Alter altar: a space of one’s own, to manifest change

In the circle this past Sunday, Sky asked us to create an altar to change. (“Altar” and “alter” have the same root–I’d never thought of that.)

I was thinking that I would need to go to the store, get some items I had in mind, when it occurred to me that I have everything I need right here. I rushed out of the shower Monday evening, inspired, and started to put it together.

I’m going to add to it in the coming days, but this is a beginning:


The egg in the middle is a little ceramic egg of my grandma’s (my Ma-Maw, a very important woman in my life). It rests on a golden pedestal. When she had to leave her home to go live with my aunt (she has Alzheimer’s) and I was asked to choose knick-knacks of hers I’d like to keep, I chose this—not knowing, at the time, that when I tried to have a child, I would be in search of the “golden egg”—the chromosomally normal egg that I know is inside me and that can develop into a healthy child. So it symbolizes my golden egg, and my love for my grandma, who lives in me.

The necklace was made for me by my dear friend T, someone I think of as my “second mom,” who passed away from terminal lung cancer this October. I had the honor of saying words at the end of her memorial service and singing two songs. We wrote letters to each other for 20 years, and during the last 6 months of her life, she sent my letters to her back to me—ones dating all the way back to 1993. In so many of them, I talk to her about motherhood, how I want to be a mother, what I think it will be like, and so on. She has supported me through everything, including the pregnancy losses, and she made this necklace for me in the last months of her life. At one point, she wrote to me: “If I could cede my soul for you to have a child, I would.”

(I want to place something symbolizing my mother on the altar but it isn’t there yet—I want to choose carefully. I think it will be a photograph. Maybe a photograph of my mom, aunt, Ma-Maw, and me….)

To the left are the drying flowers the women in the circle wove through my hair when we did the goddess-anointing ceremony.

To the right are the limbs of a jade plant—I’m a gardener, a houseplant-lover, and jades are my favorites ever since I “rescued” one from the grocery store when I was twenty-one and living in my first apartment alone. Sturdy, strong, shiny jades represent tenacity and growth-no-matter-what spirit.

The leaping wooden figure is me, my spirit flying, triumphing.

The rock in the back right is an “ordinary” rock made of earth colors that I found at my feet after reading my dream journals in the woods for two hours, one autumn afternoon not too long ago. I like that it is a brown rock, not ostentatious, not sparkly, and yet it called to me—and when I look at it closely, it is no longer plain-seeming but astonishingly beautiful, with very subtle, muted shades of brown and pink and gray, its cracked surface like the face of an ancestor. The face of wisdom itself.

IMG_5975The purple-and-cream shell is what I found at my feet when DH and I saw a rainbow on the beach at Sunken Meadow. I was so darkly sad that day that I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of that rainbow (I remember thinking: “So what? I don’t have a child to share this with, so what does it matter that I’m seeing a rainbow?”). But now I feel so much better and I can enjoy that rainbow in my mind’s eye with fullness. It represents for me change—change in emotion, in perspective, in outlook, in heart. Nothing is constant. Our sadness can become bliss.

The cards are from a Tarot deck—a deck of cards I’ve owned since 2007 (a crazy year in my life) but have never used until now.

I chose three cards according to a fertility ritual I read about: The Empress, The Sun, and The Ace of Cups. They have specific meanings:

The Empress: Fruitfulness, initiative, action

The Sun: Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment

The Ace of Cups: True heart, joy, contentment, abode, nourishment, abundance, fertility, holy table, felicity

One thing I added that is not in the above picture: the pair of $7 silver bands DH and I gave to each other when we were broke and in school and asked each other to marry during a little rooftop ceremony (replete with its own sacred objects). My union with him is so important to the change I want to manifest, and yet I so often take him for granted.

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