Temple Room Efficiency and Efficacy

Finally, I have a trash can in my temple room.  The joy and relief of this simple thing cannot be understated.

In recent weeks, I’ve been getting myself back up and working in the temple again.  It’s a slow build-up, but given the evidence of fancily over-done prettily-filtered photos of shrines and works I’ve put on social media lately, I’m building up for sure, getting reacquainted with the sacred and barbarous names of power I said in…god, what seems like another lifetime, pouring out libations of wine and oil, surrounding myself with clouds and tendrils of frankincense and myrrh and benzoin.  With each new act I perform in the temple, old doors I closed once a while back are opened up again, some slowly inch by inch and others flying wide open at the merest touch, giving me both reminders of things I once did and ideas for things that can yet be done.

And yet, I have to admit, the feel is different now.  Not just because of all the stuff that went on in the meanwhile between when I was templing it up every day, but also because the setting has changed.  I have a much larger, more proper space for temple work in a newer house than where I was living before, which is pleasant, but it hadn’t yet strongly sunk in how different the procedures have to change along with it.  I’m no longer across the hallway from the bathroom for quick water access and feet away from the kitchen, but in a basement room underneath the house.  I no longer have a window facing a field where I can just dump old offerings out from; in fact, I have no windows in the basement room at all.  Though I may have all the constituent parts of my temple supplies and shrines there, it necessitates a completely different system.

And one of the most important things I lacked—until very recently, at least—was a trashcan.  All I had was a simple bag on the floor by the door, which looked tacky and felt off to me, and wasn’t at all convenient for all the cleanup I was doing and constant maintenance of cleaning off surfaces, emptying old tealight tins, throwing away soaked cottonballs or paper towels, or the like.  I didn’t need a trashcan in my temple room for spiritual purposes in and of itself (although there are mysteries in the garbage, to be fair!), but I needed one so I could keep up my spiritual purposes throughout the rest of the temple room.  Being able to just walk a few steps over to dump incense ash or tealight tins or paper towels instead of looking around wondering where to put my debris without having to leave the temple space is a relief I have a hard time putting into words.

For similar reasons, I also bought myself a large pitchers.  It’s nothing fancy, just a simple 2L plastic pitcher like one might bring on a picnic, for the purpose of bringing water down.  From making khernips to washing out bowls to offering glasses of water to spirits, or having something to dump old amounts of water in for easy carrying upstairs to the sink, a pitcher was also something I wasn’t aware I needed so badly.  There were too many times I was caught off-guard and needed to head back upstairs to get to the faucet when everything else was ready to go, but a simple tool like this takes so much of a mental burden off my mind.

Having or running a temple, whether it’s a whole room or a single corner of a bookshelf, is more than just having a bunch of statues and cups established so nicely on shrines and altars, with candles lit and incense filling the airs.  There’s so much more to running a temple that necessitates constant labor and upkeep beyond spiritual obligations.  From organizing and reorganizing shrines, which involves making sure the surfaces and areas for them are physically and spiritually clean, to organizing and replenishing supplies in an orderly, clean, efficient way, there’s labor to maintaining a spiritual practice, both physical and mental.  The physical labor comes in in just keeping things clean, refreshed, and able to be used, and the mental comes in for knowing how to organize, structure, and arrange everything so that nothing, neither schedules nor shrine placement nor sacred substances, conflict with each other.

When you do have your own sacred space, whether it’s a part of a room, a whole room, or more than one room, it’s good to keep your supplies organized and have the right supplies and tools you need, and you have the access to the things you need as well.  Consider the following questions for your own temple space, and see if you can make any refinements based on a few requirements:

  • What is the most convenient way to get water?
  • What is the most convenient way to dispose of liquid waste?
  • What is the most convenient way to dispose of solid non-perishable waste (i.e. candle remains, paper towels, etc.)?
  • What is the most convenient way to dispose of solid perishable waste (i.e. food)?
  • Where will you store generic supplies (candles, incenses, washes, waters, cleaning supplies, etc.)?
  • Where will you store tools when not in use?
  • Where can you sit, kneel, lie down, stand, move around, or have other people do the same in the temple space?
  • Where can others sit or otherwise wait when they’re waiting on being called into the temple space?
  • Will parts of shrines be used as storage, at least for the things relevant for those shrines?
  • How will you clean the temple space as needed?

Besides that, there are a few things I’d recommend to have on-hand, preferably in some sort of storage in the temple space, for any occasion:

  • Paper or cloth towels
  • All-purpose cleaner (dilute vinegar or ammonia works perfectly)
  • Trash can and bags
  • Sink and faucet, or a pitcher for easy carrying of fluids to and from the temple
  • Pen and paper
  • Lighters or matches
  • Chair
  • Extra small tabletop or small surface

I could go on about also having things like a bottle of this or that alcohol, a bag of this or that incense, and so forth, but these are all really and incredibly tradition- and practice-specific.  On the other hand, the stuff listed above is all-purpose for anyone and everyone, regardless of how you’re working, so long as you are.  It’s hard to do any Work if you can’t actually work, and we call it “work” for a reason.  Some people treat their temples like studies, but you don’t have to go that far; so long as you’re ready for tackling any of the mundane stuff that might happen, including your own forgetfulness or an accidental spill, you’ll be ready for starting the Work as well as keeping the Work moving once you start.

5 responses

  1. I don’t have my own house so I never had an entire room for a temple, just a couple of “altars” around. I had to improvise along years, sometimes a table, sometimes a simple shelf. My altars tend to be “shape shifting” cause I’m always rethinking, reinventing myself accordingly to the places I have lived. I have all kind of stuff everywhere, but I try to keep everything in order into cardboard boxes, those shoe boxes. And definitely a trash can has its place on the “temple”, literally and figuratively! Good advice! ;)

  2. Even though I have a separate room for my main altar, only a few of my shrines are housed in the workroom. I have a shrine in every room of my apartment, and ritual items stored in a wide variety of places.

  3. I’d suggest a smallish (maybe quart-sized) metal bucket you could hang from a hook on the wall, or leave on the floor next to the trash can. Nothing like dumping ashes into a trash can full of paper towels only to discover an ember has somehow miraculously survived overnight. Or like dumping trash on top of ashes only to get a nice puff of ash blown back in your face. Not to mention I’m sure ritual ashes could have a few unique uses of their own…

    • Definitely an excellent, and safe, idea! For the time being, I’ve been using the leftover glass jar from a novena candle, at least to put incense stick ash in, because it makes sliding the tray in and dumping it a much neater process than carrying the tray slowly over to the trash without having the ash fly everywhere. Good idea!

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