Awakening the Altar

PaganGreen Paganism and Witchcraft

Traditionally, crafters do not use altars in the same way that Wiccans or other religions do. For many spiritual
paths, an altar is a combination of shrine and focal point of their worship. But traditional Crafters do not
worship the Gods, and if they use an altar table at all, it is more akin to the ceremonial magician’s use of the
altar as a workbench. But we do pay our respects to our ancestors, and while the altar itself is just a table (in our
case a very nice hand-carved and purpose-built one), it is the resting place for the tools we use to interact with
our ancestors, the Hearth Stone, the Skull, the wand and the cup. So when we talk about awakening or activating
the altar, we are really talking about opening up the gateway for the Ancestors.
This is one of those exercises that are very simple, and will almost seem silly until the first time you do it right.
We have a bunch of candles on the altar, because we like to work in candle-light, but there are a set of candles
around the skull and stone that are specifically there for the awakening process. We start by lighting these
candles — a black one to the left of the skull, a white one to the right, a blue one behind the skull, and a red one
upon its crown.
The black and white candles represent the pillars that mark the gateway, and the arrows that are often found
attached to the stang, among other things. The blue and red candles represent in turn Noctifer and Lucifer, the
two aspects of Venus, the Evening and Morning Star.
In many ways Noctifer and Lucifer are to the Tradition what the Dragon and Crown are to us as individuals.
Noctifer is the dark twin, potent, passionate, chaotic and illogical, while Lucifer is the calm, intellectual and
controlled one. They are, of course, both separate and the same, and can be found in such cultural pairings as
Lugh and Cromh, Llew and Gronw, Osiris and Set.
Each of us has our own way of lighting the candles. Some use a few words, other do it in silence. The important
thing is to acknowledge and feel the presence of the pillars and twins, and to be aware of their balance. Then we
call in the Ancestors, by calling on our primary ancestor:

“Old XXX, bring them in,
Old XXX, bring them in,
Old XXX XXXXXX, bring them in,
One by one, and all together
Ancestors long gone, and those yet to be
Bring them in to dance the dance of life and death with me.”
Obviously the name of our primary ancestor is particular to us, and private, so I have replaced it with the XX’s
above.
Three times the wand is banged on the altar, then the crafter places his hands either side of the skull, and using
bellows breathing (where the sacred space acts like a bellows, and it feels like the air is pushed and pulled from
the crafter’s lungs rather than simple inhale-exhale), the y start to build up energy in the breath, with every
inhale going “right down to the boots”, getting bigger with each breath, until by the third inhale the crafter
draws breath in until their whole body is filled with energized air to the point where they can’t hold it in any
more. Then, the crafter exhales the charged air — life-force — into the mouth of the skull, as if giving mouth-to
mouth resuscitation, breathing life into the skull. It is difficult to describe the process, but you will know when
you get it right, because the skull will suddenly feel “enfleshed” in your hands, and with breathe back.
The ancestors are then welcomed, and a bell is rung to signal that we have moved between the worlds and are
now in the presence of the Ancestors.