Preparing a Temple Space

Most neopagans will develop some sort of magickal practice, and a few will engage in this practice regularly and consistently. There are several good reasons to develop such a regular practice, and possible a couple not to. The decision to engage in such a practice will need to be considered at length, and such a commitment should not be taken lightly, but it is not my intent to engage in such issues. Rather, we shall address a more practical matter: once you’ve made the decision to do such work, where do you do it?

Setting up a home temple for magickal or even devotional work is not in itself a difficult process, although there are some basic considerations to make. First, you must select a space to use. If you have enough space that you can have a dedicated space or room to use only as a temple, then you are incredibly fortunate, and the only thing to consider is if you’re sure that you want to use up this space for this purpose. Otherwise, your temple space may be shared with other working spaces in your home, or may even need to be a temporary set-up that can be taken down (and possibly even hidden) when not in use. Issues such as the layout of your home and living arrangements such as roommates will obviously come into play here.

There is an obvious advantage to having a permanent space, in that you can prepare more elaborate decorations and placements. Having to take down your temple after you use it, however, is a great lesson in economy, as you decide just what is necessary to prepare your space for the chosen work. Sharing a space with other work spaces may help encourage organization skills, so things don’t spill over into the wrong space. Ingenuity cane come into play as well: armoires and dressers can be strategically placed and modified into equipment cabinets, and tool placements may be improvised or modified more easily according to environmental factors (astrological hour or day) or the focus of your work.

Related to the selection of your space is the matter of the primary use of that space. Will your temple function primarily as a magickal work space, or as a place of worship? If worship, will a smaller altar in a nook be just as useful, or are your purposes better served with a larger space? Will your work be solitary or group work? The space that I use for my personal ritual work is far too cramped for group workings, and modifications must be made if I have people over (which generally involve moving to another room).

Once your space is selected, it must be suitably (physically) prepared. The importance of cleaning cannot be understated — dust and dirt is unsightly physically, and may contain residual energies that you don’t want around. Anything that attracts pests is also probably unwanted in a soon to be sacred space as well. Plus, scrubbing out a room imparts a certain amount of energy into that space, especially if you take extra care and effort to thoroughly clean it out. It’s also a good idea to clean your space regularly once it has been established, and if possible before every use of a temporary space.

Once your space has been physically cleaned, you can decorate it according to your vision. Does it require certain color schemes? If dedicating a whole room, you might be able to paint the walls — if not, hanging sheets or blankets along the wall might work. (Indeed, such an arrangement might be useful in a dedicated room as well, since you would be able to change the colors easily.) Do you wish to decorate the surrounding area with banners or symbols of power? And then there is the centerpiece of space — do you wish to have the space focused on an altar, or on an open space to facilitate movement? I have limited space, so I tend to use a small altar just big enough for my tools in the center of my working space. Try to find a balance between function and availability of space.

What tools do you require? If using an altar, tools can easily be placed on or about them — in the past I have employed altars with interior spaces to house tools while not in use.1 The consideration of the permanence of space again comes into play — a shared space may not be the best place to leave tools out. (And never forget the way that cats love to play with Important Things. Your cat will jump on your altar and knock over tools.)

Other elements of atmosphere can also be employed. How should you light your space? Neopagans tend to favor candles, but other lighting is just fine. Those colored 30-watt party bulbs work great for establishing mood, as do colored night-lights or strings of Christmas lights. Incenses are also commonly used either to set the mood, to help purify the space, or as an offering. Make sure that flammable items such as candles and incenses are on proper surfaces and away from other flammable items that you do not wish to be inflamed.

Cleansing should not be limited to the physical. A thorough banishing should accompany the creation of a temple space.2 Even if your school of thought discourages banishing, I would still strongly suggest banishing at least once as a part of the initial dedication of the space.3

This also brings attention to another issue regarding banishing of unwanted energies: how often should this be done? In a room set aside solely for a temple space, one strong banishing may be enough, or perhaps periodic banishings according to solar cycles, holidays, or anniversaries. In a temporary or shared space, banishing rituals should be considered a more necessary part of utilizing the temple, as it will clear any unwanted influences and establish a boundary against the remainder of the space.

A dedication of the space to a particular purpose is also appropriate at this point, especially if it is to be used for worship. If a temporary space is to be used, the dedication may instead be centered upon a central object featured prominently in the temple structure, such as the altar, rather than the space itself. Invocations to appropriate powers can easily be included in such a dedication. This dedication may also be repeated if it is deemed necessary, although performing such a rite too often may be a bit of overkill.

Once your temple is cleaned, prepared, and dedicated, it is ready for regular use. At this point, a consideration should be made as to whom you wish to allow access to the space and what preparations should be made. If you have a dedicated room, you may go so far as to deny entry to the uninitiated outright, and undergo a special ritual before you enter. Shared or temporary temple spaces probably cannot endure such stringent procedures. As always, availability of space and the use of the space for personal versus group work come into play when making these decisions.

Creating a temple space in your home is not a difficult project, although it does depend strongly on your available space and how much effort you wish to put into it. A temporary circle cast around an altar in your office can work just as well as a fully consecrated and decorated room that not even your mate is allowed into. The goal is to have a space to perform your magickal and religious rites, and a balance between the amount of space you have and the amount of atmosphere you’d like will provide a temple space that works best for you.

Footnotes

1 More on building altars here
2 My previous work, “Banishing and Protection,” touches on the issue of banishing rituals. http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com/essays/chirotus-infinitum/banishing-and-protection
3 I strongly disagree with such schools of thought, with very specific exceptions, and would place the significance of banishing alongside the significance of physically cleaning a space. I’ve met very few people who love nature so much that they want to keep the cat vomit on the floor because it adds character. The only instances I know of where I wouldn’t recommend banishing are cases of chambers consecrated by the systemic invocation of higher power, such as the famed Vault of the Adepti employed by certain Ceremonial groups. The creation of such a chamber is far beyond the scope of anything I am describing here.

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