altar space. Our alter space will not be a place where we simply keep our magical looking things and read our cardboard oracle or tarot cards. Or a place where we command our intuition to reveal to our mind secret knowledge. Our altar will be an alive space, that breaths as it waxes and wanes in experience.
And we will not collect magical looking items here. We will hold gatherings with magically potent and alive beings, energy and spirit. Creating an animistic altar takes time and attention to detail. It requires intuition, intention and felt sensing communication. Because we are not simply collecting magical looking items to use. We are building a animated community, through invitation, and with depth of relation. And we are facilitating communication by holding gatherings.
We belong to a species that has taken a stand of ownership over nature. Taken hostage the lands, the seas, the mountains, the animals and even the airspaces. For those of us that follow an animistic spiritual path. Those of us who respect and honour nature, we may feel uncomfortable seeing ourselves as facilitators of experiences that involve nature. Such as 'facilitating communication' and 'holding gatherings'. That we are somehow, interfering or impressing our wants and needs onto a wholly wild and autonomous interconnected aliveness, and in some way personifying nature and wildlife for our own self centred reasons.
It is important for us to let go of any shame and guilt attached to being human, and create new pathways with our intentions and actions. Pathways that honour our ancestors who belonged to the communities of nature. Who knew her rhythms and rhymes of weather and the seasons, and knew her beauty and her wildness. Pathways that do support us in being a companion of nature and understanding our place as belonging within natures community. Not as separate from nature, or as oppressor but as included, equal, and advocate.
A New Perspective
Creating an altar is an intimate act. We are making a home for our mysterious ways to belong. And if we practice divination or keep company to deity, we are also offering to hold a meeting space for gatherings of spirit, energy and consciousness. This meeting space is for communication. An altar embodies an aliveness that grows as we grow, and evolves with us as we walk our spiritual path over time. An altar matures over time and deepens in potency of magic with age and experience. Just as we do. An altar is not always switched on or awake. And neither are we.
Let us think about our intention for this gathering. A meeting of spirit perhaps? A place of togetherness, a place of belonging maybe? A space to escape into, to run wild and free. A place of healing perhaps. A place of quiet stillness, of peace and meditation.
The trees, the tree spirits and the Tree Whisper Oracles become like our spirit tribe, our kin and clan. Within the embodiment of Tree Whisper Oracles, we are among and sharing time with many other community members. We can think of these members in universal archetypal ways. The Mother, Father, and Child. The Healer, Elder, and Storyteller. The Adventurer, the Inventor and Teacher. The Trees of the Tree Whisper Oracles are wise guides. They reflect human lives and human ways. Through memories, feelings, synchronicities and signs. Tree Spirits communicate with us with visual vocabulary through feeling and felt sensing, in ways we will understand, through memories, physical sensations and feelings. And also through mysterious ways, such as dendromancy, ornithomancy and augury . They reflect our fears, our joys, our need for freedom and creativity. They support our need for connection, company and communication. They show us the spectrum of lightness and dark in human experience through prisms of colour. Within these dimensions of communication, are held, all of our expressions and ways of being that we could ever come to know or fathom to imagine. And so we need to take some time to think about our intention for holding a gathering.
Creating Sacred Space
Creating a sacred space is an act with purpose. Some of us will have a clear vision of what is needed. Others of us will have a delicate feeling, gently breathing within our felt sense. We must honour the way in which we experience these parts of ourselves as they reveal to us. They are informing us of the truth of what needs to grow from within us. These are the seeds of the sacred space we are to create.
Within an animistic spiritual belief we will also attune with the spirit of natural items and inspirited other items, that draw themselves to us. These items may include shells and feathers or artwork and books. We will feel into our home and hearth spaces for the calling of where we are to create our sacred space. We will notice subtle vibrations of energy, such as those calling to us for which direction our sacred space will want to rest a while.
Does our sacred space live in the east with the sunrise, with the bright energy of the spring of new life beginning. With the element of air and the spirit of the winds of inspiration.
Does our sacred space live in the warmth of the south and the mid-day's summer sun light. The energy of the element of fire and will, soaking into our skin and bones. A readiness, a surety lives here, a confidence that we will reach our goals, and the power of manifestation to do so.
Does our sacred space live in the in the west with the mellow sunset and twilight, in the place of quiet contemplation and the council of the wise autumn. With the deeper emotions that can only come with time spent journeying through life and maturity.
Does our sacred space live in the cold bones of the north, in the deep and mysterious night, in the time of death and of between death and birth. The realms of our ancestors. Comforted by stones and earth. We keep company all the wild animals that hibernate and live in the body of the earth and trees. Here our sacred space lives in alchemy, brewing in the cauldron, This is the universe of the spirit realms.
Our sacred spaces may of course embody all of these representations and indeed change with the seasons and as our spiritual paths transforms over time. Other sacred spaces can be seen as within our backpack, carried with us on our body and upon the altars of nature as we lay our sacred items out on the earth. When we are welcomed by a tuft of grass or a by a joyful tree stump. We may have temporary sacred spaces and fixed spaces for a time. We may use one specific space or use many spaces depending on our situations and circumstances and intentions. Our sacred space may be in our car with our travel altar, in a box under our bed packed away until we have privacy, or in our mind, in our imagination where we simply close our eyes and we are there in spirit at our altar or inner grove.
Altars For Purpose
When we have a clear intention for our altar we must also consider what we need for this purpose. And this is the fun part. Building altars is so satisfying on many levels. Creating a thing of beauty is not only aesthetically stimulating, but also generates feelings of comfort and inner peace. Creating an altar is for all of the senses, a rich and sensuous experience. We engage our senses of touch, smell, sight and taste, when creating a sacred space. Often spending days, weeks, months and years building and remodelling our space. We may spiral in and out of feeling inspired, of feeling creative and active. And we will over time be informed by different life and spiritual experiences along our way.
We will evaluate, re-evaluate and make considerations. Does this altar need a great deal of space for cards to be laid down in large groups or only enough space for a single card. Does the alter require space for other sacred items like candles, stones, incense, ogham's. Do we need space for jars of this potion and and bottles of that spell. Will the altar also gather and grow in personal items of our lives like photographs and art work or jewellery. Will our altar be home to micro altars or hold spaces of remembrance for people and times long since past. Will we need a place to sit or does our space only let us stand. Is there ways in which we can accommodate ourselves for what is needed. Sometimes we can't provide completely for what we need and so we may need to compromise for a time. It might be beneficial to write a list of essential and non-essential altar requirements.
On an animistic spiritual path, when we create a sacred space and build an altar we are inviting community to settle there. Our community may include deity and we may view this as a Great Spirit, The Universe, God or Goddess. Community may also include the physical elements of nature, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. And include representations of animals, such as feather, tooth and claw. And divination companions like divination cards, crystals and Ogham's. Whomever belongs in our community with us, we are inviting the presence of those beings, energies and spirit. We are inviting an otherness to share space with us, to grow with us, and to share our experience. To inform us, support us and share wisdom with us. We are creating a special place with purpose and intention, for our relationships to be fostered and nurtured.
The Visual and Sensory Vocabulary of Tree Whisper Oracles
Whether we are creating an altar especially for our Tree Whisper Oracles to call home or making room for them on an existing altar, we are offering them space. We are offering them a special place in our home, heart and sensing field. The aliveness of spirit and magic we infuse our altars with will diffuse into our oracles and support their own animation and their own beingness to awaken.
When we place our chosen cards down on the surface of the altar, we are holding a gathering, and we are opening the channels for an interaction through our felt senses to take place. We will notice the key word and this will settle within us, fading slightly into the background. It's important to not hold to tightly onto the key word as this word can and will evolve.
We will begin to notice in the card image, ambiguous patterns and obscure shapes in the leaves, bark and branches. They will dance, morphing into animal faces and fae beings. Personalities will come forward and then fade into the background. We will notice in our own self, the stirring of feelings and physical sensations in our body. We will hear fragmented voices, delicate like song and in velvety tones. And we will notice these voices as having a unique quality and as not our own. Our memories will begin to reanimate. Paying attention to all of these communications, in a gentle and curious way will allow our felt senses to open out more, like the petals of a flower. Allowing aliveness to settle and form a message for us, and this is how we communicate with the Tree Whisper Oracles.
When we consider how Tree Whisper Oracles communicate, we can understand more clearly why creating an animistic altar for them to rest upon is favourable. Tree Whisper Oracles will want to be in the woodlands and wild places and generally accompany their guardian out and about wherever we will go. But when at home, they will enjoy resting among other animated aliveness.
Altars as The Rest Between Realms
When we walk an animistic spiritual path we honour the aliveness of not only living beings such as animals and plants, but also the aliveness of the elements, like water, fire and stone. And we also recognise aliveness in otherwise regarded as inanimate objects, like divination cards, stones and feathers for instance. As animists we also regard sacred spaces as collectively alive. These spaces while accommodating a community of spirit and magical energies, also become something of their own animal too. Animistic altars remind me personally of the Beech Tree. The Guardian of Souls and Spirit, The Teacher of Wisdom, The Rest Between Realms.
The rest between realms refers to a contact boundary of relation. If we can imagine many realms, many dimensions of reality. All touching but not overlapping, like bubbles as they cling to one another. Each including worlds, universes, spirit and aliveness. This is a metaphor for how I, as an animist, understand the connection between animations. And how I understand the interconnectivity of energy and spirit. Such as the connection between our physical reality and the realm of the Tree Spirits and the Fae. There are channels through which we can interact. But we largely remain whole in our unique reality. With these considerations and in viewing every part of the altar alive in some way. And of these alive parts as our spirit tribe, our kin our clan. Our altars become a rest point, between realms. Where we can invite presence. Or awaken presence when holding a gathering.
We can imagine, if we like, that the energies we connect with at our altar space are there by our invitation and through their own choice. They become our community through a process of relation, and we theirs. And so, when we call upon them, they will come. They are not bound to our altar and nor are we to their reality. There is no tether. Only a spirit thread of relation. Like a paper cup and its thread. We make the call and our community comes to us.
We may have many aspects to our altar and we may not need to open all of these channels together. We may have a special area for deity, for our divination cards, for ogham, for our notebook, or our bibliomancy book. We may have a manifestation area, or a special place for healing and meditation. Each are can be in rest until we open it, activate it specifically.
When we want to facilitate communication with our Tree Whisper Oracles, and hold a gathering, we can invite the presence of our community through an activation ceremony. This can be as simple as lighting a candle and inviting a grounded and aware presence within our being. Or we could us a phrase of words or a special poem or song that we have selected.
Repeated Moments and Patterns
An animistic altar responds to repeated moments and patterns of interaction. Just as we do. Repeated moments and patterns create a sense of richness in depth of experience. They enhance our memory through colourful details and with a vividity in visualisation. They build a sense of ritual, of sacredness and importance. We may spiral in and out of activation of our altar spaces, and this is natural. And so having a special way of returning to our altar, or to specific areas of our altar, will create a sense of ceremony for us. This will feel for us a deeply magical experience. This will also invite our intuition to engage our felt senses and to nudge our altar to awaken to us.
Our altars can often grow dusty and silent. As we move in an out of experience with them. They journey through the seasons of life with us. I view these dusty moments as spiritual winters because they are attuned to our own spiral away from spirit. As we walk through our spiritual lives we are in an everlasting dance of magical relational depth. Sometimes dancing with others and otherness. Sometimes dancing alone, and sometimes not dancing at all.
We can view our return to our altar as holding a gathering for our spirit kin to reconnect with us. And planning a celebration for this can be fun and rewarding. To receive the Tree Whisper Oracles in an alive way they need an aliveness in relation from us, and from the space they rest upon. Fostering the growth of repeated moments and patterns builds a sense of ritual at our altar. Ritual with consistency encourages depth in relation with our spirit tribe. Relation can be offered through many ways of communication. Through thought and imagination, through our voices with words or sound. Or through creativity with movement and bodily gestures. We may also communicate through making things, through artwork, writing, food and drink.
Facilitating Communication and Final Thoughts
We have explored that if we are on an animistic spiritual path, we can view connecting with our Tree Whisper Oracle cards as us, facilitating communication and holding gatherings with Tree Spirits and our spirit tribe. We have also explored how our altars are deeply magical and alive sacred spaces, becoming the contact boundary between realms.
When we view our activities upon our altar as facilitating communication with natural energies and nature beings, And spending time with sacred and magical companions, supports us in deepening our relationship with our felt senses. Felt senses are the absolute core of our physically and spiritually present channels for communication. And the channels through which we communicate clearly with all aliveness and embodiments of energy and spirit. Including the with the spirits of our Tree Whisper Oracles.
Yours in the heart of the woodlands,