Oover the years I built many Goddess altars. Some of them were very complicated, others quite simple. As to what to put there – some Goddess books I read had a whole list of equipment, while others advised to use intuition and put stuff that you feel “should be there”. In the end, I found both methods inadequate and devised my own.

A black-and-white photo of a hand holding a dagger pointing downLists are generally copied from traditional Wicca, which borrowed them from ceremonial magic orders. In ceremonial magic, the ritual setup (the altar, the tools, circle casting) is meant to recreate the world in miniature, with the practitioner playing the role of God. The idea is to present the mage as God’s representative on Earth and thus borrow some of God’s authority (well described by Franz Bardon in “The Practice of Magical Evocation”). Well, that’s just not what devotional Goddess rituals are about.

The result is that I just don’t need all this ceremonial stuff – no chalices, ritual knifes, wands or pentacles will help me connect to Her who is already in my heart. I don’t need to cast a circle and ritually purify my room before She deigns to descend to me, because she is not that kind of person. She is the Earth, the Moon and the sea – how could I “cleanse” the natural world which she already IS? Rather, I will simply tidy up and vacuum the room, and maybe put some fresh flowers in the vase, as I would before a friend visits. I do this not for her, but for myself – to make the occasion feel special.

On the other hand, building the altar by intuition doesn’t work for me either, because in such cases my inner designer comes to life. Instead of building devotional space, I start building an art installation. I end up with an altar covered in ornaments and symbols. It’s not bad in itself, but just imagine how much time it takes to dust the whole setup – and it’s even worse when the altar is not permanent, when you have to take it all out and then put it back in the box again the same evening. That’s not very conducive to daily devotions!

Jewellery box. Author: Moravská galerie v Brně/Andrea Velnerová

In the end, I learned to only put on the altar things that must go there – stuff that I will definitely use. The altar I use for daily devotions consists of a box with two candles, two Goddess figurines, a tiny bottle of perfume and an embroidered altar cloth. All I need to do to start a devotion is to open the box, set the figurines upright, light the candles and dab some perfume on my wrists. (Perfume is my substitute for incense. I find scent to be an excellent mental marker of “altered time”, but incense isn’t very practical for several reasons – sticks spill ash all around and generate too much smoke if I just leave them burning through the whole devotion; grain incense is even worse).

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