Apart from rare exceptions, we no longer live in small forest communities or within hilltop enclosures, as did our Ancestors. Indeed, because of our lifestyle, we do not always have a choice of where we live these days. Although we may have some freedoms, there are normally some governing factors that restrict us - our jobs, schools, state of health, and finances. Sometimes we end up with no choice at all and we have to make do. Most modern Druids live in urban surroundings and even those lucky enough to live in rural surroundings still exist within an urban culture. So how, given such circumstances, do we go about creating a Sacred Space for ourselves?
If we are lucky, we can find places outdoors where we can conduct rituals without interruption. But this is not always possible. So how do we bring our Druid Way across the threshold so that it becomes a part of our lives indoors as well as outside? How do we create Sacred Space in our homes?
In ancient times, most rituals were performed in Sacred Groves, or some other place that was recognized for its magical properties and sacredness. These places were found, and very rarely created. The site was already powerful before ritual work began there. But we can also create such places through proper use and love. People's homes unconsciously reflect their interests and personalities, and that can include spiritual practices. We rarely pay attention to this, as our homes are part of the everyday and familiar world. Yet, that is where we live and that is where the sacred lies. With some thought, we can make the reflection of our spiritual nature a conscious one that enhances our everyday lives.
Finding the Centre
All homes have a centre. This might be the living room, a hearth, even a partition wall in the physical centre of the house. Often it is the kitchen where people gather and eat and talk. This is the 'Tree', the living centre that holds the place together, around which the home rotates. This is a good place to start.
You could decorate it with special objects, a Celtic knotwork picture, for example, or a photo of a tree such as the Oak or Ash. These will remind you that this is the centre each time you pass or work there. These items can reflect all the elements; candles for fire, stones for the Earth, a bowl of water with some shells in, and feathers for Air. You might have a representation of the Goddess or ornaments of your totem animals.
This need not be elaborate or take up a great deal of space. The intention is to provide a focus for your thoughts and a reminder pleasant to the eye that your everyday life revolves around the sacred.
Having been harvested by modern methods, the materials used in modern houses are quite sterile. They can be given new life, however, with sympathetic treatment and by the addition of plants, stones, and other natural objects. A shrub, pot plant with aromatic leaves outside the front door is always welcoming to visitors and attracts sympathetic spirits.
We should give thanks that the Earth provides us with all we need and honour this by making best use of the gifts provided. Our houses do not need to be filled with things, but the material objects we do have should be cared for and, where we can afford it, be made of natural materials.
Waters from the Well
Open your windows on a regular basis and let fresh air flow through all the rooms of your home. Display all those feathers you have been given by the birds. Hang wind chimes in the open windows to hear and feel the air as it freshens and clears your home.
An open window also allows you to hear the outside world. Take time to sit and watch the clouds and keep an ear open for the voice of the wind. Listen to the rainfall, hear the birds sing. Welcome the voice of the world into your space.
The Sacred Flame
We do not have to be quite so rigid, but we do often keep a perpetual flame without realizing it. If you have a gas boiler in your home, you will have a tiny flame that is alight all the time. Think about this tiny flame when you run hot water for your bath. If you are an electric household and do not have a pilot light, try to light incense now and again on charcoal or buy joss sticks, this will bring in the element of Fire. Of course you may have an open fire or wood burning stove and have the real thing!
Altars and Ancestors
The work of a Druid is focused on the land, the sea, and the sky and much of what they do in ritual terms takes place outside in the natural world. In one sense, this makes the idea of an altar redundant. On the other hand, it is nice to have a corner of a room as a focal point for your Druid work or for honouring the Goddess and God.
Many people are discouraged from making an altar because they believe it will be costly. A lot of books say you must have certain items, but this is nonsense. An altar need not cost anything. You only need what you want and what feels right for you. Indeed, most Druids create an altar to display the gifts that have already come to them from and through the Goddess.
There are a million ways one can make an altar and each one is special to the individual who made it. It could be a shelf on the wall, a table or dresser top, a windowsill, or a tree surrounded by stones in the garden. If you have young children, a high shelf is a good idea. The more you study and practice the Druid Way the easier it will be to decide the most appropriate location and form.
You will also have to decide whether it will be in a private place, or on public view for all your visitors to see. Mine is in a private room and only my close friends see it. This room is also used for meditation and lone druidic workings, whereas the centre is where everyone can go. It is good to have an inner sanctum, where you can get away from things and just be.
What do we put on the altar once we have made one? Druids are great collectors. They gather the gifts they are offered such as stones, leaves, feathers, candles, and any other items that depict the Druid Way. These can be displayed along with wands, chalices, and anything else that is used on a regular basis in ritual work. You can also change it to reflect the seasons and the specific rituals of the year. At Samhain, for example, you may wish to display pictures of loved ones who have gone to the Summerlands.
You might like an altar dedicated to one particular deity, especially if you work closely with them, or you might wish to honour the whole Celtic pantheon. An altar dedicated to Arianrhod might have a cloth with silver stars or wheels on it. One in honour of the Triple Goddess could have a stone with a triple knot carved into it. The examples are endless.
If you create an altar, keep it dust free and tend it at least once a week. This is a simple act of reverence, although it is important to remember that the objects on the altar are symbols. It is not the symbols we reverence, but that which they symbolize.
As you can see it is easy (and cheap) to turn you home into your very own spiritual centre. It is best to use things you find in nature, as this lends a more natural ambience to your home. Add plants and dried flowers, hang ribbons and feathers from curtains, but be prepared to answer the questions of non-Druid visitors. Believe me, you will be amazed how it disturbs some people that you get rid of the ‘cat crawling out of the brandy glass' ornament, and replace it with a sea shell or fallen branch.
If you decide to 'do a makeover' on your home, do not try to do it all in one day. Make a start by having a thorough and ruthless spring-clean. This helps you to focus on what is important in your life. Then, over the eight festivals transform your home by rearranging what you have kept so that it consciously reflects your pagan view of the world. And when that is done, you can start on the garden!
© Julie White