Several months ago, I was alone in my home on my day off and I heard a murder of crows just outside the door, and then it was suddenly quiet. When I opened the door, I noticed that our “We’re All Mad Here” Cheshire Cat doormat was tossed aside and the three pennies that my witchy roommate had placed under it for good fortune, had been arranged in a nice and even row, one above the other. Weird. I replaced the mat back onto the pennies and shut the door. Not five minutes later, I hear more crow cackling going on just outside the door. Opening it, I notice that the mat had, once again, been tossed aside to reveal three shiny pennies. Except this time the pennies were evenly rearranged in a row side by side. Am I in a fucking fable?! Once again, I replace the mat and shut the door (albeit skeptically looking at the trees as I slowly shut the door). And once again, the party of crows yammerin’ away at the exact spot. This time, the exposed pennies were arranged as three points of an invisible triangle. And then the crows left and that was that. And I poured out my beer.
I told a client who is into Biblical numerology about the story some days later, and she snatched my calculator nearby and proceeded to write all these math equations down on scrap paper and punched the calculator emphatically. Then she’d pause and laugh hysterically, and punch in some more numbers- scratching down the answers on the paper. From my Western mind, she looked like a crazy lady found in some downtown city! (But I have to remind myself: If that same crazy lady was once known as the Oracle of Delphi, would she still be crazy? …Probably, but we’re all mad here, right? And maybe that’s the point.) Suddenly, she stood up straight, threw back her shoulders, and announced the answer to whatever she was trying to figure out. “It was a message! [The crows] were trying to tell you that your upcoming year will be very spiritual and religious for you.” Makes sense. Three pennies in three separate arrangements (done by crows!) is steeped in religious symbolism. And so far, I’d say that’s been pretty accurate, actually!
Now, I was pretty active within my religion already; practicing in public, and in private, in rituals with groups and covens. I also would do the occasional little spellwork, volunteer at the Esoteric Book Conference, and attend social outings and discussion groups that were hosted by friends. But what I had done over the years, that I didn’t even realize, was begin to lose touch with my religion. My relationship with my god, and with Nature. So to remedy this, I did the one thing I’ve never done; I erected an altar (cue the lightning and storm winds and the poor, reluctant ox; dragged to his fate).
I always associated altars with the Church, which was a little too close to home for me. I felt that all my tables, counters, and shelves were little altars and I can practice my craft on them because after all, isn’t our religion found in everything? On everything? And for more than half my life, this worked just fine; I’ve got deities scattered everywhere! But then, those little altars would get random things thrown on ’em. Bills and junk mail, car keys, pocket knife, pens. As though these little altars were ironically symbolic of my life; void of religion, of personality, and stifled with junk mail. I needed a REAL altar. A little place, close to my closeness, that which nothing but sacred and intention rests on. So I found me a little wooden table and placed it right by my bed, under the window in my bedroom. I Dremel’d totem animals onto it. I added items and tools and images of deeply personal love and reasons. I went to my friend’s shop, Gargoyles Statuary in Seattle, and purchased the Green Man face that spoke to me the clearest, and hung it just above the altar. I added a green altar cloth and two empty Gulden Draak bottles, one white and one black, that my best friend and I drank together when we camped in the magical old-growth woods by Mt St Helens. I placed Spring flowers in the bottles and some fake green ivy on the wall above Green Man. Slowly, my new altar became a space (that wasn’t a space) that I’ve never had in my home. When I look upon it, in the calm of the evening or the brightness of the morning, I feel the exact same way as I do when I’m in a clearing in the woods. Some would call this a “nemeton”, a sacred place. Where the trees that surround you are still, and the birds are quiet. And the light above shines down and you feel a strange calm. Like it’s 1:30pm on a Sunday and it’s gonna stay that way no matter how long you stand there. I love that feeling and I only feel it when I’m in a clearing in the thickest of woods. And whether I’m praying, practicing, or just…being there, I now feel that exact same way when I’m at my altar.
There are other ways my life has become more religious and spiritual, in their own right, lately (crows are hella smart!). But this has definitely become one of the more important ones as it helps me to just reset my day and take a moment for me and my religion. I hope that, if anyone who is reading this who does not already have themselves a little nemeton, they can find a place (that isn’t a place) somewhere and breathe.