49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives

Canadian Paganism has a style all its own. Have a look at events, issues, celebrations, people, trends and events north of the border from the eyes of a Canadian Wiccan and Witch.

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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.)

I change the decorations depending on time of year.  As of yesterday, I made a Bride's Bed for Imbolc (you can see it in the picture on the right.)  Behind it are candles to the Sun and Moon that I made and a handmade glass plate I was traded by a friend, as well as an offering dish.

b2ap3_thumbnail_2015-01-13-11.43.00.jpgI also keep an altar to Brighid on my hearth.  The spot you see in the image to the left is located above my stove in my kitchen.  I'm a member of a sisterhood of Brigidine flamekeepers called Daughters of the Flame.  We burn a flame for Brighid for 24 hours in a rotating 19 day cycle, just like the nuns who still maintain St. Brighid's shrine at Kildare; who were preceded by Pagan Celtic priestesses.  We come from all over the world and we honour Brighid in all Her forms; Celtic goddess, Irish Catholic saint, or Voodoo lwa.  The cauldron that you see holds the candle (though I use it as a ritual tool also.)  My first candle was lit from a wick that was lit from the shrine at Kildare, and I have lit every candle since from the candle before; or from the wick itself.  I relight it every Imbolc from the wick, just to reinforce the magic and maintain the flame of my hearth.

b2ap3_thumbnail_2015-01-16-11.04.44.jpgFor a time I was not as diligent with the maintenance of the hearth.  I have noticed that since I have been more thorough with that, we spend a lot more time in the kitchen.  And our family seems happier.

Because the lwa have reached out to me, and more than once, I also maintain a number of shrines to the lwa throughout the house.  This picture shows one of them, which is my shared shrine for Erzulie (represented by the rose on the left) and the Baron Samedi (represented by the skull candle holder on the right.)  The sugar skull is meant to be associated with both of them and I use it for an ashtray for my cigars.  I've already mentioned my Brighid altar; I've chosen not to show the altar I keep for Shango.

I don't really have any direct guidance about how to do this; I just do what feels right and read what I can; so I do my best, but I'm sure my forms of worship and respect are not precisely proper by Voodoo standards.  I felt that Shango was mildly annoyed with me, and I wasn't sure why, until I recently learned that he doesn't like sharing a shrine!  So I gave him his own and since then I've felt more harmonious.

My Erzulie/Baron Samedi altar also doubles as my ancestral altar.  I keep a box to honour my miscarried daughter on the shrine to the Baron, since he watches over the dead; I call it my "govi box" but I suppose it isn't really one in the traditional sense of the word, since I don't hold my daughter's spirit in there for my service; though I hope she inhabits it to keep me company.  I make offerings at these altars that I know the lwa would like; cigars and tobacco (I specifically have a blend called "Louisiana Mambo" strictly for the purpose,) hard candies, flowers, cookies; that kind of thing.  On Samhain I made sugar skulls and I offered them also.

Do you keep a home altar?  Do you change it depending on season?  Whom do you choose to honour?

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Sable Aradia (Diane Morrison) has been a traditional witch most of her life, and she is a licensed Wiccan minister and a Third Degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions. Author of "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power" (Red Wheel/Weiser 2014) and contributor to "Pagan Consent Culture" and "The Pagan Leadership Anthology," she also writes "Between the Shadows" at Patheos' Pagan channel and contributes to Gods & Radicals. Sable is just breaking out as a speculative fiction writer under her legal name, and a new serial, the Wyrd West Chronicles, will be released on the Spring Equinox this year. Like most writers, she does a lot of other things to help pay the bills, including music, Etsy crafts, and working part time at a bookstore. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada with her two life partners and her furbabies in a cabin on the edge of the woods.


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