A long time ago (like last year), Jason Mankey and I together wrote The Witch’s Altar. We had so much information that two whole chapters had to be cut (one from each of us). The following is from my chapter on considering the Elements themselves as Altars – starting with Air as an Altar. Stay tuned for the rest of the elements in upcoming posts.
The Elements as Altars
There’s altars to the elementals and then there is using an element as an altar. The former falls under the shrine category, as the focus is to honor the elements and their related spirits. The latter focuses on the element being an altar itself – the crux where sacrifices and offerings are made and transformed.
Air As An Altar
The element of air is the miracle of the unseen and its definitive effect on the tangible. It is the essence of all invisible phenomenon, explained or otherwise that we can clearly see interacting with the world around us. We don’t see wind, but we can feel it and see it move the grass and the leaves on the trees. We know that air gives us life – it is what we breathe, and it’s an integral part of our existence. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there by its effect on us. It is essential for all of the other elements to take place.
As an altar, air is a vehicle and a dispenser. It carries the smoke of what we set on fire and the plumes of fragrance incense up to the sky and heavens. Many cultures believe that gods, spirits, and ancestors feed upon the smoke of offerings and the aroma of incense and oils. Air as wind also blows the particles of burnt offerings and ash to the four corners of the earth. We can also use our own breath as a sacrifice to give of ourselves, our essence. Breath can also be infused with an offering as well as cleanse and direct with it.
It’s relatively easy to use air as an altar. You can burn incense, anoint with essential oils (apply or use an oil or wax warmer, which helps to spread the scent in a room), dispense an aromatic spritzer or cleansing spray, or simply apply focused breath onto an object or space. These all work fairly well for use in indoor spaces, but be sure to read on about things to be cautious about. Outdoor spaces, if you’re looking to harness the power of the wind, it may take a bit more planning and luck. You’ll need to see where the wind is coming from, and make sure the place you are working in is accessible to it.
A chant for using air as an altar:
Spirit of Air, Giver of Breath
Weaver of Wind, Essence of Sky
Take with you my sacred offering
Upon your wings it now flies!
However, when using incense, smoke, sprays, or oils, please be mindful of several things:
– always use proper ventilation when burning incense, spraying or heating oils
– be conscious of allergies, asthma, and other breathing issues other people and pets may have when using them in a group, especially indoors.
– be mindful of smoke alarms and accidentally setting them off
– make sure you know which way the wind is blowing if you’re using it to disperse an offering. You don’t want it flying back in anyone’s faces.
– anything you’re giving to the wind outdoors should be environmentally friendly/compostable. Plastic glitter may seem cute and sparkly, but it’s not biodegradable.
– some traditions involve smoking a pipe, cigar, or cigarette to make an offering. I think the health concerns regarding those methods are pretty obvious, so perform at your own risk.