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Book Review: The Witch’s Altar The Craft, Lore and Magick of Sacred Space By Laura Tempest Zackroff and Jason Mankey

December, 2018

Book Review:

The Witch’s Altar

The Craft, Lore and Magick of Sacred Space

By Laura Tempest Zackroff and Jason Mankey

As someone with many altars strewn about my home, I was happy to have the opportunity to read this book.

Whether for a beginner or someone with many year’s experience with Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism, this book will help you in setting up, designing and maintaining your altars.

Just perusing the Table of Contents makes you aware that the two authors know exactly what they are talking about, as they have many years of wisdom and knowledge both individually and collectively.

It is a very reader-friendly book, conversational and easy-to-read with much information packed between its covers.

The book starts by relating different kinds of altars, i.e. shrines, temples, sanctuaries, etc., with descriptions for each.

The history of altars is here beginning with those first caves and stones, what they contain(ed) and how altars became one of the magical tools most relied upon.

All of the details are present from what an altar is, what it is for and how to build one. Since there are various reasons to build one, the authors discuss the specifics, such as what activity you will be using it for, such as devotion, ritual, spell-work. This includes tips on deciding where to build it, keeping in mind what you are looking to do.

Specific altars are always reviewed, such as, daily and seasonal altars, as well as outdoor altars and devotional altar dedicated to specific diety(ies).

One of the things I liked most about this book was how each author readily shared personal experiences with the reader.

Of specific interest was the section regarding altars for the dead and ancestral altars, something I have not read much about in other books. The information was fascinating and propelled me to make my own ancestral altar.

For those of you who travel, locally and abroad, there is a section on travel altars, whether to set up at a hotel, or to have with you on a daily basis in your own personal vehicle. This includes digital altars, a concept I would never have even considered.

Some of the topics had me thinking “oh, yes, I had not thought of that”, such as dealing with our animal companions climbing all over our altars, other people who feel the need to touch, and how to dispose of altar items that are no longer needed/wanted.

This highly informative book is also interspersed with recipes both magickal and mundane, include spellwork, prayers, chants, blessings.

At the end of each chapter is a section called “Altar-natives”, which features witchy friends of the authors adding their wisdom; in fact, giving us ideas from numerous people. A nice touch.

Allowing for the disclaimer that I personally know Tempest, I would like to say that I highly recommend this book – friendly, informative, enjoyable.

The Witch’s Altar: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Sacred Space (The Witch’s Tools Series) on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, “Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and “Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess”, as well as Mago Publications “She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Women’s Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is MysticalShores@gmail.com

My Name is Isis (Volume 4) on Amazon

Bare Feet on an Earth Path

June, 2013

I came to paganism, like many of us, by way of books. They intrigued me, and once I got my nose into them, one led to another, which led to another. Many of these books were written by brave, public pagan figures who had recorded their knowledge so that I, an inheritor of that knowledge, could follow their bread crumb trail on a journey of my own.

 

The very first books I plucked off of the bookstore shelves and brought home with me were introductory Wiccan books. They did their best to describe just what Wiccans are and what they do, saying that “Wiccans believe this” and “Pagans do that.”

 

Not knowing much about Wiccans or pagans, I assumed the things I read must be true. This was a stumbling block for me, as doubts like the ones I’d experienced in my conservative Christian days began to eat at me.  I don’t know if I can be Wiccan, I thought, because I don’t know how I feel about this thing that this book says you have to believe to be Wiccan.  Time passed, and my interest in paganism fluctuated, with more books coming and going.

 

More books meant more opinions, and I began to sneak a glimpse into the true plurality of paganism.  I ventured out to a local pagan pride event, not yet sure if I was pagan or proud, and talked to real pagans. But I had no idea of the magnitude of the pagan community until my discovery of the pagan blogosphere. I found that pagan bloggers discussed issues, both theological and societal, and in the process, constantly bounced ideas back and forth, referring to one another’s posts.

 

Did you see this post of Harry’s? I totally agree with Harry, and here’s why! Or, rather, Did you see that poppycock dribble Harry posted the other day? That Harry is batshit insane!  (Maybe without so much name-calling, but it adds color, I think.)  When an issue came up in the pagan blogosphere, it whirled through a multitude of blogs, being critiqued up, down, and back again, with everyone seeming to throw in their two cents.

 

Some of the bloggers I read seemed to be important, respected people in the pagan community. Credentialed pagans. You know, the “I’ve been a contributing member of the pagan community for 35 years, and have 4 published books and three third degree titles to prove it” pagans. Those things are great and all, but I was most definitely not credentialed.  I wasn’t even experienced.  Hell, I ‘d just decided I was pagan!  But the armchair theologian in me wanted to get involved, and so I did.  As I spent more time in this community of sorts, reading and beginning to find my voice, I realized what a great plurality of beliefs and practices are present within paganism.  More importantly, I learned that there was a lot of disagreement.  This was amazingly freeing. If all these people disagreed with each other, then I could disagree with them, too, and still be pagan.

 

Paganism has been called a “big tent” by some, meaning that it encompasses a broad variety of paths and contains a diversity of ways of seeing and doing things. The size of that umbrella is what made room for me. In paganism, I have found a freedom I never knew before: a freedom that allows me to grow and change without fear of growing out of my religion. I can lie on the soft earth with the wind ruffling my hair and look up at the trees, knowing that however my perceptions shift and change, the earth and the wind and the trees will still be here. This peace and spark of life will still be here. Paganism will still be here. And I will still be pagan.

Signposts

June, 2013

I started practicing Paganism as a solitary practitioner in 2010.

 

In that short time my life has changed quite a bit and I’ve learned more than I thought there was to know. From reading books to meeting people, I’ve had the opportunity to see the world through new eyes. It has been an amazing experience, and I know it’s just the beginning.

 

But it hasn’t been all roses.

 

Most people on this path know how difficult being a new Pagan can be. The overwhelming differences in belief systems, the stigma we face from others that don’t take the time to understand us, finding books at libraries and stores – this can be a difficult path to follow.

 

Eventually though, if we stay with it, we find resources – books, people, groups, and others – that help us. Within these resources we find signposts that guide us down the path or point us in new directions.

 

This column is about the signposts I’ve found so far, being a new Pagan, guiding me along my path. I write about the types of books I found that when I started, including some that didn’t speak to me, the people I’ve met and the groups I’ve joined, and some of the experiences I’ve had so far. I also write for the same reason as many others – writing helps me process and understand what I’ve learned, where I am in my practice, and where I want to go.

 

I’m thankful for the opportunity to write this column. Since becoming a practicing Pagan I’ve learned so much from the articles in Pagan Pages. I hope I can help others new to the path, and, of course, learn more along the way.

 

I hope you enjoy reading it and I look forward to your feedback.

Bare Feet on an Earth Path

June, 2013

I came to paganism, like many of us, by way of books. They intrigued me, and once I got my nose into them, one led to another, which led to another. Many of these books were written by brave, public pagan figures who had recorded their knowledge so that I, an inheritor of that knowledge, could follow their bread crumb trail on a journey of my own.

 

The very first books I plucked off of the bookstore shelves and brought home with me were introductory Wiccan books. They did their best to describe just what Wiccans are and what they do, saying that “Wiccans believe this” and “Pagans do that.”

 

Not knowing much about Wiccans or pagans, I assumed the things I read must be true. This was a stumbling block for me, as doubts like the ones I’d experienced in my conservative Christian days began to eat at me.  I don’t know if I can be Wiccan, I thought, because I don’t know how I feel about this thing that this book says you have to believe to be Wiccan.

 

Time passed, and my interest in paganism fluctuated, with more books coming and going.

 

More books meant more opinions, and I began to sneak a glimpse into the true plurality of paganism.  I ventured out to a local pagan pride event, not yet sure if I was pagan or proud, and talked to real pagans. But I had no idea of the magnitude of the pagan community until my discovery of the pagan blogosphere. I found that pagan bloggers discussed issues, both theological and societal, and in the process, constantly bounced ideas back and forth, referring to one another’s posts.

 

Did you see this post of Harry’s? I totally agree with Harry, and here’s why! Or, rather, Did you see that poppycock dribble Harry posted the other day? That Harry is batshit insane!  (Maybe without so much name-calling, but it adds color, I think.)  When an issue came up in the pagan blogosphere, it whirled through a multitude of blogs, being critiqued up, down, and back again, with everyone seeming to throw in their two cents.

 

Some of the bloggers I read seemed to be important, respected people in the pagan community. Credentialed pagans. You know, the “I’ve been a contributing member of the pagan community for 35 years, and have 4 published books and three third degree titles to prove it” pagans. Those things are great and all, but I was most definitely not credentialed.  I wasn’t even experienced.  Hell, I ‘d just decided I was pagan!  But the armchair theologian in me wanted to get involved, and so I did.  As I spent more time in this community of sorts, reading and beginning to find my voice, I realized what a great plurality of beliefs and practices are present within paganism.  More importantly, I learned that there was a lot of disagreement.  This was amazingly freeing. If all these people disagreed with each other, then I could disagree with them, too, and still be pagan.

 

Paganism has been called a “big tent” by some, meaning that it encompasses a broad variety of paths and contains a diversity of ways of seeing and doing things. The size of that umbrella is what made room for me. In paganism, I have found a freedom I never knew before: a freedom that allows me to grow and change without fear of growing out of my religion. I can lie on the soft earth with the wind ruffling my hair and look up at the trees, knowing that however my perceptions shift and change, the earth and the wind and the trees will still be here. This peace and spark of life will still be here. Paganism will still be here. And I will still be pagan.