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Posts Tagged ‘altar’

A brief description, with photos if possible, of the Dedicant’s home shrine and plans for future improvements. (150 words min.)

My Druid altar sits in my “craft” room (it is a craft room both in the sense of sewing and knitting and in the sense of magical craft). The room is just off the main hallway of my home, and I walk by it several times each day going to and from our office. It is, by necessity, in a room that’s easy to close off when we have guests – both because it is not anywhere near appropriate for a small child, and because I am still a closeted Druid, and do not wish to share my religion with my (very Christian) family.

The altar itself sits on a bookshelf on the eastern wall, and I use the bookshelf to store all of my magical and religious tools as well as other less obviously religious books (like my mythology books). I try to have it keep a low profile, though my more recent updates have it looking more obviously altar-like and less like just a cluttered bookshelf.

I perform all of my ADF rituals here, as well as most of my meditation (I keep a cushion on the floor in front of the bookshelf for seated meditation). The shelf is standing-height accessible, so I stand for all of my ritual observances.

altar4-13a(The room my altar is in is yellow, so it’s hard not to get very yellow tinged pictures!)

On the altar I have a (handmade) metal Tree that hangs on the wall, a trio of votive candles as my Fire (along with an incense burner) and a Well handmade by a carpenter of carefully jointed wooden pieces. I also have two small Tree of Life wood-burned tree pieces from The Magical Druid, to help balance the altar and because I like having the extra representations of trees there. There are as well a set of tingshas I use as my musical signal to begin my rituals, a goblet for offerings and receiving blessings, some small bowls and a tiny pitcher for offerings, and a large wooden bowl to accept offerings, since it seems unwise to pour them on the carpet. I keep my runes on the altar as well, plus a large “holey” stone that a good friend of mine brought back from a military trip. I am sure he thought I was weird to ask him to bring me a rock with a natural hole in it, but he’s a geologist, so I figured he’d be sympathetic.

On the second shelf I have two larger candles, mostly because I like candles, as well as some owl figurines (a Nature Spirit I am particularly close to), some amber jewelry (to help me connect with Freya), a wooden acorn (to represent ADF Druidry) and a small green man figure.

Future altar updates include adding statuary for the various Gods I work with, particularly Freyr (I am thinking of looking for a small boar to represent him, as that will provoke fewer questions than an obviously phallic statue would) and something for Njord. A small wagon would be appropriate for Nerthus as well. These additions are waiting mostly on budget and on finding statues I like – I tend to find a lot of the things online too shiney or modern or just don’t like them much. I figure I can afford to be picky when it comes to my Gods. I don’t know where exactly I will PUT all of these things, but perhaps it will be time for my owls to move elsewhere, or for me to expand to a bigger surface. Right now, though, this version of my altar is highly functional, and I am always happy to settle into my rituals here. The setup is easy to use, and not too cluttered, but still contains everything I need.

I should note that I also keep a “hearth shrine” at my stove, where I light candles daily as part of my remembrance of my ancestors. There are no ritual objects there, only the candles I burn and my dedication to keeping the stove clean and the area tidy. I try not to light candles there if the kitchen is not clean, out of honor for my Disir.

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I’ve made some pretty serious updates and changes to my main altar space lately. It was getting extremely cluttered, and I wanted it to have a different feeling than it had previously. You can see my first and second altar updates at those links, respectively.

This is what it looks like now (apologies for the yellow tone – the room my altar is in is actually painted yellow, and taking pictures in there at night makes the whole place feel like it’s lit by firelight. This is quite cool! But makes for very yellow pictures!)

altar4-13a

That’s the entire altar area. I moved a lot of the meaningful but not functional items up to the shelf above the altar. Eventually I’d like to add some God/dess statues there instead of just the little owls and the green man and the acorn, but for now it works. It also got the taller candles up out of the way, and leaves my actual working space looking like this:altar4-13b

The new things on the altar are as follows:

  • A new World Tree – this one is made of a recycled oil drum, through a craft group in Haiti. It’s something I’ve gone back and forth on, but ultimately decided I liked it. Plus, since it’s wall mounted, it doesn’t take up any extra space on the actual working surface.
  • A new offering bowl – I was using a collection of small bowls, and that was just too much of a pain to work with. I bought this wooden bowl and have been much happier with it.
  • A new goblet – I still have some small bowls and a tiny pitcher for offerings, but most of the time I’m offering drink (lately mead) and so I’m pouring it out of my own cup. This was rather unimpressive when I ended up using a regular drinking glass, so I purchased this aluminum goblet. It works VERY nicely. Eventually I’d like a handmade ceramic one, but this is a good in-between.
  • A new incense burner – one that does specifically well with the type of incense I usually burn. (that’s the little silver disc on the right). I’ve been burning loose incense for actual rituals, in the little blue cauldron burner, but I burn stick incense as offerings during the week. (You can see two unburned sticks in the top picture)
  • A set of tingshas (only visible in the top picture) – I couldn’t find a bell I liked, and wanted some sort of musical signal to start my rituals. These tingshas were inexpensive and make a very bright clear sound. I’m quite happy with them (if not yet always good at striking them properly).

Overall, I think these changes have increased both the visual appeal of my altar space (it’s less cluttered) and the overall functionality of it. I still have the things that are meaningful to me, but I have a more clear working space and better flow for doing ritual.

I know an altar space is always a work in progress. I’d love to get some little Norse statues, especially of the type similar to god-posts or figurines found from the Viking age. I’d also like to get some more symbols for Freyr. I know as time goes on, this little altar will evolve, and other altars are already starting to spring up in my house. I’ve got my “hearth”, which is really just a collection of candles on my stove right now, but it serves as a place for me to keep my hearth-fire lit. And I’d like to add some sort of Ancestor altar somewhere – though finding a good, cat-proof spot for it may be challenging.

I like the process of evolving it though. A good altar is a place where Work happens, and is a functional as well as a beautiful space. I think mine is getting there!

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I didn’t write this – Rev. Michael Dangler did. You can read the rest of his post here, and I highly suggest you do go read it. It says a lot toward what we expect of our Priests in times of grief, and what we can expect of each other.

A Prayer for Boston
Rev. Michael J Dangler

Artio, a Child of the Earth calls out to you.
Today, there has been pain and suffering,
And it weighs on my heart and soul.

I call out to you, Healing One,
Protector of your folk.
Be there for those who are in need,
And comfort those who seek it.

Wrap those in pain in your healing arms.
Bring them warmth if they are cold,
And soothe their fears.
Let those hurting never be alone.

Artio, Bear-Lady, I call to you:
Be there for those in need.

Monday night, I sat with others I “know” online, and we all approached our altars and lit incense and prayed together. What we do between the Worlds, and what we do in the Otherworld, affects the outcomes in this World, even when it is only in a small way. These prayers bring us comfort and reorientation in a time where we are overcome by information about which we can do nothing.

Our ancestors did not have 24 hour news channels and endlessly repeating video clips. But they knew how to pray, because so much of their lives was out of their direct control. And we can take a cue from them – the knowledge that sometimes all you can do in a situation is come together, support each other, and pray. We are Children of the Earth, and from Her, and from the Kindreds, we can take some measure of comfort.

May we all find the peace and healing we need at the hands of the Kindreds, especially those most closely affected in Boston.

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shrine2-13

Just a quick update to my altar – I’ve added a new offering pitcher (the little blue one) and a new offering bowl (the ceramic one with blue glaze). These both came out of my husband’s grandmother’s house, as we were helping to clean up her things. She passed away a few years ago, so I’m happy to have some things that represent ancestors on my altar now. I haven’t figured out quite what I’ll be using them for yet. I think the offering bowl will be one for dry offerings only, since it’s not glazed inside. The little pitcher would be great for oils though, and now that I have some charcoal discs, I may be able to give oil offerings to the fire for the high day!

I do move things around when I’m actually using the altar though, and I think it’s more than time I got a little shelf to keep some of this off my working surface. I don’t even have any statues yet, but things feel pretty cluttered. It’s a little hard to move around, and I’m always afraid I’m going to end up with my arm in the fire (again).  My Tree is incredibly tall though (almost 3 feet) so I may need to shrink it a bit in order to put a shelf above the altar. Either that, or get myself two small shelves to put on either side of the Tree.

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I’ve been working on the Ancestors essay for the DP, and finding that it’s a little hard for me to work with. I really like the division of Ancestors into different types of kin – from those whom you are actually related to by blood to those you have a spiritual connection to the ancient ones who worshiped in your chosen hearth culture. Even though I’ve had favorable interactions with them in the past, I’m still not sure exactly how I want to bring the Ancestors into my spiritual practice.

Part of this hesitation is that my blood-kin are extremely devout Protestant Christians (like the rest of my family), who would have looked very unfavorably on Druidry in life. I know I should expect that they have a different viewpoint on spiritual things from wherever they are in the afterlife, but I really don’t want to make anyone angry or upset.

At the same time, my great grandmother raised 11 kids on a farm in the Great Depression, and lived to read Peter Rabbit books with me when I was small. She was, by all accounts, a force of nature, and I’d love to have her advice on homemaking and life in general.

I think my first step will be seeing if I can track down some pictures to have with the other family pictures in my house. I don’t have a lot of experience working with the Mighty Dead, but I could sure use some extra wisdom some days.

My family doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about those who have passed away, at least not at this point in time, but I think a lot of that is because my extended family is still relatively intact. My paternal grandparents are still alive, and that’s the part of my family that has the most connection (my mom’s family consisted entirely of my maternal grandmother, who passed away some years ago, so I have no cousins or aunts and uncles to talk with about her). Both sides of my family have done some research into our family history and lineage, but it’s treated very intellectually as opposed to as a way to find family ancestors. I find myself more drawn to the photographs anyway, since I feel like I can actually get a sense of them as actual people as opposed to just names in a book.

As for the other types of ancestors, I have a few people who were mentors and teachers of mine who have since passed on. I truly value the time I spent learning from them, and am very glad I had their friendship. I don’t really have anything I can connect to them easily, though, aside from stories and experiences that I had while I was learning from them. Unfortunately I have no pictures of any of them, either. I’d like to represent them somehow on my altar, but a) it’s cluttered enough already and b) I’m not sure what I would use, since they represent a pretty diverse body of people.

Connecting to the Ancients who also practiced Druidry is something I haven’t explored at all yet, other than naming them in my Samhain ritual as part of the ancestors who were welcomed and honored at that feast. This might be an area where some focused meditation could work out well, or just working to remember them in my rituals.

This particular Kindred seems to include such a wide variety of people and entities. I think that may be why I’m struggling to get my mind around how to honor all of them. I can, of course, lump them together (as will usually happen in a High Day ritual, when one offering will be poured out for the Ancestors specifically), but I think I’d like to make a space for some of them separately as well. If nothing else, I can, when pouring out offerings to the Ancestors, pour out a little to each kind of Ancestor and remember them by type, if not by name. I’d also like to explore how the Norse remembered THEIR Ancestors, since I know they were venerated in that culture. Hopefully with a little more study I can find a balance of things that resonates with me.

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I’ve had an altar of some form or another in my home for quite some time (right now, I actually have two). ADF style rituals have specific things they need in terms of supplies and bowls, receptacles for offerings, and representations of the Fire, Well, and Tree. As such, before I did my Samhain ritual I went and did some altar styling to give myself a better workspace for ADF rituals.

This is the result (more or less):

My World Tree is pretty obvious – that’s a piece of driftwood that I found on a local beach. In front of that is my Well, a hand carved bowl from South Carolina. And then two representations of Fire in front of that – the three candle cluster and an incense burner. Those three items set up the ADF cosmos for each ritual. (I do not always leave the World Tree standing up, as it’s not super stable that way and is a bit off balance.)

There is a clear glass vase for holding liquid offerings, plus an offering bowl and a cup to drink from. The offering bowl and the cup are a matching set that I’ve had for years, and I like that they match. My offerings to the Kindreds go in a vessel that matches the vessel they give me the Blessings in.

The two taper candles are there for extra light and because I like candles. Also on the altar are some owl figurines, a Nature Spirit I’ve long had associations with (along with Toad and Rabbit), plus a little green man figurine, a big wooden acorn, a sand dollar, a holey stone that a friend brought back for me from a trip to the Middle East, and an aspen-leaf candle holder. These are all things that have spiritual significance for me, though I do eventually want to get some small shelves to get the figurines up off my working space.

The altar itself is a wooden cube bookshelf I got from (I think) Target, and I store all my Pagan and magical supplies in the closed baskets, with assorted books in the other open shelves. This sits in my craft room/spare bedroom, so it has to be dismantleable in a short time in case of guests. It pretty easily turns back into a bookshelf top with some assorted candles on it without much trouble.

Since I’ve used the altar a few times now, I’ve already made a few changes. I moved the offering bowls and offering pitcher to the right side of the Fire, so that I can pour offerings without setting my arm hair on fire (that smelled lovely, let me tell you). I also now have a set of wooden oghams, and those live on the upper left side of the altar most of the time as well, for daily drawings. I also added the two woodburned world tree symbols that I got from the Magical Druid. They sit to either side of the tall World Tree.

I do my sitting meditation on the floor in front of this altar, sitting on a big floor pillow. I often burn incense, and that creates a nice ambiance. Because it’s a bookshelf, I have to stand for rituals, so I’ve taken to putting my scripts in a small binder that I can hold with one hand. It lives in the open cube on the left hand side.

Overall I think it’s a functional altar, if not super elegant. I’d like to have a bigger working space eventually, ideally one that I could use outside, since a real fire would be nice for burning offerings. As it is, if I give spirits to the Shining Ones, they go in the same offering bowl with everything else, so I tend to give offerings of good incense to them. I’d also like a more proportional World Tree, so perhaps I’ll do some work with the driftwood one and trim it down and make a nice base for it. I think it’s a good Tree, just a little out of proportion with the rest of my space!

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