When did you build your first altar? Did you think of it as an ‘altar’ at that time?
I remember going to church as a little girl, maybe 7, and pretending that I had this imaginary locket and I would empty its swirly colorful energy that I would gather out in the world and send it up into the skylight. I would also gather the energy from the skylight to take with me when I left.
Now looking back, I realize why I would send it up there. It wasn’t just a square window; it was a pyramid!
At the time, my goal was to keep myself entertained in church because I was bored, but now I can see that I was carving out my own sacred space and creating my own practice.
Do you share your practice with others or do this as a solitary practice?
My practice is personal but I do have close friends that I discuss my rituals with one-on-one who give me ideas. I get overwhelmed in groups and my energy dissipates so I prefer to work alone, but when I have an hours long conversation with a friend I can stay charged for weeks.
What has been an unexpected delight in altar building?
I feel that my altars remind me of what is important to me at the moment, which is especially important for my fiery energy that wants to go in every direction at the same time.
My altars allow me to focus my energy. My altars typically consist of the little treasures I find on my adventures so when I see them displayed on my altar, they transport me back to special experiences I’ve had and inspire me to plan new adventures.
How frequently do you build altars?
With my fiery energy, I’m drawn to the ephemeral. I’m not a big collector and I don’t like to keep things that I feel have a spirit and life of their own. I feel that entitled taking comes from a colonialist mindset.
With that said, I don’t build altars very often, only when I’m called to do so and I only use things that I feel were meant for me. If a beautiful rock has a nice home, I don’t kidnap it so it can live on my altar.
I find that I build altars when I want to bless a space I want to stay in but I usually find myself on the move.
What beliefs or ideas influence your altar building?
Astrology plays a prominent role when it comes to setting the rhythm of my life and the symbols that I use. I also use permaculture design principles in many parts of my life, not just gardening, and in doing so I have created regenerative sources of wealth in many forms. I am obsessed with systems thinking and the work of Donella Meadows.
Her work has allowed me to harness the interconnectedness of things in practical ways. When I do so it feels like pure magic to be able to understand how life works in that way.Felicia Ceballos ~ Marroquin
A major part of my practice revolves around the idea of creating a surplus so that I can share with my community and invest in things that generate more surplus so that I can share even more.
I feel that this upward spiral is the way to prosperity for everyone. I do this not only with resources, but with time and projects and I’ve found the more I help the whole, the more doors open for me out of the blue.
Felicia, have you ever built an altar to support this surplus energy creation – a sort of Upward Spiral altar? If not do you see a way that altar building could support this approach to growth and surplus for the good of all?
I never thought of building an upward spiral altar. I didn’t even realize that my whole skylight pyramid practice I did when I was a kid was an altar until now. But you’re right that there is a theme here that I need to support more in my life.
I hope you will check back with us Felicia if you do this and update us on how it is playing out for you!
Can you share an outcome or two from using Altars in your life?
A few years ago, I was consistently having these episodes where I felt trapped and disconnected from my life.
I looked through my journals and there was a consistent theme of “is this all there is to life” and I would wonder if there was something wrong with me because even though on the outside my life looked great and I had what I wanted, I wasn’t happy.
I struggled with this for over a year before I started to figure it out. There were two books, The Artists Way and Women Who Run With The Wolves that I had briefly read when I was a teenager that found their way back into my life.
When I reread them, I was able to connect with my authentic self and my power. I also developed my practice that included building altars. All those things brought me back to myself and I began to work on my life’s work.
I backpacked in the Grand Canyon, I eloped to Big Sur to get married, I quit my job to give more of my attention to Spiffy Rebel, I moved to Costa Rica…there were so many things in just a couple years.
I really started to live instead of merely existing, trying to be perfect to please everyone else. I felt like I could feel the life force working through me and now I get to feel the full experience and miracle of being alive, with all of the ups and downs and messy emotions that I was avoiding before.
What items tend to show up repeatedly when selecting what you will place on your altar? (A specific photo or animal guide? A cross or goddess statue? Tarot card?) Do you have a reason or guided approach for your selection process?
The only pattern that I can think of are recent favorites. If there is something I’m in love with at the moment or if it brings me joy and happiness it gets included.
Do you listen to music to help prepare you when you plan out an altar or while you are building? If so, can you share some favorites?
While I love music, I like to work on my spiritual practice in silence so I can hear myself think and tune into my feelings.
What types of items do you use overall?
So much of my spirituality is tied up in my creativity and my creativity is fed by my need to innovate and my curiosity.
Books are a major part of my life. They’re my first love, my true love, so the books that are currently an inspiration show up in my altars.
I also write down beloved passages, quotes, or ideas that I am developing in calligraphy and prominently display them so I can turn them over in my mind.
I also tend to include my art supplies and my recent artwork. I admire it on my altar before I find it a permanent home or guardian. Sometimes I include flowers from plants that I care for. My treasures from my adventures also make frequent appearances.
Do you follow the seasons or another system/set of holidays/moon cycles that impacts when and the type of altars you build?
I try to align my creative cycles with the moon. It helps me keep a rhythm so I don’t burn myself out. It also gives my new ideas time to ruminate and develop.
Before, I would work when inspired but I could never finish anything! Now I work more intentionally and I do less at once because I’ve learned to anticipate how much I can do in one moon cycle.
But it’s not just the moon cycle, I use Mercury cycles for quarterlyish projects and Jupiter to plan my focus for the year.
Depending on what I’m working on, will determine if I will build a corresponding altar to support me or if the outcome will be art or something else entirely.
What is your favorite part of building or using altars in your life – personal/work both?
My favorite part is making it look beautiful and balanced. As an artist I love arranging everything harmoniously with a limited color palette and variable shapes.
When it all comes together, not only does the altar feel complete, but I feel complete. I feel talented and at peace and I love to admire it and visit my work. It inspires me to create something even better the next time.
How or does your culture show up in your altar building?
Funny is that I don’t think it does. I was raised Catholic and went to parochial school from elementary school until high school. And my mother’s side of the family has always been superstitious and open to new age practices, but even with all of that, my practice is uniquely my own.
It’s my rebellion against what I should be for others and my place to make space for who I am.
What has been the biggest shift for you since building or using altars in your life?
For me it helped me get in touch with my deepest most authentic self. In a way, my altars are my anchors that connect me to myself. As I get tossed around and react to the waves that life throws my way, or get distracted by shiny things, or get lost in the doldrums it’s easy to lose sight of what is important.
My altars remind me of my intention so that I can set the course and pursue my purpose which has brought such color and wonder to my life.
I’m so excited for our readers to learn more about Spiffy Rebel and The Bulk Food Truck project and truly your inspiring energy and hope for improving the systems we all use.
Felicia, You head two very different companies at the moment but there are some beautiful overlaps – tell us a bit about each and where you see they intersect.
In the spring of 2016, my husband, Luis Esparza and I decided that we were going to experiment with living a zero waste lifestyle. Over the next few years, the process of learning to live more sustainably opened our eyes to the limitations and problems of the modern sustainability movement.
The point of the experiment was not to be holier-than-thou but to come up with realistic and practical solutions.
It was from this place that our first company was born, Spiffy Rebel. With Spiffy, we sought to produce sustainable bath and body products and I’m happy to say that we have been able to run a business in line with our values.
First off, we don’t make bullshit products that no one needs. We also have zero waste manufacturing processes. Our inventory was produced in a carbon neutral studio and our products are vegan and palm oil free.
We offset the emissions from our shipping. Most of our packaging is plastic free and uses recycled materials and we’re finding new ways of improving all the time. We’re not 100% perfect, but we get closer every day, which is what means the most to me.
As we got deeper into our sustainability journey, we began to see how much the ability to live sustainably is tied to privilege and income so we wanted to include this new knowledge in our next project, the Bulk Food Truck.
One zero waste habit we were able to maintain for years was buying food from the bulk bins using reusable containers.
Food cheaper, healthier and beautiful (I have a beautiful Pinterest worthy witch pantry now), but buying in bulk at a store leaves a lot to be desired, so I came up with the idea for the Bulk Food Truck.
Basically, it’s like an ice cream truck that drives through a neighborhood and has a selection of bulk grains, produce, eggs and other grocery essentials.
Customers bring their own containers from home so we can fill them and then carry them back inside. We aim to serve food deserts and marginalized communities first. *Editors Note – a food desert is an urban or rural area that has no or little access to healthy, affordable and nutritious food and is a serious problem in the US.
When my husband and I were younger, we lived in low-income communities and we were surprised that when we moved to Orange County, our groceries were cheaper, which didn’t seem right to us.
Affordable healthy food is something that should be accessible to everyone.
You also teach soap making to help individuals increase ways to reduce plastic use – What do you enjoy about teaching others?
I enjoy meeting new interesting people and feeling like I’m making a difference. I feel that teaching is something that has major ripple effects.
I had this moment walking through an Ikea warehouse, where I realized that everything in that warehouse was wrapped in plastic and excess packaging and would end up in a landfill. It made our personal efforts to eliminate the plastic in our lives feel so tiny.
I thought, if I have a couple extra hours, what makes more sense, make some soap for our household and prevent 10 plastic bottles or teach 8 people and prevent 48 bottles; and that doesn’t even include the soap they make later so it changed our approach to sustainability.
I love how you combine your complex skills of artist and techie with your passions of sustainability and marginalized communities! Where does your entrepreneurial drive come from and how do you nurture it during the current global climate?
I feel that it comes from getting to know my authentic self and discovering my purpose. Once I connected with that and started doing more things that resonated with me, I was able to find my way through my anger and sadness about what is going on in the world. Felicia wrote an excellent article on coping with climate anxiety – click here to read it!
I find that the best way to nurture it is to do more of what feels good. Not what you think you should do or what others think you should do, but what makes you come alive. Therein lies your gift.
The best part is, since it feels good, you want to do it all the time so you don’t feel the need to procrastinate or need to find ways to motivate yourself. It comes naturally. All those things that you listed are things I naturally gravitate toward so I see them as play instead of work.
Your story and my interactions with you have me finding you resilient, positive and solution focused – what are your secrets? What is your go to way to keep yourself mentally and physically strong and joyful?
I had this beautiful moment in Sedona that has been helpful. We hired a guide to take us to some of the vortices. He took us to a secluded scenic overlook with expansive views of ancient rock formations far in the distance and he was explaining to us how these points are energetically connected.
My husband Luis, felt it first, but I didn’t experience anything until I saw a straight line in the trees and the rock where nothing grew for miles and I stood aligned with it.
In that moment I felt caught in the current of an almost electric force, and with the awe-inspiring vista before me, I felt directly connected to something larger than myself, the miracle of life.
As the moment passed, the guide pointed out a road that traversed the landscape and he called our attention to the people speeding along in their cars, some having a miserable day, being mean or cruel, caught up in their own tiny world and personal problems, that they could not see the unfolding miracle that they are active participants in.
“How many times have you been that person?” he said and it crushed me, because I was that person a lot. Now when I have difficult days and challenges I think back to that moment and I’m able to surrender.
We’re so small in the grand scheme of things so it seems silly to think we can control things especially since there is so much we do not know. Better to accept our circumstances, do what we can and let the rest go. By framing life this way, I’ve found it easier to weather hard times because it doesn’t add guilt, shame, regret or other self-imposed suffering to my load.
What was the surprise for you when you were a selected finalist for the National Geographic competition? Has achieving this level of recognition changed your current plans with the Bulk Food Truck Delivery company?
When I thought up the idea for the Bulk Food Truck I thought that it was something that I would start to work on many years in the future because I thought it was ahead of its time and beyond my abilities.
It was one of the many ideas in my “someday maybe” idea file and I don’t know what I was thinking when I submitted it because it seemed like such a long shot.
I’ll never forget the day we won because it was on an eclipse. That morning I learned that my editor was stepping down so I knew intuitively that it wasn’t a good sign. (This turned out to be true since I got let go a couple weeks after.)
That afternoon, I received the email from National Geographic and I was so stunned I must have held my breath for a whole minute. My husband was sitting across the table from me and he said “what’s wrong” and I told him, “you are never going to believe what just happened.”
Now looking back, that moment changed everything. I felt seen after a decade of being undervalued and by National Geographic of all things. It made me reevaluate my abilities in a new light and I stepped into my power. Now I know that this isn’t beyond my abilities so I don’t have to wait, I’m ready to start working on it now.
What’s next for Felicia? When you and your family are settled again where you want to be for awhile – what other big projects are percolating that you are excited to tackle?
The next big thing is getting funding for the Bulk Food Truck. This project is bigger than anything I’ve ever taken on and to get it off the ground I need to put a lot of pieces in place.
Unfortunately, being isolated at home makes it harder to get the resources and make the connections I need to make it happen, but I trust that it will happen at the right time. Just in the last few months we’ve seen a huge public outcry over systemic injustice yet when we were talking about these issues just a few months ago, there wasn’t as much interest.
Now equity and accessibility is at the forefront of everyone’s mind so the ground is prepped for the Bulk Food Truck to take root and I choose to optimistically believe that there will be even more advantages that await us on the other side of this pandemic to help us see this through.
Bonus question #1 if you dare:
Favorite curse word?
SO many! Bitches is a favorite and so is puta madre.
Bonus question #2 if it applies for you:
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 two bracelets that my best friend gave me that I wear when I need extra courage. They remind me that someone believes in me and then I recall that it isn’t just one person, I have so many people who know and love my authentic self.
Bonus question if you dare: #3
What would you take your younger self by the shoulders and looking straight in the eyes say to her?
I would tell her to stay wild. I started out a fearless little girl with big ideas, a fighting spirit and messy hair but to get through life, I cut off pieces of myself here and there to make myself smaller, less threatening and less difficult. In the process, I cut myself off from my own power, often when I needed it most.
So I would tell her, the parts of yourself that you fear others won’t love, will be beloved by many, so trust that you are complete and worthy as you are and give it some time.
The secret to survival is to pretend to conform when you need to but not for longer than you need to and remember that you are pretending. And if you ever get lost and can’t find your way, write 3 pages in your own handwriting first thing every morning and your soul and your ancestors will speak to you after a few weeks and tell you what to do.
Finally, Felicia, how can women find you locally and online?
I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as @feliseea