Sitting at a cold altar

Have you ever tried sitting at a cold altar?

By cold I don’t just mean temperature. My altar where I do my regular devotions has symbols of the Elements on it: a stick of incense, a small candle, a dish of water, a dish of salt. It also has deity figures and sometimes seasonal decorations and other things. Preparing my altar is part of the process of devotions: sweep off the old incense ash, check the candle and wick, refill the water if needed, light the candle and the incense. Then I sit down…

But in this cold season, when the Earth herself is sere and sleeping, perhaps it would be more appropriate not to do some of those things.

What would it be like to chant my devotions to Fire with an unlit candle? To connect with Water in an empty bowl?

In my way of reckoning the seasons, we’ve just passed Midwinter, and this is still the season of Earth. The bowl of salt and a stone, the presence of Earth on my altar, requires minimal tending – so little that it can be easy to pass over. Perhaps letting my altar become sere would help me concentrate better on that quiet, deep Earth in this its season.

I know we’re all excited that the sun is reborn, and I look forward to Imbolc as much as anyone. But the anticipation shouldn’t cause us to live in the future so much that we neglect the present. Winter has a ways to go yet, and around here we’ve barely had a taste of real cold so far. Our landbase needs the cold, and perhaps we need some time to acknowledge the cold, to honor the darkness even as it begins to give way to increasing light.

I’ll try it. As Hecate says, I shan’t be gone long; you come too.


About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
This entry was posted in exercises, meditation, nature and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sitting at a cold altar

  1. Widdershins says:

    Our altar is sparse this season too, for the same reason. We had plans, but never ‘got around to it’! Sometimes Herself has to hit us over the head to get our attention!

  2. sparksofme says:

    Interesting! I am just drafting a post about my recent altar-cleanse. I’ve in the past preferred a massive yearly cleanse to a regular mini-one. Since the recent one, my altar is nearly bare without even a cloth so that the wood surface shows through. I may try your idea and post about it.

    Also, I think we’ve met, over a year ago at the Teddy Roosevelt island cleanup… when someone found a set of antlers. I only say that because I’d never heard your name before or since.

  3. Pingback: Packing up pinecones | Works of Literata

Comments are closed.