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January 8, 2023

Altared Intentions

Trying to get spiritual when I’d rather get cranky.

I’m not a spiritual person. As an adult I rejected organized religion, and although I believe in God, I’ve never felt any connection to Him/Her. I’ve always thought of God as a CEO who has no interest in the struggles of the rank and file unless a lawsuit could be involved. 

Even so, I’m still drawn to the idea of a spiritual practice. Supposedly, spiritual practices positively impact mental well-being; in addition, spiritual rituals can help with setting and achieving goals. My goal is building a successful business, and I’ll take help where I can get it. If I don’t try to think positively, I end up thinking like this:

A person river rafting. Text reads: Believe in yourself. 
Because the rest of us think you're an idiot.
I’m a big fan of Despair’s posters.

Pagan practices interest me, if for no other reason than I love candles, herbs, and the pretty imagery on those types of websites. And being a feminist, I’m drawn to anything ridiculed by masculine popular culture. (There’s even a mocking reference to “pagan altars” in an episode of my beloved “Friends,” by guest star George Clooney, no less). 

To start my spiritual journey, I ordered a one-time subscription box from a business called Tamed Wild, “founded on the belief in ancient wisdom, earth medicine, intentional living and finding magick in the every day.” Don’t feel obligated to make a purchase to get started on being spritual; I did it because I love subscription boxes, both for the surprises and the fact that you usually get a lot for your money. Tamed Wild sent me a bunch of cool stuff, including an altar cloth, a dried herb bundle, notecards, several obsidian stones, essential oil, tea, and a lunar calendar.

a colorful cloth, two bottles, some black obsidian pieces, a bundle of green herbs, a small book
The box I purchased from Tamed Wild contained miscellaneous magickal items.

From doing a bit of internet research I learned a good first step to starting a spiritual practice is to build an altar, which would also give me an opportunity to put some of my products from Tamed Wild to use. I found a very informative post, “How to Build a Sacred Meditation Altar For Spiritual Practice,” on a website called Loner Wolf. The post gives clear, accessible step-by-step instructions. I also loved that the author, Aletheia, gives you permission to create an altar just for personal growth. Even if I’m iffy about magic, spirits, and beings looking out for me, I can definitely get on board with this benefit of an altar, “a physical expression of your commitment, personal goal, or desire.”

Step zero: Put on your Altar Earrings

Wearing our Altar Earrings is not one of the steps in Aletheia’s instructions, but I did it anyway. I highly recommend it for you, too.

Wood earrings shaped like altars
Our Altar Earrings help you put out an intention to the universe, that of helping me.

Step one: Find a space 

Ideally, the space you choose for your altar is set apart from the rest of your ordinary life, but there’s absolutely no excess space in my apartment. It was already cluttered when it was just my home, and now that it’s also my office, it looks like a crafts-books-and-miscellaneous-crap bomb exploded. I decided the best choice was to clear off one of the shelves on a bookcase. Although the altar space is not removed from the chaos, at least it’s in a corner.

empty shelf on a bookcase
A clear shelf for my soon-to-be altar

Step two: Cleanse the space

Once you find your altar space, you need to cleanse its energy. I always thought the process of cleansing a space involved burning herbs, but it turns out you can also cleanse with sound, visualization, or by actual cleaning. Since my Tamed Wild box included a bundle of cleansing herbs to burn, and since it’s empowering to set something on fire, I chose that option.

The information sent by Tamed Wild indicates the bundle of herbs I received could be mugwort, which I’m going with, since it’s a fun word. Once I succeeded in getting a flame going, the mugwort’s scent was very strong and earthy. It was a big contrast to the kind of scent usually in my living space; all my candles are all called “cupcakes” and “sugar cookies.” That contrast itself felt like a new energy. I ended up with a blister lighting the herbs, but the experience made me feel rugged and outdoorsy. I’m not rugged or outdoorsy.

a bowl on a shelf with sage burning in it
Mugwort burning and cleansing my altar space.

Step three: Gather objects related to your intention

The next step in creating your altar is gathering objects. Per Aletheia, there are many kinds of objects you might include, and there’s no wrong way to do it; however, you should choose objects that relate to the intention of your altar. Using some of her ideas, I included the following:

  • A shell I found on Lopez Island
  • A piece of obsidian from my Tamed Wild box. According to the Crystal Council, this stone is known as a “psychic vacuum cleaner,” because it clears out your negativity. That phrase tickles me to no end
  • A sparkly, iridescent tealight candle which the maker labeled an “intention candle” 
  • A crescent moon I cut out of wood with my Glowforge. It’s an Islamic symbol, which is meaningful to me given my religious background, although I have no religious fervor whatsoever

Since my altar is a physical expression of my business goals, I also included the following:  

  • An inspirational quote: “Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself” 
  • A $50 bill, not pictured (Fun fact: Photoshop will not open a photo that features currency.) 
a seashell, piece of black obsidian, a yellow moon shaped piece of wood, a cream colored tealight candle, and a piece of paper that says Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself
Some meaningful items I chose for my altar.

Step four: Arrange your altar

Arranging the objects on your altar should also be intentional. Aletheia suggests doing so symmetrically, to invite an energy of balance. A cluttered arrangement will distract you.

Altar cloth with a tealight candle, seashell, $50 bill
My finished, for now, altar.

An altar is not forever fixed, though. As your spiritual practice progesses, you might decide to remove or add objects as your goals and intentions change. Think of it as a living thing that needs ongoing care. Kind of like a plant, which alarms me a bit, as I can’t keep plants alive.

A further step: The lunar calendar

As part of my spiritual practice, I’m planning to put to use the Lunar Intention Journal and Calendar I received from Tamed Wild. The calendar focuses on the phases of the moon as a reflection of the phases humans also cycle through. It offers information “on mythology, astrology, tools and rituals to aid you in building self-awareness.”

Each month includes one or more tarot spreads focused on self-examination. Tarot is brand new to me, and since I’m interested in giving it a try, I purchased a set of cards. Yes, they are Friends tarot cards.

a few tarot cards
I bought a set of tarot cards to try out my new journal and calendar.

I hope you’ll be back to read further as I try out Tarot. Be sure to join my mailing list to be notified of new posts.

Where are you in all this? I’d love to hear about your religious and spiritual practices, or lack thereof.

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