Until recently, I had a separate and distinct altar for almost every spirit or deity I work with. Unfortunately for me, that arrangement left me feeling literally pulled in multiple directions. Some were the tops of chests, of bookcases, or of dressers, others were TV tray tables, all spread across three rooms. So, I decided to streamline my devotional space in the hopes that it would also help me to streamline my practice. I went from about six altars to just one five-foot table flanked by two TV tray tables all located in my living room. The altar is very loosely and abstractly divided into sections. Each of the gods have their own areas and they are roughly grouped by pantheon. The animal spirits that walk with me have their own space. Also, the orishas, lwa, and dead with whom I work have their own section, roughly subdivided. Based on my initial intuitive read on things, everyone seems happily installed in their new space. I will continue to check in with them though. Don’t want to piss anyone off.
Thus far, about two or three weeks into this new arrangement, consolidation has made it much easier to physically clean and care for the space. Things like dusting, changing candles, clearing ashes, replacing incense, and the like take about 10 minutes now, instead of 20. Consolidation has also helped to minimize my feeling of being overwhelmed by the multiple deity and spirit relationships that I maintain! Now, everyone is “gathered” in one place, so I can say my prayers, sing my hymns, and give honor in a more organized and relaxed way. There is no longer a need to go from room to room, try to remember where I left the lighter, transferring various oils from one altar to another, or similar mundane considerations while I should be focusing and contemplating the mysteries of the gods and spirits. So far, consolidation has been a logistical dream come true.
The one challenge I have encountered thus far is the location of the altar. With it being in the living room there is the potential for the altar space to devolve into a curiosity for my guests. I also found early on that I sometimes felt like I should have been honoring the gods instead of watching TV, or honoring the spirits instead of beading bracelets, or honoring the ancestors instead of insert “non-sacred” activity here. So, in order to respect temple space while simultaneously appreciating the host of “mundane” activities that I do in that space, I decided to veil the altar when it is not being actively engaged for clearly stated spiritual purposes. Thus far, the veil has been a success. I can acknowledge the gods, spirits, and dead without feeling like I am somehow bad for not actively burning incense or whispering hymns 24/7.
As I work more with the new altar arrangement, I will share my experiences here.