Friday, January 6, 2012
PBP 01: Altars
Samhain Altar Circa 2009
Since altars are a topic near and dear to my heart, why not talk about them? Also, since I have an obsessive need and or/habit to set up altars wherever I choose to live or work, I have compiled a massive number of altar and shrine photos from past rituals.
Imbolc Altar Circa 2009
I think altars can be a very valuable part of any Pagan practitioner's life. For me, altars literally ground a room. Without them I feel akin to floating in a space. Altars mean you are making physical space for a representation of your practice, and that your practice is valuable enough in your life that you require a place to work in. If you're going to work from home, a lot of us find it hard to focus on work in, say, our bedrooms. Many people have an 'Office' room dedicated for that purpose. I find whatever you use a room for the most will generally be what you continue to use it for. For me, I find it much harder to work on intellectual things in my bedroom, because it has an aura of peace and a grounded feeling. I'm much better at working in my kitchen, with an air of people and activity.
"Love"/Erzulie Freda/Self Healing altar, circa 2011/2012
My point is that altars, imbued with objects that hold a certain energy, can inspire progress in your path just by virtue of existing. They can aid in feeling grounded and more certain in your progress.
I also am a strong believer that an altar isn't just a shelf full of curios; an altar should always reflect you in your current path in your current moment. (Shrines to specific deities/spirits I consider more permanent than altars, but they should also be subject to change based on your experiences.) Many times I may wake up antsy and realize my altar is no longer channeling what I want it to. I think it's normal and healthy to literally have a falling-out with your altar. Often when your altar stops feeling right for you, it's a sign to begin reexamining old things or studying new ones.
I bring you 3 examples: These are all the same space, on top of my dresser. The first is from 2009, when I was essentially Wiccan but attempting to branch out from that. The below picture is an Imbolc ceremony from that same year.
The second is when I had moved away from Wicca entirely and was attempting to figure out my thoughts on this 'Shamanism' business and how that fit with my ideas of Deity and the Cosmos.
The third is when I was fairly comfortable with beginning to study Shamanism and had completely scrapped my previous theology and started over.
The fourth is my altar from this past summer, when I began focusing on the life aspects of deathwalking as well as...well, the death. Walking the veil is not always about one side over the other.
The images should tell their own story, but you can see the evolution of my thinking reflected in my altar. I don't think it's Required Reading to have ANY tools on your altar, or a specific set. I've seen spellwork done with no tools, and spellwork done with the entire array of tools. Your altar should reflect your specific needs and intentions.
If you don't know where you stand on your path, I think it's absolutely fine to have no altar at all, or an altar of only very personal items that may have no connection to ideology. If you're into herbs, why not include some on your altar/shrine space? And for goodness sake don't take my word for it. Use what works for you even if goes in direct opposition to something in a book or written down somewhere or something somebody told you. Try a lot of things, and if they ain't working for you, try something completely different. Altar-building is an art and an altar is a living, breathing space that will often let you know when it's time to dismantle and re-think. Your altar should be your partner; it should be aiding you and not working against you. Try thinking of your altar as a part of yourself, and relly think about if it's jiving with you at the point you're at in life and on your path.
Try listening to it, sometime. You might be surprised.