A Temple Shrine
This is the second part of the two part series on temple architecture. This article concerns itself with the more advanced architecture needed for working advanced ritual magick.
Temple Architecture for Advanced Ritual Magick
Once you get past the basic workings and start performing more elaborate ordeals, such as those that are practiced in the Order of the Gnostic Star, then you will require some additional tools, but these can be either made or purchased by you without jeopardizing your monthly budget. Additionally, you might find that performing more elaborate ritual workings might require somewhat more temple space, which would be a consideration. These extra tools are particularly used in the ritual workings of invocation, evocation and more advanced types of workings. Having a separate room of some kind makes these kinds of working far less intrusive then they might be otherwise.
Central Altar: Whether you decided to place your altar in the center of the circle or not, to work more advanced ritual workings, you will need to have a special small altar in the center of the circle. I typically use a small folding table, which I can remove if I need more space in that area. If you have placed your simple altar in the center of the circle, you will have to move it to one of the watchtowers, if possible. The central altar is used for establishing a powerful focus at that point in the magick circle, and this is important for invocation and evocation magick, as well as all forms of talismanic magick. Having a central altar is a way of being able to accumulate magickal tools and devices within the inner magick circle, when that structure becomes important to the magick that you might perform.
Watchtower Altars: More advanced magical workings require the building up and the focusing of certain activities at each of the cardinal points. The four Angles will still need to be marked, but the Watchtowers now assume a more important and layered kind of ritual structure, similar to what was done by having a central altar. Correspondences can now be placed at each of the Watchtowers so as to establish a greater and permanent kind of magical power associated with each. These tables can be quite small, but they have the added advantage of being able to hold multiple open flames or oil lamps without endangering oneself. In my temple, I actually use lamps that have each of their glass shields tinted to one of the four colors that are used as representations for the four Elements, so that they illuminate the colors that I use for symbolizing the Watchtowers. By doing this, I have added the correspondence of color to the Watchtowers. Also, in my temple, I have arranged my furniture so that I also have some kind of table space for the four Angles as well. Yet this has made the periphery of the temple a bit crowded with furniture, but it does work out quite well, ensuring that the lamps placed in the Angles are elevated.
Temple Shrine: A temple shrine is a table that is placed at one of the four Watchtowers to hold the statues, symbols and offerings for the magician’s personal pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. Offerings include flowers, incense, food and drink, as well as some kind of vigil lights. I have actually placed three animated statues on my shrine, which represent my three personal Goddesses who powerfully operate in my personal magick. Before I perform any kind of magical operation, I often say a Mass and feed these statues, so as to awaken and fortify them.
Trigons and Gate Keys: I have found that the use of charged and consecrated trigons and the three gate keys are quite strategic in the advanced workings that I perform. A trigon can be placed on one of the four Watchtower altars, or the central altar if it is to be used in conjunction with an inner circle ritual structure. A trigon can even be used as a base for standing on during a godhead assumption, where all of the chakras would be super-charged and imprinted by the figures and devices painted on its surface. Gate keys are talismanic images placed at each of the three gate points for a Gateway ritual structure. When deploying a Gateway ritual structure, I often place a Tarot trump over the gate key so as to further qualify them as I place them on altars at the periphery of the magick circle.
How I came up with the name that I use for a trigon is that it’s based upon the very first trigon that I developed so many years ago. It consisted of the symbolic structures of a circle containing an equal-lateral triangle depicted upon a rectangular piece of wood. The trigon is typically made out of wood and is a rectangle measuring 18 inches long and 14.5 inches high. The trigon is typically painted a flat black for the background, and has the designs and other decorations painted over it. I usually either spray the trigon with a protective latex covering, or brush over the dried and finished design with a glossy clear latex gel.
In my collection of trigons I have created one for each of the four Watchtowers and I also have one that is used specifically for Godhead assumption. I have trigons that are used in the central magical circle, and they incorporate the star pattern designs of the Septagram, Eneagram, Undecigram (eleven pointed star) and the Quintedecigram (septagram enclosed within an octagon).
As for the gate keys, some years ago I devised three gate keys and then manufactured them. I used three blocks of wood that were approximately 3.5 × 7 × 1 inches (being length, height and width, respectively); and upon a flat black background I painted the magical squares and sigils to empower them. Over the years that I have used these gate keys, I have found them to be quite powerful and extremely useful. Having a special marker for each of the three gateway points is also an important feature in my system of magick, since it helps one to be visually aware of the overlaying of the previous ritual structures with that of the gateway ritual structure.
Other Considerations: An elaborate temple can have some additional features, which I have found to be both useful and esthetically pleasing. When I lived in apartments, I would use the master bedroom in a multi bedroom apartment for the temple, and in some cases, this master bedroom came with an adjoining bathroom as well. You could sequester yourself in the master bedroom temple space and have access to the bathroom to perform your magical ablutions (taking a sumptuous bath for cleansing and anointing) without ever having to either leave or re-enter the temple confines. Once the door was closed, I wouldn’t have to re-emerge until the magical work was completed.
A painted or tiled magick circle graphically depicted on the temple floor is another one of those esthetically pleasing tools that I would love to own. Early in my magical career, I had an elaborate magick circle painted on two sheets of very thin particle board, and these were nailed to the floor. Of course, since that time, I have mostly lived in apartments that had wall to wall carpeting. So such a split circle painting proved to be not very practical, since it couldn’t be easily secured to the floor, and I didn’t want to punch holes through the carpet and into the floor boards using nails. I also had to tape the two halves together, and this required constant maintenance because the tape would loose its adhesion over time.
I quickly abandoned that large painted circle even though it was quite beautiful. However, it was awkward, required regular maintenance and it was difficult to move around. An alternative to such a contraption would be to use some kind of canvas floor cover with a circle painted over it, but I never found anything that would really work for me. Perhaps the optimum would be to have a special tiled floor installed with a magick circle depicted on it as a kind of beautiful mosaic. That would certainly be costly (and permanent), but it would also be highly esthetic, at least to me.
A more elaborate temple would also have corresponding elaborate decorations. You could put up appropriate pictures, have banners in the East and West, floor length curtains, veiled sections of the temple, black and white pillars (either painted or constructed) on either side of the altar. Instead of using pillars, I have a decorated obelisk placed in the center of the circle. I also use various natural and faceted crystals in my magick, including the use of a crystal wand (transmutar wand), crystal athame, base crystal (placed on or below the main altar) and a large crystal on a necklace (controller or transformation crystal). I have previously posted an article about how I use crystals in my ritual magick, and you can read that here. Additional esthetic elements would be colored lights, a strobe light, a stereo system (for music - a very important element indeed), and lots of handy storage areas for all the supplies and various accouterments used in the performance of ritual magick. Keep in mind that I like having everything that I need around me in case it might be needed, even if it wasn’t actually called for in the ritual text.
Still other additional tools that are good to have around would be a nice collection of swords and daggers, an assortment of wands for various uses, a staff or two, a besom for ritual cleansing, and a Mass kit. If you are going to say a Mass as part of your magical regimen (and this is required in the magick of the Order of the Gnostic Star), then you will need a special set of tools and vestments. A basic Mass kit consists of a golden chalice, paten, a pix (small golden container used to store hosts), cruets (for the wine and water), and some vestments for the chalice and paten. These vestments are the corporal, purificator, the pall, the chalice veil, and the burse (for carrying the unconsecrated hosts).
The corporal is a piece of plain white cloth that is 15 inches square, and this cloth is laid down on the center of the altar cloth, and the chalice is placed upon it. The purificator is a plain white cloth that is about 14 inches long and 9 inches wide. It is folded three times along its length, becoming a narrow band of cloth that is 14 inches by 3 inches. The purificator is used to wipe the fingers, mouth, cleaning and drying the mass chalice. The purificator is placed on the top of the chalice, with its ends hanging equally over either side. The patten is placed on top of purificator, centered over the chalice. The pall is a double piece of linen about 5 to 7 inches square, and has a piece of flat cardboard inserted into it, to stiffen it. The pall is placed on top of the patten, purificator and chalice. It’s used to cover the hosts that are placed on the patten prior to saying mass. The chalice veil is placed over the pall, veiling the chalice completely. The chalice veil is often made out of the same material and color as the special mass vestments.
There are also vestments that the celebrant wears to perform a Mass. These would be, at the very least, a chasuble, cincture and a stole. The stole is a long strip of cloth about 3 to 4 inches wide and from 7 to 8 feet in length, made of the same material as the chasuble. The stole is worn centered around the neck, across the shoulders, crossed over the chest and fastened in place with the cincture, which is a cord worn around the waist. The cincture is a thick cord with tasseled ends that’s usually four to five yards in length. It’s doubled around the waist, tied in the front, and the ends are tucked at either side so they don’t interfere with walking and moving. Over the stole and the cincture is placed the chasuble, which is a poncho like covering that has a hole for the head and neatly lays over the shoulders and down on both the back and front, covering the inner robe almost to the feet. The chasuble is usually worn over an inner robe (called the alb, because it was white), but I typically wear my working robe as my inner robe in these situations.
As you can see, more advanced and elaborate ritual workings require more tools, equipment, furniture, vestments and other supplies. Adopting this system of magick will ultimately require a large room to perform the rituals and store all of the furniture and equipment. In the days when I lived in apartments, I would typically look for one that had at least two bedrooms, and that the master bedroom would be roughly 13 square feet (4 meters), or slightly more. I have found that many two bedroom apartments have a master bedroom that is at least this size. In fact, I even found an appropriate sized affordable apartment when I lived in Santa Fe, which was a very restrictive and expensive housing market. So I believe that finding a suitable place to live and also have access to a large enough temple is quite achievable, depending on your budget and living arrangements.
Of course, if you are thinking of hosting a group in your temple, then having more space is even more of a requirement. The above dimensions for a standard temple that would make use of the space in a typical two bedroom apartment would only be sufficient to house a handful of members, and we are talking about maybe two or three people actively performing ritual in the temple space. You might get a few more people in that space, but they would have to be consigned to the temple’s periphery, either standing or sitting on a cushion so there would still be enough room for ritual activities.
If you had a group of more than five individuals, then you would need to add and extend a few more feet to the dimensions of the temple. Finding an apartment with a master bedroom that large would be difficult and quite probably hard to afford. This is where the group would have to consider pooling their resources and renting a separate space for group ritual activities.
All you really need is a large room and some storage space, and that’s it. However, you would have to equip this temple with everything needed, and it would have to be in a secure and relatively quiet location. This might be a rather expensive and involved proposition for any group to contemplate. However, depending on the number of members and their level of financial commitment, enforcing a strict payment of monthly dues might be able to cover such an expense without it becoming a financial burden to any of the members. Having the use of an external temple space that is not attached to one’s living space could also be used by individuals performing their own personal magick. Such a convenience might be well worth paying into a financial pool that would be used to rent and equip an external temple for individual and collective use.
Temple of My Dreams
I am lucky that I have had access for many years to a temple that has allowed me to work fairly elaborate rituals and even involve a few friends in that magick. My current home has both an indoor temple (with a fire place) and an outdoor grove that is completely sequestered. However, the home that I own was not designed specifically with a temple in mind, so it has some irregularities and slight inconveniences, such as the fact that the temple space isn’t rectangular and there is no adjoining bathroom with a large tub, which is something that I do occasionally miss.
So if I were a rich man and money wasn’t a concern, what kind of temple living complex would I design? In other words, what is my optimum fantasy in regards to a temple. I have had my dream temple in my mind for many years, but I have never had either the opportunity or the money to make it a reality. Considering my age and the financial restrictions of retirement, I doubt that I will have such an opportunity in the future, either. Yet putting aside all of the practical considerations and other reasons why such a dream temple could never be realized, I would like to share that dream temple with you. Who knows, maybe someday, some wealthy magician will incorporate my dream temple into their building plans.
The most elaborate temple complex that I have considered is one where each cardinal direction or Watchtower would have its own complete magick circle and central altar complex. So there would be four complete magick circles each with their own Watchtowers and Angles, and these four magick circles would intersect to form a large central magick circle, with its own altar, shrine and other furniture. All five central altars would be fully equipped with their own chalices and patens, lamps of art, daggers, swords, wands, staffs, and any other equipment needed to work magick. The central magick circle would house the pantheon shrine and represent the central or core magical work. The four outlying Watchtower circles would represent an Element based magical system, such as what I have called the Tetrasacramentary, which would be a entire system of magick for each element sacramental system.
Certain classes of rites would be performed at one of the outlying Watchtower circle complexes, and elaborate rites involving a synthesis of all four would be performed in the central circle complex. Each Watchtower circle complex would have its own coordinated colors for the altar cloths and decorations, making each nearly a distinct and separate temple, or four temples in one. I actually have a system of magick called the Tessarenoi (Greek for Four Temples) that works a complete ordeal for each of the four sacramental systems. The fifth sacramental system has the emblem of the Star, and symbolizes all four sacraments merged into quintessence. When I work with these systems of magick, I perform them within the same temple complex - only the vestments, sacraments and some decorations are changed. In my ideal environment, I would use a separate temple complex to work each one.
Therefore, my dream temple consists of a building whose main design would be an equal arm cross. The center would be occupied by the central magick circle temple complex, and the four wings would house the four Watchtower circle temple complexes. I would also install a system of portable walls, so that each wing could be isolated from the rest of the structure if that was required. By opening or closing the portable walls, the wings and the central area could become separate chambers or a single massive temple area, shaped like an equal arm cross. Additionally, each wing would be decorated and the walls painted an element color, and the tile floor would also be of a matching color. I would want vaulted ceilings in the wings, and a circular skylight in the central temple. The windows in the wings would be high, circular shaped, and filled with appropriately colored stained glass. The lighting would be computer controlled and would consist of a combination of indirect lighting and strategically placed spotlights, some of which would use colored filters. There would also be a digital sound system, with hidden speakers placed in all four wings and in the central area, as well as a video recording system that would cover every area of the temple complex.
An example of such a temple complex can be found in the horror movie “Masque of the Red Death,” which is a 1964 Vincent Price movie. Surrounding the great ball room are a series of four temples devoted to various spiritual perspectives, and painted and decorated in a single color. The last temple in the series, which is colored black, was dedicated to the Devil himself. My dream temple is somewhat based on that series of different colored temples depicted in that movie.
The temple would also house a large elaborate bathing facility, with showers, wardrobes, and a large Jacuzzi pool conveniently located in adjacently to the equal-arm temple complex.
The temple would also house a large elaborate bathing facility, with showers, wardrobes, and a large Jacuzzi pool conveniently located in adjacently to the equal-arm temple complex.
As for living space, I would choose to locate that in a separate building altogether, with an enclosed walk-way between the temple building and the residence. The living space would be able to accommodate several adults comfortably. Bedrooms would consist of small simple sleeping cells, with most of the living space allocated to the dining room, kitchen, meeting rooms and the library. There would also be a recreation room to watch video, listen to music, play games and just socialize. If this residence sounds like an elaborate and expensive kind of magical monastery, then that would a good label for it. I could also imagine that the location for this place would somewhere in the pristine mountains, so that one could easily find amazing vistas at any time of the day or night.
So that’s my dream temple, and if you inspired by it, maybe it could be your dream temple as well. I doubt if I will ever get to realize this amazing place in the material world, but it is a place that I do seem to visit, sometimes even often, in my dreams and astral projections.