Altars get created all the time. Some altars are permanent, occupying a space for decades or longer. Others are temporary tools for a piece of magic with a specific beginning and end time. Altars are from almost any material. There are exquisite marble altars in old world churches. Milk crates upended and covered with remnant fabric picked up from the bargain bin at a local craft store. I have lain across a rock altar cleaved from living rock.
Practically every altar is cleansed and adorned and then used for the purpose it was created. My altar, my body, is no different.
Cleansing the Altar of my Body
I shower or bathe before most rituals. Using natural soaps, infused with herbs and oils, spending a few moments on each part of myself, I wash my body. I note with gratitude the work and the play we do together. Releasing the cares of the day, I let the distractions of my life wash down the drain to be re-used and recirculated through the magnificence of the water cycle. In this way, I cleanse my altar, my body, and prepare to adorn it.
Adorning the Altar of My Body
Adorning and dressing is a critical stage of making an altar. It signifies why it is being created in the first place. Adorning and dressing my body altar works the same way. I pick out jewelry that embodies the deity or the magic I’m working with and perfume my skin with essences I relate to the magic.
I dress my body in colours associated with the Elements or Season I’m invoking. I’ve rolled in the soil and slathered myself with rich, pungent mud to call in the Earth. Imagine covering your body with ashes from a fire and painting your arms red and wearing a crown of golden feathers, becoming the Phoenix rising again. My body becomes a living, breathing moving altar.
Permanent Adornments on the Altar of My BodyMy body has permanent offerings on it too. I have tattoos symbolizing my connection to the Craft and to the gods I hold most dear. Each time I enter ritual, whether they are seen or unseen, my tattoos are “activated”. As my body moves, they move. Everywhere I go, they go. I cannot tell you how many times, I’ve reached down to my calf to touch the witch tattooed there or reached my hand over my shoulder to feel the antlered spirit etched into my skin, honoring their presence and reminding myself that they, quite literally, have my back.
My Body is a Living Altar
I call on my body, as I would an altar, to be the foundation of the magical working. I step into a rite, I name my body a sacred place where magic happens. For me, this is so much more powerful than simply reciting words. My body becomes a living, breathing moving altar. When I’m drumming, I’m pounding the intention of the spell out into the ether but also feeling the throbbing in my hands. I move about the landscape, I sense the smells and sounds and temperature of a place, my body is cognizant of a thousand sensations. These are “placed” on my body altar as part of the spellwork just like a leaf or a stone or vial of water might be placed on a more traditional altar.
When I know the purpose and intention of why an altar was brought into being, when I feel it in my bones and breath and blood, then it’s much more likely that I’ll notice the shift in the magic, the transformation, the connection, in my body, as it happens.