I have long been obsessed with totems: physical tokens which represent, and remind you of, a mental or emotional idea. I believe you can invoke magic, meaning, passion and purpose through the use of these small symbols. Magic, the way I see it, is a blend of attitude and action: when you’re reminded of your intentions all the time, they stay in the forefront of your mind, making it likelier that you’ll take small (and big) steps toward them every day.
A totem, the way I view it, can be any item that reminds you of something you want to feel or something you want to accomplish. Lately I’ve been enjoying the process of maintaining an altar of sorts: a collection of these totems, grouped together in one place, to remind me of what I’m trying to bring into my life.
My little mini-altar is a grey stone bowl that sits on my desk, perched atop a piano-shaped music box. It’s positioned to the left of my computer, so its presence looms lovingly over every moment of work I do at my desk. It’s filled with objects that keep me on-task and feeling good whenever I look at them.
Central to my altar right now (it changes frequently) are two vulvas: a custom-made vulva ring I commissioned from CatStache Accessories, and a turquoise silicone vulva cast that was a gift from Colin at Hole Punch Toys. Obviously, sexuality is central to my work – especially the encouragement and validation of the sexuality of female-assigned-at-birth people – so these vulvas act as a daily reminder of the Power of the Pussy! Colin also gave me a cast of a butthole, so that’s in there too.
I bought a quartet of beautiful dice at a Long Island nerd shop last time I was there visiting Bex. They viscerally called to me when I saw them in their display case, even though I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons or do anything else that would necessitate me owning dice. I think I was drawn to their nerdy-fun energy: most of the people I’ve ever been attracted to are nerdy enough to participate in stuff like D&D with great enthusiasm. (Cough, the McElroy brothers, cough.) The presence of these dice in my altar reminds me of the type of romantic and/or sexual partner I’m always trying to attract into my life, and they also remind me of how much I love nerds in general. Sex nerds are my ideal readers here; I connect so deeply with nerds’ extreme enthusiasm and obsessive love of their interests.
Last week I went out dancing at a bar with my friends Dan and Sarah, and drunkenly bought an expired vintage-looking condom from the vending machine in the bar bathroom. It’s in my altar now because it makes me laugh (“Do not use as a substitute for a condom,” the packaging dares you in a distinctly 1970s-looking font), but also because it reminds me of how absolutely crucial sex education is. There are people in the world who wouldn’t know how perilous it could be to use an expired, “for-novelty-use-only” condom, and that kind of gap in knowledge is part of what I’m working to eradicate with my sex education work!
When I had coffee with Kidder, my sex-positivity hero, he gave me a box of gifts, including a signed copy of his book, a new-in-the-box copy of a sexy card game he developed when I was but a youngin’, and a silver coin emblazoned with the “Sex is Fun” logo. That coin holds a place of honor in my altar, because it reminds me that my heroes are people too, and that maybe someday I’ll be somebody’s hero the way Kidder was for me.
Tucked into the top of my altar is a white index card folded into an origami heart. Periodically I like to write down my current hopes and wishes and do some kind of magic ceremony with the piece of paper to release my wish to the universe, whether that be burning it, shredding it, or just folding it into a meaningful heart. I don’t even remember what’s written inside this particular heart, but the sight of it makes me happy.
I own lots and lots of crystals. Like a lot of magical items, I’m not 100% convinced of their ability to make magic in the ethereal sense of rearranging the universe and attracting specific things into our lives, but I do think they serve to remind you of what you’re trying to achieve, and that’s always a useful thing. Each crystal in my altar was chosen for a specific purpose; some of my favorites are my rose quartz wand (for encouraging self-love and compassion), a chunk of labradorite (for quelling anxiety and overwhelm), citrine (for prosperity and higher self-esteem), and amethyst (for increased creativity and intuition). Sometimes when I meditate about my hopes and dreams, I like to clutch a rose quartz heart in one hand and a carnelian heart in the other; those are the love and sex crystals, respectively, and it feels divinely right for me to combine their powers and use ’em together.
I own a lot of jewelry, some of which I keep in my altar because it holds specific meanings for me. I have a rose quartz point necklace, to (again) evoke self-love. (Never enough rose quartz!!) And I have three rings: an emerald and diamond ring given to me by my high school girlfriend (to remind me I’m capable of being loved deeply), a ring my late grandmother willed to me that features a panther with glowing jade eyes (to remind me of my inherent feminine power and bravery), and a blue topaz heart ring I bought myself (to increase my writerly powers). Sometimes I stack them all on my fingers when I leave the house, on days when I need cheerifying and emboldening.
There are a few things my altar is missing, that I’d really like to find for it:
• A penis, or at least some kind of phallic symbol (other than the semi-phallic rose quartz wand up there). There’s a lot of vulva-energy in this spread and I wanna balance that out. A miniature dildo would be ideal!
• Something that reminds me of Bex. They’re my best friend, my romantic advisor and my favorite shoulder-angel. I want a little symbol that basically functions as a reminder to ask myself, “What would Bex do?”
• Something kink-related, like a tiny handcuffs charm or a heart-shaped lock. Kink is an important part of my sexuality and even my spirituality; it’s odd that it isn’t represented here.
• Maybe some specific mementos from happy past sexual experiences. A receipt from a drinks-date. A matchbook from an illicit hotel. A chocolate wrapper from a romantic weekend. I think these things are imbued with colossal positive energy and we can always use more of that!
Do you have any kind of altar-like space in your home? How about tokens that serve to remind you of what you want? What are they?