Zoning and Buffering: Keeping Shrines in Close Quarters

architecture-3102738_1920Since 2011, I’ve maintained the shrines for the gods and spirits that I honor in relatively close quarters. Streamlining my devotional spaces improved the flow of my spiritual work considerably and made it easier for me to accomplish various tasks. When I moved about two and a half years ago, I thought about changing my shrine arrangement back to what it had been prior to 2011: multiple sacred spaces diffused throughout my apartment. The prior arrangement had its benefits (without question), but because streamlined space functioned so well for me, I’ve not felt compelled to change it back. Honestly though, a lot has changed since 2011. For one, I work with more gods and spirits now than I did then. Also, the differences among the powers I honor are more pronounced now than a few years back.

Given the deepening differences among the powers I work with, I’m much more mindful of who is neighbors with whom. I work to ensure that everyone has their own zone and is not neighbors with anyone they can’t or won’t tolerate. Similarly, I’m also paying more attention to which powers are willing to buffer energy flows among other powers. Given the limited real estate that I have for shrines and the personal needs that I have for temple keeping, zoning and buffering are my friends. Honoring the lines – real and imagined – between certain Holy Powers has meant a few things for me:

  • Every power has their own section on the surfaces that I use for shrines.
  • Also, the powers are roughly grouped by pantheon and general “areas of influence” in order to reduce the chances of raised hackles across real and imagined lines.
  • In addition, I am mindful of whose shrine is “active” at any given time and I work to ensure that powers with potential beef between them do not have their shrines active at the same time.
  • I also observe a purification regime that helps to keep me clear as I move among the sacred spaces for each power.

The above considerations have helped me to better serve “phenomenal cosmic powers” in an “itty bitty living space” (to quote the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin).

A Lammas Ritual

Personal Lammas AltarSince relocating to Missouri, I’ve developed a relationship with The Circle of Fountains, a local eclectic coven of diverse witchy practitioners. At the end of July, right on the cusp of August, I was given an opportunity to create and lead ritual for the group. During this August Eve/Lammas ritual, we honored the harvest and the toilsome work required for its reaping. The ritual was preceded by a magical crafting session during which participants made Harvest Jars. The craft was then consecrated in the energy of the ritual. Each participant also received a sickle which was also consecrated in the energy of the ritual. The full ritual script is given here. Please do not copy the ritual in whole or in part without my express written permission. Many thanks!

Altar Decorations & Ritual Tools

  • Table for Altar
  • Seasonal Altar Cloths
  • Lustral Water
    • 16oz Water, 1 tbsp Sea Salt, 2oz Vodka, and a Splash of Florida Water
  • Large Bowl for Lustral Water
  • Hand Towel for Lustral Water
  • Harvest Incense Blend
    • Sweet Woodruff, Red Clover Leaves, Cornflower, Copal, Lavender, Red Poppy Petals, Cardamom, Yarrow, Bergamot Oil, and Frankincense Oil.
  • Small Bowl for Harvest Incense Blend
  • Censer
  • Incense Charcoal
  • Lighter
  • Frame Drum
  • Bread Plates
  • Bread Loaf for Serving at Circle Casting
  • Basket
  • Stalks of Wheat
  • Ritual Scythe
  • Bread Loaf Completely Covered In Tea Towel
  • Beer or Ale
  • Chalice or Drinking Horn
  • Bloodstones
  • Carnelian
  • Vigil Candles for Illumination

Preparing for Ritual

Purification & Consecration

At the center of the altar, the basket should contain the stalks of wheat, ritual sickle, and loaf of bread wrapped in a tea towel. Every effort should be taken to ensure that the bread remains covered throughout the ritual. All other items may be arranged on the altar in a way that is both visually pleasing and functional.

Lustral water is used to purify the room in advance. Harvest Incense Blend is also burned in advance to consecrate the space.

Facilitator carries the lustral water and the incense to the celebrants who cleanse and consecrate themselves. Facilitator then sets the lustral water and censor aside when done.

Grounding & Centering

Participants may continue to sit, or they may stand as Facilitator leads a grounding and centering exercise based on the life cycle of plants: Planting, Laying Roots and Sprouting Leaves, Reaching for Sunlight and Fertile Soil, Growing Above and Below, Receiving Life and Love from Earth and Sky, Drawing the Vital Energy of This World to and Through Your Center.


I invite you to rise and take your sickle in your dominant hand with the curve of the blade turned down. Please take your Harvest Jar in the other hand. Follow me into the temple if you will.

Facilitator then leads the procession into the ritual room.

Casting the Circle & Calling the Quarters

Ritual participants enter the temple.

Please circle around the altar. Place your Harvest Jar at the base of the altar forming a circle around it. After that please place your sickle – hilt to tip – in front of your Harvest jar also forming a circle around the base of the altar.

Facilitator approaches the altar and takes 2 plates of bread in hand.

She takes a turn around the altar clockwise and then speaks:

Within and without, throughout and about,

Bread is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

Facing the North

Bread is diligent, growing Earth in golden grain.

Facing the East

Bread is inspired, lifting Air in leavening.

Facing the South

Bread is creative, changing Fire in oven-cured sustenance.

Facing the West

Bread is mighty, ever-flowing Water in moist succulence.

Facilitator passes the bread places to the celebrants, saying:

I invite you to take a piece of bread for yourself, then pass the bread plate to the person to your left.

Break bread clockwise and share a piece with all gathered saying:

Bread is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

Within and without, throughout and about,

Our circle is cast, and the elements dwell within.

Place the remains of the bread onto the altar when done.

Blessed be.

The Core Observance

The Labor: Mystery of Working, Sweating, & Sacrificing

Facilitator takes the basket full of wheat in hand saying:

Behold! The grain from which the bread is made.

The labor of rich earth and bright sky.

The labor of countless spirits, coaxing the grain to take root and to rise.

The labor of calloused hands, bent back, and sore feet.

The ever turning work of centuries of centuries.

Move through the ritual space showing the basket of grain to the people, saying:

Here is sweaty labor and toilsome work.

If we would have the bread at grain’s bittersweet end,

We must work and labor, again and again.

What toilsome work callouses your hands?

What heavy burden bends your back?

What labor wearies your feet?

Call out and take a stalk for each of your pained gains.

Facilitator returns the basket to the altar. Ritual participants call out each answer and approach the altar taking stalks of grain for each “pained gain”. Participants witness and offer support to one another.

During this period of toilsome work, Facilitator maintains a steady beat on her drum while all sing the Labor of Love hymn:

A stalk for each sorrow you bear

A stalk for each burden you carry

A stalk for your pain, a stalk for your gain

A stalk for each labor of love

Once all have answered and collected their stalks, sing a final round of the hymn.

Facilitator plays the drum for a short moment to mark the transition. She then sets the drum down.

The Harvest: The Mystery of Reaping, Threshing, & Winnowing

Facilitator takes two modest handfuls of grain from the basket and says:

The wheat has grown high.

Behold the labor of your hands and your head and your heart!

The wheat has grown high.

Behold the struggles you’ve endured!

The wheat has grown high.

Behold all that has brought you to this moment of harvest!

Facilitator combines the two handfuls of wheat into one bouquet held to her chest. She approaches the altar and takes up the sickle with her dominant hand. She holds the grain in one hand and a sickle in the other standing in the God position.

Know this: your toilsome work will soon yield.

The grain is ripe for reaping.

The harvest is upon us!!

So that we may live, the grain must die!

Please take up your own sickle now.

During this harvest, I will ask you for three names:

Your name is the first word of power. You are the sower and the reaper.

Your sickle’s name is the second word of power. This is what you give. This is the sharp blade that will fell the grain.

The third word of power is the name you’ve given to the chaff. This is what you release. The chaff is the tough indigestible outer shell of the wheat that must be winnowed and discarded in order to obtain the nutritious, life-giving part of the hard-won grain.

Facilitator leaves the God position and allows the wheat and sickle to rest at her sides.

May I have a volunteer to harvest first? From there we will proceed counterclockwise around the room until all have brought in their harvest.

What is your name?

The name of the sickle?

The name of the chaff?

Choose your helpers…and chop, chop…!!

All celebrate the cutting and continue chanting the word “Chop” to the rhythm of our heartbeats. After the first reaper, Facilitator returns the bouquet of uncut wheat and the sickle back to the basket on the altar.

Facilitator then takes the basket and, moving counterclockwise, collects everyone’s cuttings.

As celebrants wrap up their chopping and place cuttings into the basket, the Chop Chant fades and then ends.

Facilitator holds the basket of cut wheat in one hand for all to see and takes the ritual sickle with the other hand. Directing the sickle at the cut grain, Facilitator says:

I now invite each of you to join me. Please point your sickle at the fallen grain. Here lie our struggles and woes. Here lie the challenges and adversities that have grown us, shaped us, and transformed us.

Facilitator taps the basket with the sickle three times. The Rising and Falling Chant is sung by all three times:

Rising and falling and rising and falling

Rising and falling and rising again.

Participants continue to chant “Rising and Falling” while Facilitator speaks the following over the basket of grain:

Behold! Stalks of wheat,

We’ve given you each a name.

And with these blades, we’ve cut you down.

You fall to rise again.

Facilitator then places the sickle inside the basket along with the cut grain. She shifts the basket to one arm and then takes a loaf of bread that has been resting inside that same basket (with the sickle and the wheat) throughout the entire ritual, completely covered with a tea towel so that no one could see that it was bread before this moment.

Facilitator walks among the ritual participants with the wheat and sickle inside the basket and the still covered holy bread in her free hand.

Participants continue to chant “Rising and Falling” while Facilitator says:

Giving and releasing bring harvest.

Struggle yields growth

Labor brings reward,

Adversity yields transformation

Uncover the whole and holy bread.

This is the mystery of the grain.

Loss is transformed into gain.

What rises, falls, and rises again.

Blessed be.

The chant fades and all say blessed be.

I invite you to return your sickles to ground around the altar.

The Return: Mystery of Replenishing, Recovering, & Celebrating

Facilitator returns the ritual basket of wheat and sickle to the altar. She keeps the bread in hand saying:

 This is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

 I invite you to give this bread the last name – the name of your harvest. This is the embodiment of all your striving, the nourishing yield of your toilsome work.

 Call out! Blessed bread, we name you…

Facilitator sets the bread on top of the towel inside the basket and pours beer into a chalice for serving. She then takes up both the bread and the chalice saying:

 Blessed are the bread and the ale, product of love and labor. They connect us to Earth and Sky, to land and wind, to sun and rain, and to one another.

We celebrate bounty, as well as the labor and loss, growth and gain that accompany the richness of the harvest. Blessed be!

Pass the bread and cup together counterclockwise for all to partake.

When all are done, return the remnants of the bread and the cup to the altar.

Closing the Circle & Quarters

Take one uncut piece of grain from the altar and wield it throughout the circle closing, saying:

 And now we end this ritual much like it began…

Within and without, throughout and about,

Bread is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

Facing the West

Bread is mighty, ever-flowing Water in moist succulence.

Facing the South

Bread is creative, changing Fire in oven-cured sustenance.

Facing the East

Bread is inspired, lifting Air in leavening.

Facing the North

Bread is diligent, growing Earth in golden grain.

Holding the single stalk of grain aloft, say:

Within and without, throughout and about,

The circle is open, yet unbroken.

Making eye contact with the celebrants, say:

Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!

August to December at Wayfaring Woman

In the last third of 2016 I took a bit of a break from writing and significantly reduced my work here at Wandering Woman Wondering and at Wayfaring Woman (my column on the Agora at Patheos). I’ve included links below to the articles that I did not previously link here. Some of them are updates and revisions to work that I previously presented here on Wandering Woman Wondering, and some are new.


Magical Masking and Dionysos


The Roman God Mercurius – An Introduction and Ritual


Gifts From the Heart – An Autumn Spiced Guided Meditation


Guarding and Protecting Your Magical Workings


Hekate’s Hounds – Warders Between Worlds


I hope you find these to be useful stepping stones along your own path, or at least intriguing in some way 😀