Altars & birthing bowls
by Barbara Hagensen
My altar’s presence, as a dedicated piece of furniture, is the center of my world. It’s not because it’s a big piece but because it’s a physical manifestation of my inner spiritual world.
An altar and the sacred objects it holds reminds us of our spiritual need. It is like a powerful transfer station that we can plug into to connect with our Creator and ourselves. Seeing symbolic objects, photographs or writings and using ritual brings forth a profound awareness of our spiritual selves which otherwise tends to be illusive. My altar helps tether me to my Creator and my spirit to myself.
I make wooden altars for meditation and prayer and am co-creator of the Birthing Bowl, an embellished wood-turned bowl which, when used symbolically and consciously, nurtures one’s dreams.
I love the warmth, beauty and movement created in wood. Wood is symbolic. Trees are a bridge between the earth and the sky and each type of tree also has its own strengths and symbolism attached to it.
My first altar was an old coffee table that served me well for many years. One day during a long meditation I heard “make an altar” and as I was a cabinetmaking apprentice at that time, I was able to do that. I selected and worked the wood carefully into my “spread eagle” design. I felt so passionate about my woodworking skills merging with my belief in the sacred that I decided to share my creations under the label “Sacred Space.”
The purpose of my work is to remind us of our sacred space – the quiet place within where we can go for insight, rejuvenation and connection with our Creator and ourselves.
The Birthing Bowl came out an experience I had when making my version of a “burden basket.” I had a willow burden basket and according to Native legend, as I understand it, this is where one places one’s burdens. It is often kept near the front door so that when you arrive at someone’s home you place your burdens in the basket.
This prompted me to create a wooden burden bowl of my own on a lathe, adding some beads and a feather. I was in the process of making a second one when someone asked me what kind of bowl I was making. Despite my intuition to not share my creation yet, I ignored that feeling and began to talk about what I was making. Instantly my creative surge disappeared and it took almost a year before I finished that second bowl.
During that time my artist friend, Jean, and I were talking about my bowls and the devastating experience I had. I felt I had quite literally ripped out my creative idea and showed it to the world before it was formed fully enough to survive by itself.
The Birthing Bowl idea was created from that conversation. The bowl, symbolizing a womb with its soft lining and symbolic protection, will nurture one’s creations, passions and dreams until they are developed enough to withstand the harsh winds of criticism and be born. The patterns, embellishments, shapes and knots of the wood symbolize aspects of spirit, mind, body and emotions. A written intent placed in the bowl sets your creations into motion and whether they develop slowly or quickly, they are supported until they are ready to be born into this world. Burning the written intent after is one way to give thanks when your dream comes to life.
The spiritual connection to the bowl is ancient. Symbolically and historically, women from cultures around the world are connected to the cauldron, bowl and vessel. A bowl often holds life sustenance similar to the way a woman’s womb holds new life. Much like my altar, using my Birthing Bowl has helped many of my dreams to become concrete.
Barbara Hagensen loves the creative process and working with wood and other materials. She is a journey woman cabinetmaker and also builds theatre sets, does residential finishing and construction, and teaches power tool skills workshops for woman. ttps://ca.linkedin.com/in/barbarahagensen
ART: Peace From Within, © Heather Brewster. Healing has become an important part of Heather’s life and she now incorporates it into her artwork through the use Reiki symbols and creative visualization. She’s a natural empath and certified Reiki Master, wanting to provide healing images for people to hang on their walls, providing a protective and sacred space. www.heatherbrewster.com
NOTE: This article was first published in August 2005 in © Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine. This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to supplement your current health program, not to replace the care of a licensed medical doctor.