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I tore it down.

I tore it all down.

I looked at my space, my little corner room, which is both an office and the home to my small shrine, and I realized that there was something wrong. There was something stale. It did not feel like a sacred space, like an active creative space. It was just a repository for stuff.

Worst of all, the outside was beginning to feel like a reflection of the inside.

It needed to change.

Both needed to change.

So, I tore it down.

I took the books off the bookshelves and stacked them into small piles in the center of the room. Next to the books I placed old journals, notepads, and spiral notebooks — 100, 150 of them, maybe — dating back some twenty years. They all went into the middle of the room, all of these archives of my inner work.

Out came the drawers from the garage sale dresser, along with the incense, tapestries, cigar boxes filled with birthday cards. They were moved out of my little corner room, and the destruction began spilling out into the hallway.

From the walls I removed the Brighid’s triskel I made at Pantheacon, the burlap calendar from 1979 (the year of my birth), and all of the other bits of beauty I’d used to decorate my space. It all came down. The walls were stripped bare.

Within an hour, there was a landfill of papers, books, and long-forgotten mementos in the center of the floor. These things I keep, this paper trail of my hopes, my desires, my questions, my doubts — it all lay there in a heap.

I danced around my memories, leaping from clear spot to clear spot, cleaning off old surfaces and repositioning bookcases. I turned the entire room on its head, and turned my head into a much more spacious room.

Once the furniture was repositioned, the journals went back on the shelves. I placed them closest to my desk, on the two highest shelves, so that I could see clearly the evidence of my life whenever I felt devoid of history. I could reach out and grab hold of fourteen, of twenty-four, of yesterday. I could look at the ways in which I’ve used creativity to cope with confusion, to liberate anger, to reinvent my identity. It’s all there, ink on paper…

Fragments of a full life.

It took a while to clear the floor of my life. Hours. Not everything stayed. Some things were discarded altogether. But when it was done, I stood back and looked at my little corner room and felt calm again.

I remembered myself. I remembered what I do, and where I’ve been.

I remembered my name.

I tore it all down, and then put things back together again. It was a fitting way to start out the waning of the moon.

Our religious spaces can become static. Our creative spaces, too, can begin to feel like the piling up of old things, forgotten tools. These spaces — inner and outer — need to be kept alive and filled with movement. Interestingly, I find that by shaking up the physical, by rearranging the furniture and reconnecting with the archives of my life, I am better able to engage with stillness.

This place, after all, is where I practice my religion. It isn’t where I do it perfectly, or where I am an expert. It’s where I practice my practice.

I wonder —

What’s your relationship like with your space? Do you keep record of your spiritual life, and if so, do you ever look back on where you’ve been? Can you trace how you got to this point?

Is it important to you to have a place for contemplation, meditation, or ritual in your home? If so, what have you done to make that space open, useable, alive?

How do you engage with the fragments of your full life?

[All photos by Martin Kilmas]

I approach my home shrine in the morning and prepare my offerings.

Into three small, porcelain sake glasses, which were given to me by my stepfather, I pour a small bit of sugar, oats, and oil. These were the foods that made the most sense to me, although I’m not sure why.

Whether I’m clothed or naked, I drape a stole over my shoulders. The stole it green and white, and was made by hand; made by a woman I met at a metaphysical fair in the fall of last year. She gave it to me as a gift after I purchased a longer red one. She told me the stole was a traditional rose pattern, and she felt I should have it. There was just something about me, she said.

I remember that moment when I drape the stole over my bare shoulders.

I light the charcoal which sits at the middle of my altar, and wait for it to turn red before placing into the concave center a few pieces of something fragrant. This morning, frankincense and myrrh.

Some things I will never leave behind.

Using a prayer from Ceisiwr Serith’s book, A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book (Weiser, 61), I purify myself by saying,

“From all that I have done that I should not have done, may I be purified.”

I dip my finger into the water, and raise my hand to touch my forehead.

“From all that has come to me that should not have come, may I be purified.”

Again, the water.

Sometimes I slip into saying, “For all that I have done…,” and doing so makes the prayer feel more Christian, more connected to sin. That isn’t the point of this prayer. Purification, in the way that it is approached here, is not unlike washing one’s hands before supper. It is done because there are things which one brings to the shrine that are best cleaned away before doing the business of worship.

The prayer ends simply,

“May I be pure, may I be pure, may I be pure.”

One need not believe in a god who washes away sins to see and experience the power in that language.

Then begins the ritual; the Core Order of Ritual (COoR), to be exact. My druid tradition is united, in large part, by an agreement about practice, and the COoR is the center of the practice.

I perform the ritual in silence, pouring the offerings out into a cauldron as I recognize the gods, who remain somewhat a mystery to me, the ancestors of blood, spirit, religion, tradition and place, and all that exists in spirit on this land.

I do all of this in the morning in order to affirm my place in the cosmos, or at the very least to try to get a better sense of what the place might be. I do this ritual to affirm my relationship with the Kindred, these aspects of the great mystery to which I belong, of which I cannot fully explain. I do all of this not to win the favor of the gods, but more to practice sincerity in my relationship to them; to practice honor, to practice reverence, and to practice hospitality and generosity.

Regardless of whether the gods can hear me, or if these bits of food are of any use to them, I perform this daily practice so that I might come to better experience these qualities I cherish. My daily practice is simply me holding up my end of the relationship.

I show up. That is all I can do. The rest is up to — what — fate? Grace? The will of the gods?

Ian Corrigan said in his response to my last post,

“I make a good sacrifice, using my limited mortal means, and the gods grant a blessing that while it might seem disproportionately generous is simply the obligation of their station. This is grace of a sort, surely.”

Obligation… what an interesting word to use in this context.

I wonder —

Do you feel that by making a “good sacrifice” you enable the gods to perform the “obligation of their station?” Or, do you have different language for what the gods do? If you have a daily practice, do you perform your ritual in order to win the favor of the gods?

Why do you show up at your shrine?