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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in altar

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.

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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.

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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
Creating Sacred Space with Pagan Prison Inmates – II

Be advised that I will have no photos to illustrate anything that goes on inside the prison walls unless I happen to come across them on the Web.  Needless to say, we volunteers are not permitted to bring cameras inside.

Neither will I be revealing any names or personal descriptions that might indicate the identity of anyone other than our supervising chaplain and myself.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Macha, your experiences are very similar to mine, though the prison I volunteer at is much smaller -- only a few hundred men. I br

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
I Sit Exhausted on This Longest Night

My big plan was to finish up some loose ends so that I could truly enjoy my first winter holiday season in town, not working retail. Daughter was coming home, holiday cards were mailed away...even the weather was nice.

Did your December deviate from the plan, too?  There have been unexpected rituals, several funerals, more than one friend or circle mate whose life took a turn for the...challenging.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks for that. Blessings to you!
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    I don't have any big words, just silent support from across the pond. You're in my thoughts and prayers, as is everyone else who h

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

the south altar, dressed for the wake

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    And bless you, my dear, for always being there to do what needs to be done for your tribe. "The owl flew low tonight. The hare kne
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Priestessing really is a service industry. :>) Thanks, dear one. Your kind words--and beautiful quote--brought a few tears.
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks, dear sister. May she be well remembered.
  • Hec
    Hec says #
    May the Goddess guard her. May she find her way to the Summerlands. May her friends and family know peace. http://www.youtube.c

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.


At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.

As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.

(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)

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