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Home Beginning Wicca, Classes, Witch Lesson 2; Altar Basics Part 2


Lesson 2; Altar Basics Part 2

<— Continued

Message: Thalada,
Author: Cainte – Daven Iceni

Date: Apr 28, 2000 12:22

Yes, I understand perfectly where you are coming from.  I too carry a “Sacred Space” around with me all the time.  I have my altar in my head, as well as a Shrine, and a “crash kit” for emergency rituals.

However, let’s start at the beginning.  That’s a pretty advanced attitude that takes years to develop.  Baby steps before driving a car….

LOOHTA  (Laughter of one heart to another)

Message: Druid Shrines
Author: DJW – OllahmLaoich Urchurdan
Date: Apr 28, 2000 19:02

Daven Said:
“As to Druidic practice, I have no idea.  I would assume from archeological evidence that the Druids used SOME kind of Altar during their worship, but there is little evidence that I know of.  (If anyone has evidence supporting this, please let me know about it.)”

The only thing that comes to mind are the ‘Nemed’, probably more in line with the shrine concepts than the altar. There’s not much to go on concerning altars. But there were holy places. Places seen as ‘between’ were important (where water meets land, caves, wells, etc). There are instances of offering pits (some going for many meters underground), and certain spots in rivers where offerings are found. Also, trees have been repositories for gifts, eg. colored cloth.

I think there may have been altars, but more as a convenience (so they don’t have to bend down too far to pick up the tools 🙂

Some people think the Celts didn’t view their gods anthropomorphicly, in which case they may not have needed indoor altars or shrines. I wouldn’t be too sure of that. But I think they used the kitchen table for family rituals (or something along those lines).

The Celts/ Druids certainly had amulets/ talismans, so they may be portable shrines (also thinking of the Crane Bag).


Message: Druid Altars
Author:Daven Iceni

Date: Apr 29, 2000 13:29

Okay, Amulets and Talismans are more portable spells that you can hold in your hand rather than portable shrines.

And you must understand the time period we are speaking on here.  The Druids were the Priest Class of the Celts, and as such were the sole people responsible for ALL rituals.

In fact, this was so ingrained with the culture that Caesar commented on it when he was writing back to Rome to get more support for his troops in Britain. He said “The Druids control the entire religious aspect of the Celts.  They MUST be present at every rite or ceremony so it is conducted correctly.” Or words to that effect.

There may have been some prayers to the Gods in the average person’s home, but no ceremonies or rites held.

The reason that I said they must have had altars in their ceremonies is exactly for convenience.  That’s pretty much my surmise too.

As to offering locations, They are scattered all over Britain.  That is undisputed.  The colored cloths were prayer cloths.  An especially important prayer was spoken and the cloth was tied to the tree or bush, in the hopes of attracting the notice of the Gods with it’s fluttering and moving, and thus they may be intrigued enough to come to where the cloth was to hear the prayer and possibly help.

Please remember some things.  All of the evidence that Caesar wrote about in his reports were third hand.  He never personally saw any rites or ceremonies up close, so he has no knowledge of the true way they were conducted.  Also, he was writing for support for his campaign in Britain, support that Rome was reluctant to give.  As such, he could have colored the facts a bit to make the Celts seem more vicious and blood-thirsty than they were.

Also, one of the goals of this thread is to make it pan-pagan.  No matter the culture, nor the peoples, and I think we are getting locked on the Celts.

Now, this is not necessarily bad, since a lot of Paganism takes it’s roots from there.  But we do need to keep our focus on other groups too.

For instance, Altars only seem to crop up in societies that have indoor rituals.  As such, it is probably that the Druids did not use altars for their ceremonies, except as a convenience.  But the Egyptians, however, did.  As well as the Romans, and the Greeks.  But the Native Americans (from circa 1500’s) did not.  But the Aztecs and Incas and other societies there did use Altars for their rites and ceremonies.  The Japanese and Chinese did and did not.  They had shrines, but no altars.  The African tribes did not have altars nor shrines.  Nor did the bushmen of Australia.

Altars are really only important if you have a definitive priest class, who have advanced to a point where indoor ceremonies are the norm, as well as having that priest class somewhat removed from the populace in general and there is a need for a “Sacred Space” to be created indoors, as opposed to having that sacred space be wherever the priest happens to be.

Anyone else?  This is a good discussion.

Message: Africans
Author: DJW – OllahmLaoich Urchurdan

Date: Apr 29, 2000 18:51

Daven Wrote:
“For instance, Altars only seem to crop up in societies that have indoor rituals.  As such, it is probably that the Druids did not
use altars for their ceremonies, except as a convenience.  But the Egyptians, however, did.  As well as the Romans, and the
Greeks.  But the Native Americans (from circa 1500’s) did not.  But the Aztecs and Incas and other societies there did use
Altars for their rites and ceremonies.  The Japanese and Chinese did and did not.  They had shrines, but no altars.  The
African tribes did not have altars nor shrines.  Nor did the bushmen of Australia.”

Actually, the African comment makes a good point for innovation or evolution. The diasporic religions (Voodoo, Santeria, etc) use altars today, but as you point out, didn’t used to. I remember reading a book on West African Voodoo that had photos of altars being used around Togo (W.Afr.), but I think that was due to later foreign input.


Message: A teeny bit late…
Author: – Fleury CuChulainn, Patron

Date: Apr 29, 2000 19:20

Here is the alter, such as it is, I hope this is a better visual… for explanation as to what every thing is, please see my last post. 🙂  Oh, and sorry about the white background, I didn’t save just the picture, but the whole damned paint thing… whoops! Unfortunately, I don’t have time tonight to go back and fix it.  I’m actually pulling myself away from the computer and venturing into the real world for a while. *EG*  It won’t be long though… LOL

Oh, and I took an African History course a year ago, and although we didn’t get into any real depth on religious practices, we did look at it a little.  Historically, the various African religious practices were conducted by a limited number of people, much like the ancient North American Native traditions.  There was usually one person with the extensive knowledge, and usually psychic gifts and then a number of apprentices who helped during rituals and whatnot…  They did not have altars and shrines until the rise of Islam in the 6th century AD, and then colonization in the 1800’s.  The homes of the ‘priests’ housed all the holy implements but they weren’t usually set up in a shrine kind of situation, more like being stored in their appropriate places awaiting use. 🙂  That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll be back to this one for sure! 🙂

Message: Well, it’s good to know
Author: Relieved… – Daven Iceni

Date: Apr 29, 2000 23:58

that educated guesses do have some basis in reality.  LOL  A lot of what I put up in the section about other cultures and Altars were educated guesses, based on the little I know about the culture itself.

As my wife, Mai, pointed out, Altars seem to be contingent upon being settled, and non-nomadic.  Let’s face it, if you move, you don’t want to lug a 6 or 7 hundred stone block around with you.  LOL

(BTW, from what I know, a stone is equivalent to 14 LBS English weight.)

As was also pointed out to me, by one of the lurkers, if I implied that ONLY Druids held the ceremonies or had rituals, I am mistaken, and I implied the wrong thing.  There were probably lots of “granny magic” going on, that the Druids didn’t stop, or turned a blind eye to.  That’s well and good.  But the Major rites and ceremonies, in which you would need an Altar, they did, and probably didn’t allow any others to do.

When I receive his permission, I will post his exact quote here.

Also, there were other cultures who did ceremonies too.  Not just the Druids.  That’s what you get for not saying what you mean.  LOL

Message: Well, I got permission to post
Author: stunned – Daven Iceni, Patron

Date: Apr 30, 2000 13:20

the notes I have been receiving from Nantonos Aedui.  Here’s the first one:

I appreciate that “Pagan Basics: A teaching thread.” is a private, invitation-only thread so I have not posted to it, but I think that you go a bit far in asserting that no-one other than the Druides ever conducted any ceremonies or rites or anything. That would be incredibly unusual, anthropologically, especially in times when religion was so intimately mixed with everyday life.

The quote that you are trying to remember, ‘”The Druids control the entire religious aspect of the Celts.  They MUST be present at every rite or ceremony so it is conducted correctly.” Or words to that effect …. ‘ is given as the introduction text on the Glade of the Carnutes thread.

I checked this link out and it is there, silly me.  I’m getting SOOOooooo lost.  LOL

In fact you seem to have argues that they did *not* use altars, either … although “offering platforms” at the edges of pools, springs, and marshes are attested in the historical record.

Do you consider that all of the hundreds of separate votive deposits for healing at the sources of the Seine were deposited by druids and by no-one else?

Clearly, in the Gallo-Roman period, altars were used (after the Roman and Greek fashion, though with substantial regional variations – the Loire-Atlantic-Pyrennes region and the Flemish region springing most obviously to mind).

Yes, you can post my original note (and indeed this one), with attribution.

Perhaps that is true, but I still believe that it was not a common practice, but we shall never know.  The offering platforms were a form of shrine, as were the Prayer Cloths, and many other things.  But I believe that the use of Altars by the Druids was an uncommon practice.

But, once again, I’m not sure about it.

Message: Here is an example of a shrine…
Author:Rona Cumhaill

Date: May 3, 2000 23:33

http://www.peachtree.druid.org/dedicants/shrine.htm Looking forward to comments on this!

Message: Good shrine info.
Author: DJW – OllahmLaoich Urchurdan

Date: May 4, 2000 02:06

Thanks for the URL. Some good info on the basics of shrine and altar building. Worth considering along with Daven’s excellent writing on the subject.

Message: Here we go…..
Author: questioning??? – myst Niall

Date: May 16, 2000 01:21

with all those questions bursting out from the lips.  LOL I have read all the posts on this thread and the one thing I have a problem with is the alters. Why do we need to have one? For me, I have a circular grove of five old growth cedar trees outside my back door. Inside these trees is the most awesome feeling of power and peace. Can I not use this? Or is there a path for tree worship? I only ask this because you said the only stupid question is one not asked!*smiling*

Message: Just a little comment……
Author: Ollamh Cainte – Thalada Parisii

Date: May 16, 2000 06:03

realizing how difficult it is to present the epic of history in three posts and the span of time and thought in a concise way.  It is most important to walk away from Daven’s discussion with a sense that there is a ton of truth out there waiting to be uncovered and each piece of truth serves to develop one’s thinking.  If there is anything a student should take away it is that they should feel compelled to challenge each piece of ‘fact’ they are presented with.  They should research and read and when they are done that they should do more.  There is no substitute for improving the process of learning better than the process of learning.

Daven, I don’t think you judged neo pagans harshly nor do I think you judged at all.  I agree with your views on Satanism mostly because I view it as an intrusive and reconstructionists religion…like many proselytizing christian religions.  With regard to Druidism it is unfortunately necessary to ‘interpolate’ where fact has been reduced to supposition.  Much was lost but the logic I think remains intact.  With that logic it is possible to deduce the philosophy of the Druids if not the precise religion.  As far as I am concerned that is the more important of the two anyway.

And perhaps a cut at Myst’s question as I happen to agree with her.  I’m not sure there is an absolute need for an altar but there is a need for a gateway to the power of place.  An altar, i think serves as a ritual gateway, the keys to which are embodied in the symbolic items and arrangement.  Following a ritual path allows one to unlock the door in a controlled, and I might add, safe way.  The grove might also have been used in this way by the Druids….it is the way I use it now.  But the ritual is still carried within us and the need for mastery and control is as important as ever.  Power is neither a good or bad force but it can manifest itself in ways that might be perceived as either good or bad when one does not have the ability to control the power.  Ritual, through an altar or through a trained mind, is the governor and steward of that power.

Message: Well said Thalada.
Author: Instructor – Daven Iceni

Date: May 16, 2000 22:24

The ritual and the “creation of the sacred space” and the “bringing the infinite to Earth” is the most important thing that we are trying to accomplish.  The props, or tools, don’t matter.

Use an altar if you wish to, or don’t as you wish also.  It is the mindset that is being perused here.  The frame of mind that says “This is a holy time, and a respectful time, a time where I am in connection with the ALL, and a time when I can be myself, without any masks or walls.”

Many in rituals, think that it has to be solemn, serious, and quiet.  It is this way with not only organized religion in chapels and temples, but also in more than one grove or circle.  And it really spoils the mood when someone trips over their robes.

If it were me, I would rather laugh at that point, when it is appropriate, and let the anger and the frustration wash away with a few hearty laughs, than to let the embarrassment of the moment kill the mood.

Anything that promotes the mood of joyfulness, celebration, awe, closeness, love and togetherness, is to be sought after, and embraced when encountered.  These are the states of mind that you are trying to create.  Don’t fear a laugh from a child, or a laugh from yourself, or a hearty “BLESS IT” when you spill wine on the Book of Shadows.

And if using a tree stump is right, within a circle of trees, do so.  If putting everything on the ground is even better, do it.  An altar is really only a convenience, nothing more.  It is a tool, just as the athame or the cup or cauldron is.

The reason I was harping on them so much was simply because they are in common usage amongst most NeoPagan/New Age/Wiccan groups.  Lots of the ceremonies and the words and symbols have been stolen (yes, I said stolen) from Ceremonial Magicians.  An Altar was one of those things taken.  But it really is not necessary.

One thing that I MUST drive home to each and every one of you is that religion is a personal path of self-discovery, a philosophy, a way of living your life, as you see fit.

Me sitting here in my home, typing these words cannot tell you the secret to life, or the nature of the universe.  That is something that you have to find for yourself.  I can tell you what I have found, but it will mean nothing to you without you discovering it for yourself.

It has been said that one who knows who he is, and where he came from, and what comes next, has no need for religion, or for philosophy, or for the secrets of the universe.  This is because he who has found all of that is already in possession of the answers that those things are trying to give you.  The only people who will understand the answers of the universe are those who have found those answers already.

So, use an altar if it will help you, or do not if you don’t think it will.  Whatever you need to promote that attitude you take into the Circle, use.  If it detracts from that attitude, don’t use it.

Symbols only work if they have meaning to you.  Words only work if they mean something for you.  These things are only important if they evoke an emotional response from you.  If a pentagram is meaningless to you, being told you have to have 50 or more of them around you in your rites, will do nothing for your state of mind, except distract you.

But if one sea shell, which you found on a beach when you were 3, and that your mother kept for you all these years, evokes the emotion that those pentagrams are supposed to evoke, the not using it in your ceremonies is a crime, in my opinion.

There are so many things I want to say and I want to teach now, that my mind is full to bursting….

But, another assignment.

“Grounding and centering” is a term that is thrown about in the Neo-(whatever) groups in recent years.  I first encountered this term in a book by Mercedes Lackey, and I have used it ever since.

This is the act of coming to peace inside your heart and head, and letting unwanted emotion drain away.  Centering, is the balance that one gets from things like meditation, sitting and relaxing, prayer.  It is a “wholeness” and a concentration on yourself and the area around you as part of a whole, not separate from it.  Grounding is to let anger, hate, envy, fear, and other negative emotions drain into the ground.  TO stay there, and never come back to you.

There are things that you can do to help with this.  One is to just listen.  I have several examples are:  listening to the stars sing, hearing the wind talk to the water, and hearing the water answer back, listening to the brook babble on about what it has seen, feeling the air blow all of the energy out of you, feeling the Earth spin on it’s axis, sitting with your feet in the lake, listening to the thoughts of a baby.

All of these are a type of centering.  Just doing these actions, and feeling the peace that comes with it is good.  And there are different triggers or helpers for each person.  My most powerful one is listening to the music the stars make.

I want all of you to practice this.  Find your helper or trigger.  Do it often, and do it for a long time.  Meditate if you wish, but get that “Connection” to Life in the Universe.  Feel that peace.  Post your reflections and your thoughts and insights if you wish, but do this.

Feeling that connection is the next step in all of this, because if you can’t feel it when you are doing it yourself, how can you know if you have created the same thing in the ceremonies, or how can you feel the energy you are raising?  You have to separate yourself first, and know what is you, and what is not you, before you can sort what is outside of you.

Let me know how this is coming with all of you, and then we will move on to energy work.

Message: It is so hard to believe
Author: tears of joy – myst Niall

Date: May 16, 2000 23:57

what you wrote Daven. I read and re-read it as I wiped the tears away. All my life I have listened to the wind whispering to me, the trees imparting their great wisdom, water laughing and chattering non-stop like naughty children. I have lain on the grassy knolls and felt the pure energy from the earth come up and envelope me like a safe cocoon. I hear the moon calling to me and in the quiet of night I hear it all come together. That is hard to explain ,it’s just a thing I know.*smile* To know this is the way I am supposed to be and not looked at sideways and hear people say ” nice lady, but a bit off you know.”  Well, all I can say is Thank You so very much. It is so very good to learn. Bless you!!!!

Message: Regarding the mindset principal….
Author:EponaDawn Catuvellauni

Date: May 19, 2000 02:30

Daven, I agree with what you said about mindset being the most important thing in ritual.  I have a make-shift altar that is by no means elaborate and use tools some people think are strange as opposed to the usual.  My athame is a letter opener given to my father by his company after he retired.  He is now deceased and I gain great power in holding it in my hand; I feel as if he is guiding me.  I am disabled, as well, so I find that performing some of the more strenuous rituals to be a strain.  But instead I have found true strength in simple meditation, pathworking, and visualization techniques.

I am curious to know if anyone here has done any pathworking as well.  I have met and conversed with deceased relatives whom I never met in life and faced fears I never knew I even had.  I know these are techniques are used by psychologists as well, but I often wonder if the philosophy of an earth-based religion might better serve to enhance this experience.

Even before I became Wiccan, I was doing things that would have been familiar to those practicing the craft, even though I didn’t know I was doing them.  I would lie down holding my cat closely (he actually liked it *g*), listen to his low-pitched purring and rhythmical breathing, and drift off into a trance-like state.  In this state I could see my everyday problems more clearly and more than once came away with solutions to them.

We should use whatever props get us in the mood for whatever undertaking we desire to carry out. I suppose the most basic teaching that Wicca has taught me is the rule of 3….I have learned very quickly just how true that is!

Message: Well, my comments on Myst’s and EponaDawn’s
Author: Master of Serpents – Daven Iceni

Date: May 20, 2000 01:24

posts are here:

EponaDawn:  I have heard of pathwork, but have no experience with it, other than living a lifestyle.  That is what I do.  No formal training in anything, other than what I have read and experienced.  But I am willing to tell you what I know as soon as I understand what you are refering to as “pathwork”.

myst:  I’m glad that my post touched you so strongly.  I did the same thing with Fleury in another post on another thread.  LOL  Seems to be a talent of mine.

But, I never said we weren’t weird.  To be “weird” you must deviate from the “norm”, and to do that we have to figure out what normal is.  Who defines “normal”?  Society does.  So what is society like?  Messed up.

If being happy and at peace with myself and the people around me make me weird and not normal, then I can put up with the snide comments, and the sideways looks.  No problem.

I would rather be happy instead of dead of a heart attack in about 6 years, or having a wife and daughter who dread seeing me, along with a bunch of co-workers who stick knives in my back.

I am weird, so are you.  So let’s be weird together and tell the world to take a hike off it’s own perceptions.  And let’s be happy.

Message: Kinda like daydreaming….
Author: the drowsy – EponaDawn Catuvellauni

Date: May 20, 2000 01:54

Sorry for the confusion y’all….Pathworking is just another word for daydreaming. My favorite one is to visualize a hedge maze, like the ones described in those good ole gothic novels. Enter and walk the maze. No need to worry about getting lost because you can end the visualization at any point. Just walk around and see who or what pops up. It’s doubtful anything really scary will happen as you are the one in control of this fantasy. If you come to a passage that you just don’t feel right about going down, just don’t. Theoretically, psychologists will say these paths we refuse to go down represent fears we are afraid to face. When the person doing the pathworking is ready to face that fear, the passage will no longer feel wrong to pursue. I sometimes fall asleep doing this and that’s ok too.

Nothing supernatural about any of this; in a relaxed state I find it easier to let my true feelings, wishes, and expectations come through. The people and objects you will meet in the maze represent only what’s most prominently on your mind.

At any rate, even if all of this is pure fantasy, it’s relaxing and can cure insomnia 🙂

Stars light your path.

Originally posted 2013-10-14 16:03:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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