Thursday, June 25, 2009

Elements of the Death Altar

* In its most basic form, an altar is merely a table or raised structure that provides a specialized space where matter and spirit converge. The altar will become the focal point of death energies in your home, creating a threshold between the world of the living and the world of the dead where you can more effectively pursue the Twilight Path.

* The first and most basic step is to find a table, desk, or similar structure that can serve as the base of your altar. Consider buying a piece of cloth to drape over it. Good colours include black, purple, and red. Midnight blue can also work.

* Set up the base of the altar in a room that you can close off, so you will not be disturbed in your work, against a western wall. The west was the traditional realm of the dead to Egyptians.

* Find reproductions of the four elements: earth (salt or dirt - dirt from a cemetery is especially effective), air (smoke from incense), water (chalice or goblet - symbolic of both blood and tears) and fire (two candles: black and white; they serve a dual symbolic purpose. The lit wicks will represent the element of fire upon the altar, the element that both destroys and renews. The candles themselves will represent the forces of life and death. Place the white candle on the far right corner of your altar. Place the black candle opposite this, on the far left. Together, these represent the pillars of the threshold between life and death, and this is the conceptual space ultimately evoked by your altar).

* The centerpiece of your altar will be a mirror. This should be relatively large, at least large enough so you can look into it and see your whole face. The mirror represents the Otherside, the realm of the spirits, which is the energetic echo of our own physical world. Hang it securely on the wall above your altar, directly between the candles of life and death. You will also need a piece of lace cloth large enough to completely cover the mirror. This veil should be black or some other appropriately dark colour, but it can’t be opaque. When you drape it over the mirror, it should obscure the reflection slightly, but you should still be able to see partial images through it. The veil represents the point of separation between the world of spirit and the world of flesh.
* Memento mori were objects or symbols used in the Middle Ages and beyond to remind people about the ever-present reality of death in their lives. The phrase is Latin and generally translated, “Remember that you must die.” (Skulls, willow branches or branches of cypress - trees often planted in graveyards; willow is sacred to Hecate, hourglasses - the fleeting nature of life, poppies - the source of opium, symbolize dreams and visions as well as the sleep of death, bones.

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