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THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, now of the Magic and Mundane channel).

Named #4 in the top15 Pagan podcasts for 2022! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/

Creating Sacred Space

July 19, 2021

Remember, we welcome comments, questions and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com

An Atheopagan Ritual Primer: https://atheopaganism.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/an-atheopagan-ritual-primer-v4.pdf


Mark: Welcome Back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host Mark. 

Yucca: And I'm Yucca. 

Mark: Today. We're going to talk about sacred space. What it is, how to create it and how to, to build sacred space into your own home.

Yucca: Exactly. And we'll also get in to a little bit, building that in, in shared spaces. Because we know that a lot of people are in situations where they share space. First of all, but might be with a roommate, a dorm mate, you know, parents, spouses, anything like that. And they may not be in a situation where they're one, their aesthetics, but also their beliefs are shared. 

Mark: Right. And so, it becomes sort of a threading, the needle process of you know, how do you get your needs? While also accommodating the needs of the other people in your household. So we'll be talking about that some as well, but let's start with just what sacred space is because that's, it's a little hard to define.

In my experience, sacred space is the environmental conditions that facilitate my moving into a ritual state of mind. 

Yucca: Okay. 

Mark: And that typically includes things like low lighting levels like candlelight aesthetically pleasing and metaphorically, symbolic objects and decor might include music that is facilitative for that.

And personally, I, I like to live in sacred space. I, I decorate my room in a manner that is. It's kind of like a temple in that way. It has, you know, amazing sort of masks from all over the world on the walls and various, you know, pieces of art and symbolic objects and candle sticks and cauldrons and stuff like that.

Yucca: Mm. Yeah. So I, I think I share your, your idea of sacred space as a space that can help move you into that ritual space. And that really just influences the way that we feel. It's something that I'm very aware of because one of my parents was an architect. So I grew up on job sites and building and all of those things.

And so the shape of the space, the feeling of the space is, is this something always present and. The awareness of just what it feels like to walk into one room versus another room or one building versus another, or to step out, it really, really changes our moods and just our awareness of the world. 

Mark: Yes. Yes. And I think this is something that we often don't pay much attention to. We just kind of slide on through our passage from space to space without really acknowledging how it's influencing our our psyche and our emotions. But. As we've said over and over again, a big element of being a science-based pagan is learning to pay attention and being aware of our environment.

And that includes the built environment. It doesn't just include the natural environment. It includes the built environment. You know, we live in houses and apartments and, and, you know, various places. 

Yucca: RVs. Yeah. Yeah. 

Mark: And in some cases, tents. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Still we live in constructed spaces and our ability to make those spaces feel good to us is 

Yucca: True. 

Mark: something we have choices about.

Most of us have choices about. And so over the years I have collected various pieces of artwork and Furniture items and so forth that speak to me of a particular aesthetic. And I deploy those in my room in a way that kind of augments the alter that's sort of the centerpiece of it, the focus And so at night I can put on some music and light some candles, and I'm really most of the way there into the ritual state before I even do any breathing exercises or visualization or any of that kind of stuff.

Yucca: Yeah. So it sounds like you're, you're describing. Space that that you're stepping into. Well, sometimes some people are lucky enough to be in a position where they get to actually design and build the physical space. But most of us step into spaces that were built by somebody else for many different reasons, but we can then.

Do things with those spaces, like creating the alter, changing the lighting maybe changing the color in the room may not be a possibility in terms of wall painting, but,

Mark: but it might be 

Yucca: but it might be right. You might be able to paint the wall or put a temporary wallpaper up or. Color of the bedsheets. Right.

All of those things have a huge influence on getting you into that space or whatever the space is that you're designing for. 

Mark: Yes. And you can be playful about it. For example, I like to hang a couple of led crystals in my window because when the afternoon sun comes in, suddenly I have little dancing, rainbows all over my room and it's cool. You know, it's just a little, a little trick of physics that that is pleasing to me and has a magical sort of quality.

Yucca: We we actually got those for the kids for solstice, just passed the summer solstice. And the next morning they came out, I have it in the east window and the light and it was just all over the house. And both of them came out with the cute little groggy eyes. Wow. And then went around, try to touch it, the opening, their mouth to eat them.

And so every morning it's an excitement of coming out and saying like, oh, you know, where are the rainbows? Are they on mom? And dad's head while they're trying to drink their morning tea. So we've got those same things and that they're just sudden catchers is another word for them. They're just amazing. 

Mark: Yeah.

And I mean, there are so many things that we can do. We, we talk about ritual technologies and, you know, a lot of those ritual technologies are active things that we can do when we're in the process of designing or. Or conducting the ritual things like chanting and singing and drumming and stuff like that.

But there are also these sort of passive things we can do. In terms of, you know, lighting candles or putting on some particular kind of music. That's very evocative for us burning incense or herbs that creates a particular scent that takes us into a deeper more present. Kind of space. 

Yucca: Hm. 

Mark: And what I find is that because I pay attention to shaping the built environment around me, my, my house home and my room become more of a sanctuary to me.

More of a place where I feel held and safe and in my power than I would otherwise.

Yucca: so for you, do you bring in plants and living things as well? Is that something that really helps you get in that, into that space? Or is that something at a different part of the house? 

Mark: Yes, we have a lot of plants. Noumea particularly has a whole lot of plants. I have two here in my room. A spider plant, which has little babies kind of dangling down from it that runs down the side of my focus. And then a , sort of a. Broad leaf looks a little like an Ivy, but it's not Ivy.

And yeah, 

Yucca: To both low light tolerant. 

Mark: Yes. And very helpful. It's helpful to have living things, you know, as a part of that, that structure. I know that for some people their, their magical aesthetic isn't necessarily as intersected with the natural world as mine is. You know, if you look on my focus, you find pine cones and seashells and sea urchins and lots of natural rocks, of course, bones, feathers lots of natural things because they all remind me of just how incredible it is out there.

Yucca: Hmm. 

Mark: So, how about you? Yucca? What, what are your approaches to creating a sacred space within the home?

Yucca: Yeah. So yeah, it depends on. Which space. So this is something that I'm very, very intentional about before moving into a new space. And we've just been moving finally, completely moving into what we plan to be a, you know, our forever home and see the Pope for that. So, No

we're not, we have a lot more freedom in terms of changing things than we've ever had as renters before.

But I really sit down and plan out the spaces and think about the flow of the spaces and how people would be moving from room to room and what are the feelings that we really want to have in those spaces. And 

Mark: right.

Yucca: for me, Those most kind of sacred moments. There are small daily ones, and so I want to create a space in each of those places that set aside for that, but kind of the big moments, the holidays throughout the year, things like that usually are actually going to be outside.

So I don't make a. A major house focus or alter, but I have little ones throughout the house. So the bathroom space is one that's really important. The bathroom is a really big one actually, because that's where I think a lot of the refocusing happens. That's where a lot of that's the, for most people, that's the first place we go in the morning and it's the last place we go in the night before. Right. So th that's the start and the end of our days. So the, the actual shape of the room is very important, but how the lights coming in through the window and. Bringing little items, little rocks, or like you were saying, shells, bones, those sorts of things. And then the kitchen is the other really big one.

And that's where our plants are. Our kitchen is just full of plants and greenery. The bedrooms are just for sleeping. That's it? I mean, the bedrooms just basically bed, nothing else. I mean, that's the only room in the house where I don't have plants just to have beds and sleeping people. So. And then, and then also the spot in the morning to drink the coffee or tea.

I gave up coffee, but my, my little morning tea drink. So Yeah.

Mark: Nice. Nice. Yeah. I've moved recently also. And so I'm in a new place and that was why I was thinking about this subject recently, you know, the, the, the creation of sacred space and why, why I felt so. Sort of disconnected and disoriented while all of my things were in boxes and why it was so important to me to, to create a space in my room as soon as I could after moving.

So. I'm still in the midst of making decisions about the rest of the house. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Nehemiah and I are, are kind of working out what the living room is going to be like. And it's mostly there, but we have a sort of blank space that we know is going to be an altar ish space, but we don't really know what that's going to look like.

So. And, you know, we have we have a handfasting broom with dozens of ribbons tied around it. That we're going to Mount over the back door. It's a sliding glass door, so we'll Mount it over that and it'll be visible there. But yeah, other than that really haven't thought it out very much yet.

And so there's. You know, over the next couple of weeks, I'm sure we'll put that together, but it's not, not quite there yet.

Yucca: So are you more of a. Live in this space, kind of feel it out for a while or 

Mark: Well not. 

Yucca: ahead of time. I mean, because there's so many different strategies, depending on the person of like, how to deal with that. 

Mark: Yes. That's true. Well, this is a small space and. So like places like the kitchen, there's not really, I mean, there aren't even windows in the kitchen because it's double pane glass and that just takes up more room in fitness so that the sills are only about two inches wide. So there's very little in the way of locations where we could put things that would create.

That would tie in with that theme happening throughout the house. But that said there is this it's, it's generally an open plan townhouse with only the bedrooms and the bathroom being kind of closed off. So. You know, the art on the walls makes a big difference. The the, what we finally decide is going to live on the dining area table in terms of visibility.

So there's a lot of, a lot of things to think about little things to think about. And I haven't thought about them all yet. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Our big challenge right now is that we have several large glass fronted cabinets with glass shelves in them that we use for displaying cool stuff. We call it the museum and we have not yet put all the cool stuff into the shelving units yet.

So that that's kind of a bit. Task that's ahead of us. 

Yucca: Hmm. 

Mark: And that will inevitably involve making decisions about which cool stuff gets in and which cool stuff doesn't make it and all that. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: So, but my, my living spaces have always been kind of female as, you know, welcome to the museum of natural history. So, 

Yucca: Sounds so much fun. 

Mark: Yeah. Oh God, we have such cool stuff. I have a whale vertebrae whole bunch of different kinds of cool fossils. Just cool stuff.

Yucca: Mm, before I forgot to mention the books, we have a lot of books. That's the thing that's always been the hardest when moving is just boxes and boxes of books. And. We can't bear to we've, we've gotten rid of them as we've moved from place to place. And yet there always are more than when we started when we moved.

So Yeah.

Mark: I think that's particularly hard when you have small children, because if they're, if there's a book that you really value, you want to be able to share it with them as they get older. We have, we had 37 boxes of books, 37 banker's boxes of books 

Yucca: That's a lot. 

Mark: in our storage unit. We went through and mercilessly called and now we have 26.

Boxes of books, but it's still 26 boxes of books and we just can't bear to give any of it away, but it lives in a storage shelf, storage unit. It's not like we have any access to any of it. There may be three shelves of books here. And you know, they're mostly sort of coffee table style books of physical anthropology and cave paintings.


Like that, you know,

Yucca: well, we have a wall that I am. And fantasizing about one day building a ceiling to floor bookshelf up against, and actually making the bookshelves the same size as the books themselves. most of the time with the art book shelves, there'll be several inches between the top of the bookshelf and the books, and that's where the cat goes, but that's where absolutely everything else ends up going to, and then it's just completely stuffed with non books in the bookshelf.

So I want to make them fit perfectly because trim sizes are pretty standard. You can get, you know, all the books that are textbook size and all the books that are. Mass market paperback and all of those. So that's the dream, but that takes a lot of that's a lot of time. So working on the, all the other things of daily life and work and raising families and all of that.

So there's, there's always a prioritization when creating space is.

about what. 

Can I do now? And what's going to make the biggest influence in, in my life and my practice right now. 

Mark: right.

Yucca: Also what's seasonally appropriate both in the life season, but the seasons of the, of the year as well. 

Mark: Yes. Yes. Yeah. And I think, you know, people generally the earliest decisions that they make when they enter a new space are strictly logistical decisions. You know, how's the kitchen going to work, that kind of stuff. The,

Yucca: I don't want to move that couch upstairs. 

Mark: oh,

Yucca: I don't want to try and go up those stairs or, you know, choices like that. Right. 

Mark: Those, those kinds of decisions where it's like, you know, where is the couch going to live? You know, all, all that kind of stuff. But for us a second layer then is this aesthetic piece in which we, so some sacredness into the, the layout of the house And it adds a lot of richness. It really does.

There is something that is deeply what's the word I'm looking for? Comforting or content full? I don't think that's a word about. You know, being in a space that feels as though kind of the essence of my spirituality, suffuses it. The objects that I see are my friends in a way, if they, they it's almost as if they have personalities, because all of them have stories to tell about where I got them and where they come from.

And The sorts of rituals that I've done with them and all of that sort of stuff.

Yucca: Yeah. Well, we've been doing a lot of examples of, of our own lives which makes sense of where both of us have been for the past few weeks. But why don't we talk about some ideas or examples for situations in which you don't have a partner on board with you for this or you, you don't have a whole house or something like that. 

Mark: Well, I think if you don't have a, if you have a partner and the partner's not on board with you sacred icing your whole space, I would hope that at the least you could negotiate for a space where you can build a focus or alter to experience your own spirituality. I mean, I think that that's a very problematic issue.

If someone refuses to allow you to do something like that, that's denying a very essential part of you. And it doesn't bode well, in my opinion But beyond that beyond, you know, a simple space for for an altar or focus I think, you know, you don't have to completely sort of goth up here your, your space in order for there to be.

A sense of meaning folded into the way that it's decorated. I was talking a second ago about how the objects in my room have story fees. Well, everybody has objects that have stories, right? If there are stories that are about your relationship or about your, your ancestry or about your fondness for a particular place in nature.

If those objects can have a place out in the living space, then you'll feel more like you have a space in the living space. Those, those kinds of things are very helpful.

Yucca: Okay. 

Yeah. I think as non theist pagans there's a slight advantage that we have sometimes with sharing space. Some of the theist pagans might have, because although there are some non theist pagans who do enjoy the symbology and the metaphor of deities and just don't literally believe in them.

Most of the time we aren't putting up statues of pagan gods and things like that, that might stand out immediately to a mother-in-law or a. Very conservative roommate or something like that, where the, the, the symbols that might be important to us might be that dried sunflower, or might be the bone or the seashell or the bottle of pretty river rocks or whatever it is. 

Mark: Sure feathers, you know, stuff like that. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Yeah. I, I really agree with that. I, I think that, and, and to be fair, the, the roommate or housemate doesn't need to know what that object means to you. You don't have to communicate that if you don't want to, you can just say I'd like this to be out in the living space.

And you know, presumably they are reasonable and you can negotiate with them around, you know, what is out in the living space and what is not. And and you just go from there and, you know, they may. You know, they, they don't have to know that this beautiful rock was found when you were on a mushroom trip.

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: They you know, what it reminds you of isn't important. It's, it's just the fact that it's there in your space. So, yeah, I think that that's real. That really is an advantage because certainly some of the symbology of pagan gods can be Can make people that aren't pagans uncomfortable, especially because they tend to have a lot of nudity and in our culture, you know, which has so much body shaming and so much just stuff around the human body.

Nudity is a no-no. You can't do that. So.

Yucca: Yeah. And sometimes nudity

a long with being part goat or part something else or, yeah. but just statically know. I love it. I love a lot of the aesthetics of, of some of those deities and statutes and hope that right. I have some man with the leaves and the beer and, and all of that. And in my own home, although I don't, again, believe that there's actually a guy walking around who is the embodiment of the forest or any of that. It's beautiful. It reminds me of some of my ancestry. But that certainly was not up in my dorm 

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: in undergrad. Right. That was not a, it in a dorm room situation. That's been years since I've been in one, but I had my little box and I opened up my box and it had everything decorated. So it was like a, it wasn't quite a shoe box.

I don't really know where I'd even found it, but it, it, it just like opened up and there was the base and then the lid to it that created this kind of stage. And I had it open when I, when would want to be in my space. And then I closed it and it was private and very safe though. 

Mark: Hm.

Yucca: then for anything that I wanted really overt symbols, and then everything else was like, we've been talking about the, the colors with the dried flowers or things like that, that matched with what was happening with the season or what we found outside or any of that. 

Mark: Right, right. Yeah. And I, I think that tuning.

The degree of overtness of your symbolic placements is really just a matter, you know, of your particular situation. And you know, hopefully, hopefully you don't have deep philosophical divisions with the people that you live with, but some people do and. You know, it's just, it's a matter of asserting your, your own entitlement to commonly shared spaces.

Common space is really what we're talking about here. If you have a room of your own, you should be able to do whatever you want with it. But in common spaces, the decoration can be kind of up for grabs and you just assert yourself and say, Hey, you know, I'd like this rock to be there.

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: So, was going to recommend that along the course of kind of thinking about how to create sacred space. People might want to go to the atheopagan and some.org blog and go to the resources tab and download the ritual. Because the ritual primmer talks about a lot of different ritual technologies, ways to help, to induce that.

Very present liminal ritual state everything from stained glass to candle light, to incense, to, you know, just lots of different approaches. And so that might be a useful guide for people helping to. Make decisions about decorating their spaces.

Yucca: Yeah, I'll go ahead and put a link in the show notes to that fender. One wants to go ahead and click on that. Yeah. So I hope that your space continues to unfold and that you have wonderful sacred spaces that, that grow out of that. And yeah, 

Mark: Thank you. And and likewise, as you move into your new, your new home that's very exciting and I know you have a lot of, kind of major logistical things that have to be in place for that all to happen. But of course the, the mytho poetic layer is really important, too. 

Yucca: we're, we're almost there. We're so close. You know, just a couple of minor things like electricity, but you know, rest of it's there. yeah. 

Mark: Oh, well, that's good.

Yucca: So, but this has been great, mark. Thank you. 

Mark: Yeah. It's always great to talk with you Yucca. See you next week.