Creating A Kitchen Altar
A kitchen altar makes a vital, visual connection between you and your cooking activities and the Goddess. If the oven and stove, as modern equivalents of the hearth-fire, are the heart of the house, this altar will be the soul. Every time you see it, you will be reminded that what you do as a kitchen witch is vitally important. It will remind you that your kitchen is a sacred place. It will help you to remember that your ability to nourish yourself and your loved ones connects you with the Great Mother, the nurturer, the spirit of loving and compassionate care.
The kitchen altar is meant to be a joyous and playful expression of your wild spirit: creating it is great fun! Whenever we consciously allow our inner self to come out and play, a deep satisfaction results from feeding our spirits and nurturing our souls. Here, then, are some guidelines to get you started.
It is very ancient and powerful magick to have a goddess figure in your home. Some of the earliest human artifacts ever discovered include many domestic goddess statues. When we create an altar and house a goddess there, we are making a satisfying link with our earliest ancestors. As kitchen witches, we choose to honour the spirit of our homes and the Goddess who is the source of all nourishment and life. A good first step in creating your altar is choosing the goddess you wish to honour with it.
Your kitchen altar can be almost anywhere in the room--on a countertop, on top of a cupboard or the fridge, on the table. Perhaps the range hood, a window shelf, or a shelf on the wall would work well for you. You'll just want to be sure that it won't get bumped or broken in the midst of your cooking activities (but if it gets a little spattered with cooking juices, consider it a libation or blessing upon your sacred space!). Find a spot near the stove or oven, if possible. Many kitchen goddesses are pretty hot and fiery, and they love to be right where the action is (not only can they take the proverbial heat in the kitchen, they thrive on it).
If space is an issue for you, consider an arrangement of framed photographs or making a collage on posterboard to serve as a vertical altar on the wall.
Another idea, inspired from the Hindu faith, is to dedicate one of your kitchen cupboards as an altar space. The doors to the cupboard altar are opened while cooking to allow the kitchen goddess to guide the cooking and ensure a healthy, spiritual meal, and also so that a cyclic flow of Divine Energy can make its way around the room.
The first step is to choose which cupboard you will dedicate as your altar. Cupboard space is usually of short supply in most kitchens and some re-arranging of cupboard contents may be at hand. It is recommended that you use a cupboard with two doors and one that is at eye level. This way, the Divine Presence is closer to you, and easy to access. When both doors are open, it directs the energy outward and around the room. Make sure the cupboard you choose is easily accessible; if you choose the cupboard above the refrigerator, it makes your altar virtually inaccessible and easily forgotten.
On the back of the cupboard, you could place a picture of your kitchen goddess, a pentacle, or what ever reminds you of Divine Energy. You might like to hang a special cloth, picture, or create a collage as a backdrop to your altar. This would also be an appropriate place to hang a lunar or Goddess-themed calendar. Charge the object in whatever way feels best for you. With this charged picture, statuette, or pentacle, Divine Energy will have its direct pathway into your kitchen.
The next step would be the altar cloth. This might be an old scarf from a local thrift shop, a fabric remnant from a local sewing store, or a colourful paper or cloth napkin. You could also make your own altar cloths. Acquiring a collection of different colours and patterns allows you to change your altar according to the season, your moods, or any particular magickal goal or focus you are working on at a given time. It will also make it easier to clean your altar periodically.
If you feel like doing a little minor renovation, you could hollow out a niche in a wall to house your altar. Or you can improvise a setting for your altar with a special box--ransack the attic or check out yard sales to find the perfect one. Your altar can be set inside or on top of it. Or you could take a trip to the nearest craft shop; they often sell lovely wild-looking twiggy birdhouses that make terrific kitchen altars.
The shape of your altar, as well as the decorations you choose for it, will depend in large measure not only on your taste, but on the taste of your kitchen goddess ( a primitive terracotta bird-headed goddess would probably feel more at home in one of the aforementioned nests than in a columned and frescoed temple). If you decide on an actual historical goddess to be the patron of your kitchen, you may want to read up on her to find out what she'd like; make sure your tastes are compatible.
HONOURING WHO YOU ARE
One of the most important functions of your kitchen altar is to remind you of your intimate connection with the Goddess and the earth. It also celebrates the unique gifts and talents that you bring to the kitchen--and to the world--as a human representative of nurturing Goddess energy. What small objects could you include on the altar to express who you are? A painter might do a small still-life oil painting of her favourite foods for her altar, while an avid needle worker could make a cross stitch background hanging for hers. An attorney may choose a small metal scale, symbol of justice, to dangle from the hand of her kitchen goddess, Athena, and a potter might like to throw a tiny spiral-painted pot to rest at her kitchen goddess's feet. Writers could make books from paper, lace, or corn husks to place on their altars; a teacher might place a piece of chalk in her Hestia's hand; and a marathon runner may include a tiny pair of running shoes from Barbie's wardrobe.
If you have a special love for any particular animal, you can find or make a small representation of the animal to share the altar space with your kitchen goddess. Collectors may want to find a spot for an item from their button or stamp collections. Find ways to share your talents and enthusiasms via the altar.
While the choices for altar decoration are virtually limitless, here are a few basics to get you started.
Books: This would be the perfect place to house your own Kitchen Witch's Book of Shadows, a favourite cookbook or recipe collection, as well as any food novels that you might be reading.
Candles: Candles become a visible reminder of the hearth-flame. Small tealights in aluminum cups work very well, and they are often burnt just for the amount of time it takes to plan, prepare, cook, and eat a meal. Or you could use votives (many of them have food-related fragrances: apple cinnamon, honeydew, pumpkin spice, vanilla) or regular pillars or taper candles. The simple act of lighting your altar candle before you start your meal preparation can make a profound difference in the way you feel about cooking. Just be sure not to leave it burning unattended.
Food: Our distant ancestors left bits of their meals at the feet of the hearth goddess. It can be soul-satisfying to for us to do this, as well. Perishable items will need to be removed and replaced regularly...take the offerings outside and bury them in the earth or in your compost pile. Or you can stick to dried items that won't spoil such as seeds, dried herbs, nuts, or Native American corn.
Incense and Burner: Most of us don't burn incense before we begin preparing a meal because we don't want to mask all those wonderful cooking aromas; however, lighting a stick of incense can be part of your cleaning routine and is also a satisfying way to bring closure to a meal.
Natural Objects: When we include something from nature on the altar, especially something that is relatively unchanging like a special rock or crystal, we are reminded of how ancient the planet it, and how brief has been the span of human life upon it. It's good to root our altars in the ancientness of Earth. Pinecones, gourds, geodes, sheaves of wheat, or a bundle of pussywillows or twigs are all possibilities.
Plants: Depending upon the placement of your altar, it might be an appropriate spot for a plant such as rosemary, aloe vera, or basil.
Reminders of Loved Ones: It can be a special act of love to include small photos or mementos for each family member or friend whom we'll be feeding.
When we bring visible reminders of our tenderness into the kitchen, it helps us to cook with a joyous, open heart. Perhaps you have a special reminder of your ancestors, such as a teacup that belonged to your grandmother, that you would like to give a place of honour to on your altar to celebrate your ancestors.
Seasonal Reminders: You can add items to your altar throughout the year to honour the changing seasons: seeds for late summer; a small squash or wheat sheaves for harvest time; evergreen sprigs for midwinter; sprouts for early spring. What season is it now? Pay real attention when you explore farmer's markets, or take a walk outdoors and notice what the green things are doing. The world is filled with incredible bounty and richness, and the altar is a perfect place to celebrate this truth, as well as our connection to the cycles of the earth. See the Decorating for the Seasons page of A Kitchen Witch's Book of Shadows for ideas of seasonal items that you might like to include on your kitchen altar.
Utensils: It can be fun to honour the utensils with which we cook. Dollhouses often yield beautiful miniature utensils that fit well on kitchen altars, or you can make them yourself out of various materials. Small wooden cooking spoons are a favourite, or you may prefer a miniature greenhouse, a tiny mortar and pestle, or a teensy food processor. A small cauldron could symbolize your magickal workings and the ever flowing abundance of the Goddess as she provides nourishment for you and you family. Periodically you might also like to place your everyday utensils on the altar for charging. For example, if you have a special wooden spoon that you use to cast circles in your kitchen, you might like to place it on your altar every full moon and ask your kitchen goddess to bless and reconsecrate it.
An important part of creating your altar is taking a few moments to bless or consecrate it. How you do this is up to you. You could simply take a deep breath, close your eyes, open them again, look all around your kitchen, and exhale. You could say a few words:
"This kitchen is now a sacred space," or "May the food that is cooked in this sacred kitchen feed us deeply."
You might choose to do something more elaborate like sprinkling the altar with salt and water, smudging it with incense or a smudge stick, or reading a passage from a poem or other work that has meaning to you. The important thing is for you to find your own way to acknowledge that a sacred space has now been created for you in the kitchen.