The New Moon Altar

Conscious, chaotic creation of a sacred space, using sacred images from Eastern, Western and tribal cultures, help us sanctify the dwelling or open space where we throw the New Moon rave.

The party begins with one person lighting a bundle of sage. He or she carries the smoke through every nook and cranny of the place to soothe troubled energies we've brought with us or which are already there. At outdoor locations the sage is burned around the sound system and the participants. The spirit of the sage is requested to bring us its healing power. We ask it to keep away official guardians and instead bring happy, excited attendees.

Sage is a fragrant herb native to North America. Dried and tied in a bundle, it mades a wand and is a gift of the earth everyone has a right to enjoy. To sage yourself: light the sage, fan it front of your heart and think about love. M.'s advice: You should also sage anything you plan to put into your body. Expose it to the smoke and tell it what you would like to experience.

The New moon is a time to wake up to the symbolic unities between planetary and biological cycles. The waxing of the moon is growth and the waning moon is decline. The Full Moon is richness, and the Dark Moon symbolizes the moment of death and rebirth. It's good advice to remember that during the dark moon, anything can happen.

Every New Moon party has an altar of some sort. This is the most difficult-to-explain aspect of the party, but if you see one or participate in its creation, you would instantly know what it is about.

An altar can be anything from a few stones placed with love in warm sand or an elaborate, many-tiered construction incorporating lots of candles and other meaningful objects. It usually starts out small, and ends up enormous. Here some pictures:

Altar at Goat Rock, July '95

Friends and Family Halloween party, '95

Altar at the Digital Be-in, '97

Your Sisters' House -a women's collective that happened weekly for over a year- as well as the New Moon party, were many people's first experience of having altars at Bay area events. The idea has caught on in big way since then. Very few renegade, free events don't have an altar these days. Bringing an item for a communal altar is one way people feel connected to each other and the party. The urge to decorate one's surroundings is irresistable. And when you go to someone's house, it's polite to bring something. When people ask what to bring to a party, I always say: Bring something for the altar. Anything at all. Candles. Photographs. Mirrors are nice. Flowers work, too. Silk flowers, perfumed with a sacred oil- are especially nice because they can be shown again and again.

Bring Something Meaningful To An Altar

Everyone that comes to a party where an altar is to be assembled should bring some object that expresses some personal emotion or idea. Combined together into a shrine, these objects unite into a material symbol of the party itself. The meanings and energies in each object resonate with others. For example, at the December, 1995 Communal Full Moon party, someone brought a single size eleven red high-heeled shoe. Someone else brought lace. Together these objects evoke feminine sexuality and power, an idea consistent with the fact that the party itself was orchestrated by a woman. The shrine was arranged in an circle enclosed by flowers, creating a strong symbol of female energy.

Or so it seemed to me. Other people focused on other aspects of the shrine as symbolic of emotions and ideas pertinent to their own moods and experiences. At this particular party, there were two altars- one in front of the dj and the second farther away in a more peaceful, quieter spot. We've found that having two altars creates two different types of spaces. It's always nice to have more than one altar at any party. One day perhaps, different groups of friends will bring their own altars to express a collective, almost tribal vision of their own group identity.

History Of The New Moon Altar

The New Moon altar started out as a collection of objects a group of friends used to decorate their weekly ambient party called Aurgasm, held at the King Street Garage. When this party ended and the New Moon was born, these objects were then incorporated into the New Moon altar. When we can muster the energy, we try to bring parts of the altar to whatever events we attend, provided we feel the party's organizers are receptive to this. The altar for us has turned into a medium of self-expression. Since anyone can do this, we hope that more and more people will pick up the idea and create their own sacred spaces at parties.

Where To Find Items For An Altar

Where can one find suitable shrine material? Flea markets! Garage sales! Your parents' attic! At the party itself, especially if it's an outdoor event, you can usually find leaves, grass, flowers, stones, sand and other natural objects to beautify the human-made materials you've brought. Candles, particularly for night-time events, are essential. Otherwise, people will have difficulty seeing what you've created. Candles may be bought cheaply from many sources. Our favorite is the FoodsCo store on San Pablo Ave. in Richmond, CA, where tall, glass-encased 12-day candles cost less than a dollar each. You just have to look around.

Since the scene includes people from many backgrounds, we must be sure not to get too dogmatic about altar-building. Otherwise, the custom will get sterile and boring. Most people would agree that sterility and boredom don't belong at a rave.

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