Turns Out, I’ve Been Living in an Atheopagan Focus

A guest post by Kaigi-Ron. 
It was the knives that first pointed me to the truth.
Seven of them stood at attention by my sink (fastened in magnetic rigor by the new strip I’d just installed), adjacent to the Hello Kitty curtains.
And I was struck:  OMG, I have a living Housewives Tarot card in my kitchen!
What was weirdest, this didn’t seem random:  I had recently been the victim of vicious (and untrue) gossip.  Yet My Science Nerd Mind knew that there was no way this was “directed” at me by “somebody else”.
I pulled the HWT deck from the shelf, found the Seven of Swords, and re-read the copy:
You’ve heard whispering behind your back and sensed phony smiles and condescending charm at every turn.  There’s a vicious gossip in your circle doing everything in her power to put a big black stain on your pretty white reputation.  Watch out – she’s a real stinker, determined to soil your social status.  She’s always been jealous, but now she’s trying to steal your recipes, your friends, and maybe even your husband.  Though it’s normally beneath you, the time has come to roll up your sleeves and fight fire with fire!
(Just want to say here that I continue to be impressed by how closely the Housewives Tarot gyves with Butler and Rider-Waite.  HWT is now my go-to deck!)
This was a bit unnerving.  And I realized that from this day forward, I would never forget this association.  I needed to do something to combat that reaction – to feel that I’d Done Something About It and Bl**dy Well Put A Stop To It.
I knew then: I needed to build a Ward.  (Yeah, yeah – not actually something real but it will make me feel better,and that’s all to the betterment of mankind.)
I asked the lad and he said it was traditional to put up a mirror.  And I had the perfect one – it had been a gift from a friend, so it had extra positive “juju” already associated with it…and which I duly mounted right above the knife rack.
There I Fixed It!
And it’s not just the kitchen, it’s our multiple shelves of overlapping “micro-shrines” of every conceivable configuration.  It’s the Shrine of Stuffies, and The Shrine of Hello Kitty.  It’s everything:  My home is one big temple to feeling good about our shared experiences, and to continuing to take this world forward.
And I realized:  I’ve been a Atheopagan a whole lot longer than I thought – I was one way before I had a word for it.  Turns out I’ve been living in one big Atheopagan Focus for years!
I can almost hear Madge the Manicurist saying, “You’re soaking in it!”  Who knew?

The Dusty Altar

Since I was a small child, I have suffered bouts of depression. Most of the time I muddle through but a few times it has been crippling: the kind where you spend months in bed, looking down at yourself and thinking, “JUST GET UP. JUST DO IT.” But you don’t. Because you can’t.

I’ve been in remission for a couple of years since my last big black hole, and I have a new medication combo that is working very well. I’m working, I’m up and about. By and large, I’m good, even though this past year has thrown more garbage my way than I care to discuss.

Recently, though, I can feel the Black Dog skulking around the edges of my emotions. Meds are keeping me upright, but I’m not finding a lot of joy lately. It worries me.

Particularly, what worries me is that the very first symptom I notice when things are starting to turn south is that my spiritual life dries up. I don’t notice the daily natural occurences that used to bring me happiness. I don’t take time for ritual observances. My Focus (altar) goes untended.

It’s paradoxical, because ritual would do me a lot of good. But when I start hearing the Authoritative Liar say, “what’s the use?”, more often than not—and like it or not—I listen.

For those of you who don’t suffer from depression/anxiety, btw: be grateful. It is a miserable, chronic condition and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

So what brings me to the keyboard today is to try to problem-solve this. How do you make yourself go through the motions of spiritual practice in order to re-prime the pump and get reconnected?

Any of my fellow sufferers have any ideas?

And for the rest of you: do you ever experience Dusty Altar Syndrome? What do YOU do to reengage your practice?

The Focus

RitualThis piece is excerpted from the Atheopagan Ritual Primer.

A Focus is what Atheopagans call an altar. We choose a different word because “altar” implies worship—or even sacrifice—and we want to be clear that that isn’t what we are doing.

The Focus is a work of art: a still life assemblage of symbols and meaningful objects. It can be central to the enactment of a ritual, or it may be off to one side. Multiple Foci may be used if desired, designed around different themes. Building a Focus is a fun and creative activity and can itself be done as a ritual, in an intentional, Present and “focused” manner.

Typically, a Focus incorporates multiple elements of ritual technology: candles, incense, symbolic items, art, food items to be shared and/or items to be used during a ritual, etc. The creation of a Focus is a subtle art. A successful one will draw the eye and evoke fascination and curiosity when first viewed.

When building one, be sure to remember that you will need lighting of some kind if the ritual will take place under low lighting conditions: candles or oil lamps are the warmest and most welcoming light.