We were up early and the van was ready and waiting to carry all our worldly goods to our new home. The plants and contents of the sheds was one van load in itself, we had spent months taking cuttings and digging up plants we wanted to take with us so there was a huge number of potted plants to take.
We worked tirelessly for at least 12 hours both the Sunday and the Monday. By around 9pm Monday night we finally finished unloading furniture, food and cat. Exhausted and bruised, hands sore, feet swollen and heads pounding we cracked open a bottle of something cold and fizzy, a glass for each of us, and another poured by the front door.
Once the essentials were unpacked and sorted (bed, clothes, food etc) we had our own priorities when it came to unpacking the rest. For at least 12 months everything relating to my craft practise had been packed away in boxes and buried beneath other boxes…books, tools, altar, herbs….everything. I’m not especially materialistic and I don’t spend obscene amounts of money on implements and books, tools do not a witch make…however not having an altar, just a simple focal point, somewhere to practise my craft had actually been hard on me and I suffered for it. In fact, everything had suffered and been neglected in order to make this move happen so unpacking my books, setting up my altar and also creating a space for the ancestors was priority for me.
The books were simple, just a case of finding a decent spot for the book shelves and unpacking them one box at a time. By this point my muscles could barely lift a single book let alone a box full so it was a slow process and I’ll admit, I had forgotten I even owned some books so the process was slowed further by occasionally flicking through, reminding myself of work I was still to do and recipes I intended to try. Unpacking is definitely more fun than packing!
Having inherited a pantry, this seemed the perfect place for herbs. Eventually I will rip out the old shelving in the pantry but for now, I was just happy to have space…herbs were in the kitchen where they belonged, books were on book shelves where they belonged… I could feel myself breathing and expanding. Finally everything could be where it ought to be. One by one boxes were emptied.
As soon as I saw the house for the first time, the little space in the hallway seemed the perfect space for the ancestors. We’ve put a table there and have created a space for the beloved and mighty dead, by the front door beneath the stairs, in a room that’s not a room, it’s all very mercurial and a little cross roads-esque. I had previously made some candles imbued with Rosemary and Myrrh oil specifically for the ancestors. Having washed down the table with an infusion of Hyssop and Rosemary, the shrine was arranged and the dedicated candle was lit:
By Blood and Bone, By Soil and Stone
Ancestral Souls encircle and embrace us.
May the light of your wisdom guide
and watch over us now and always
A little incense was lit upon the shrine and offerings of food and drink left. Here was a moment to pause and to reflect on everything that had happened. Yes, this process has been stressful and demanding but despite feeling like the life was slowly being drained from us, we made it, and here we were finally in our new home which wouldn’t even be possible had it not been for those relatives recently departed. I have a lot to be thankful for. The table has been decorated mostly with photos and other little trinkets which remind us of our loved ones and ancestors, whether known to our hearts and memories or not. It’s a work in progress and like all shrines, it will change with the seasons and as the spirits require. The important thing for me is that they finally have a dedicated space, where I can commune and we will be reminded of their presence daily as we come and go about our business.
Setting up my little altar was something I was looking forward to the most. In a strange way this step represented getting my life and, more importantly, myself back and was a ritual in itself. We had a table we didn’t need which I had already ear marked for use as my new altar. Again, the table was washed down, this time with Mugwort, Hyssop and Vervain and placed facing North as far as practically possible. The new deer foot candle sticks I had commissioned by a taxidermist around a year ago finally saw the light of day and these, along with everything else, were also washed down and gently dried before being placed in a careful and considered manner. In my experience, everything upon the altar should have a reason or a function, otherwise it’s just filler and little more than a dust magnet. I’m always asking myself “What is this object? What does it represent? Do I need it? Does it hold power for me?”
Once everything was placed and after a lot of putting an object on, taking it off and then back on several times, I was really pleased with it, it felt good to have everything out of boxes, cleaned and it’s rightful place. I sat and found myself reflecting on the altar…how it looks now compared to how it looked a couple of years ago and before everything was packed away. This truly was the beginning of a new chapter for me, in so many ways, I have been changed by this process.
The following morning, bright and early my day begun with the morning devotional practise I had neglected for months previous. It’s a simple ritual but at this moment in time, felt incredibly poignant and beautiful. Watching the flames flicker and the incense smoke gradually climb towards the ceiling I realised how much I had missed the atmosphere of an altar, rather than the ‘stuff’… it is sacred space and the feelings it evokes, the real visceral, deep in the gut sensation of belonging and of connection to something bigger that I had missed most and now, gradually, I was starting to reclaim and bring back into my life…I had officially moved in, the house was now my home!