In keeping with the Urglaawe calendar, this is the time to be laying plans and procuring items that will help me meet my goals for the year. I suppose then it makes sense that I have been acquiring new altar items and felt a need to clean and re-arrange everything to better suit my focus for the year.
What focus would that be? Oh, RIGHT, I’m so behind on entries that I haven’t even shared on here my big plans for 2018. Here’s the rundown. This year, I’m going to take my magic skills to the next level, deepen my devotion to Zisa and Oschdra, and build on my abilities in making fiber art and imbuing it with spirit, by undertaking an intensive practice of knot magic and ribbon divination. In combining these two practices with my existing magical “paradigm”, I intend to create a system that is perfectly suited to me, and I could not possibly be more excited! The information on these two practices came to me via two different friends right around the same time, one of whom is a Zisa devotee, so I really see Her hand in this. I’ll also be working on a series of devotional art pieces, including sculptures of Ancestor Bird skulls, and an embroidered Oschdre* portrait. Overall, this is in service to the Ancestor Birds, which is my life’s work, Who have let me know that They would like me to create imbued devotional art and ritual objects for Them.
In reworking my altar, I’ve been aiming to create more space, add devotional objects for Zisa and Oschdra, and continue including the Ancestor Birds, naturally. None of this is to say that I’m ceasing devotion to any of the other deities I love, especially my beloved Patron, Odin! But I wanted my ritual space to support my new goals. So my multi-deity photo collage got moved to the wall, and some of my “extra” devotional objects got put away or moved to different shrine spaces. I even discovered some objects that were asking to be rehomed! In particular, some devotional objects I had for Hel went to a friend who just an hour before had completed a journey working with Her. The Gods have incredible timing, if we listen to Them!
The first thing I did in my big altar makeover is to change out the altar cloth. The new one is a mountain ridge in the fog, lined with pine trees. Pine trees, and especially pine cones, are strongly associated with Zisa. You’ll notice several small pinecones on the altar, and also a very large statue of one. You can read more about it here. The incense is a pine scented one that I got when I visited Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, this past September. (September is also the month of Zisa’s feast. Coincidence? I think not!)
There’s a statue of Zisa Herself, in Her guise as Mary Undoer-of-Knots. You may think this is a Christian statue, but, well…just look at it! Firstly, no crosses are to be found. The base has blue clouds and a crescent moon, and there’s a snake at Her feet. Hello, Goddess symbols! (Yeah, I know the serpent being underfoot has Christian connotations too.) She undoes the knots that are the troubles of our lives to smooth the way. You can read more about Zisa’s history and why She morphed into Mary here. The rainbow necklace she’s wearing is a little gift from me. It was fun; I think I’ll make some more!
Beside Zisa, there’s a plate with an Oschdre hare, which right now is the only thing I have for Oschdra. Once I have some other objects, it will go back to being an offering plate. It’s very difficult to find imagery for either of these Goddesses which is part of why I’m determined to create an Oschdre portrait this year.
Laying out on the altar are some of my tools, including two of my shuttles and my scissors. These are all antique tools and I absolutely adore them. The big boat shuttle is a stand-in for a wand/staff for me. There are some super-badass fairy tales that talk about using shuttles and spindles for various magical purposes, and you’d best believe they are preservations of older magical techniques. They also WORK. I’ll leave it to you to do a bit of poking around, but you might want to look in particular for a tale about a girl who goes to live in a mysterious cottage in the woods with an old lady who teaches her to send out her spindle on certain errands.
In the big owl bag is my set of divination ribbons. I was shocked, once I started looking around my house, how many special ribbons I had just waiting to become part of this kit. I had vintage ribbons inherited from my great grandmother, ribbons that I made necklaces with in junior high, ribbons that had decorated special gifts, ribbons I used to hold amulets and charms in place, ribbons that were leftover from when I adorned my first shamanic staff. The ribbons were all just patiently waiting for me to find out that there was a divination system out there made for someone like me, who adores fabric and color and does things by touch. It was shocking to me, how quickly I resonated with this method. But it clearly wasn’t a surprise to the ribbons!
I plan to make some more ribbon sets, including one on a ring and a miniature travel set. But I absolutely adore the personal, special, eclectic nature of this set.
The Ancestor Birds still have some representation on the altar, but it’s a little more compact than before. I closed up the mini shrine; behind it is a little pouch with my prayer cards and beads. I ordered a brand new set of prayer beads that should be arriving sometime next week, which sounds like a great time to share a little bit more about that aspect of my practice! In front is a little Archaeopteryx figure that I found at an art store the other day. I love that I finally have something to represent the truly ancient Ancestor Birds. It’s a bit easier to come by objects representing the recently extinct ones.
There are a few other items on the altar. I couldn’t resist leaving Odin’s candle up–it just wouldn’t feel like home without something to represent Him. The unicorn hex sign is there for my Urglaawe practice and Deitsch heritage. The wooden fish is there for Brook Trout, native to my local area, who is an ally for me.
I suppose an altar is always something of a work in progress. It changes as your spiritual life changes. Since my altar is a working space, I feel the need for there to be an actual surface to work upon, and to change the setup more frequently. I have shrines which I classify as more places for worship, contemplation, and leaving offerings, rather than more active rituals or magical workings. On the one hand it’s difficult to share something so deeply personal, and on the other hand, I love sharing this expression of myself, and what matters most to me. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour!
*It’s die Oschdre when it’s all three of Them (Oschdra, Hellig, and Nacht) and Oschdra when it’s just the one Goddess in particular. In case you were wondering about the two different spellings.