Do you have a home altar? Not necessarily the religious kind but something more in line with a personal altar?
Balinese and Hindu cultures, and the tradition of Feng shui believe no household should be without one, but I think it's safe to say personal or home altars aren't popular in the typical Western household.
Maybe we have altars we're unaware of; maybe we erect them without realizing.
"The urge to create sacred spaces is so deep in the human psyche that, even when there is no formalized intent to make an altar, we often create them subconsciously." says Denise Linn, author of Altars: Bringing Scared Shrines into Your Everyday Life.
Think of a child's bedroom shelf where is arranged a favourite comic book, souvenirs from special vacations and a ticket stub from a stand-out show.
Think of a kitchen window sill with small stones and flowers from the garden.
Put simply, an altar is a group of treasures that act as visual reminders to reflect on things outside the mundane, to shift our attention away from the ordinary and connect with something bigger. An altar helps us remember what's important and lets us pay homage.
There's no one right way to create a personal altar. It doesn't matter where or how big or small your altar is. It can be inside or outside, on a kitchen window sill or bedroom dresser, in the bathroom or in your hallway as you enter your home.
What to include in your altar? Here are some useful questions to get you started are: What am I thankful for? What gives me peace? What inspires me? What is magical? What makes me feel alive? The objects can be whimsical, funny, irreverent or very spiritual in nature. You might place three objects or twenty.
Altars aren't passive or stagnant. They can change with the seasons or celebrations. For me, things get shifted or swapped out for something else on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Gone are the flowers now droopy and fading and in come some stones and shells from a Cape Cod beach walk.
Altars do contain, however, some constant or reoccurring objects: something from nature and something to engage the senses such as candles, incense, favourite colours, pictures or cloth.
Palo santo means "holy stick"or "wood of the saints." It's harvested from trees in Mexico and Central and South America, and used as a remedy for spiritual cleansing and purifying. The belief (dating back to the Incas and still believed today) is that the smoke from the palo stick can banish misfortunes, calamities and evil spirits.
Palo Santo belongs to the same family as frankincense and myrrh and is a very aromatic wood with hints of cedar and citrus. Its smoke leaves a light, uplifting and pleasant aroma. Light the tip to start a very slow burn and gently wave it around until it burns out.
Burning Palo Santo Wood comes as close to a spiritual experience as possible. With minimal effort and maximum impact a peaceful ambiance is guaranteed.
Happy altar making!