Fireless Altars and Crone Encounters By Barbara Ardinger

We’ve just entered November, the beginning of winter, the season of darkness. Twenty-odd years ago, I led a group of students through the Wheel of the Year in a class I called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. (I also wrote a book with the same title.

Continue reading “Fireless Altars and Crone Encounters By Barbara Ardinger”

Let’s Build an Altar for Springtime by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerWith spring springing up all over and warm days coming back in the colder climates, let’s build an altar to celebrate life. Now don’t worry—I’m not advising you to worship idols and do anything to insult your god. We’re not building a churchly altar, but one based on the concept of love respect for the earth we live on, the powers of Mother Nature, and the indisputable fact that we are all kin. This altar represents no disrespect for any religion, faith, sect, or denomination. Its purpose is to focus our awareness that the galaxy, the universe, the earth, the continent we live on, the town we live in, and spaces where we live and work are all sacred. The purpose of this altar is to remind us every day that every religion is sacred and that even the most humble among us have a place on the planet.

We start by considering the four elements—fire, air, water, and earth—which go back at least as far as classical Greek philosophy. Long ago, people believed that everything partook of these four elements. They looked around and saw the elements in action every day: ovens and lightning, soup and rivers, breezes and birds, gardens and hills. The four elements became the four humours, which came to the principles of medieval medicine that ruled our temperaments. The elements are also prominent in alchemy and astrology. Continue reading “Let’s Build an Altar for Springtime by Barbara Ardinger”

Unblocking Abundance: A Ritual by Sara Frykenberg

Sara Frykenberg

Rather than release the sadness, heartache and struggle we put into the bowl out into the world, we meditated …to transform what we could of this energy, re-membering the parts of ourselves that had helped to create these blocks and are responsible for transforming them.  We took the transformed energy back into ourselves.

As I have written about many times before, I believe that contemporary Western society operates within a largely abusive paradigm.  I often think of oppression in terms of an abusive cycle.  Theologians like Cater Heyward and Rita Nakashima Brock describe the impact of the theologies that generate such abusiveness, noting how we become smaller to ourselves and smaller to one another.  We do not believe that we are enough, nor are the people or the planet around us ‘enough’ to fill the vacuous alienation that substitutes itself for real relational need in an abusive context.  Judith Shaw wrote eloquently about the environmental impact of conflating need with greed in her Friday post, “Can We Honor Inanna and Her Gifts?”

Shaw writes, “At first glance we appear to be abundant with things, energy, experiences.  But in our mad desire for more and more and always more we neglect the balance of the very earth who provides us with all.”  Many people, particularly in industrialized nations, have been taught to fill the need for a sense of abundance, connection and ‘enough-ness’ with more stuff: more things, more money, more food, more land, etc.  And yet, ironically, this quest for ‘more’ can also prevent us from experiencing the very abundance we seek.  We can create blocks to abundance by trying to fill the vacuum instead of our actual needs: and difficultly, abusive patterns and cycles can prevent us from seeing the difference between the two.  Continue reading “Unblocking Abundance: A Ritual by Sara Frykenberg”


The altar was not for particular spirits, but honored all the ‘spirits’ we brought with us to share: the spirits of the women and men in our stories, the memories imbedded in the items we gathered together and the spirit of every person present in the class that day.

Last week my students and I created a non-religious altar to conclude our class, Women, Religion and Spirituality.  We read about different feminist spiritual traditions in which women created altars to honor their ancestors, spirits or deities; and I thought it might be fun to practice our own form of literal physical creation.  I asked students to bring in inspiring items, pictures of people who’d helped them to grow or anything that honored what they considered sacred in their lives.  I also asked them to bring food to share, as no altar seems complete without food of some kind.  However, asking my students to participate in a course ritual, I also felt it was important to respect their very different beliefs… which resultantly, left me wondering how we would create an altar without God.

My religious experience taught me that altars were a place to surrender gifts in return for a greater gift of God’s blessing or love.  The church I attended as a child did have a literal, physical altar; but this raised table was only used monthly to present the communion bread and grape juice before it was passed through the pews.  Otherwise, I came to understand, one’s heart was the altar and we needed to present our sacrifices there.  Financial gifts needed to come from the heart, then put into the offering plate.  Gifts of time or action had to start in the heart, even when required by the youth group or spiritual authority; and resistance to giving these gifts also required sacrifice.  My resistance or lack of desire to sacrifice required that I leave my unwillingness at the altar so that I might become appropriately grateful.

At some point I started leaving too much at the altar; and like Abraham’s Daughter I said enough is enough.  I recognized myself in the sisters and brothers lying under the sacrificial sword, and I took back my heart.  My heart, I realized, hadn’t been the altar; it had been the offering and sacrifice. Continue reading “AN ALTAR WITHOUT GOD? A “PLACE” FOR THE SACRED by Sara Frykenberg”

%d bloggers like this: