PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in altar

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Title: What Is an Altar? (Pagan Children Learning Series Book Four)

Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
How do you do Minoan?

I’ve been asked all sorts of questions about Modern Minoan Paganism, but the most common one is probably also the most fundamental: How do you do it? In other words, how do you actually practice this spiritual path?

To start with, I’d like to point out that this is a very individualistic path. It’s not a monolithic tradition with a set of rules and regulations everyone has to follow. It’s more like an umbrella structure under which each person can tweak the details in the way that they find most satisfying. So you start with the basics: the gods and goddesses of ancient Crete and their stories. Then you approach them in the way that makes the most sense for you.

Last modified on

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
A Loving Work Day

Just came across this June 2013 piece I’d never shared. Now seems the time to share it, though I don't know why.

Amidst distractions—fears making my thoughts scurry in multiple directions, people attacking in hopes of distracting themselves with turmoil, forms promising to be essence, delusions masquerading as passions—I light a single candle. Simple altar. The Friend adds a stone.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
How do you know that's a ritual object?

Most of what we know about the ancient Minoans was literally dug up out of the dirt. We've uncovered temple complexes, villages, towns, and all the furniture, dishes, and other items you'd expect to find in people's homes, workshops, and places of worship. But there aren't any Minoans around any more who can tell us what all those things were used for, so the archaeologists have to make educated guesses based on where each particular object was found.

Over in Ariadne's Tribe (my discussion group about modern Minoan Paganism) we frequently post images of lovely Minoan pottery that appears to have been randomly described as a 'ritual object.' Then we consider the possibility that the item isn't really a ritual object, but the archaeologists didn't know what else to call it and 'ritual object' sounds impressive when you're writing an academic paper.

Last modified on
How Altars can Alter our Practice


Altars can have a very significant role in daily practice and worship, providing a focal point in establishing relationship. I try to highlight this importance with my students, explaining the benefits of have a focus within an area in which to open up communication with the spirits of place (or land, sea and sky), the ancestors, and the gods.  Communication is essential to good relationship, and finding a spot to come back to again and again helps us to not only strengthen the bond between the person and the place, but also gives it a ritual context within which to commune. Often this ritual context is held within a temple, whether it is a building or creation of stone and/or timber, or a sacred circle cast with energy around the practitioner. The importance of the altar and the temple should not be taken for granted, though neither are exactly essential.  

Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru Altar for Sumbel and Blot

This photo is my altar for a holiday sumbel and blot, such as Yule. Sumbel is the toasting and blot is the blessing.

Altars for different purposes will have different things on them. This one is a portable altar used for community ritual. A permanent altar dedicated to a god or ancestor or to the gods generally, also called a shrine, would generally have fewer working tools and more symbols, and would probably include representations of the gods or other beings to whom it is dedicated, such as statues or pictures, and possibly sacrifices to them. Some Asatruars keep shrines and some don't, but any Asatru community ritual includes a sumbel, and most include a blot.

The altar for a sumbel has to include something to drink since sumbel is a toasting ritual. Asatru uses a drinking horn for this ritual. We use a cow's horn to honor Audhumla, the sacred cow who was the first self-aware being. Our mythology says that before time began or the World Tree grew, Audhumla licked the gods and the giants out of the ice and nurtured them on her milk. So a cow's horn represents the Great Mother.

There are two bottles and two horns on the altar in this picture because one bottle and horn set is for alcohol and one is for a non-alcoholic beverage. This altar also contains a bottle opener. This isn't a dedicated holy bottle opener, just the normal one from my kitchen, but being used for ritual means this opener is going to have a bit of specialness about it even after being returned to normal use. It is traditional to toast with mead, but other beverages work, too.

The altar for blot almost always contains all the things for sumbel as well because sumbel usually comes first and then blot. In the old days, the blot bowl caught the blood of a sacrificed animal, keeping the blood from touching the ground, and then the blood was sprinkled over the participants to bless them. In modern times, the bowl is partially filled with water, and then the dregs of the horn are poured in the bowl after the sumbel, and the mead / water mixture is sprinkled over the participants to bless them.

The pine branch on the altar is the asperger, which is used to sprinkle the water onto the participants. This pine branch is from a sacred pine tree I maintain at my home for this purpose. Before the main ritual, I ritually cut the asperger from the tree with this ritual knife. The knife can then go on the altar, on my belt, or can be put away.

This basic altar contains only the things necessary for the ritual. It can also be decorated with seasonally appropriate decorations, symbols of the gods, and anything meaningful to the godhi or gythia (the conductor of the ritual) or to the ritual participants.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
An Altar Should Be How High?

“So how high is the altar?” I ask.

I'm talking long-distance with the director of our regional pagan land sanctuary, planning the upcoming Midwest Grand Sabbat. I've never been there, but I know that there's a standing altar in the grove.

At Old Style sabbats, the altar is a throne, where the Horned sits to receive His people. So it needs to be of at least a certain height.

The answer was readily forthcoming.

“It's high enough so that someone laying on the altar can have sex with the priest standing in front of it,” he tells me.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I once heard a rabbi call the Exodus description of the Mishkan (tent-shrine) and its furniture as the "most boring Torah portion.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Exodus, right. Lest anyone cavil, scholars are pretty much agreed that the architecture, furniture, cultus, and vocabulary of the
  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    FYI, you're right that all discussions of altars being cubes and cubits are derived from Torah (via the Golden Dawn and their desc

Additional information