Living in an apartment in a fairly metropolitan suburb of DC has its benefits and its downsides, like anywhere else, not least of which is cleaning. It gets mad dusty in here, yo, and being a neatfreak and cleanfreak as I am, I like things to look generally good. (I may get lazy with the dishes, but that’s another story.) It follows, then, that my altars as well get a distinct layer of dust. So, when it gets to be too obnoxious for me to live with it, I’ll disassemble my altars and give them a good cleaning. Besides, with the food offerings to the genii locorum I make, crumbs and stray drops of wine really do make a mess that tempts hordes of bugs that even my household genius and I can’t fend off.
Now, I only have two altars (my devotional altar where I pray and make offerings of candles, incense, food, etc., and my magician’s altar or Table of Manifestation), and this may not be the rule in the future, especially when I get my complete Hermaion set up, but for now, here’s what I’ll do:
- Remove all food offerings (combine them and throw them out into the yard by some trees, giving the physical food to the physical world)
- Wash all dishes, plates, stands, etc. with a cleansing solution (holy water, Florida water, 7-11 Holy oil)
- Remove all ash and burnt offerings from the incense holders, wipe down with cleansing solution
- Clear off the altar and wipe it down with cleansing solution, then reassemble everything as it was or update the arrangement
- Spritz cleansing solution on each of the spirit placards, statues, etc.
- Make a full offering of food, drink, light, incense, etc. to all spirits the same day
- Remove all tools, talismans, etc. from the altar
- Spritz the altar with cleansing solution
- Wipe off all tools, talismans, etc. with cleansing solution
- Reassemble the altar
- Perform an Alignment Ritual to resituate and empower the tools
This is just for my own practice, as it stands right now. I don’t know about the rules for altar or oratory maintenance in other traditions, even within my own, but I feel that physical dust leads to spiritual gunk building up over time. This is all in addition to regular spraying of banishing water and prosperity water solutions around my house, as well.
The cleaning or rearranging of altars is a minor technical detail of magical practice that isn’t often discussed in the literature I can find. What do you do for your altars, if any? Do you even have one spot you work or pay in? Do you let the dust, wax, and feelings there accumulate over time, or do you keep it in a pristine state?