Tag Archives: altar

E is for Elements

Image

Symbolic representation of the elements of water, earth, air and fire as seen in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

These four are the classical Greek elements, with Aether or Spirit as a fifth. I generally think of these elements first because I was brought up with the movie The Fifth Element, and the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. (You have to get your inspiration and cultural awareness from somewhere…)

Associations

I associate water with gentleness, with malleability; earth with firmness and depth; fire with excitement and danger; air with strength and freedom. I think my associations are a mixture of where I live, the weather we tend to have, and experiences with each elements (wind can be strong and make the house shake, whereas water tends to just drop from the sky; fire is danger, fire is always danger; and air is sky and the sky is freedom). I really miss living by the sea, because the great expanse of water was very soothing and beautiful, even when choppy and noisy. It was constant, but changing, and beautiful. I like the effects of the air on the trees and the earth, and on me – I love walking when it’s windy and my face goes red. Earth is depth. I know mountains are earth too, but they’re mostly sky and wind; they’re what you use to get to the sky and the wind. The earth is constant, firm, unmoving.

Some people like to represent four elements on their altar or in their worship. I do. I have stones from the beach, a feather, unlit candles (I associate fire with danger for a reason..), and a jar of water with a moss ball growing inside. It’s a nice way to bring the outside indoors, to ground me a little, and to remind me what I find important.

I suppose I most closely follow the ‘land, sea and sky’ rather than all four elements.

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A is for Altars

Background

When I was growing up my father would always collect stones, leaves and interesting things from our walks. The windowsill and the front step were covered in little beautiful pieces from everywhere we’d been. There were also candles, though these were rarely lit.

My windowsill follows this same pattern (things collected), though mine is compiled, arranged and sustained as part of my personal spirituality and as an expression of my faith. It is a place to meditate and reflect, and simply a beautiful place to enjoy. Everything except the candles was either found outside or given to me as a gift, which is important to me. I feel quite strongly that spirituality should not be something you can buy in a shop, not something consumable, which is why – despite loving sparkly crystals – I refuse to pay £££ to buy them in shops. I don’t mean that people shouldn’t receive money for their hard work, because there are some incredible creations out there. I just mean that I think representations of my own spirituality and expressions of my own faith should be received as gifts, created myself, or found in nature. It doesn’t feel right otherwise. (Expect a post about this!)

Reasons

I like my altar because it helps me to feel grounded. It indicates that I own the space, that I have called somewhere my home. It’s a bit of the outdoors inside my bedroom, and it’s lovely. It was not made with any deity or force in mind, but simply as an expression of joy and of faith. I subsequently tried to offer it to a deity, but this just did not feel right. I think an altar should be created with them in mind, not given to them as an afterthought.

Description

My altar has at its centre a carved wooden bowl from my stepfather surrounded by eight tea lights. Inside the bowl is all my precious jewellery: a ring from my sister, my father’s wedding ring, a gift from my friend S, and so on. The items aren’t monetarily valuable, but they are precious because they are dear to me. The bowl also contains a charm bracelet which has gifts from both my grandmothers, reminders of personal goals achieved, and a memorial piece for a friend I lost. It’s like a little collection of symbols from loved ones throughout my life, and it makes me feel loved.

On the windowsill itself is a collection of stones and leaves I’ve collected in the last few years. I have stones that I took from the beach when I used to live by the sea. In the last few weeks I’ve added fallen leaves I’ve found on walks: oak, a sprig of pine and something maple-shaped. I also found a perfect wand, lying waiting for me under a silver birch. The same day I received a silver birch leaf necklace as a gift from my friend Somhairle, which felt serendipitous! It sits next to its wood-mate.

My knitting needles, ukulele and penny whistle live on the windowsill too. (More on this in a few weeks in ‘C: Creation as an act of faith’.)

In the coming weeks I am planning to paint my own Wheel of the Year, which will be placed centrally.

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