Creating a personal altar

I’ve heard individuals ask about creating a personal altar. They question whether they could build an altar to a deity or spirit. Of course one can. An altar can be created that pays strict homage to one’s deceased ancestors. The operative word is your when it comes to creating your altar.

There are no rights or wrongs to creating your personal altar. Some of us may have a cleared table with a candle or a couple of pictures of deceased relatives along with a small bouquet of fresh flowers on it. Others of us may have a low to the ground table with a small statue of Ganesh sitting on it. Maybe you found a special stone, crystal, or shell at the beach that you’d like to place on your altar. How you create your altar is dependent on your beliefs and your tradition.

Remember that your altar is yours. There’s no competition with who you might perceive to be more spiritual than you. While you may share notes in developing your altar, no one gets to the head of this class.

My first altar was an end table upon which I placed a candle and a wooden flute for a Native spirit who loves melodious music. It stayed that way for a long while as I got to know myself while listening to elders. As I began blooming spiritually, it grew. Right now it’s like a delicious smorgasbord for prayer.

I’m cautionary about taking pictures of my altar and placing them on social media. I just can’t see the value in advertising personal sacred items on the internet. I’m also a pretty private person about my spiritual life.

Finally, I suggest you listen to your heart space as you create your personal altar. Look around you and see what valued keepsakes you may already have in possession that have been waiting for a place on your altar.

In light and progress,


Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

Every morning, I pull a card from the Graciella la Gitana Oracle deck. Although I’ve been working with the cards for over fifteen years, I gain new insights and I’ve come to rely on the guidance that each card gives me. Graciella speaks through the cards and she is the most excellent spirit guide.

When I pull a card for the weekly reading it is a different card than the one I’ve pulled that morning. Today, Graciella and I combined our energies and we smudged with sage in the abalone shell. We shuffled the deck three times and placed the cards on my work table this time. I was a bit surprised to see that the same card I pulled this morning was the one that jumped out. The Cape/la Capa.

The Cape/ La Capa

This card speaks to being ready to take action. That is an action in itself. We should have protection when we act. That is symbolized by the red color of the cape. Don’t confuse the red for anger, it is for protection in this case. The protection should be something that the individual has already devised for themselves. What looms large in this sitting is the stone wall that the person is facing. What does the phenomena of a stone wall mean to you? For some it is a memorable event that took place when the LGBTQ persons who were at the Stonewall Inn bar in the West Village decided that they were not going to continue putting up with being treated abominably only because of their choices to live fully as who they were meant to be. I’d like to add, as children of God. We are all worthy and valuable in this world. There may be a time this week when you are asked, maybe not in words, to stand up for yourself and take a decisive, not divisive, stance to proclaim that you are here! You mean something! You are important to this world and are ready to take a stand. A little drama may be in order. You are up to the task. You have been prepared!


Graciella y Theresa

Creating a Sacred Space

This post has been inspired by the multitude of questions and answers I’ve read on social media. People enter social forums in certain traditions questioning whether they are allowed to build an altar for a particular deity. Others then offer their strong opinions on whether or not the individual is allowed to erect these sacred spaces. I’m usually horrified about the responses. I truly believe that the creation of a sacred space is between a person and their Higher Power. What I realized that before addressing the creation of an altar or shrine we should rather focus on creating our sacred spaces that may be our inner and/or outer dwellings.

It’s likely the questions about altars are posed because of an uncertainty about the relationship one has with one’s own Power Greater than Oneself. I like to think that one slowly grows this relationship and while it can be helpful sharing thoughts with others that learning to trust our intuition and not worry so much about being right or wrong or about what others think about this profound aspect of ourselves.

Spend time in that empty space. Let it envelope you in it’s warmth and love. Meditate in it. In meditation we are afforded insights into where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are moving. Meditation is most valuable when you do what’s right for you. It may be sitting for a few minutes with eyes closed or ambling down a wooded path. Just as in creating our sacred space, we ultimately decide which type of meditation works best for us.

I work in a women’s shelter and understand the potential real challenges of creating a personal space. Whether it’s sharing a dorm with eight women or living in a crowded space with a spouse and children, the difficulties can be very real. After having a space that I used for prayer and meditation turned into a bedroom for a year for my father who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease I personally understand how hard it can be. I had to become creative.

Walking my dogs before sunrise while praying became my ‘go to’ sacred space. Running was my meditation. I cried about losing my sacred space until I realized I carried it within. It didn’t happen overnight. The struggle had been real. I had to work it out with my Higher Power and eventually found peace.

One of the earlier spiritual elders I learned from suggested that I find a small space to work with. I still had teenagers at home and space was at a minimum. I found that space and created my first altar in my living room. Let’s talk about creating that space next week. In the meantime, let’s work on that interior dwelling.

A pertinent reading to the construction of one’s inner sacred space is St. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle. It’s one possession I keep that reminds of my inner path work.

In light and love,


Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

Last week’s post was about Change and there was a lot of change for me that I noticed especially toward the end of the week. Most of the changes that took place were of the inside of the chest kind- the ones that affect the heart. I’m feeling lighter, less worried about a toppling skyscraper falling down on my, and felt a clarity I seemed to have missed without even realizing that I was a bit hazy. I’ve added a Twitter account for Pollen Press and you can find us @LlcPollen! I’m excited about that. I already have one follower there. Come on over and check us out there. Ahem, once you’re done with this post.

Graciella and I chose the weekly card together as usual. I smudged with sage in my beloved abalone shell. We centered and gathered our energies together. Shuffled. Fanned. Pull a card. Voila! The Ancestors Card!


This is indeed one of my favorite cards of all! It reminds me that we are never alone. That we are here because of the ones that came before us and that we must never forget that we remain connected although they are on the spiritual plane. This week I did a wonderful spiritual reading for someone and the ancestors were in full force. I was reminded then, as now, that we can do small things to remind our ancestors that they are still in our light and love. What do we remember they loved? A cup of black coffee, a cigar, a deck of playing cards? A piece of cake dripping with honey? What do you remember about your ancestors that you can use to pay homage to them? A white candle, a glass of water on your altar, or a picture that shows them in the prime of health may be thought of by some as mementos, yes, but they are something more. They show that you still respect, love, and are providing the warmth, love, light, and progress for their spirits as they traverse in their ways through the Universe, providing you and me with light, love, protection, and guidance.

Some of us are also conscious of our ancestors that walk with us that may not be of the blood line we carry. These spirit guides also attend to us, whisper in our ears, hold our hands, and navigate us through the challenges and the celebrations of our daily lives. Think about your spirit guides today and give thanks either silently in prayer or by speaking aloud to the night skies. Your relationship with your ancestor is a sacred one. Be there for your ancestor. Your ancestor is there for you!


Graciella y Theresa

Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

Graciella and I pulled this week’s card as usual. We’d tried last week, but I couldn’t seem to get the post picture inserted. I have to admit I was frustrated and irritated. My spouse and I were planning to go out and I had forty-five minutes to get the post in. Well, forty-five minutes later I was still tooling around with the picture that refused to show vertically. It insisted on a horizontal layout. At some point, I let it go. I needed to move on and that was the card I’d chosen- the traveler. I also felt that I wasn’t ready to start the oracle readings up yet. I needed to do the easier thing. So after three-quarters of an hour of going uphill I gave up. I am in a phase of letting things be so that’s what I finally did. I can be stubborn. It’s a Varela trait.

Today, Graciella and I shuffled the oracle deck. We fanned them out on the dining room table. This time I didn’t smudge. I think it will be okay. Together we pulled the Change/Cambios card.


The card image shows an arm reaching up for a particular cannister. In the process of doing so, it seems that another cannister has inadvertently fallen open. In the sweet sugar or flour that is spilled, there is another image. One of a chain of golden links that is in the shape of a heart. Sugar and flour are usually used to create a baked good or a confection. We may have to work a little bit for the tasty muffin or pie but it is usually well worth it when we bite down into it. While there could be minor annoyances, such as having to clean up a spill, the idea that something unexpected and pleasant may show up spontaneously in a favorable way, is the idea that Graciella would like to share.

A friend had sent me a beautifully touching letter today. She’d read yesterday’s post on the loss of my father and how I am adjusting. At the end she wished me all the courage I could muster as I move forward on this voyage. It was heartfelt and I’m in gratitude at the love sent in that letter. Today’s card speaks to the wonder and fulfillment about to be experienced in changes that will be encountered. I think that they’ve already begun. One example is me picking up a needlepoint piece that I’d put down a couple of years ago. I didn’t have the concentration or the patience to work on that piece. This weekend the ease of the needle work was calming and yes, comforting.

Needlepoint in progress

If you experience an unexpected satisfying change this week, will you share it here with us?

With love and a hug,

Graciella and Theresa

Treading water

I took swimming lessons at the YWCA the summer that I completed the fourth grade, the summer that my sister died. Treading, from afar on the tiled deck, seemed almost relaxing. The counselor had on her swim cap, with the elastic strap and fastener held under her chin. She invited us in almost lazily with a large smile on her face. I couldn’t tell from my angle that her legs were moving furiously under the water. I was tested a couple of weeks later. I timed in for a full thirty seconds. Treading water was something that has always remained a challenge for me. I can float and swim both on my belly and on my back at a decent rate. Treading water seemed synonymous with how I walked on the earth back them. Everything seemed hard.

I haven’t written since January 20. Shortly after that date we’d received the call from the hospice nurse that my Dad was declining. By the 25th, she suggested that we call family for last good-byes. He was moving quickly into his transition. We sat with him for the next three days. We prayed. All of us. Family members wove in and out of the room. He knew us. He gave a little wave of his hand whenever we were in his vision. He crossed over on the twenty-eighth of January. I feel as though I’ve been treading water since then.

There’s usually a check list in my head at all times. It’s part of my monkey-brain. I jump from one thing to the next, making sure that everything is okay. The check list has changed from making sure my dad’s needs were met, to funeral arrangements, and business calls, to now. My check list has turned to re-checking. Was I there enough for him? Did I do the best for him? Was he comfortable? Mostly, was I fully present as his daughter? My head tells me yes. My heart has tricked me a couple of times into feeling I could have done more. My head reminds me that I did the best I could for the man, who at all the stops of life, did the best he could for me. We were a great team.

Last night I woke up thinking that a big part of my life is gone. Duh! Of course, it is. Yesterday, I had a short meditation and there he was walking toward me readying for a game of dominoes. This is a process, not an event. At some point, I’d placed a picture of The Never-Ending Story on my Facebook page. The quote is “Nothing is lost… everything is transformed.” I will see how that will manifest in my life. I feel him. I see him. Our love continues. He is with Mom, my sister, and his parents and siblings again. I’ve been blessed to have him all of these years.

I’ve the deep desire to go to the beach. I know that I can feel him there too. We spent many afternoons there during the last couple of years. It’s too cold to jump in the water. I won’t tread furiously. I think this time I will let the ocean’s energy wash over me in the cold breeze. I will allow the healing to be a gentle process. I will just be.

Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

What could I possibly write about the full Super Blood Wolf Moon? I can say that it coincides with the only full lunar eclipse of 2019. I’ve read Chani Nicholas’s and Heather’s at Rising Moon Healing Center takes on it. They are experts at reading the moon and I expect you to run over to their websites and learn all of the intricacies of what this auspicious moon brings to your life in star and sun signs and all the rest. To me, the full wolf moon is the time to remember the homeless and the hungry. The ones who pull blankets over themselves as they lay against the cold concrete sidewalks and the ones who do the same in forests, less visible, but are there never the less.

In the image, I see the wolf howling for those who are still in need. I hear the plaintive cry to be heard. The wolf who is true to his purpose, sticks steadfastly to his message, to his relationships, to his mission. I too call out into the night and hope that I can stick to my purpose too. The challenge of praying to the moon is to be aware of prayers answered and to proceed with intent and love. The notion that I or my life will be transformed with the full moon is just that- a notion. I must heed my task throughout the year along with the waxing and waning of the energies of the moon. It’s the time between the astrologer’s blog post that counts the most. I must stay true- like the wolf.

Tonight, I shuffled Graciella’s oracle deck. I breathed, centered, and with Graciella’s energy melded with mine, we chose a card from the deck. We pulled the South-Sur Card.

Graciella la Gitana South-Sur Card

Walk in trust and innocence. Know that you are taken care of. Look to the sun and let it caress your face. There are things that may be unclear, may be harsh, or that you are unable to understand. Drop your shoulders and breathe. As the energy of the moon, as the energy of the sun, and the stars enfold you, know that there is something much bigger than you in process. Being vulnerable, allowing that we don’t know everything, or have all the answers all of the time is often felt as burdensome. Look to see where the magic is. Grant that Something, wonderful and good, the power to calm and to soothe you. Love is the answer.

Con todo amor,

Graciella y Theresa

Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

I’m back at my latest novel Coney Island Siren. The final corrections are nerve-wracking. I have excellent notes and comments from my editor, but am still anxious that I’ll miss something. I will. That’s what makes me human. Hopefully, any errors will be kept to a minimum. It felt good to be back in the text and the poetry. I still love the book after years of writing it and months of editing. I’m planning to have advance reader copies ready within the next couple of months. Let me know if you’re interested. I’ll see what I can do. There’ll only be a few but maybe you’ll be on the receiving end of an ARC. The book release will be in June of 2019. Soon there!

I have a candle burning in the background and could hear Graciella trying to get my attention. It’s Sunday evening and time for a weekly reading. She’s on time. So I am. Finally. I smudged myself and the oracle deck with white sage and feathers. Together, Graciella and I centered, took a few deep breaths, and shuffled the deck three times. We spread the cards out face down in a fan-like formation and asked for this week’s message. We pulled one. The Toreador-Matador Card! ¡Olé!


This is the card that came up multiple times at the Artisans Annual Holiday Market at El Barrio’s Art Space that I attended recently with other artists and authors. This card just kept popping up!

As the toreador who circles, who embodies the concept of stealth, we are ready to strike repeatedly at all costs of life to satisfy the audience. We strive to complete the transaction that we believe we are bound to and cannot consider extricating ourselves from. The truth is that we can remove ourselves from anything we are in conflict with at any time. We are not robotic in our maneuvers. The toreador seems to be in union with the bull. Watching its every move. Planning the execution. But the toreador also has his or her eye on the blood-thirsty crowd who has gathered to see what for some is a barbaric fight. The same grace that is needed for this bloody dance is also one that may be used to save the one who may actually need the saving. Is it the intended target, such as the bull? The audience who has paid a fee for the spectacle? Or is it the toreador who might benefit by walking away? During the week, look to see where this might fit in your drama. It may be a quick strategy. It may not even be your own, but one that you are allowed to be privy to. Share your experience in the comments when you experience it. Graciella and I are certain that you will have the opportunity.


Graciella y Theresa

Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

After a day of watching television and relaxing with a run thrown in, I’m feeling a bit back to myself. I’m finally back to writing. Two and a half pages for my second Daisy novel to be exact. I don’t keep a word count. That’s a bit excessive for me. Daisy spoke to me and I was able to give her attention. She’s patient. And so are you. I’ve had a few people ask me at some recent events, when my next Daisy novel will be ready. Soon, guys. We’re working at it. She’s persistent and that’s one of her strengths. Today I received a call from the hospice chaplain for my Dad. We talked about my Dad’s needs and mine. It’s been a revelation to be on this journey and realize I truly have lots of help from many sources. To have the ability to tell the chaplain that I’m in a good spiritual place is a gift.

As I prepared to pull this week’s card from Graciella’s oracle deck, I thought about the positivity of the holiday week. I wondered what type of celebratory card that we’d pull. I smudged myself and the cards with a good dose of white sage. I felt Graciella’s energy merge with mine as I shuffled the deck and fanned the cards out on my desk. I felt excited about what I sure would be a pleasure filled concept. Together, we pulled the Treachery/Traición card. What! Treachery card! How dare Graciella! But so it is. I actually took a moment away from the card to deal with my disappointment in the card. But I’m over it now and ready to tackle Graciella’s message.

Graciella la Gitana Oracle; Treachery/Traición

The text that is provided in the booklet says, Blinded by your own reflection, Self-will binds, Allow awareness to surge through your being, Refrain from self-betrayal. The Spanish translation is: Quedarse ciego con su propio reflejo, La obstinación ata, Permite que la concencia aumente a través de tu ser,  abstenerse de la auto-traición.

What I take these words to mean, in this particular reading, is to not limit ourselves to our desires, wants, and perceived needs. There is a much bigger picture to consider. The image shows the gentleman tied up and hanging from a branch. Fairly innocuous as he’s held up by his coattails. His feet are reflected in the water. Where has he been? Where is he going? Where does he believe himself to be on his path? His hat floats below him. A hat such as this type is often symbolic of pride for many. Has he lost his head? We see Graciella sitting in a meditative pose at the side of the pond. The pond is clear and will show many things as long as Graciella or we are willing to look at what is below the surface. In her hand she holds a clear quartz crystal. What better tool is there to bring us clarity? To bring us to the light within.

The message of meditating to bring clarity to ourselves is apparent. But we can also, during this time of holiday celebration, are encouraged to not be shallow as the pond. We can allow our masculine and feminine sides to merge and be whole in spirit and mind. We are encouraged to reflect upon our reflections! Are we open to the simplicity in giving and receiving, such as a crystal point that channels energy both from ourselves to others and from others to ourselves? Be open. Be reflective. Let the joy of giving and receiving come to you without pre-conceived notions. The celebration may just be in that!

Happy holidays my loved ones! May you bask in joy and love!

Graciella and Theresa


I’m sitting with my Dad here at his Assisted Living facility that for him is also newly hospice. He just smiled at me as he listens to the fancy headphones that my spouse bought just for this purpose. Los Panchos. His favorite. He has enjoyed having two daughters again after losing my sister many years ago. Sometimes my Dad forgets my name but doesn’t forget Patricia’s name when she walks in the room. I finally have time to shed a few tears in the quiet of this room.

During his last hospitalization we decided there had been enough hauling him back and forth for treatments he wouldn’t have consented to if he didn’t have Alzheimer’s. The staff treats him exceptionally well here and I see their hearts through their actions and kindnesses. He can live out the remainder of his days here without being poked, prodded, and with the serenity that this time on earth should be for him.

This time of the solstice and the waxing full cold mean brings a time for reflection and stillness. It doesn’t matter what zodiac sign we happen to shine under. At my aunt’s recent funeral I read the words ‘a time to reap and a time to sow.’ This is the time to be quiet for us. A time to listen for what is important and to allow what is not to fall to the wayside. A time to remember all the good things that life has brought us. A time to let time standstill.

My Dad has been awfully good to me. Always. I’ve sat in his car reading comic books while he tooled around with the engine. I’ve listened to him sing and play guitar with his brothers and in the quiet of our living room. I’ve watched him get up at 4:30am for his daily labors for years without a complaint. My only complaint was that he was strict during my teenage years. I can smile about that now. He helped my children with anything they needed as he did me. He opened his arms to my spouse and played guitar with her.

My Dad is still here with me and I’m grateful. Last night I dreamt a dream that reminded me of my mother and her singing during my childhood. I recently had a meditation of my parents dressed to the nines. Toasting. She’ll be there for him when he crosses over. I feel relief and gratitude about that.

But for now I will allow my soul to be comforted in the time of the cold moon. We are not wanting. We are taken care of. I hope you feel that too.