Hello, beautiful creatures.
My partner and I have been working on renovating the downstairs half of our house for a couple of years now. I mean, it seems like a decade—okay, it seems like it’s been going on since the end of the Crimean War—but I’m sure that’s just the mental fatigue speaking. The point is, it’s been going on for a while now, and during that time, fully a quarter of our house has been essentially inaccessible to us. I am therefore almost deliriously happy to report that, as of last night, the remodel is essentially complete. There are a few more things to be done, but all of the heavy work, the stuff that kept the space from being usable, is done. We’re especially excited because the newly-remodeled space will be our working space, our magical studio, our temple. This will be the first time in either of our lives that we’ve had a dedicated space for our spiritual and magical pursuits larger than the top of a dresser. Being the dual-natured sort that I am (cough cough Gemini cough), I figure this calls for both celebration and contemplation.
I Was a Teenage Bedroom Witch
When I first set foot on the Crooked Path of witchery and sorcery in the mid-1980s, I was still in my teens, living at home with parents and siblings who would wander into my room unannounced on a semi-regular basis. Not out of malice or suspicion, mind you… or at least, no more malice and suspicion than usual. This was just the casual sort of inconsideration one finds in most large-ish families living together in rented housing. I learned at an early age that anything I wanted to keep truly personal and private, I had to keep outside the house, between my ears, or hidden somewhere truly creative inside the house. This became relevant as my nascent interest in the occult grew from idle curiosity to earnest vocation, and I found myself with a meager collection of books and tools I really didn’t want to have to explain to my parents, or to a psychiatrist. What little ritual I did in those days, I did under cover of darkness and silence, door locked, desperately hoping no one would decide to stop by my bedroom while making a midnight trip to the restroom.
Time passed, as it always does, and eventually I found myself out in the adult world, free to pursue whatever spiritual path I chose without reference or deference to my family’s tastes. I could amass as much of an occult library as my laughable income could afford, and do as much ritual as my overclocked schedule could accommodate. As to where that ritual could happen… well. I was in my twenties, and sharing apartments and rental houses with roommates was the only way I could afford rent. Most of my roomies were fine with me being all witchy and stuff, but were rather less fine with the notion of being kicked out of our shared living room for two or more hours every few weeks. And really, who could blame them? It was their living room, too.
So, I was a bedroom witch. Still.
Living Room Temples
On occasion, I’d be invited to community rituals at the homes of older, more experienced witches and practitioners, and I’d marvel at the sheer amount of space they had. Instead of my little bedroom circles, perhaps five feet in circumference, they had entire living rooms in which they could erect their astral temples. They had candles in sconces and candlesticks on shelves, rather than small candle glasses arranged in a circle on the floor. They had an actual altar, rather than a small wooden stand, to hold their magical tools. They had what my overly-complicated, walking-disaster twentysomething self though of as real, grown-up lives, and grown-up homes to match.
And yet, as much as I envied them the freedom and the space to practice as they did, we were still doing magic in living rooms. They were living rooms temporarily converted into temples for the Old Gods, yes, but living rooms all the same. On one memorable Sabbat evening, after I’d stumbled over an inconveniently-placed end table for the third time, someone shared with me the oft-sung Pagan parody of “We Circle Around”:
We stumble around, we stumble around,
the boundaries of the room,
banging our ankles on the furniture,
banging our ankles on the furniture…
I understood the humor in the song immediately. It took me longer to find the sober, depressing message underneath the humor: We practice and worship in our living rooms, because we don’t have spaces to do so elsewhere. Pagans, polytheists, and magical practitioners have vanishingly few dedicated sacred spaces to call our own. There are some temples, churches, groves, and circles out there, to be sure, held and maintained by people doing hard and often thankless work for their communities. For the most part, though, witches and magicians are still working in their bedrooms and living rooms, and community-minded folks are renting spaces from their local parks, Masonic halls, and Unitarian Universalist churches.
Being the Community, Making the Space
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, no. Perhaps it’s provincial of me, but I like the quiet, home-based nature of much of our community and our practice. I enjoy group rituals from time to time, and I love going to Pagan and polytheist conferences, but at the end of the day, I want to commune with the gods and spirits of my path in the places closest to my heart: the woods, the ocean, desolate places, crossroads and empty streets… and, first and last and always, my own home. I don’t need service-station temples to get a once-a week god-fix, and I emphatically don’t want to see Paganism or polytheism become the Church of Your Choice.
At the same time, though, I remember how hard it was to connect with real-life community as a neophyte. I remember secreting my handful of occult books and my baby-witch athame, hilt blackened with enamel model paint, deep in my bedroom closet. I remember locking away all of my magical tools in a specially-dedicated trunk as an adult, to keep them away from prying eyes. I remember driving past churches and speculating on what it would be like to have temples of our own: places to practice openly, surrounded by others who shared, if not the particulars of my path, at least a frame of reference for the kinds of practice we did.
I remember all of that when I look at the temple my partner and I now have in our home, and I am in awe of the incredible privilege we have to hold this space, not only for ourselves and the gods and spirits with whom we work, but for our community. The temple is a part of our home, but it is also a space we can offer to work, play, worship, and commune with one another. It is a place we can consecrate to the work of creating the community we want to see and be part of, one which supports and sustains not only itself, but adjacent communities of need and intent.
Not bad for a living room/bathroom remodel project, I think.
Until next time, dear ones, cherish the space you have, and share what space you may. ♥