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(Above: A photo of part of my altar as it appeared a few years ago in my shop. It's a lot different now because I moved the shop to a smaller space and don't have as much room as I did then. Another reason why it has changed is because an altar changes over time, just like we do. When you keep it updated, you are reflecting your spiritual progress in the current symbols you choose.)

If you’re lucky enough to own property, perhaps you can locate a quiet outside nook for your altar. But even if you inhabit a one-room apartment, there is always space for a collection of symbols you consider sacred. Put them all together in or on a shelf, a drawer, on top of the fridge, anywhere they can remain undisturbed except by you. If possible, add a candle among the collection that you can light while contemplating the peace and sense of identity your altar offers. In the right place, your altar can be a wonderful source of comfort, and it will definitely aid you in setting your intention during meditation, ceremony or even while relaxing.

Go ahead and make an altar and then experiment with it a little. Bring out those special things you keep hidden away and move them into the light on your altar. Make something with your hands that reflects your heart, and place it on your altar. Try adding or taking away various items until you feel a sense of peace deep inside.That's a sure sign that your altar is functioning perfectly.

This idea doesn’t mean you will be indulging your “alter” ego, but rather your genuine spiritual outlook and connection with All That Is via your altar. In short, it reflects the “real” you!

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From the great cathedrals to the great outdoors to your own living room, it's natural to feel connected to altars of one kind or another. An altar can be a place, or an object/group of objects, even one constructed in the mind. But they all represent a sense of the sacred, at least to the eye of the beholder. And in that way, they are very personal.

Who hasn’t visited the beach and picked up a special sea shell? Or retrieved a little piece of petrified wood while walking among those rare places where they are available? I even know someone who can’t pass up a shoe store before adding another addition to her “shoe altar!” LOL!

Whatever the case, we retrieve things along life's path because we feel connected to them and to the special feelings we encountered while there.

In these “interesting times” we find ourselves in, though, with wars and revolutions and the seeming breakdown of so many things we once took for granted, it may be a good time to consider making a stronger connection with your own concept of the sacred. And one way of doing that is to make an altar.

If you’ve found a feather along your path in life and consider it special or sacred in some way, here’s one method of honoring it and keeping it suspended in the air where it belongs. It is always a wonderful practice to begin with a smudging or other cleansing ceremony to prepare both you and the feather. But this article is about actually tying the sacred feather.

Where Do You Want To Go Next?

How To Wrap A Feather

How To Make A Spirit Shield

Shaman DIY Articles

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Sure, there are dozens of ways to accomplish this, beginning with looping a string around it and hanging it up. But, spiritually speaking, there are other ways of tying it that will honor its existence as a symbol of a messenger that carries our prayers to God. And that is to wrap it in a spiral, just the way the hawks soar. 

Here’s a rather fancy method, one of many available. Experiment, and you may find a variation you prefer. I like this one because it allows the formation of a neat spiral without a “rib” running beneath it that thicker lace can cause. If you are using thin lacing, like thread, you won't need to slice the quill, and can simply cover the quill with some glue and wrap one end of the thread around and around it until you come to the end. Then put both ends of the thread through a bead, close the bead up on the quill end, put in a squirt of glue and hold it a minute or so. That's it!

With thicker lacing, though, the following is a good way because one half of the lacing is “buried” in the center of the quill and will not form a "bump" when the feather is finished.

Here’s the way.

First, in addition to your feather (illustration, left), you’ll need a length of leather (or hemp, strong yarn or anything else you like) lacing, a sharp knife or razor blade, a bead and some good general purpose glue. (I prefer to use leather lace and leather glue, shown in this example.) The length of lacing depends on the length of the quill and the diameter of the lacing, but a rough general guideline is to allow four to six inches of lacing per inch of quill. You can use normal string to do a “dry run” and wrap the feather without glue before proceeding, to make sure you know how much lacing you’ll need. Some people prefer to have two ends to tie with once the feather is wrapped, but this requires more lacing. So if you’re budget-minded, you can buy less lacing and have a single end to use. You’ll see what I mean as we progress here.

Choose any sort of bead you like, making sure its hole is just large enough to hold the quill and lacing snugly. 







Begin by slicing open the quill just below the lower tuft, as shown (left), down to and including slicing through the tip.
















Next, fold your lacing in half and place the mid-point of it into the top of the slice, as you see here (left). Work the lacing into the opening for the full length of the slice and out the tip.















Then squeeze a small amount of glue along the slice (photo left), making sure some of it penetrates into the crevice while also making a visible line along the entire slice to the tip.
















Then, begin tightly wrapping the top half of the lacing around and around the quill in a neat spiral (left). Don’t worry if any glue should ooze up, you can wipe it off in a few minutes.

Once your spiral reaches the tip of the quill, hold it tight while working both ends of the lacing through a bead, then slide the bead up to the tip. 

Put a daub of glue into the bead and slide it up and over the tip until it seats snugly inside (left and inset photo). Add another daub of glue on the bottom of the bead if needed. Tie a knot in the lacing and slide it as close to the bead as possible before tightening. (Note: If you’ve chosen the budget saving way, there may not be enough of one end of lacing to tie a knot. Don’t worry! The glue will hold everything together.)












Wipe off any excess glue with a moist cloth and hang up the finished project to dry. Once dry, you can cut off the short end sticking out of the bead if you chose the budget saving method.

(Note: I’m assuming in this article that you prefer to have a smooth spiral without a rib. In cases where quills can’t be easily sliced and you must put the rib on the outside of the quill, choose a lacing that is rather flat or flexible so that the rib is not so noticeable.)

Nice job! Enjoy your beautiful feather.



Aho & Namaste,
Bob


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Thunder Valley Drums

A Brief Overview of Ways to Enhance Your Spiritual Connection And Sense of Well-Being By Making An Altar

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Content copyright 2005 - 2016. Thunder Valley Drums & The Shaman Center for Healing Arts. All rights reserved.

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It's All About Spiritual Warriorship, The Kind That Comes From Your Heart And A Strong Connection With All-That-Is

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For sure, these shields served as powerful spiritual partners, warding off the blows of seen and unseen adversaries alike, deflecting other threatening influences and helping the warrior maintain a strong connection with Spirit through right-mindedness, bravery, integrity and service. Perhaps the Native American concept best captured the essence of spirit shields by equating them with spiritual “medicine,” as in the medicine wheel.

Today, spirit shields maintain a prominence for a growing number of people on a spiritual quest. Like the vision quests of old, modern life can seem to be an unending test of one’s ability to survive amid an increasingly troubled world around them. And under such circumstances, it can be become more and more difficult for a seeker to maintain a connection with Spirit. Thus, and as with the warriors of old, many people today find strength and comfort with their own spirit shield. 

It’s easy to make a spirit shield, even an elaborate one. But it’s the preparation that is the challenge. 

How does one prepare to symbolically represent such a personal journey, while at the same time imbuing it with spiritual medicine and power to call on when needed? Ah, that’s the challenge.

But the fact is, if you wait until you feel completely ready to make a shield, you may be missing the point. It takes a lifetime of preparation! The complexities of modern life can be equated with a daily vision quest where the seeker undergoes stresses and challenges that can take the better part of him or her. And that is one reason why the time to make your shield is now. Find your power and focus as it is now, and imbue into the shield. It will reciprocate as you continue to grow and change. And you can update the shield as you go along. Like life, it continually expresses and creates.

How To Make Your Spirit Shield

The Basics

Shape: Any shape or material will suffice, a circle, square, rectangle, triangle, made from wood, leather, metal, clay/stone, cloth, rope, hemp, even plastic, though the latter is not a personal favorite of mine because it denotes a creation at the hands of profit-driven chemists, rather than being an unrefined natural material provided directly by Mother Earth. Allow Spirit to guide you to the shape and the material that appeals. 

Size: You may want to contemplate how and where you wish to place your sacred shield, and allow that to help you determine its eventual size. If you plan to place it on an altar, or in a car, or in your pocket or elsewhere, you can scale the shield to fit. Or make more than one.

Possibilities

Your shield is totally personal, so only you can know what to include in and on it. You may find the following helpful, though, in stimulating your creation.

In most cultures on Earth, and for sure in all early cultures, a sense of direction was paramount to survival. Long before the invention of GPS, or even the compass, our ancient ancestors could navigate any terrain. And they came to honor and cherish the four main directions and to associate various things with each of those directions. Those same peoples, however, also viewed the middle of the directions as the “sacred center.” Does that represent God, Great Spirit, you? Perhaps what goes into the center of your shield will be a focal point of your spiritual quest.  

Totems: These can be symbols of your spiritual helpers, as you perceive them. Angels, animal guides, teachers of any and all kinds. Sacred objects, like rings, buttons, keys, stones, or anything else that you consider to be spiritually important can be included.

Preparation

I know I already mentioned the importance of preparation, but this time I am referencing the preparation you may want to consider doing once you have accumulated everything you want to include in your shield. This is not a hard and fast procedure, but only a few suggestions on how you may wish to proceed.

Cleansing: First comes the spiritual cleansing of everything intended for use on the shield, including you. Smudging is an effective means of cleansing away the negative, and of then inviting in the positive. Soulful prayer and asking for your spiritual allies to join with you in empowering the shield (and you) is a next logical step.

Gathering, Assembling: If you have the luxury of time, devoting a full day or more to gathering and assembling your shield will reward you a deepening sense of connection, both to it and to Spirit. There is not a deadline and no “shield police” expecting you to finish this most sacred project, so take all of the time you can. 

Finishing:


And when you are finished making the shield, devote sufficient time to placing it. Make up a ceremony meaningful to you in order to honor this new ally into your life.

Uses

Indeed, we all face challenges in this world. But if you are reading this article, you are definitely a spiritual seeker and a warrior at heart. You may want to spend some quiet time meditating upon those ancestors whose genes and spirits passed through time to give you birth and the fire of life. And as you contemplate these things, recall too that they often relied on their spirit shields when they faced challenges, or when they sought help with connection to the creator force of the world at the center of all things. For when you get right down to it, the spirit shield represents the heart of all things, and that is, of course, your heart. 

Use it wisely.

Aho & Namaste,
Bob

Make Your

Own Altar

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Spirit shields were and are treasured warriors’ allies in Native American, Celtic and other cultures, and shared common purposes when it came to spiritual connection. In many Native American traditions, a warrior was provided with a totem to paint or otherwise depict on his shield, which was generally made from leather, after a vision quest. This would represent his quest for the remainder of his life and death, and he carried it into battle for its symbolic and deeply personal protective qualities. The Celtic warrior’s shield was generally an actual battle shield, made of leather-clad wood and metal, and often bore a spiritual totem animal or symbol on its front. In most cases, the shields were buried with warriors when they died.

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