BUILDING THE CIRCLE STONE ALTAR
This is the way of building a traditional temporary circle altar space. In this tradition, there is no use of alcohol, drugs, or mind-altering substances before or during ceremony preparation or the ceremonies themselves. In this tradition that my grandparents taught me, altars are sacred spaces. Ceremonies are sacred. We create altars to make sacred space. Some are on tabletops or maybe on the ground, and are designed for you to be in front of. Some are created on the floor or ground and are designed for you to sit or stand or lie down inside of.
The thing that makes a sacred space instead of a place that we might just admire or love, is the inviting, with respect and honor, of the spirit nations and the productive, conscious use of geometrical forms. There are many different spirit nations and beings, and people have referred to them by many different names and titles. We’ve called them deities, angels, spirits, ancestors, devas, natural forces. By enlisting their help we gain the intelligence, the intention and protection, of beings who have a much greater perspective on reality than we do, and are far less limited than we are.
The use of geometrical forms in the altering of consciousness and health is an ancient and nearly lost art. Altars employ geometrical forms to aid in the raising of consciousness and the generation of better health. The altars used here in these ceremonies are simple circles, large enough to sit down in - about three to four feet in diameter. They are built with stone people, otherwise known in our culture as rocks. And also with cornmeal and tobacco. Everything is alive and intelligent and conscious. Even the rocks. And we can learn to communicate with them if we quiet our minds and set our expectations and our judgements aside.
To find the most helpful and productive stone people for our purpose you will need to go out away from houses and landscaping. You need to go out and find wild stone people. Not rocks that have been collected by somebody for their gardens or paths, or as mementos, or even rocks that have become your friends. For the best efficiency, the stone people should be wild, not domesticated. Domesticated rocks have been absorbing energies that will interfere with the purpose of altar.
The polite and appropriate way to approach the stone people out in the wild is to go to them with a gift of respect and appreciation. The best gift is always the energy of genuine love and thanks from your heart. This is the truth behind the tradition of offering tobacco, or cornmeal, or pollen, or food. These items are the outward and physical portions of the gifts. And these actions tell us to always remember the real gift - the gift of the energies, of the genuine love and gratitude. Indigenous Americans have traditionally used tobacco, cornmeal, pollen, food items, or anything that is special, precious, to them. If they have nothing at all, then any tiny little thing, little object, even their own hair, is used as a gift. Ancient Europeans have favored flower petals, pollen, seeds, foods, metals.
So take your gift of greeting, your offering, whatever it is, no matter how humble, out to where the stone people are. Feel your Song and spread your gift out onto the ground. And ask them. Ask the Stone Nation who among them would like to come and help you and be part of your sacred altar space. Leave your expectations and your judgements behind. The stone people will tell you, without any doubt, which ones want to come. And they will tell you when you have enough.
For the ceremonies that you will be doing now, you will need two different batches, or groups, of rocks. One batch we will refer to as the “red batch.” And the other we will call the “other batch.” Your red batch of stones may or may not actually be red in color. It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you purposefully collect stone people for each batch. You will also need, for the drawing of the altar circle, at least one cup of cornmeal and at least one cup of loose tobacco. This is a separate thing from what you might choose to use as an offering. This is for the actual construction of the altar itself.
Select a place for your altar where you will not be interrupted and you will have enough privacy. As you are preparing and gathering the elements for your ceremony, feel your Song. Keep the purpose of your ceremony clearly defined and keep your mind on your task as much as possible. Always remember that the clearer your intent is, and the freer you are from distractions, the stronger and more effective and more powerful your altar will be, and the more effective and powerful your ceremony will be.
Now, as you have all the elements collected together and you are ready to begin, set the red batch of stone people aside for now. You will use the red batch of stone people later in the Earth Fire Serpent ceremony. Put the other batch of stone people in front of you. Feel your Song. Talking to each and every one of these stone people, one at a time, thank them for coming, and ask them for their help to build a good, strong, efficient altar space that will raise the vibrational qualities of the space inside the circle altar in such a way that it removes the veil between the dimensions inside the altar space. These special vibratory conditions inside the altar space are health-giving and spontaneously raise the level of consciousness.
Set each stone person down one at a time, speaking to them, building in a clockwise direction a complete and closed circle about three to four feet across. Use all of the other batch of stone people that you brought. It is fine if some of the stone people don’t touch each other. Sometimes the stone people have us collect a large number of stones and sometimes they have us collect only a few. This is fine. One number of stone people is just as correct as another number, and just as powerful.
The area where the first and the last stones are set down is called your “gate.” There should be no extra gap between these stones. You are drawing a complete and full circle. The gate is the only place where you leave and enter your altar. Do not put any of your body parts - arms, legs - through the walls of your altar. All geometrical forms, two-dimensional or three-dimensional, create frequencies and fields of energies. Some are beneficial to us and some are harmful. Circles are one of the more beneficial and useful forms. The circle altar is creating a multi-dimensional wall of energy straight up from the stones. The frequencies and the electromagnetic field intensity inside the altar circle are much higher than outside. This helps move and hold and train your consciousness to much higher levels with less effort from you. When you poke your body through the wall instead of the gate you break the field of energy that is creating the wall and the altar and all of its benefits. And it requires time to repair itself. So remember to only go in and out through the gate. Whenever you notice that you have forgotten to feel your Song, bring your attention back to your Song, even while you work.
When all these stone people from the other group are in place, stand up and look carefully at the exactness of your circle. Stand inside the circle and look. And then stand at various points outside the circle and look. What you want is a circle that is as perfectly round as you can make it. The more exact the geometry, the more intense the effect will be. When you and your stone people friends are satisfied with the roundness of your altar space, you are ready for the next part of the building.
Now it’s time for the corn meal. You will take your corn meal, and at the first stone that you put down in your altar, you will draw a continuous line on top of and in between all the stone people of the circle. You will be drawing the circle of the altar with the stone people and the corn meal. Each nation has its own signature, its own gifts or medicines. The medicine of the corn nation is to give sustenance, nourishment on all levels - physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. It cares for, heals, protects. When we lay this line down of corn meal, we are asking for its help to create, as part of the wall of the altar, a strong, nourishing, healing, protecting component. It is also an offering of gratitude and respect to all the stone people and all the other nations that you choose to invite here to help you.
As you lay this corn meal down, feel your Song. Consciously, and carefully, aim your thoughts and your words to the guardians, the grandmothers and grandfathers of the four directions, to the above and the below, to Grandmother Earth. Speak to the nations that live in this place that you’ve chosen. And to the spirit nations that are your helpers. And to the Creator. Make the line as thin or as wide, or as sparse or as heavy, as feels right to you. Try to keep the geometry as circular as you can, and draw a complete, closed circle, even through the gate area. There should be no gaps. The key to building a strong altar is your intent. The clearer, the more precise your intent and your focus, the stronger and the more effective the altar.
When you have completed the drawing of corn meal, it’s now time for the tobacco. The medicine of the tobacco is to make things clean and clear, to purify them. Tobacco is a protector, and a carrier of messages. It is a favorite among the spirit nations, and so it is considered sacred to the indigenous Americans. And it has been used as an offering and a prayer carrier for millennia. With this tobacco you will draw a circle on top of the corn meal. You are asking for the help of the tobacco nation to build into the wall its gifts of purification and protection. It is also an offering to all the spirit nations that you are inviting to come and help you build the altar and have the ceremony.
Talk to each of these nations, giving thanks and asking them for their help. Don’t be shy and embarrassed to ask for exactly what you want and need at this time. If you are not clear what you want and need, and tell this with clarity and focus to the spirit nations and the Universe, how can they help you provide it? Your clarity and intent and focus is the key to having the ceremony work. So don’t be timid. Feel your Song and focus and talk to the stone people, and to the grandmothers and grandfathers of the four directions, the above and the below. To Mother Earth, the spirits that live in this location, your spirit helpers, to Creator.
Draw a complete and full circle, leaving no gaps, using as much tobacco as feels right. When you are done with the tobacco, the traditional temporary altar is complete and ready for ceremony. It is a good practice to get to know your altar. To know what it feels like. Each altar that you build will be slightly different. Your purpose will be different. Your intent will be different. Your ability to focus and concentrate will be different. And your own state of growth and understanding will be different. Your altar’s impact on you and your activities can be profound, so we learn how to observe this. To observe means to pay attention through all the senses and the mind and the emotions. And through a subtle awareness that can only be described as feeling.
To observe means to learn by experiencing a thing. Not by just thinking about it. The only way to truly learn is to experience. Stand in front of your altar, at the gate, and observe your altar space. Is there anything unusual that you can see, or feel with your hands? Or hear? Or smell? Now close your eyes and let your spirit observe your altar space. Observe with the senses of your spirit. Take no judgements or expectations with you. There is no need to force a picture or sensations. Just let the information, touching your being, come to you. Do you see anything in your mind’s eyes? Not as though you were looking through your physical eyes, but inside your mind. Are there colors? Movement? Impressions of any kind? Inside your mind, are there sounds connected to your altar? Is there a sense of feeling the presence of substance, or energies? Currents, movements, temperature shifts? Anything that is different from the surrounding space.
Now step inside your altar space through the gate, and observe your altar space from inside. Observe the space, the floor, the walls of the circle. Observe with the senses of your body and observe with the senses of your spirit. Feel. Experience the qualities of the whole space. Observe everything. Every aspect. What’s different? How is it affecting you?
Now step outside your altar space through the gate. Observe your altar space with the senses of your body and the senses of your spirit. Don’t guess. Make no judgments, no expectations. Observe. Feel. Experience. Then step back inside and observe. Feel. Experience. The more you do this observing practice, the easier it gets and the greater the impact will be on you. The more information, the more real understanding you will be able to obtain.
It is important that when you do ceremony and meditation in this tradition that you have as few distractions as possible from the outside world and from your body. So unplug the ringer to the phone, have the kids at the sitter’s. Make sure you’ve eaten an amount of healthy food that is comfortable - not too stuffed, and not so small that you’re going to get hungry in the middle of ceremony, have sensations of low blood sugar. Make sure that you take that last-minute run to the restroom. And always, always feel your Song.