Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Ritual of Thresholds (consecration of altar)

Prepare yourself with a ritual bath taken about an hour before you begin the rite. After the ritual bath, dry yourself off and don whatever mask or other attire you have settled upon to help make a break with ordinary reality and keep yourself in a ritual frame of mind. Approach the altar in silence and light first the incense, then the candles of life and death. Cross your arms upon your chest and kneel down for a moment, contemplating your purpose and intent.

When you are ready, stand before the altar. Stare into your own eyes behind the veiled mirror. You will do this whenever you do ritual work at your death altar, for your veiled reflection represents the spirit aspect of you. When you work at this altar, you are trying to bring both spirit and flesh together, to allow yourself to walk and work as one, so identification with this veiled self is important.

Take three slow, deep breaths and feel the power begin to flow throughout your body. Place your fingers in the vessel of earth and invoke the first element:

“I call upon the earth, which gives and then takes back! You are the foundation of all life, nurturing the young and welcoming the dead with open arms. Lend your power to this space and consecrate it to the element that ground.”

Scatter a pinch of earth across the altar. When you are finished, touch your fingers to your forehead, leaving a streak of dust. Then place your fingers in the vessel of water and invoke the second element:

“I call upon the water, which cleanses and renews! You are my blood and my precious tears, and in the form of the great ocean, you take everything into yourself so it is transformed. Lend your powers to this space and consecrate it to the element that flows.”

Scatter the water clinging to your fingers upon the altar. When you are done, touch your fingers to your lips, tasting the salt of blood and tears. When you are finished, pass your hands over the candle flames, both at once, so there is a balance between life and death. As you do this, invoke the third element:
“I call upon the fire, which illuminates and consumes! You are the shifting flame that shines and then destroys. You are capable of devouring everything, reducing it down to its most basic parts. Lend your power to this space and consecrate it to the element that burns.”

Press both of your palms together in front of your heart. Smell the lingering scent of the flame as it clings to your flesh. When you are finished, waft the smoke from the incense towards you, so it billows up and around you. As you do this, invoke the fourth element:

“I call upon the air, which is both breath and life! You are the essence of a sigh and the voice of a mighty storm. Invisible to the naked eye, if you are absent, all life comes to an end. Lend your power to this space and consecrate to the element that breathes.”

Hold the incense holder in both hands and present the smoke to the left of the altar and then to the right. Finally, present the smoke to the veiled mirror, so curls of incense waft up past the centerpiece of your altar. Put the incense holder back down in its proper place. With the scent of the smoke still clinging to your skin, fold both hands over your belly, just beneath your navel. When you are finished, hold your hands out at your sides, palms turned upward. As you do this, invoke the final element:

“I call upon the spirit, supreme force that binds the rest. You are the essence that remains when the wind falls still. You are the light that shines when the fire has burned down. You are the force that flows when the water has gone dry. You are what remains when all the earth crumbles into dust. Lend your power to this space and consecrate it to the element that survives even death.”

Lift your hands before you and feel energy gathering in your open palms. Radiate this from your hands and your heart into the altar. Still summoning energy and infusing it into the altar, imagine a gate opening up between you and the veiled mirror, a threshold that stretches between the candle of life and the candle of death. Call upon the spirits to help open this gate from their end.

“I call to you, spirits, and unseen powers! I invoke the shadows and the creeping arms of night! Come, stand at this threshold and bear witness to my rite. Lend your power to the gate I now throw open. Join me here in the space between death and life.”

Point the first two fingers of your right hand out. Concentrate all of the energy you have been building in the ritual thus far into the tips of those two fingers. Starting at the floor beneath the left candle, begin to draw the outline of a gate in the air just in front of the altar. Move up in a line parallel to the left candle, arching over the altar, then drawing a line on the other side all the way to the floor, in line with the candle burning on the right.

As you do this, continue to concentrate the energy into your fingers, summoning the power of all five elements you have just invoked. Use this power to cut a gateway in the very fabric of reality, opening a gate between flesh and spirit.

“I consecrate this altar as a space between. When I stand here, I stand between life and death. When I stand here, I stand among you, my spirits, guardians, and friends. This is my threshold, and my will is my key. When I call for this gate to open, nothing will stand in my way.”

Stand before the gate, spreading your arms wide. Briefly invoke each of the elements again, calling the memory of their energy to your hands and imbuing this energy into the space of your altar.

“By flesh and spirit, by earth and air, by fire and water, I open this gate and bind it to me.”

Cross your arms upon your chest and kneel before the altar once more. Silently thank the spirits, elements, and powers for attending your rite, and silently bid them to depart. Continuing in silence, blow out the candles, snuff the incense, and remove your ritual attire. Do not speak until you have left the space of your altar. You may want to eat a small meal to help yourself ground and return to a normal frame of mind.

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