a wall-hanging altar space

achetypal language, folk religion, ritual, art. nothing is more engrossing than the rabbit hole of the self.
an encounter with the Pachkuti Mesa of Universal Shamanism inspired me to make this altar prototype. it is not intended to be a precise model for an altar of that tradition. i was inspired, and i wanted to make something.

my original project plans

short version: the Universal Shaman tradition is an unified assemblage of concepts and practices from traditions around the world that follows a template of Peruvian Shamanism. the purposeful result is a practice that is appropriate for the modern world and suitable persons of varied backgrounds.
i went to see the man responsible for pioneering this tradition, a Peruvian curandero don Oscar Miro Quesada. it was a packed house at a metaphysical center down in Hollywood, FL. don Oscar has a sense of humor, which may be the most important and under-rated trait of any kind of spirit-man. i didn’t engage him at length, but i did purchase a book and had him sign it. good vibes.

(i am not faithful to any particular practice. my bookshelves are populated, my mind is open. my reading and researching isn’t limited to metaphysical subjects; i read plenty of science. i can’t have anyone thinking i am some fluffy new-age-mystic love-is-all-we-need type. don’t box me in, man. )

this is a tradition, in a way, intended for appropriation. rather, how can one appropriate something that professes itself universal?
it Would be wrong to appropriate religious symbolism from a tradition whose adherents regard their practices as too arcane and secret to be utilized by a non-initiate, especially to publish it on the interweb. this is just to say: Respect.

‘new world’ traditions generally align directions and elements in this way: South – Earth, East – Fire, North – Air, West – Water. the central nexus, is Ether/Space. this adds the aspect of the mandala (sanskrit word, global archetype) to the altar space.
note: the elements are the same as the platonic or classic elements: Earth, Fire, Air, and Water, but these are pretty archetypal and, so, typical of most symbolic systems. one could refer to the Platonic solids in their practice if they wished, thanks to the inclusive nature of Universal Shamanism: earth/cube, air/octahedron, water/icosahedron, fire/tetrahedron, dodecahedron/aether.

in a modern metaphysical practice, one can extrapolate indefinitely from any point. the conceptual paths followed might have significance to where one is in life or spiritual practice. they may reflect ones needs or goals.
this is not unlike Jung’s foray into the unconscious. it’s not totally unlike some methods of Kabalistic Torah interpretation. start with the belief that the Word (Logos) is alive, and that it is written on the world (or that the world expresses it or is the expression of it.)
one might discover that the distinction between inner and outer is not definite, but very blurry. like a low-res photo of sasquatch through a dusty lens. might not even exist.
what does exist is a rich and aesthetically engrossing archetypal language that seemingly flows through a measureless medium of universal consciousness. (totally want to tap in to that.)

there’s a flip side of exploring symbolic languages as if they all share a common, universal grammar. a concept/practice/symbol can’t be fully divorced from the culture, religion, and history of its origin without greatly impairing its potency. example: yoga as Pilates is not as good as a yoga practice seeped in original philosophy and dharma.
one solution is to choose an axis for exploration and stay on it. go x axis and explore within a tradition. or go y axis and explore a single concept across multiple traditions. my assignment of axes is arbitrary and it’s nigh-impossible to avoid diagonal movement. but i’ve found attempting this will help prevent attachment to watered-down new age things by keeping it a little structured and ‘real’.

here it is with a faery flower garland draped across it. at the top, a feather holder for the air element. left, a vessel for water that has a seashell in it. to the right, a place for a candle and some incense. at the bottom, a piece of driftwood with little shelves for stones and bones. in the middle is a little box i made from a shell pendant and a wooden bowl. the clasp is a shark tooth. secret things representing the inner self should be contained in this little box. copper wire accentuates the mandala effect and provides a place to hang meaningful trinkets or miniature flags. i build it on a wooden picture frame and designed it to be modular and customize-able. i would especially like to replace the altar cloth with something better. building this brought me joy, and i smile when i see it on my wall. especially with the faery lights. i make and sell those, btw. if you would like one for your sacred space, find them in my etsy store.

back by my altar device. my rendition is pretty generic. for one, it is a prototype. as such, i have claimed it for my own use which is admittedly half-assed. i stand facing it, pray silently or mumble words of gratitude. huff some sage, which is the part i am most into… i swear it does something…
for two, the project is meant to evolve over time. sacred spaces such as altars exist in relationship with those who utilize them. also, i would like to carve some imagery into the frame and make meaningful additions as they occur to me.

how to fully use such a thing as this altar? plenty has been espoused by people more qualified to teach that. those who want the knowledge may look for it, and it will find them.
start at: heartofthehealer.org

i’d like to make more of these but it might be a while. i’m making lots of things.


assorted materials

the frame and wire

feather holder for air element

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Otter Fetish (it’s not what you think)

otterFetishi think i’ve always ‘had a thing’ for found object art. but my perception is: in the absence of a really good angle, it’s only gluing (welding, tying…) random objects to other random objects.

what constitutes a really good angle is a subjective perception, like a lot of assessments about art.
granted, but i happened upon an angle that gave me a really good feeling.

it started as i was perusing a book on Zuni fetishes (read: ritual object possessing spiritual powers). i thought ‘why not make one?’ i was sure it would be a novel present for a good friend.

the following Sunday, i journeyed on foot to the flea market. in the adjacent empty lot, i paused to give thanks to the spirits and offer them a libation (coffee, black). the day was productive. the most important elements came to me for free or for under a buck. i came to perceive that as a sign.

this is an Otter fetish. my birthday celebrant friend had some recent experiences with Otter. Otter is playful and flexible and is associated with divine feminine and lunar energies. how wonderful to have Otter as a spirit guide!

i felt safe in adopting a playful and open attitude in my Otter fetish adventure. had i been constructing a Wolf or Snake fetish, i might have been more solemn and tactful…

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teenage poetry

stacks of teenage poetry erupt into flame
leaping through the air i grasp at
shards of paper with still legible fragments
feed them back into the blaze
the world will never know them twice
this is my fantasy
in truth:
they sit in stacks of composition journals
dusty in my closet under yearbooks of that era
in a pile of shirts aimed for donation boxes
it is a secret heap of shame
i blush at my adolescent grandiosity
knowing it is still present but better-guised
i think of rifling through the sheaths of paper
scouring for useable bits
seeds for better works
it never makes my to-do list
should i perish tomorrow
it will be like dying in ugly underwear

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