It’s weird sitting here in this living room, full of clutter and boxes and antiques and the occasional errant Christmas decoration that was never put away two years ago. We keep saying we’ll get it tidied up, but between me living 200 miles away and my sister busy with being a Tarot-reading poledancing camgirl, we haven’t. Between a variety of memories, a vague sense of comfortable unease, and several mountains of candy and chocolates that’re amassed in one of the unused rooms, I don’t know whether I prefer or disprefer being here.
I’m staying at my mother’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, and she’s basically the only one I ever actually call and talk to on the phone (and for someone who hates phonecalls, this is notable). And, add to it, I hardly ever visit the place where I grew up, about 150 miles away as the bird flies. While growing up with her could oft be a pain, our relationship markedly improved once I moved out for college. I don’t see her that often anymore, but when I do it’s usually a combination of fun and stressful; she’s still my mother, after all.
This visit I’m paying to her is to help her out after a recent surgery she had, a hip replacement. This is her second this year; the first one was on one hip, and this is on the other. She needs someone to chill with and run a few errands during the day while she’s staying at her rehab center, and during the night I’m out wandering playing Ingress or just internetting idly at her place. It’s not unbearable, though it is odd that it coincides with my birthday week and the Full Moon, and right after Crucible Convention 2014, and that my boyfriend isn’t with me. I do get to hang with my sister aplenty, too, when she’s able, and I have plans with a few friends from high school and college. Not too shabby a birthday week, I reckon.
Still, it’s weird. I’m not one for travel generally, despite my Hermaic nature and despite that I’ve rarely not enjoyed a trip. What’s probably most weird is that I’m currently away from my home, and with it my temple. I have a small bedroom at my house set up to act as my temple, shrine, and altar room; the boyfriend and our housemate are okay with this, since they get the even-larger outside shed for their work. I’m used to spending at least a little time each day in my temple for meditation, contemplation, prayer, jamming with the spirits, making offerings to the gods and saints, and the like. And this week, I’m cut off by a lengthy distance from all that, and it’s somewhat jarring. It’s kinda funny how much I’ve gotten used to having a whole temple all to myself within only a few months of living in my (still relatively new) place, and now that I’m without it temporarily how much my spiritual practice has changed and can still yet change.
To be fair, nothing I do strictly requires a temple. For that matter, nothing I do strictly requires being in any one place; I carry my gods with me in my heart and in my mind, and occasionally in the jewelry that I wear. All of my tools are relatively compact and can fit in a duffel bag with enough space leftover for a bottle of wine, and if I don’t have my tools with me, I have my own force and prayers to wield as wands and swords. The statues and shrines I have set up for my gods and spirits are nice to have, but not strictly necessary if I have somewhere outside to pour out wine and water and oil. I memorize my prayers, formulae, and rituals, and what I haven’t memorized I keep written down in a small journal that can fit in a cargo pants pocket. If I have a lighter, a box of generic incense, a pack of tealights, a bottle of wine, a bottle of oil, and a bottle of water, I have more than what I need to make my offerings and prayers, and even then most of that isn’t necessary if I have time and a quiet space to pray.
Having a statue to dedicate to a spirit is nice. Having a shrine to interface with a spirit is nicer. Having an altar to do Work with spirits is even nicer than that. Having a room to store shrines, altars, tools, and supplies is pretty damn nice. Having your head on your shoulders is all you need, though, because without your presence, mindfulness, and mental effort, nothing else matters. If all you have is a quiet room, or even a public room with a few minutes of quiet and maybe a little bit of privacy, you have all you need to be any level of spiritual, religious, occult, magical, or whatever.
All this is rather clear right now to me. I used to have a little “shrine” on a bookcase with a few baubles, a mini-sand garden, and plants when I was in middle school and high school, but I never considered it anything special, nor was I doing Work back then (just reading about it with all the fascination of a middle-schooler). That room has long since been taken over with extra Christmas presents, surplus clothes bought on discount, and giant bags of yarn, and I’m basically living in the living room while my mom’s at rehab. As far as my spiritual needs are concerned, I have everything I need: a space to sit, time to myself, and all the privacy I could want. As a bonus, I have a countertop to make offerings on, so even if I can’t pour wine out at my shrines, I can at least do it here. And yes, I did bring along my carcanets and chaplets as my major tools plus a bottle of Florida water; the heavy work that requires full circles can wait, after all, but even if an emergency happened, I could still manage here just fine.
Even then, say I had nowhere to stay this week. Say my mother’s house was either metaphorically or literally wrecked to the point where I didn’t even have the couch to sleep on or enough floor space to sit, and I had to live out of my car. I’d be able to manage just fine, then, too; there’s this little thing called the astral temple, after all. We all have access to it, and we all have our own astral temple, if not our own astral “country”, our own little space and neighborhood that exists all to ourselves. Whether you access it in your dreams or through projection of one sort or another, you can get to it all the same. The rules are a little different on the astral than they are here; there’s no limit to the things you can do, really, so long as you can think and command it so. Any tool or drink you want, craft it from thought alone; call on any spirit, and they’ll appear before you in any form you ask (if they’re willing); any ambiance or setting you need, snap and the set changes immediately. The more you work in the astral, the more you can do and the easier it gets to work there. If all you have is a bed in a shared room to spend time in at night with someone else asleep, if you can slip into your astral temple, you really have pretty much all of magic at your disposal (give or take a few physical actions to ground out the purely-spiritual work).
You don’t often find me talking about astral temples or astral work generally because, generally speaking, I don’t do it. I have my own temple in the physical world that I (almost always) have access to; what more could I need? Well, I don’t strictly need a physical temple if I have an astral one, and even then, I don’t strictly need an astral temple, either, if I can pray and work anywhere. Magicians have gotten by without astral temples far longer than the notion of them has existed. Even priests and the faithful used to worship anywhere they could, regardless of the regalia or temples or community they might’ve been accustomed to; the real purpose of it all was the things you did as Work. Even the ancient and huge temples of the Hellenes weren’t the focus of worship, but the tiny, almost insignificant altar just outside to the east. Temples, devotional art, shrines, processions, tools, and the like all exist to support and facilitate the Work, but they themselves are not the Work. They’re convenient. That’s all. They’re nice to have, but the Work does not require them.
Of course, I am taking this time to get my astral skills back up and running and dust out my astral temple. I’ve been neglecting my astral presence and environment, after all, and I could do with a good banishing and touching up of the place. Even if I don’t strictly need a temple space to do my Work and offerings, I am used to it, and even if all I have is a place in my head I can overlay with the place my body’s at, I’m good to go. I’m used to the convenience of having a temple; it’s nice to be reminded that I don’t need one, and if all my wordy gaudy blinged-out shit isn’t needed, then none of you need it to do the Work, either. They’re nice, but they’re not needed.
So, if you’re not Working yet, what’s your excuse?