I’m back in Oaxaca, Mexico for the month. Each time I come here I spend time with the medicine women of the surrounding villages and towns. Learning about their spiritual practices reminds me of the importance of the day-to-day, the ordinary things that surround us all the time that speak to the sacred. Each home and often the business too, including the busy markets, have altars.
It is so very easy to get caught up in all the ego preoccupations necessary for living, that aren’t the main deal. It’s so easy to forget that spirit lives and moves in everything. I love the daily, ordinary reminder that these altars provide.
Keeping a House Altar
I’ve been keeping my own house altar for many years. It began as a place that called me to meditation; a place that helped me settle, to be in stillness to contemplate what was most important, to keep my divination cards that provided guidance and inspiration. Since those early days it’s grown as a spiritual focal point in my home, containing photos of my ancestors, always flowers and other adornments.
It’s spiritually and sensually nourishing to keep this space clean and fresh. Objects of significance come and go over the months, often reflecting the seasons and the four elements. Aspects of my life that are birthing, growing or being released are represented there. Flowers, candles, incense, and objects from nature are refreshed frequently.
For me, caring for the altar is a spiritual practice in itself. As I tend it I’m tending my inner being that is reflected back to me in the symbols and energetic presence of this space. The altar itself and the objects it holds become a living, breathing entity that I’m in relationship with. This relationship feeds me, as I feed it with offerings and my care.
When I immerse myself in the rich culture of this part of Mexico it reminds me that the culture I come from is so often devoid of these simple ways of spiritual nourishment. We’ve lost the practice of both personal and communal rituals and ceremony. We’ve left religion behind, perhaps a necessary step in our spiritual evolution. Now I sense that the task is to bring the sacred home from the old external representation of spirit that churches and formal religions provided.
Tending the House Altar
The making and tending of a home altar can be one significant way to bring spirit home in a deeply personal and meaningful way. As you do this practice you will see how the altar grows and changes with your own spiritual development.
Making an altar is creative expression at its best. There aren’t any specific, hard and fast rules as to how to make an altar. Some basic things to consider are where it is placed, such as a quiet place in your home space and perhaps a cloth that designates this space. Some typical objects on the altar might be a candle, incense and to my mind, always flowers – fresh or dried depending on the season! Then add objects that represent spiritually significant elements of your life at this time.
I’m always delighted and inspirited by seeing the variety of creations women make. They always resonate with potent energy and reflect the essence of the person who has create them, reflecting their unique light and unique spirit.
Further resources are these inspiring books:
Beautiful Necessity - The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars by Kay Turner
A Book of Woman’s Altars – How to Create Sacred Space for Art, Workshop, Solace and Celebration by Nancy Brady Cunningham
Previous entry: The Role of Ceremony to Enrich Your Daily Life
“Loved the “slow medicine of it”