When did you build your first altar? Did you think of it as an ‘altar’ at that time?
I grew up in rural Victoria, Australia, an only child on a beautiful farm. I had these little hiding places all over our farm where I’d keep together all the bits and pieces I had found that were pretty or interesting to me – a fallen birds nest, old animal bones, flowers from the garden.
I had no idea what is was I was doing or why. All I knew was that I liked seeing these things all together, and it felt right. I’ve wondered if I ever went back to the farm, would any of my hiding places be left undisturbed? I’d like to hope so!
Do your share your practice with others or do this as a solitary practice?
I am a solitary witch and I prefer it that way. However, I do ‘compare notes’ with others who work with the Morrigan (an Irish goddess) and who have similar practices to my own. I am so amazed at the online community of witches and how we all help one another and offer support.
What has been an unexpected delight in altar building?
Seeing each altar I have grow to have its own theme or style, it’s own personality. Some become more of a practical area for creating, some for worship, etc. Creating them, living amongst them and seeing how they evolve is an absolute unexpected delight!
How frequently do you build altars?
I have around 6 altars that I maintain in the same areas. I keep them up and running all year round. I’ve ran out of room so my Morrigan altar is actually in the bottom draw of a dressing table!!! lol
It does feel a little like magick when there is nothing there and then I pull out the draw and bam! there’s an altar. This would be a great idea for closet witches or those who simply want a more private altar space. I see these spaces as little hubs of energy, a place to go to either reflect or work and find what I’m searching for.
What beliefs or ideas influence your altar building?
I am a believer in the beauty of aesthetic. For me, firstly, an altar needs to look beautiful. Secondly, and almost as importantly, it needs to be functional.
Another important factor is how public or private I want it to be.
Can you share an outcome or two from using Altars in your life?
To have a place to go at the end of the day, to sit in peace and quiet and talk with my spirit guides, to communicate with the Morrigan, to meditate, and have time to reflect is something I am truly grateful for.
It has helped me to connect to source energy, have moments of lifting the veil, and helped me to find more peace within myself.
What items tend to show up repeatedly when selecting what you will place on your altar?
Crystals, feathers, items found from nature, candles, spell bottles, runes, ogham sticks, tarot decks, incense, and sage. I also tend to keep sketches I’ve done, ones of symbols with meaning to me within my altar space.
What types of items do you use? Do you have a reason for your selection process?
I feel a deep connection with crystals, it’s why I surround myself with them. Even today, after years of gathering them and working with them, I am beyond amazed at the beauty that mother earth created. I believe crystals are keepers of energy from a time long, long before us and we can access that energy with the right intentions.
I use items from nature (usually things I find when I’m out on my morning walk!) as I believe our connection to nature speaks volumes of who we are. It’s a way to honour nature and to honour Gaia herself.
Do you follow the seasons or another system/set of holidays/moon cycles that impacts when and the type of altars you build?
My altars stay very much the same in regards to holidays and Sabbats. I don’t follow the Wiccan calendar, although I do respect its traditions. What changes more than anything is my approach to the altar. The way I meditate, the questions I ask my spirit guides, etc.
For example, during summer I tend to do more weather related spells (summers can be long and horrible here in Australia), such as asking for rain, asking for the energy to get through a heat wave.
This is the same for the moon phases. The full moon and the dark moon are times when I meditate differently as they both carry amazing power for us to harness and work with. These are also the times when I choose to tidy up my altars!
What is your favorite part of building or using altars in your life – personal/work both?
For me, an altar is a very personal thing. it’s a sanctuary of peace for my mind and my spirit. Returning to my altar each and every day brings me happiness and a sense of content and calm. Creating altars is so much fun, but seeing them grow and then using them in ones daily life is my favourite part.
What is a favorite sacred tattoo you rock on your bodies altar or favorite piece of jewelry you wear to help create your feeling of sacredness?
I have no tattoos, but wearing jewelry with meaning is very important to me. I wear a ring with a garnet stone for the Morrigan. I also wear necklaces and bracelets with symbols such as the flower of life, the symbol of the Norns, the Pentacle, the Triskelion, and Vegvísir.
What has been the biggest shift for you since building or using altars in your life?
Using altars in my daily life has helped me explore and expand my higher consciousness, has deepened my spirituality, allowed for the process of shadow work and inner child healing. It has helped me to step into my power.
Having an altar on display in ones home or space is a way of showing the world a part of who you are and what you believe in. It has assisted me in stepping into me magick and the truest form of myself as of yet.
Rachel Jean as Art Witch – I’d love readers to know more about your work that is often inspired by nature, the Moon and mystical themes.
Your art is mesmerizing Rachel – How old were you when you started creating?
Thank you!! Sitting at the kitchen table and drawing is one of my earliest memories. All kids love to scribble and paint, I just never stopped and I didn’t grow out of it! For me, it’s just one of those very core, very basic things that I need to do every single day.
What was the catalyst that launched you into creating magickal art?
Sketching has always been a way for me to put down on paper what I see or what I’m feeling or the things I find beautiful and fascinating (hence all the moons I draw!). I realised a couple of years ago that two major parts of my life are art and being a witch. Since I mashed those two together, I feel like what I create is more true to myself and my spirit. For me, being an ‘art witch’ just seems like a perfect fit.
Tell us more about your creative process and artwork and how you hope it touches people:
I create every day and that’s an important standard I hold myself to. I draw the things I love, the things that i find to be magick and see magick in.
Every day I go out and grab a coffee. Since I am blessed to have the beach, the river, and the wetlands so close to home I go for a walk after my coffee. Then I go back home and I draw. Sometimes I paint. That routine is so important for me. It helps to clear my head and my spirit.
The moon plays a starring role in a lot of your pieces. How does she inspire you? What keeps you coming back to her in your creations?
Yes I draw her a lot!!! It comes from the basic fact that every time I see her, whatever phase she is in, I’m always completely awe struck by it. I am fascinated with space, the stars, the planets. I love the unfathomable distances, the absolute enormity of space and all that’s in it.
The moon, for me, is also a constant in life. No matter what is going on either personally or in the world, the moon keeps on doing her thing. We have no control over her. It’s something I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Plus, she’s beautiful!
You refer to yourself as a solitary witch on Instagram. How does your artwork bring you into the global community of others? How does the connection inspire you?
I feel like my little pieces of art are my contribution to something much greater. I love reading about how others interpret what I have drawn, or how it makes them feel. That is one of my favourite parts of putting my sketches out there.
The online community of witches and creatives is a blessing to be part of. The love, kindness and support I receive is priceless and helps me in those moments of low inspiration or when I experience the dreaded creators block.
Also, I don’t feel so solitary anymore and I couldn’t be happier about it!
Finally, how can women find you locally and online?
I’m easily found on Instagram. I’m not very tech savvy so I don’t have a website. My Instagram feed can be viewed as a catalogue of what is always available in print. Please feel free to send me a direct message! I always reply.
Everyday starts with coffee and cards. Or tea and tarot. Depends on what I’m drinking. — Rachel Jean Short
Bonus question if you dare #1
Favorite curse word?
I swear like a sailor and I’m known to drop the f-bomb rather frequently.
Bonus question if you dare #2
What would you take your younger self by the shoulders and looking straight in the eyes say to her?
I would tell younger Rachael that she always was and always will be perfectly complete as a human. She doesn’t need to be validated by those around her. That she doesn’t need to take shit from anyone (can I swear? lol) and that it’s never the end of the world – nothing is ever that bad. I would tell her to quit trying to fit in, because she isn’t going to and she isn’t supposed to. And that one day when she’s a little bit older, the confusion stops, the noise stops, and it all works out.