Althea Altair is one of the most pious spirits I have ever met. She wears her god’s colors with pride, remaining firm and unwavering in her devotion. She’s the Laethic role model.
I met her in the fall of 2012. The Otherfaith had begun dominating my life, and I took my dedication to the Laetha very seriously. Fittingly, Althea appeared.
The daughter of the Laetha, Althea Altair oversees all matters concerning her holy parent. She was the spirit that led me to a deeper understanding of my patron god (what some might call Mysteries).
She did this by cutting out my energetic heart. At the time it seemed rather violent. My heart was replaced in the end, however, so all’s well that ends well. Of course, such events fall squarely into the ‘crazy mystic’ category, but that is my wheelhouse.
Althea remains an important spirit to me and the Otherfaith to this day. I love her dearly. Beyond my affection, she is a wonderful teacher and incredibly direct. Directness is a trait I value especially with the spirits. She is informed on all matters one could need as a devotee to new gods.
This became obvious (again) as I set up my sewing room a few weeks ago. Althea was there as soon as I began.
“Clean the room clockwise,” she told me.
“Clockwise? But counterclockwise banishes,” I protested.
Althea turned up her nose and repeated, “Clockwise.”
Clockwise I went, scrubbing the walls.
“Don’t just put that anywhere,” she said as I brought up fabric and sewing supplies. She motioned against the wall. “Keep the room open.”
And as I was about to bring in a dusty chair: “Dust it! No dust!” I practically flinched back from the doorway, chair in hand.
The sewing room was clearly not going to be my own space. As I finished setting up and prepared to sew, Althea was beside me.
“No food or drink,” she said.
“No food or drink?” I frowned. “I understand for a sewing room, but if this is supposed to be a shrine room…” I tilted my head at her.
Althea shook her head. “Respect and awareness. That is what you’re cultivating. Attention. Be aware of the space you’re in. No food or drink.”
(“But water’s fine, right?” I asked.
She rolled her eyes but nodded. Maybe in another state, in another place, it would not be a given that water is allowed damn near everywhere. But I exist in the desert. Water better be allowed everywhere, if you want to survive comfortably.)
She is certainly one of my best teachers.
A few days later, as I cleaned the house, I carried a cup of tea into the room. When I passed the threshold, an odd unsettling cloak settled over me.
“Out!” Althea hissed, snapping into presence. “No drinks!”
“Sh – shoot,” I exclaimed, catching myself cursing. I turned on my heel with a snap and left.
The sewing room was definitely not just mine.
This isn’t to say that my lax religious practice was reshaped overnight. My lax sewing practice was only kicked into gear at the last minutes. But setting up the room where I must be conscious began changing my life. I began recovering from the wounds I still carried subconsciously regarding religion.
I woke up to the house I’m living in.
“You may not be married to her,” Althea said, “but she is your lover. Treat her well.”
(“Are we still talking about the house?” I joked.
Althea smacked me upside the head.)
I took up morning devotions once more, something I have not done in a long, long time. Althea guided me.
“You should only enter the room with clean clothes,” she said as I sat ready to write her advice.
I tapped my pen against my lips. “Okay. Fair. But that clean or dirty bit? What if someone can’t do that?”
“Not able to?” she asked, her brow furrowed. She considered what I’d asked, weighing what she knows of physical life to her own more ethereal existence.
“Yeah.” I coughed. “Yes. Or, maybe the whole ‘dirty’ thing could be an issue.” I tapped my head. My own anxieties and neuroses could get wretched and debilitating.
If I’m not careful I could end up checking every inch of my clothes for a stain, hyper focused on ‘cleanliness’.
“Focus on being dressed,” she decided. Once morning is out, once the coffee has been consumed, I put my little brown book for Otherfaith writing away, and Althea disappeared in the brightening light.
In less than a week, we leave for vacation to Minnesota. I want to give this house the love she deserves. I imagine soft lighting, comfy pillows, nice handmade drapes. A back porch that is set up in the evening. A clean but well used kitchen. Linen on the clothes line. A scented pantry.
My religious devotions help with this, as does Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance. Breathnach’s daybook is focused on domesticity, an art I crave to master. Recent entries have emphasized gardens and scents throughout the house. A garden is, sadly, out of the question; we will be leaving our desert home for new sights in a few months. Scenting the house is manageable, however.
Aleady, the house has been imbued with the fragrant Nag Champa incense I associate with religious practice. Mornings bring the strong aroma of coffee and, every few days, the powerful seaweed of dashi.
My religious and domestic life has been kick started, all by a sewing room.