Your Altar And Its Furniture

You can use virtually anything as an altar. If you are holding your Circle outside, then a large rock or a tree stump is ideal. If you are indoors, then you can utilize a small coffee-table, a wooden box or even some boards resting on bricks.

It is better to have an altar that does not contain any steel, so a ready-made table is not really the best (unless glued or pegged together). If there has to be metal in the table, brass is acceptable. Why is this? It has to do with conductivity. The Witch's Knife and Sword (and Wand, if used) are the only tools that are used for storing and directing energies. They, then, can be of a conductive metal—iron or steel. All other items should be non-conductive—silver, gold, brass, stone, wood—since they are not used in that fashion.

But why not have a little aestheticism with your altar?

Why not do things properly? You are working in a circle, so why not a circular altar? To me, a rectangular altar in a circle always looks somewhat incongruous. This is one of the reasons a tree stump is so ideal. In fact a beautiful altar can be made by putting legs on a section of tree-trunk. The legs should be glued on. One such altar I have seen was made truly beautiful by the maker—a Craftsman in both senses—carving figures of the God and the Goddess into the legs.

The "Altar Furniture" consists of a candle, or candles; incense burner (known variously as a "censer" or "thurible"); two dishes, one for salt and one for water; libation dish; goblet(s); and figures to represent the deities. Of course this is not a hard-and-fast list. Feel free to add or subtract according to your needs (it is understood, also, that individual traditions dictate certain items, e.g. Gardnerian has cords and a scourge).

Most Witches "do their thing" in the evenings (not a necessity, of course) and so illuminate with candles around the Circle and on the altar. A candle on the altar is also helpful so that you can read from the book of rituals. Whether you have one candle or two is up to you.

An incense burner is pretty much a necessity. Incense has been used in religious rites for thousands of years. The old belief was that the

smoke of the incense carried your prayers up to the gods. Certainly it adds immeasurably to the atmosphere of the ritual. Since there is frequent need to move the incense-burner about the Circle (e.g. to cleanse, or "cense" the Circle itself during the consecration part of a ritual), a simple dish to hold a cone or stick of incense is not ideal. It is far better to have a hanging (swinging) censer. These can be bought or can be made. A special charcoal briquet is then placed in the censer and lit, then powdered incense is sprinkled on the charcoal. This is much more economical than burning cones or sticks and one briquet will burn for two hours or more. Both briquets and powdered incense can be bought at most church supply stores. There is nothing against cones or sticks, of course, if you prefer them. Choose an incense that you enjoy; nothing too sweet and sickly. If you feel you must have a specific incense for a particular ritual, fine, but generally I find it doesn't make any difference which ones you use. I personally enjoy a good sandalwood or frankincense or one of the better "high altar" mixtures of the Christian Church. Incidentally, if you have nothing else, you can burn incense in any saucer-like vessel. If you are using charcoal briquets and are afraid of the vessel cracking, simply fill it with sand and that will absorb the heat.

Salt and water dishes are found on most Witch altars. Salted water represents life (salt itself symbolizes semen, as is detailed in an interesting essay by Ernest Jones, titled The Symbolic Significance of Salt). Baptismal water, or "Holy Water", is nothing more than salt and water. The dishes you use can be of any type. Some people even use sea-shells as containers.

During rituals it is usual to drink some wine (or fruit-juice, if alcohol is not possible). To toast the gods, a libation is always poured first. When meeting outdoors this can simply be poured on the ground. But when indoors the best, and usual, way is to pour the offering into a dish; the Libation Dish. Later—after the ceremony—the dish can be taken outside and the wine poured out on the ground. Like the salt and water dishes, the libation dish can be of any type.

' The wine goblets of the Priest and Priestess stand on the altar; those of the other celebrants are placed on the ground at their feet. Again the goblet can be to suit yourself. It could be simply a glass or it could be a decorative drinking horn. The latter can be made from cow-horns (obtainable from handicraft stores, such as the Tandy Leather Company chain), with stands either separate or attached, made from bent silver or copper wire or from wood. Some Witches refer to their goblet as a "chalice" but, to my mind, this smacks of the eucharistic cup of Christianity so I tend to avoid it.

Some Witches do not care to have deity figures on their altar. The majority, however, do. You can seek out actual statues, though good ones are not easy to come by (copies of Boticelli's "Birth Of Venus"— irreverantly known as "Venus On a Half-Shell"!—are ideal for the Goddess). Many Witches search for years to find a statuette that exactly fits the mental image they have of the deity. Antique stores and flea markets/ swap meets seem to be the best places to look. Some Wiccans use symbols, such as a sea-shell for the Goddess and an antler for the God. I have seen candles used, also various chess pieces, rocks, plants, etc.. One

possibility is pictures. I have seen beautiful deity representations made by decoupaging appropriate colored pictures to attractive pieces of wood. If you have the talent, of course, there is no reason why you shouldn't sculpt or draw your own figures.

MAGICK—AN INTRODUCTION

Magick will be dealt with in detail later, in Lesson Eleven. There you will learn all the many and varied forms of magick and their workings. However, here I would like to take a quick look at some of the rudiments of magick; the basics.

First among these is TIMING. You may know that the Moon is frequently associated with Witchcraft, but you may not know why. One of the reasons is that the phases of the Moon are important to the proper working of magick. Taking the two main phases: the time from the New Moon, through the First Quarter, to the Full Moon is known as the Waxing Moon. From the Full, through the Last Quarter, to the New is known as the Waning Moon. When the Moon is growing in size, it is waxing; when it is decreasing in size, it is waning.

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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