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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in altar tending

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Shrine Keeping

I have a cow shrine in honor of my mom in her room-- her former room. The suite. It's full of cow things she owned, but not all of them because they don't all fit.

About a month after her death, while I was falling asleep, I suddenly envisioned her in my mind's eye, smiling and shining. Her hair was its natural red color as it had been years ago, not the solid white I had gotten used to seeing before she died. It felt like more than my usual vivid imagination. She did not try to communicate anything, and it only lasted a few seconds, but I felt like I was seeing her, really her, in death. And that upset me, because I had been sure I had set everything up right for her to have a quick and easy passage to her next life (because she had often said religion was stupid, and she didn't believe in an afterlife or any gods, so I figured she'd be upset if she had to hang around in an afterlife being wrong for very long.) So of course I reached inside for Sigyn and Hel, and they reassured me: yes, that was really her, and yes, she has already passed on. She was not at that time still hanging on waiting for her desired oblivion. The dead experience time like the gods do, not like living people do. Even though it only took her a few days after her death to pass completely through Hel and on to what was next, she could still look in on me a month later, to make sure I was going to be OK. And what she saw was me curled up with my sweet kitty Happy. So, that was the most OK I could possibly be. Now I was glad I saw her, and that she saw me. It didn't mean she was stuck trying to pass over, it was just a brief visit out of time.

Later that month, I received her ashes. I placed them on the cow altar, along with pictures of her, one of the silver candles from the Death and Butterfly ritual, and the bottle of Patron with which to toast Hel and Hidden Goddess perfume to bless with in Hel's name. The photo above depicts that ritual. I told each of the three items where they belonged: the ashes in the butterfly urn were in their permanent home and would stay with me, the ashes in the rose urn were in their permanent home and would go to my brother, and the ashes in the box would be scattered. I made sure there were neither any lingering soul pieces in what I'd received, nor any bad energy. I had to mentally take the lavender broom to the pain and sweep it into the black hole in space. I double checked the energy in the ashes and their containers later and they seemed to have a normal amount of presence, that is, mom wasn't in there-- she had gone on already-- but it wasn't the kind of empty that would drawn things to a vacuum. During the ritual, I toasted to Hel, and to Audhumla and the cow spirit, and to my mom, and I said that I knew that mom had already gone to where she was going next but I already knew that time did not work the same way for gods and the dead as it did for me, so if mom wanted to tell  me anything this was the time to do that. She spoke. She told me she had seen her next life before she went to it and she was happy. That reassurance was a relief. It was not only a relief knowing that she already knew she was going to be happy in her next life because while she was in Hel's realm she could see ahead in time, it was also a relief to know she didn't have any other messages for me.

I left her Shrine of the Great Cow Mother up and made occasional toasts. I knew that eventually I would take it down so someone else could move into the suite, so it was not made to be permanent, but it was operating longer than any other altar I had put up in the house before. Usually when I did holiday rituals I took the altar down the same day, or perhaps the next day. I kept the portable working altar that was just big enough for ritual tools and a bottle in my room, but I kept it covered. This one was still powered, and one morning I went in to open the blinds and curtains for the house plants and felt dark energy in that room. I flicked it away at once, and felt carefully to be sure there was no bad energy on any of the ashes or anything else on the altar. There was not. It didn't come from the ashes or the altar, it was attracted to it from outside. I then performed another ritual, this time focused on the gnome (the land wight of my land) and on Audhumla. I asked the gnome to reinforce his protections against vampiric entities looking for power to eat, and I asked Audhumla to bless her altar and keep bad influences away from it. After that, the power of the shrine didn't draw anything in that wanted it as a snack.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
One Minute at the Altar

Last week I realized that yet again I'd set my standards for my daily practice too high. I couldn't sit at my altar without lighting the candles; I couldn't light the candles if the candles were burned out; I couldn't buy paraffin candles, I had to make my own out of beeswax; I couldn't make my own candles because the kitchen was a mess. This is what happens when you have high hopes and two small children. You sit around wishing you were doing spiritual work while they empty every drawer in the house for the fun of it.

I'm proud to say that I did end up making my own candles, but the compromise was that I did it in the filthy kitchen. If I'd taken the time to clean the kitchen beforehand, you see, then that would have taken up all my candlemaking time, and the next time I went to make candles, it would be filthy again. When I took my new candles to the altar, I thought, "But I can't light them without cleaning the altar off first. And cleansing the space! And refreshing the offerings! And performing invocations!" No, I told myself. I found that I had to give myself permission to do things imperfectly. I let myself cleanse the space. Then I lit the candles and annointed my Cernunnos statue. And that was it.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    I get email notifications for W&P blog posts, and been holding onto this one until I "had a minute" to really read and not just sk
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Thanks for this! I appreciated it today, while feeling overwhelmed by a chain of to-dos.
We're the Keepers of the Flame: Hestia's Hearth Altar

Vesta is the Roman cognate of the revered Greek goddess, Hestia, “first of all divinities to be invoked” in classical rituals. In Greece, they had public hearths called prytaneums that came under the domain of the most revered Hestia, protector of “all innermost things,” according to the great philosopher Pythagoras, who also claimed that her altar fire was the center of the earth. The altar of Vesta in classical Rome was tended by the Vestal Virgins and was also believed to be the very center of the earth. The insignia for the goddess Vesta was an altar table with flames at both ends, forming the Greek letter “pi,” which is the numerological symbol for the Pythagorean sect.

 The Vestal Virgins were the keepers of Rome’s eternal flame. It was believed that if the fire of Vesta’s altar went out, the Roman Empire would fall. In the fourth century, C.E., Christians extinguished the vestal fire and began the process of erasing pagan religions and symbols.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

We had three inches of rain overnight earlier this week.  I know because I have a new rain gauge and the weather was warm enough for me to linger at the gate of  the kitchen garden.  A couple of days later I went by the temple to pick up a box of food from the food pantry, a box that was being delivered along with baby clothes to a young couple in the neighboring county. When I opened the door, the carpet was squishy as I stepped in.

Our chapel and offices are in an old hospital building and we've been flooded before. Something about the old French drains and the site of the building at the downhill end of a parking lot. The landlords were called and they sent in a crew with vacuums and heaters and dehumidifiers.  We moved everything into the tiny chapel and left both the heat and the AC on.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Ah, blessings on your walls and halls, floors and doors, old carpets and well used drains -

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC02388.JPG

the Harvest Home altar at Mother Grove Goddess Temple's public ritual

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Altars #ThePaganExperience

Keeping altars is probably one of the most consistent things we do as Pagans in our personal practice; though "altars" (and if you insist on using this word, please spell it with an "A"; "alters" is a process of forcing change) would not technically be the correct word.  What we keep are actually "shrines," places where we make images of the Divine and our spiritual practice, worship and make offering.

b2ap3_thumbnail_2015-01-16-11.03.20.jpgI keep an awful lot of altars myself.  My household altar is now located in the centerpiece of my living room, which is a beautiful mirrored china cabinet gifted to me by my mother-in-law.  It contains my ritual tools, statues of the Deities appropriate to the time of year, antlers to honour the Horned God, pine cones to honour the Earth Goddess.  The image you see at the top of the page is the central top shelf of my household altar, which currently is adorned with the pentacle of my tradition (which I'm pretty proud of; it's solid copper and was handmade by one of our founders, Mistress Leia,) an image of Osiris (to symbolize the God who was dead and is now reborn,) and the Star Goddess (which was a white clay figurine I purchased and then painted.)  In the center you'll find my personal pentacle (handmade by me,) a terra cotta incense burner with a turtle (placed there for feng shui value and also for a Terry Pratchett reference,) my Moon Crown (purchased several years ago from Lobelia's Lair in Nanaimo) and behind these, underneath the tradition's pentacle, my wand (also handmade with a lot of personal symbolism I don't care to publicly share at this time.)

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    I think you and I (and probably myriad other pagans too) are on the same page when it comes to altars - Lovely piece. http://witc
Tidying Up and Baking Cornbread for Themselves

Readying for Samhain is a long and delightful process around here. Last week, I tidied the Ancestor Altar at Mother Grove Goddess Temple and poured some wine into the silver chalice on the third shelf.  This morning--in spite of the distinct possibility that we have some temple mice--I added some bread to the little feast.

It's the alarm clock that we usually use to wake them up. That isn't necessary now--as I've written here before, the Veil is so thin these days as to be non-existent. It is a loving, albeit symbolic, gesture.

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