A Consecration of the Wildwood Altar

The Hedge Witch's Way: Magical Spirituality for the Lone Spellcaster - Rae Beth 2006

A Consecration of the Wildwood Altar

By now, it will be clear that you need an altar, at which you can pray and work magic regularly. Witches say magical prayers anywhere, wherever they are. Spells can be cast at the bus stop, or in the town park, in an emergency. Or you may be working your magic while sewing, digging in the garden, carving a piece of wood, or baking a cake. For maximum formality, you may want to cast a full magic circle, to celebrate a special occasion, like a sabbat. This process is described at length in my book Hedge Witch, and in many other books by present-day Pagans. Casting a circle and working within it is a very powerful thing to do. Any witch should know how to do this. However, as a wildwood mystic, you do not have to cast a circle for a sabbat, or any other occasion. Indeed, in a later chapter, I will explain how to celebrate the sabbats (eight seasonal festivals of the year) more informally. But the point here is that, whereas a witch might — or might not — work formally for a special purpose, an altar can be used every day, very easily, in order to give continuity in prayer and magic. It expresses your spirituality, in all its phases. By placing objects upon it, for religious purposes, you help to awaken your spirit to communion with Pagan deities. The definition of the word ’altar’ is ’place for offerings to the deity’. By having a place set apart to say magical prayers, you make it possible to keep the thread, to stay true to the path of the wildwood mystic — even when you are under a great deal of pressure in life (for instance, a family crisis or work problems).

Naturally, the wildwood mystic’s prayers are often said at the sacred sites, e.g. stone circles, holy wells, hills, sacred springs or long barrows; in caves or woods, or at the seashore; at such special places of beauty and power, our magical prayers are appropriate. However, if we are to be wildwood mystics in the midst of life, hedge witches even in a city, then there is a need for an altar indoors, at which we can work each day, and on which we can place things, like stones, feathers, fossils, shells and leaves, collected for magic purposes.

Having an altar means you have a small sacred site, within your own home. Not, of course, upon a ley line (unless you are very lucky!), but a place that has been consecrated and so is made sacred. How you do this is by ritually dedicating your altar to the Goddess and God, decorating it with objects that have inner and symbolic meaning, and then tending it (i.e. lighting the candles and praying there, regularly). The strength that is gained by the witch, from these daily communings, is really important to emotional and psychic survival, in what is, for many of us, a very unmagical everyday world.

It is, of course, more exciting to invoke the Pagan Goddess or God at an ancient long barrow, or on the beach at dawn, but let’s face it, most of us would only go to such places on special occasions, as a pilgrimage. We do not live in them. For everyday purposes, the altar is a small, newly-made sacred site, that is not at the other end of a long car or bus ride. Even if you live in the country, your indoor altar is still necessary. It is reachable in any weather and at any time of day or night. The more often deities are invoked there, familiar spirits conferred with, and magical work done, the more it begins to radiate a clear, magical energy. A forcefield is set up, in and around the wildwood altar — a psychic forcefield — which means, after a while, you may only have to stand there with your eyes closed, to attain magical consciousness or to see visions. I can vouch for this, as it has often happened to me, and I know it works for others, too.

Also, by the making of altars to Pagan deities, the wildwood psychic dimension is brought back to our towns and cities. In other words, all the vibrance of nature’s mysteries can be invoked in an urban flat, and then the whole building is healed, somewhat. The town is healed, even if just a little. For the altar becomes like a well-spring of healing, due to its connection with nature spirits.

At first, you may find that attempting to pray at a table, in the corner of the bedroom or living room, defeats you. It feels mundane. What spirit presences? What psychic forcefield? But if you do a rite of consecration for your altar, and continue to serve at it faithfully, real power will build up. The psychic energy that is around it will increase.

For such work, you need peace and quiet and privacy. Draw the curtains, and work by candlelight. If noise from outside or from other rooms is a distraction, then play music. This should be something instrumental and suited to the mood. Harp music can be excellent. But there are many tapes and CDs now available, meant for meditation or magical work, as a background. Some classical music is suitable as well. Whatever you play, make sure there are no words, because otherwise, the song itself may become a distraction.

Have upon your altar two candles. You may first wish to drape whatever table or shelf you are using with a green cloth, to denote your connection with the nature and faerie spirits with whom wildwood mystics work, but have a plain wooden surface if you prefer it. As a centrepiece, between and behind the candles (that is, in the middle, towards the back) have a vase full of leafy things, greenery and branches. These could be quite small, not branches in fact, but twigs, depending upon the space that you are working in. Whatever size, they symbolize the World Tree. In winter, you can have bare twigs or evergreen leaves. The summer twigs will need to be changed quite often, as the leaves will wither, so it is best not to be too ambitious about the most magically appropriate tree for your purpose. It is more practical to use what is nearby, in your garden or a local hedgerow. If you wish to be purist, then keep a bare twig of apple, oak or ash or birch, among the greenery.


Make sure the vase holding your ’tree’ is of pottery or glass or something else natural, and not of plastic. All objects upon an altar must be organic, as this honours our connection with nature, and also is said to be very much more able to resonate within the psychic dimension, the otherworld, as well as this one. A natural object, or a handmade one, could be at home within the faerie realms, and so it is suitable for the wildwood altar, meant to attract Pagan presences.

To the left, more towards the front, have a round bowl of water, in honour of the Threefold Goddess. This symbolizes her power to bring healing visions, her creative womb, from which all life comes, and her sacred cup, holding the waters of life, which bring renewal. Like the vase, this bowl should be of a dark colour, or else glass, or it could be of a silvery metal.

To the right, in honour of the God, have a musical instrument. This should be a penny whistle or ocarina or a simple wooden pipe. It symbolizes his magical powers, his fertility and his ability to waken us to the quest for our true selves. Whistles have been used since ancient times to ’call in the spirits’ — that is, to signal magically to one’s spirit helpers, requesting their assistance. Some very old whistles have been found that were made of sheep bone, in Britain and Ireland. Clay, wood, reed and horn were also used. Because of their phallic shape, whistles are linked with the God.

This kind of simply-arranged altar will do to start with. In time, you will know what else you want to add to it. The altars of wildwood mystics are always being altered. The objects on them are freshened up, moved around or replaced altogether. An important magical theme may be represented for a year, and then disappear. This is because altars are not set pieces nor objects d’art, but living places of power and communion. To consecrate one, place upon it the following: a feather, a small dish of vegetable oil, a similar bowl of salt water, a stone and a flower. Then light the candles and say this:

The Prayer for Consecration of an Altar

Great Goddess and God, Lady and Lord of all living and of the spirits of the dead, I call upon you. You who are the magic in trees and stars, far galaxies, blades of grass, streams and oceans, hear my prayer. Bless now this altar, which I dedicate to you. Bless and hear all prayers which shall be said in this place. Bless the prayers of any others who join me here, and of my familiars. Bless all work of magic which shall be offered. Great Lady and Lord of the upperworld, middle Earth and underworld, I stand here as a sincere worshipper. Open the portals, that this altar become a place of communion with you and with spirit presences.

Pause. And then raise the vase full of twigs above the altar, in symbolic offering.

Now make the sign of an equal-armed cross within a circle, upon your altar, with the feather. Then do it again with a dab of the vegetable oil, and then with the water. Next, trace the outline of the symbol very lightly with your stone. And finally with the flower, or a blade of grass. This equal-armed cross in the circle is a pre-Christian symbol. To present-day Pagans, it means the Circle of Life, containing the elements of which all is made — namely, air, fire, water, earth and aether (or spirit). To consecrate something thus, by the power of all the elements, is to do it completely.

Now say, I dedicate this altar to the Great Goddess and Great God, universal deities, whose mysteries are revealed in each realm round the world tree.

If you have any connection with a particular named Goddess or God, for personal or for cultural reasons, or because they are of your locality, you can add, And I dedicate it especially to—daughter of the Great Goddess and/or to—son of the Great God.

Next, follow this with prayers in your own words, for guidance on your path as wildwood mystic, for wise development in magic and for healing of anyone you know who needs it. And close with the prayer for protection.

The consecration of the altar is now complete. You may wonder why it seems to have been dedicated to both wildwood mysticism and hedge witchcraft, and why I seem to have used the terms wildwood mystic and witch almost interchangeably. I repeat — this is because wildwood mysticism is often enacted in healing magic. In this way, it seeks to serve life. In the next chapter I will explain more about what such spellcraft might mean to a hedge witch and what is the approach to magic of a wildwood mystic. Wildwood mysticism is the spirituality of the solitary witch. Hedge witchcraft is the use to which wildwood mysticism can be put, for the benefit of ourselves, of other people in need and of the world at large.