By Madame X © 2008
As Nightkind many of us have a special calling to spirituality be it a need to connect with a manifestation of divinity within ourselves or to connect with those ancient entities residing in the Astral. Regardless of our individual beliefs, the more spiritual of our kind do enjoy preparing a sacred space from time to time and although not mandatory, do include altars in their sacred spaces and as part of their magikal or ritual work. While most altars are made of wood or stone, many Nightkind are increasingly using Live Altars, where a chosen ritual participant takes on the function of the altar.
Live Altars are much like regular inanimate altars, and as such have a variety of pivotal functions. A Live Altar is not only a beautiful dramatic addition to any spiritual celebration but it serves as a powerful energetic centerpiece and enables a deeper connection with the astral. While the use of a Live Altar can be applied specifically to the inherited traditions of our favorite ceremonial magicians; creativity, drama, enhanced energy building, and participants’ aptitudes should be the main considerations when including a Live Altar. Keeping in mind that a Live Altar can be multiple roles, here are a few short illustrative descriptions of some of the many functions of a Live Altar.
1. The Altus
Live Altars can be introduced into almost any Nightkind rite. The simplest way is to invite a Live Altar into a rite is as a presenter of the ritual tools. Here the Altus is generally standing upon an elevated platform holding the scrolls or tome from where any reading will take place, the speculum, chalice(s), athame, burning incense, candles, or any other tools used in the ritual. The Altus can also serve for the more-or-less creative presentation of victuals and libations for feasting and partaking by the celebrants and/or congregation. For this role, the Live Altar is beautifully garbed or alternately skyclad and bodes a solemn commanding presence although stationary throughout the rite. Generally little or no preparation is expected of The Altus unless the immobility or body positioning borders on physical demand, i.e.: a human candelabrum.
2. The Offering
Live Altars can also become a symbolic sacrificial offering where the body or vital essence is being offered to Ancient deities, directly or via the Priest(s) or ritual officiate(s). Traditionally the ritual officiate, as an embodiment of the Ancient Divinity, will accept or ‘take’ the Live Altar witnessed by the congregation as an agreement that the rite’s intent will be heard and acted upon. The Offering can also represent a symbol of submission to the will of the Deity or Ancients. The Live Altar however does not necessarily need to shed blood or literally offer its body; instead a dramatic enactment of such, or a story recounted, in conjunction with the mere presence of the Offering, can certainly elicit the desired profound effect on the energetic focus of the congregation. The Offering needs to be aware of the demands of the rite and assume a tranquil, acquiescent demeanor to better empower the rite.
3. The Effigy
Live Altars can be employed as the symbol, personification or embodiment of a Deity or an Ancient, reminding and reconnecting the celebrants and congregation in a very real way to their tradition. Here the Live Altar is often attired, adorned and revered as an effigy of the actual. Often a dramatic presentation or a short choreographed performance is enacted by the Effigy to further connect the congregation to the Ancient. In some cases the Effigy can also take on the role of Priest(ess), although this is generally not the case. It is the behavior, demeanor and charisma of the Effigy that empowers the rite and enables the working to flow. The Effigy is expected to be well-versed on, if not deeply devoted to, the Deity or Ancient they are representing.
4. The Vessel
The Live Altar can also be the vessel or chalice, and in a very real way become the source of vitality used to heighten the energetic level of the celebrants and by extension heightening the level of the rite, empowering it, and propelling it further into the Astral. While there are many ways for the celebrants to harvest this energy, full sensory methods that include creative tactile and visual work are the best by far, since they add drama and help create and sustain the congregation’s energy. Along the same lines, the vessel can be the depository of vital energy, whereby the celebrants direct their own harvested energy into it, augmenting its own. This energy in turn will be accessed by the ritual officiate(s), or even co-jointly by the celebrants, and is then directed outwardly toward the Ancients, or otherwise inwardly toward the celebrants or congregation in accordance with the rite’s intent. The Vessel’s role is best harnessed by Nightkind celebrants proficient in energy exchange and manipulation, whereas the Vessel should be at least an able donor prepared to offer a good part of their own vitality toward the rite’s intent.
5. The Fulcrum
A Live Altar will no doubt be the energetic enter of attention as the rite is crafted around it. If properly elicited, the celebrants, and the congregation as a whole, will generate terrific quantities of similarly resonating energy. It is the Fulcrum’s task to recognize, collect, siphon and anchor this precious energy into itself, spooling it tightly and becoming in essence the molten energy core for the rite. This energy will then be gradually lifted from the Fulcrum, a process often called ‘Raising the Temple’ and, with the ritual officiate and/or celebrants’ assistance it will be redirected and transformed according to the rite’s intent. In rites such as this, the conscious application of the Chakral energy centers and methodically raising energy though Kundelini can be very effective. In this case, not only the celebrants, but also the Fulcrum, need to be well practiced in energy harnessing, and manipulation. 6. The Channel The Live Altar can also be the essential energy conduit between Physical and the Astral plane facilitating communication between the two worlds. This implies a full or partial ‘possession’ by an astral entity who will communicate, often verbally, through the Channel. While communication can happen via Clairaudience and Clairvoyance, the most common form is through Clairsentience. Such interchanges can include communication with divinity, angelic presences, ancient ones, spirit guides, the deceased, the Akashic Halls, gatekeepers, servitors and other inter-dimensional entities. The Channel will utilize the energetic temple raised by the celebrants and the rite’s focused intent to facilitate and deepen or prolong the connection. Here the Live Altar’s role as the Channel should be taken by someone with some degree of experience in channeling.
7. The Oracle
Very much like the Channel, here the Live Altar uses the energy temple and the intent of the rite to obtain knowledge or intuitive insight about future events through some form of divination, like scrying or casting. Best methods to this end are Automatic Writing and Casting but other tools are also employed particularly those that stimulate a trancelike or self-induced hypnotic state, to this end tools like Candles, Crystals, Mirrors, Bowls of water or blood are used. The Oracle may also augment its own energy level by drawing or harvesting energy (via pranic or sanguine methods) before or during the rite, and take whatever steps necessary to heighten their visionary intuitive abilities. In some special cases The Oracle casts but the casting is then interpreted by a priest who is more familiar in the method. In this later instance the casting is viewed as an extension of the Astral and the reading of it is scientific not intuitive. Either way, The Oracle should have some degree of experience with altered states of consciousness, astral travel and/or divination.
Interplay with the Road System
The Road System is composed of three Castes: Kitra, Mradu and Ramkht and Live Altars can be comprised of an individual or individuals of any of these three castes, as well as Donors, or simply interested parties. Donors are not always the best altars; as discussed above some Live Altars function at a higher level and require specific aptitudes that only a practiced Caste member may provide. Ultimately it is up to the ritual officiate to decide which participant is best suited for the role of Live Altar and provide sufficient details and instructions so that the Altar is comfortable and certain they can sustain the role throughout the length of the rite.
While any Caste or Donor may be The Altus, The Offering, or even The Effigy; The Vessel should be performed by a Donor or a Kitra who are practiced in energy exchanges and who are fully prepared for the role. The Fulcrum, The Channel and The Oracle are functions best left to either Kitra or Ramkht, specifically because of their natural attributes and practiced skills with etheric and astral work. The function of the Mradu is seldom mentioned as a Live Altar but Mradu can and are effectively used as such, however, their main talents with grounding and preparedness best qualifies them as celebrants keeping a special watch on both Altar and Priests, who often tend to be in need of extra grounding from time to time during ritual work.
Using multiple individuals as part of a larger working is certainly an option, particularly if the rite reveres multiple Deities or Ancients, if the Live Altar is expected to take on multiple roles beyond the capacity of any one participant, or if the ritual officiate seeks to make a special dramatic effect for the congregation...and has the bodies to do so. Plural Altars need to be balanced aesthetically to create a deeper visual effect, but they also need to be able to work in harmony within the energetic demands of the rite. The ritual officiate may choose to attire the Live Altar in a certain color, decorate them similarly, position them according to gender or aptitude, or choreograph the dramatic enactment in complementing harmonious ways. Below are a couple of creative examples of plural altars for each of the above mentioned Live Altar roles.
The Altus of Two – one, a female Kitra dressed in red who stands holding a platter with all the ritual tools, the other, a skin clad male Donor who lies on the floor beneath her left foot.
The Altus of Three – one Kitra in the center holds the tome, flanked by two Mradu who hold swords and candles, here the Live Altar is elaborately grabbed in renaissance attire.
The Offering of Two – two skin clad individuals perform sexual union on an elevated platform surrounded by lit candles and red roses.
The Offering of Four – four simply dressed individuals stand jointly tied at a stake in the center of the sacred space. Smoldering incense surrounds them.
The Effigy of Three – three women dressed erotically ascend the center of the ritual space dancing, each is reminiscent of one of the Furies by the way they are dressed, the items they carry, and their chanting as they bestow gifts on the congregation.
The Effigy of Four – four Mradu are each attired to represent an ancient warrior god each carries a representation of each God’s best weapon which they respectively use to assist the Priest in calling the quarters.
The Vessel of Two – two Donors are flogged to release their vital energy onto the celebrants.
The Vessel of Three – a Kitra in white sits on an ornate throne-like chair in the center and harvests energy from two Donors who kneel at either side of her; she stands to accept the celebrants’ energy deposit and lifts her arms skyward as the astral temple is raised.
The Fulcrum of Four – two Kitra and two Ramkht sit around a fire chanting as the ritual is celebrated around them, through it they spool the rite’s energy; their chant comes to a crescendo as they are ready to raise the Astral temple and rise with their arms outstretched to do so.
The Fulcrum of Five – a Kitra stands within a circle of 4 donors who are human candelabrum. He weaves an convoluted dance to the background music as he collects and ingests the rite’s raised energy. As the music comes to a halt he is ready to raise the astral temple.
The Channel of Two – two Kitra stand back to back holding hands as they hum in unison and become open to the astral, the energy raised by this rite will further empower their clairvoyance; as the temple is raised they speak as one.
The Channel of Many – many participants of various castes dance to the frantic sounds of the drummers, through the music and the dance they become open to the astral and several of the many become partially possessed by astral entities who speak in tongues.
The Oracle of Three - three Ramkht enter a trance. Once stands at the center holding a large candle the others sit on either side of the first, each of the two holds a filled bowl. Each takes a turn revealing what portents they see.
The Oracle of Four – two Kitra and two Ramkht dance frenetically in the center of the circle and as the temple is raised each casts their lot – runes to the North, bones to the South, shells to the East, and sticks to the West. After the circle is closed the casting is interpreted.
Consecration of the altar and ritual tools is a very important part of any rite, particularly when it comes to the Live Altar. Consecration helps the celebrants better connect with the sacredness of the Live Altar’s function and it is a very empowering identification process for the Live Altar itself. While most ritual officiates consider consecration as a part of the pre ritual preparation, to be conducted behind closed doors before the rite, some may choose to incorporate it into the actual proceedings. Live consecration helps bring the celebrants, congregation and the Live Altar to a joint awareness of the identity, purpose, and sacred value placed on the Live Altar.
While there are many preparative aspects that the ritual officiate may elect to use for the pre ritual preparation of the Live Altar that cannot be brought to the actual rite, like fasting, abstinence, special immersion bath, specific meditation, reading, research, rehearsal, practice, etc… Some methods can, with a little creative modification, be quite empowering as part of the live consecration, or otherwise they can take place as the congregation assembles.
For instance, while a tattoo may be out of the question as part of a ritual due to its time and hygiene requirements, protective rune-work via body painting or henna art can certainly be incorporated into the live consecration part of the ritual, or at least the assembly part of it. Similarly, while an immersion bath will generally not be possible to conduct as part of the rite, the Live Altar can certainly be cleansed for the live consecration, by donors or celebrants, by means of delicate cloths, a silver basin and scented water, milk, wine, blood or semen. While sensory deprivation may not work, high sensory experiences like bondage, domination, flogging, scourging, and the like, are terrific methods to capitalize on the energy of not only the Live Altar, but also the congregation. Along the same lines while the Live Altar may emerge attired and adorned, it can only add to the rite if the Live Altar arrives sky clad and is then dressed or bedecked. Harvesting can also be conducted as part of the actual rite by bringing in Donors for that specific purpose. Branding and piercing have been used in ritual work for countless years and still are today. Music and dance too can certainly set the desired mood for the proceedings. Finally more traditional approaches to the live consecration of Live Altars include unction, anointing, sensing, cleansing with fire, imbuing magikal elixirs, gifting of tokens or relics, verbal blessings, and affirmations among others. Ultimately, it is up to the ritual officiate to decide which methods of live consecration are most appropriate for the specific role, aptitudes and needs of the Live Altar, as well as the intent of the particular rite.
Much more can be said about Live Altars which is beyond the scope of this article. Live Altars are a beautiful addition to any ritual space and need not be equated with Satanic or Luciferian practices or traditions. Here the Live Altar is celebrated, elevated and revered.
As the author of this abridged review, and although I have had a great deal of successful experience in this area, I am very interested in your experiences and perspectives as either a Live Altar, ritual officiate, celebrant, or congregation member of rites and rituals conducted with Live Altars. So please do contact me and share.