Ok, so I know I’m wayyyyy late to the party, but I do want to write this year for the PBP, so let’s see if I can catch up. I’m pretty slammed with end-of-semester schenanagins, but I decided that I really wanted to write a new post!
First, I’d like to direct you to a wonderful post from Ruadhan at Of Thespia on the differences of altars and shrines. What I am posting on are actually examples of both, but I figured since I was posting on one I might as well do it on the other too.
I’ve always had a difficult time constructing altars and shrines. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and quite frankly very picky as to how things are arranged and what sits in my spaces. I’ve tossed different altars around for a long time, and every since I moved last June I’ve not had an arrangement I’ve been truly pleased with, but I’m happy to inform that is no longer the case! I’m going to share with you my 3 main spaces, albeit slightly cramped ones, and explain what I’ve used and why I think it’s appropriate. Some things are tradition specific for me, while others are not. I took time in carefully deciding each piece and why I felt it needed to go upon the space. I’ll be sharing some pictures of them during the day time, so you can see each of the goodies upon it, but later I’ll post either on here or my tumblr pictures of them lit up at night, which is veryyyy pretty. So without further ado….
This is my main altar. It’s in a big tv stand that I use to store most of my witchy goodies. It’s pretty decent, since I can kneel in front of it, although work space is limited. This isn’t a huge deal for me, however, since I don’t cast circles. In my trad, we ‘raise the hedge’ instead, which has it’s own connotations, which I may or may not discuss at a later point. Anyway, explanations!
First, the background, which is an image print from the lovely Witch of Forest Grove, represents the shamanic cosmology and the world tree. In our altars, we always like to have some representation of the hearth and/or world tree. When setting up my altar, I wasn’t sure what to use for this at first. If the space were larger, one could use a besom upside down to represent the world tree, but alas, the space is relatively confined, albeit a largish space. I searched for a bit before finding an image I really enjoyed to put on the background, and the wonderful contrast of the different areas of the tree along with the snake in the roots sold me. Next, the large green pillar candle and antlers represent Tradition (specifically, that of the one I’m a student in, The Forest’s Edge). The elements are represented by a few different things scattered on the altar. I don’t really call the quarters in a ceremonial way, although when I do ritual the elements are invited in the course of inviting all the Presences. The mostly burned candle on the right in the gold bird holder is for fire, the small brown covered pot contains earth, and so of course is earth. Water is represented by the large amount of shells in the bowl to the right, and finally air is represented by the incense in the little cauldron and/or any misc. feathers. While I do feel the cauldron by itself is a more watery symbol, I happen to be using it for this right now. In addition, one of the back candles, preferably the white one on the shorter vine holder, can be lit to just represent all of the elements. Next, the nature spirits are represented by the green bowl that contains random things from nature, both around me and from my garden. The taller vine candle is also lit for that. The ancestors are honored and called by the red candle in the hand held lantern, which I find very appropriate, since it is one you hold and they guide your way. The final presence, Deity, is represented as God and Goddess here (while still in between soft and hard polytheism, I do believe the archetypes of the God and Goddess are powerful and exist in their own right, as I refuse to shove the gods into roles they don’t want) in 3 ways each. First, the horn is for the God as he relates to the animals and living things of the earth. The large red pillar on the sun holder is the God’s other aspect as the Sky God (so I take into account both earthly and solar cycles). The Goddess is represented in the two statues, one for her aspect involving the earth and nature, and one for her as moon and magic. While I wasn’t too keen on using these fantasy statues, I think they actually fit fairly well. The final deity representation is contrasted by the two feathers, crow and hawk.
The other random things are my only wand thus far, my ritual blade, my mask, an offering chalice and a small cup to receive the rest of the offerings from that, a little bowl that a friend made that contains random offerings, a scrying mirror, a little bell, a holey stone, a quartz chunk and two skulls that are currently wrapped up for a future ritual purpose.
Next, my altar to Hekate. This will be less explained, but I’ll do a bit.
Here, you can see two statues for her, a few candles (the two silver ones are more of ‘mood’ candles), owl and crow feathers, a chalice and offering bowls, a box that houses my prayer beads, an incense burner, snake skin, and then various charms and representations of her, some of which are there to charge right now and may be put away later. The two black bundles are another pair of skulls that are waiting for a ritual (I have 6 in total wrapped, I’ve got plans for the Dark Moon…).
Finally, here is my shrine to my ancestors
The large candle represents both my ancestors of blood and spirit, while the 3 small ones are personal candles, for my Grandmother, Grandfather and Father. In addition to an incense burner, offering cup and offering dish where I place coins for the dead, there are personal effects from my family and a photo with all three of the above mentioned (along with myself and mother, it’s one of the few with my mother’s parents and my father together). This is of course a shrine, as it is strictly to honor them and has nothing to do with workings. My Hekate altar functions as both a shrine and altar, for things go there to honor her as well as workings.
To cope with the small space in my altars, I will use the floor or a little wooden tv tray to put extra materials upon, thus solving the overcrowding!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed getting a look at my personal spaces. I wanted to share them not just for the PBP but also to help those who struggle with making their own altars. Don’t rush things, you will accumulate and your tastes will evolve over time. Instead of trying to follow a formula of certain things in certain places, you can go with what pleases you (unless you have to arrange a certain way for some reason). Even if you are like me and have a hard time with these things, you’ll find your sweet spot, and one day you’ll step back from your work and think “Hot damn, this is awesome, and I know everything that will see this space will love it too!”