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


Lesson 2; Altar Basics

Altar Basics

Message: While we are waiting for the assignment
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni

Date: Mar 30, 2000 01:11

to bear some fruit that we can look at, let’s go on to another basic lesson.

Altar Basics 101

There are many parts to this, and much backtracking that will be necessary so that the proper perspective is presented.  The first part of this is the Tools.

The Tools are the implements that are on the Altar itself.  These are the things that (normally) would be used in a ritual.  They are usually things like your Athame (ah-THA-may) or magickal knife, the candles, the incense and other things.

In and of themselves (IMOHO and my learning) they don’t do anything.  They are simply objects.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The only meaning that they have is what you give to them.

A typical Altar will have the following items on them.  (And I am pulling from my own experience here, not all Altars will have these items on them, or even be used by the Pagan in question).

Ritual knife
Libation dish
Some sort of representation of the Gods
Ritual book

Sometimes associated with Altars, but not necessarily on the Altar except when needed are these items:

Carving knife (sometimes known as the White-handled knife)
Kerfan (to cut herbs with)
Flowers (or other seasonal decorations)
Horned helm
Flowered headdress
Other tools to be consecrated
The Phallic Wand

All of these above are to do one thing: focus your attention.  (And I’ll probably be thrown out of the Pagan guild for giving this secret up.  LOL)

The tools are not there to do anything, but they serve the role of being an attention getter.  While your concentration is focused on the movements and gestures that are necessary to the ritual, and keeping the proper tool in your hand, all of your attention is on the ritual itself.  You are not daydreaming about your lover, worried about the problems in your life, wondering if you have enough money to get to payday.  Your attention is where it belongs, on the ritual itself.

It’s a crutch, granted, and one that most never get over, but it works.  It does its job of keeping your mind where it should be.

It also puts you in the mindset of spirituality when you are setting the things you need out.  Just the act of setting up the Altar “gets you in the mood” as it were.  This is also a benefit of having the tools and altar.

The tools themselves.  I will list the tool, and tell you a bit about it.  The correspondences we can leave for another lesson, but I will try to be brief.  *S*

Athame:  The Ritual Knife.  It is your main magickal tool.  You will use this for almost everything, including stirring things, and threatening to kill someone with it.  Don’t worry, you probably won’t have to follow through with it.

Candles:  Illumination (duh) and to represent Fire.  Or the Holy flame of the Gods.

Incense:  Smells good, and represents Air.  Carries the prayers up to the Gods in some Trads.  (Trad is a shorthand for “tradition” or a Pagan Denomination.)

Libation Dish:  Simply a bowl to put the food and drink offerings to the Gods in so they can be carried outside later.

Salt:  Bitter, to remind us that’s how life is.  Tastes like Semen (or so I’ve heard) and since fertility is important to many of these rites and rituals, you make the connection.  LOL  Also represents Earth.

Water:  Represents water (duh).  When mixed with the Salt, the combination is sacred water, and also can stand for the Sea, from where we all came.

Chalice: also Goblet, Horn and many other names.  A drinking glass with wine to toast the Gods with.

Representation of the Gods…. to represent the Gods?  Ummmm any problems with this concept?

Ritual book:  This is the book that most Pagans write the ceremonies down in, also spells, thoughts, feelings, insights.  Also called a Book of Shadows, The Tree, and other names.

Some Pagans split the Journal part of their BOS and the Ritual and ceremony part into different books.  The journal part is then called (in my experience) the Book of Mirrors, to reflect the soul.  This is what (ultimately) your notebook will become.  In this will be poems, thoughts and so on that you feel are special.  Many argue that these books should be hand-written, but I feel that it is alright if they are digital too.  Just so long as the information is preserved for you, if no one else.

Pentacle:  This is usually just a pentagram (a five-pointed star with a circle around it).  I use mine as a paperweight (comes in handy on windy nights) others use it for various reasons.  Mostly it’s there to represent all the elements.

Sword:  This is the Howitzer version of the Athame’s pop-gun.  It is simply an Athame for a group of pagans.  Usually a Coven.  It is usually handed down to the next generation of Pagans when it is necessary, and thus the power in it grows.

I can expand on the rest of the Tools, but I will leave that for another lesson.

Questions or comments, post here and I will respond as I can.  And then on to another lesson.  *S*

Message: Okay, next part:
Author: Teaching still – Daven Iceni

Date: Mar 31, 2000 00:30

Altar Basics 201: Symbology.

The tools, while important, are not all that you need to look at when assembling an Altar for your use.  You also need to decide what each tool will represent.

(and Fleury asked a good question today.  I am not saying that you MUST assemble an Altar now.  In fact, if you can get the basics for the ritual you will perform, you can wait to get the Tools you want for later.  I am still assembling my personal Altar, and probably will be for many years.  That way I can get EXACTLY what I want, but for now, I make due.)

As we know, there are four basic elements in the modern Wiccan tradition.  There are differing numbers in other paths, like Druidism which has three to nine, but Wicca has so influenced modern Paganism that you need to have at least a passing familiarity with the “party line”.  LOL


and I go as far as saying there is a fifth element too, Spirit.  Happily many modern Pagans are also adding this element to the mix.

Part of what will be happening in any ritual or rite is to try to invoke these elements into the rite.  (Invocation is to bring an internal quality out. Evocation, or summoning, is to bring an external quality in.  I break it down to say Invoking=inviting, evoking=forcing.)  Most modern Pagans will agree that even if Elementals don’t exist, that the element in question has a “will” or a “spirit” that is part of it.  When invoked, you are asking a friend to show up and help you if it chooses.

This is what the “Call to Quarters” or “Calling the Watchtowers” is all about.  Most working groups evoke (from my personal experience) these elements, forcing them to be present.  And there are arguments for and against this.  But a slave will never give his help unasked.  This is why I invite them, and never force them.

To the end of attempting to invoke, the Altar Tools have definite meaning.  I discussed this in the last lesson to a point, but each can also represent other things.  Such as

Incense can represent Air or Fire.  It burns, it is on fire.  It smokes, it represents Air.

Salt represents Earth, but since all the mineral salt on the land ultimately came from the Sea in the first place, it can represent Water too.

The Goblet can represent Water, or it can represent Earth for the Grapes that went into making the Wine.

The Pentagram represents all the elements…

The BOS represents Air from the ideas you have written down in there, and also Earth from the Trees that the paper makes up.

and so on….

My favorite multi-representational Tool is the Athame.  Many say it represents Air, since this is what it cuts, some say Water since this is what it is cooled in.  Others say Fire since that is what it was forged in, and still others say Earth since it is made from Iron.  Some say Spirit since you channel your energy through it.

But my read on this one is that it represents all of these elements for all of the above reasons.

So, you have to decide just what the H^&%^$%^ these tools mean to YOU personally.  You are the only one who can make this decision.  And once you have made this decision, don’t let anyone shake you from it.

Once you have decided what the various tools mean, and have assembled at least temporary items that you can use for that tool until you get ones that you are comfortable using in that role forever, you need to arrange your Altar.

Hang on, there’s more.

You must decide if you want your Altar oriented in a specific direction.  Oh, yes, direction plays an important part of this too.  You see, each element has a direction that it lives in too.

Betcha didn’t know it was so complex, did you?

What will follow is the normal and usual correspondences that occur with the directions and the elements.  Many practice this differently, and there are strong arguments in favor of changing the orientation.  I will give you what most modern Pagans believe, and then I will give you my directional correspondences, and my arguments for it (Don’t worry, I’ll make it brief) and I’ll let you decide for yourself.  Normal directions are:  North = Earth, East = Air, South = Fire, West = Water  and my directions are North=Air, East=Water, South=Earth and West=Fire.

You must understand that each element is associated with a gender, and a “feel” for the element itself.  What I believe to be the correct directions are this North=Air, East=Earth, South=Fire and West=Water.

I use the elements in the directions that I use them in is kind of easy, it’s the nature of the element in reality.  If you think of Air, it is usually associated with the North in many legends and stories.  As such, if you think of a Compass Rose, and place Air there, the logical place to put Earth is beneath it.  Earth supports Air.  Air rests on Earth.  Air is not under the Earth, but on it.  Air cannot mix with the Earth, and if it were not for Earth, Air would not be (see plants and giving off oxygen) and without Air, the Earth would not be fertile.

The same holds true for the Water-Fire arguments.  Water can mix with Air, and Water rests on the Earth, it is between them.  Fire is fed by Air and by the combustibles of the Earth.  Fire creates Air, and fertilizes the Earth, Water can make Air (in the form of Water vapor) and it nourishes the Earth, and so on.  It’s Hobson’s choice as to which direction specifically you place the Fire and Water on the Rose.  I put them where I did due to the life cycle when I made this directional association.

Air is the realm of the spirit.  It is where you are before you are born.  Once in a body, you come out of the Waters of Life, or the amniotic fluid of your mother.  As you grow, you become involved in the Earth and the prosperity and fertility of your life.  As you age, you become knowledgeable and older, and your body begins to burn out.  Like the canvas-cleaning fire of another post.  Once dead, you return to the realm of the Air, to start over.

But this is my opinion.  I will give you links to other places that have other arguments for the different directions.

Once you decide which element each tool represents, then you must decide which direction to put the element in on your Altar.  Then you need to decide the orientation of the Altar itself.  You will be facing one direction most of the time while you are doing your rituals, so you need to decide WHY you orient your Altar in a particular direction.  Are you hoping to increase your knowledge, the point it to the North and the Air.  Hoping for fertility in your life (either in a job or in prosperity, or as in having a child), then point it toward the direction you have chosen for Earth.  But make sure you are facing that particular direction.  Then all you have to do is to lay your tools out in a pattern that you wish to.  Usually it is based in ease of using.

Normal Altar

This is what a “normal” Altar’s setup would be.  As you can see, the “fire” representation, or Candle is in the upper area of the Altar.  If one assumes that this is oriented on the North, the the Fire is in the North, the Air (censer) is in the South, the Salt (earth) is in the West and the Water is in the East.  I know that both the Salt and the Water are on the right side of the Altar, but work with me here….

Daven's Altar

This is my Altar.  It is laid out a bit differently from most simply because I have two representations of the Fire here.  One for the Lord and one for the Lady.

I have not really set it up with elemental correspondences since the Athame holds all five elements in it already, and any more is redundant.  I laid this out for ease of use.  The Athame is missing because it would normally be on my belt, or in the place of the Tree, or my Book of Shadows.  Normally I don’t work with a fixed ritual, I go with what feels right.  I also went for an aesthetically pleasing layout.

But this is entirely up to you.

Now, Assignment number two:

Design your Altar layout, and draw it out.  Place the tools you will be using on the Altar itself. Tell me why you decided to put this particular item there, and what it represents to you.  If you can, put it here digitally in your WebPages so I can look at it.  Or if you have a scanner, scan the picture in, and do the same thing.  But I want to see it.  You can even do it this way:

|           Candle             |
|                              |
|  Salt                Water   |
|                              |
|           Censer             |

and so on.  Just so long as there is a representation of what you want it to ultimately look like.  Write this and draw it in your notebook, and be sure to say WHY you put this here, and that there, and what it means.

Keep in mind, that if using a particular item or tool is not what you want to do, you have that option.  Don’t use it.  If it makes you uncomfortable to have a Sword on your Altar, don’t put it there.  This is what you will be working with.

There is no time limit on this, but I would like to see it in about three to four weeks.  Do it as you have time to do it.

Next lesson, I will go more into depth on each tool, and the materials of the Altar itself.

Message: Lesson: Next
Author: Still going….. – Daven Iceni

Date: Apr 2, 2000 21:36

Altar basics 301: More detail

Okay, here I will give you some information that just about any Priest or Priestess of a Pagan tradition has, and none ever think about.  And if you asked them these questions, they would probably look at you as though you were insane.


In a word, anything your heart desires.  But some materials are more preferred than others.

To get the most out of your Altar, it should be of the materials found in nature.  Wood or stone work best, but wood is best of all.  A stump outside is good (very) and a wooden table inside is alright.

I find that some of the residual energy that was part of the tree in life lingers after death.  So a wooden table that has been lovingly crafted into a specific shape will retain more of that energy than most any other kind of table.

You must understand a basic concept here.  Energy, metaphysical energy, is a real thing.  It can be held, thrown, played with, shaped, and wasted.  But it’s real.  This energy is in every living thing, and a lot of things that aren’t alive too.  Nothing is dead, so far as metaphysics is concerned.

With that in mind, the energies in crafted things are part of the craftsman.  By taking the time to make an object, he invests a part of himself into the object he is making.  This happens all the time, and most don’t realize it at all.

Think for a moment, haven’t you ever sat down and crafted something, spent time and effort working on it, and felt some connection to that object ever afterwards?  That is this principal in action.  It can only be done if you decide to take the time to work on it to the exclusion of most of your life.  And only if you focus and concentrate on making that object (or poem or story, etc) the best that it can be.

So, a hand-crafted table is one step down from a stump in the yard, what about a mass made table?

Well, that’s okay.  Wooden and well cared for.  And if you can’t get that?  Use anything that you need to for your Altar.  A desk, a piece of wood between some cinder blocks, a metal card table.  Any of those will work.  It’s the symbol in your mind that makes the Altar special.

And if you look around garage sales and such, you will find a lot of items that you may not think of as belonging on an Altar.  I found many things in places like that.  You can usually get them fairly cheep too.

So, if anything will work for an Altar, why am I talking about what the Altar is made of as being important?  Well, once again, it gets you in the “mood”.  If the Altar is special, then getting it out and setting it up will send a signal to your unconscious mind telling it to get into a “reverent” attitude.  And this is all for the good.

That plus having the Altar that has some energy in it from when it was alive will help you have more of a “spiritual connection” with it.  This is one of the reasons we work on our tools when we decide to use them and then consecrate them too.

What do I mean?  Consecrate?  Work on?  Whaaaaaa?


Working on your tools is recommended for many reasons.  You may have to jury rig an object that you found in a yard sale to look like what you want it to.  Like pasting flowers on a glass hurricane lantern, for decoration.  Or coloring a King from a chess board brown for the Lord, and so on….  It is this connection that will make these more special to you, and make it easier for you to do your Work in the Circle.

If you make no alterations to anything else, you should at least make some kind of alteration to your Athame.  It will channel your energy, so anything you do to it will make that transfer more efficient and more personal.

Now, having touched obliquely on it, let’s discuss the tools themselves.

Athame, Sword and Wand:  As far as rituals are concerned, these are interchangeable.  It does not matter which you choose to use, for they all do the same thing, channel energy from you to somewhere else.  Different symbols mean different things, and that is the only distinction between them.

Working in a group setting, one would use the Sword for energy channeling where everyone is focused on the same goal.  However, in that same setting, if you were doing this energy work for a personal reason, you might choose to use your Athame to channel the energy you absorbed.  The want (in my experience) is only used in specific rituals to represent the Phallus.

Specifically, the Sword and the Athame should be double-edged.  This multiple cutting edge represents the fact that this tool can be used to harm or heal.  One edge is used to destroy, but the same knife can cut out a cancer too.  In Dune, Frank Herbert brings up the “Philosophy of the Knife”:  “Cutting off that which is useless and declaring ‘now it is complete, because it ends here'”.  That is what the double edge represents.

Never knew that EVERYTHING would be some kind of symbol, did you?

Staff, Spear:  These symbols are for general use.  To mark the Circle outside, one would use either of these and simply draw a Circle so that the borders are defined.  But, the Staff is also used in some traditions as a substitute for the Athame or Wand.

White handled knife, Bolleen, Kefran, Carving knife:  These are utility knives, but you can easily substitute your Athame for any of these.  The Kefran and white handled knife are the same thing.  It is for carving symbols on candles, amulets, cutting string, cord or any other “utilitarian” use that you want.  I personally think this is silly.  Why have multiple knives when one will do?

The Bolleen is used for cutting herbs at the proper time.  It is a specialized knife, usually curved in the blade and able to be used by one hand.  A sickle is a good example.  But once again, why?  The Athame will do just as well.

And in my opinion (but this is a minority opinion in the Pagan community in general) the more you use your Athame for everyday mundane tasks, the closer your connection to it, and the stronger your energy when you use it in ritual.

Cords:  These are spell-cords of the old style that you read about in the literature of the Witches.  The ones that supposedly contained the wind?  You know these cords….  Well, here they are again.  You can store power in those knots you make in the Cord to be released later.  We will cover this more in depth once we start talking about spells.

Scourge:  Well, here is something right out of the Inquisition.  The Catholic Church holds that mortification of the flesh will release the spirit.  In some ways they are right.  This is exactly what the scourge is used for.  Except instead of striking hard, it’s swung lightly to move the blood away from your brain and to other parts of the body.  Gardnerinian and Alexandrean traditions use this to achieve “spirit sight” and Astral Projection.  But they have someone with them, and someone who has gone through this before.

Before use, each of these need to be consecrated or blessed and dedicated to the service of the Gods before it is used in Circle.  You don’t have to consecrate things like the Candles and the Incense, but the re-usable things you do.

I’ll give you the specific consecration later when we begin the section on Rituals.

These objects that are on the Altar will pick up the energy that you create in the Circle as part of your Rites.  You can’t help it, and this is good.  Like attracts like.  Objects of Power (like your Athame and your Sword) will start drawing energy into them and acting as a “battery” for that energy.  You will be able to tap into it at any point and use it for what you decide to.

That’s the end of this section.  If you have questions, post them here.  I can go two ways from here.  I can either post about the History of Paganism, or I can post about Energy.  I leave it up to you to decide, but you will have both eventually.  😉

Message: My Altars
Author: DJW – OllahmLaoich Urchurdan

Date: Apr 23, 2000 19:45

I currently have three altars, but am thinking of a fourth. The main one I keep up all the time is my ancestral altar. It has a resin skull with Celtic motifs all over it. There’s a statue of one of our soldiers (lest we forget), an apple (symbol of life) and a wreath I created for a departed friends funeral in the shape of a triskel.

When doing the four Holy Days (Samhain, Lughnasadh, Imbolg, Beltane), I put up a temporary altar in the back yard (so I can use the BBQ for the fire aspects).

In the past I’ve also had the traditional tools set up on a specific ‘work’ altar.


Message: My altar pictures didn’t turn out
Author:Rona Cumhaill

Date: Apr 24, 2000 10:49

and I don’t know why, since I usually take good photos. It occurred to me that maybe I’m not supposed to capture these images on film. So I will just describe my two altars and hope my words work better than the camera did.

As I mentioned before, I have 2 altars. The smaller and more informal of the two is in the hall between my living room and kitchen, in the most heavily traveled part of my home. I use this altar more as a reminder, a touchstone in my everyday comings and goings, and it is very user-friendly: that is, sometimes my friends, no matter what their spiritualities, will pause in front of it for a quiet moment, or even bring an offering to add to it. Being an artist by profession, I have made this informal altar into a kind of personal collage of my spirituality, with bits and pieces of meaningful stuff I’ve found along my path. When an object loses its meaning/purpose, or when I feel I’ve outgrown it, I take it away. The table is actually an art deco pedestal, round and pillar-like, about a foot in diameter. The only object that remains permanent is a four inch tall terra cotta statue of the Venus of Willendorf, whom I call “Big Mama.” Right now, there is a vase holding a few daffodils behind Her, a large seashell that holds a smudge stick, two jasmine-scented white candles that are almost burned down (from Spring Equinox) on either side of the vase, an owl feather I found in a special place on a special day, and cluster of quartz crystals. Right now there is also a photo of myself when I was five years old holding a cluster of dandelions, and “Big Mama” is decorated with a tiny necklace of yellow and green beads that were specially made for her by a little girl who visits me quite often. (she always talks to Big Mama and it is not unusual for her to bring presents *S*) On the wall behind this altar hangs a mirror, which is connected with it in a way. When anyone stands there, they are always looking back at themselves. *S*

My private altar is in the bedroom and is set up for my own rituals and meditations. Two white candles are on either side to the back of a wicker table. The table is covered with a piece of pale green silk right now – I change it to match the color of the seasons. On the wall behind the altar hang two small clay plaques which I made myself, representing the God and Goddess, in the style of cameos. On the western side of this altar is a silver bowl which I fill with Water when in use. The altar itself faces magnetic north, by the way. A large geode sits between the two candles for north and Earth. On the eastern edge of the altar is my incense burner and a large feather to fan the charcoal or sage as it burns. (Air) And to the front (south) is a round, fat flame-colored pillar candle, scented with cinnamon for Fire. I do not use an athame or metal blade in my rituals, instead there is an obsidian arrowhead which serves me just as well. Under my altar I store my other ritual tools: a supply of assorted incense, extra candles & holders, essential oils for anointing, a box of sea salt, the book into which I copy rituals and notes, a scrying mirror, a special plate for feast-food *S* and a special cup for libations.

So I guess that’s it. I should add, at this point, that before I entered Daven’s class I was taught for two years by other teachers who obviously have a slightly different view – but I don’t see a huge clash in their respective “traditions”. I thought I should mention their influence, however, because they are the ones who guided me in setting up my first altar.

Message: Rona, that sounds lovely
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni, Patron

Date: Apr 25, 2000 11:58

Rona's Private Altar

and I think this is what you were describing?  I got it as close to what you said was there as possible.

This is what, from your description, your private Altar would look like?  The other altar, in your hall, could more properly be called a shrine to the Spirits of the House.  Or the house Kami (sorry, I’m re-reading Shogun).  I take it you are leaving small offerings, and changing them out as you need to?  Perhaps some incense burning all the time?  Or perhaps a candle?

Okay, from what I also read, your elemental associations are Air=East, Fire=South, Water=West, and Earth=North.  Interesting, may I ask you why?

It’s good that you have representations of all the elements on your altar.  I am glad you did that.  And thought about it enough to make those associations.  Well done.

Have you thought about making the cameo pictures of the Lord and Lady for sale?  I know I would be interested in getting some like that.  Right now, mine are small pictures (photocopies and not even wallet sized) in small frames sitting in front of the Lamps.  LOL

What colors do you change the cover to at what point in the season?  Do you have a particular cycle that you go through?  If so, what is it?

Share, please.

Good job other than that.

Message: Okay, here goes…
Author: taking a deep breath – Fleury CuChulainn
Date: Apr 27, 2000 16:26

I got inspired to do the first set of my altar last night. It was the final break down and purchase of a small African sculpture that I’ve coveted for some time that gave me the inspiration. The sculpture is small, about the size of your hand, not quite as wide, and thin when turned sideways. Its is entitled Mother and Child and it dawned on me that she was the goddess image I’ve had in my head. So, with sculpture in hand, off I went. I tried to draw it this afternoon but it didn’t turn out, so I’ll describe it and make another artistic attempt tomorrow. 🙂

My alter itself may change, for its rather low to the ground. It is an antique blanket box that smells wonderfully of old wood when you lift the top. Its about two feet long and one foot wide. At the back, in the centre is my goddess statue. She’s carved out a beautiful forest green stone. On either corner at the back are candles. They are forest green and are in crackle glass candle holders… the holders will change when I find something more appropriate, but its attractive for now. 🙂 Slightly forward and between the goddess and candles, on either side, I have two medium sized abalone shells. I will use the smaller one for salt and the larger one for libations. In the front corners, I have two strange stones that can be used for cutting. They’re hard to describe but they are thin (about 1/4 of an inch thick) but have a very flat, wide, smooth surface. They are a beautiful shade of blue and the patterns within the stone actually look like waves in the ocean. One is bigger than the other but both have sharp edges and can quite adequately cut things (I tested them *G*) In the centre of the altar, centred with the goddess but closer to the front, I have a deep green crystal ball on a dragon stand. The only pentacle I have at the moment is a silver charm on silver chain. I don’t wear it all the time so I brought it out and looped the back of the chain around the goddess and the front around the crystal ball where it rests against the stand, so the pentacle hangs down in front of and below the ball. On either side of the crystal ball, between it and the stones is my chalice and incense holder. To the west is my incense holder, a golden cone holder but I may interchange that with my plain wooden stick holder depending on what incense I’d prefer to use. To the east will be my chalice but I’m not sure what that will be yet.

So if that’s any kind of visual… Now I’ll explain where it is and how its positioned. Its in my living room, beside my sofa. It faces South. I’m not sure why but I’ve always felt more grounded when I thought of South… its always represented the Earth to me but I can’t say for certain why. Perhaps I live far enough north that I think of all the land to the south *LOL* Who knows. North to me has represented Air since the first awe-inspiring time I saw the aurora borealis. ’nuff said! *S* East has always represented Water to me, since I was born on the other side of the Atlantic ocean… it is the great water to the east that stands between me and my birthplace. That pretty much leaves the West with fire… kind of a default I guess. *G*

Any other symbolism to me… um, the abalone shells seemed poignant for holding salt and libations. The stones as cutting implements are interesting since they look like water but are solid enough to cut, but I’m not sure if they’ll remain there. They may just be interim. The crystal ball (to me) represents the spirit, for with it you can see into the heart of the truth…

I guess that’s about it, I apologize if this is a bit long… I’ll have a graphic up tomorrow, I promise. 🙂

Message: More on altars?
Author:Rona Cumhaill

Date: Apr 27, 2000 16:51

Thanks for making the illustration for me, Daven, it looked perfect the way you drew it. *S* Yes, I guess my one altar would be more of a house shrine, since there are offerings made there and it changes all the time. One of my friends who happens to be Haitian described it as “feeding the loa” so it is similar to that idea.

The directional associations with the elements I learned from my first teachers and they seem to make sense to me – North being the place of greatest darkness (Earth – caves & deep mysteries), East being the place of birthing & sunrise (Air – first breath), South being the brightest, hottest direction (Fire) and West being the place of sunset & change/death (Water).

Other people have asked me if I’ve considered making and selling the God/Goddess cameos. Maybe someday I will. It feels funny to think about putting a price on them, if you know what I mean.

I change the color of the altar silk 8x a year. Beltane will be a rich emerald green. Summer Solstice will be yellow, Lughnasadh gold, Autumn brown, Samhain black, Yule red, Imbolic white, then we’re back to pale green again. I picked these colors because they seem to harmonize with the times of the year.

Well, I’ll be moving into my new apartment, so I’ll be offline until after this weekend.

Message: Altars and Shrines
Author: DJW – OllahmLaoich Urchurdan

Date: Apr 27, 2000 20:35

How does each person here differentiate between an altar and a shrine. I’m thinking maybe in terms of activity, an altar being more active. Maybe my altars are really shrines.


Message: As usual it was wonderful….
Author: Ollamh Cainte – Thalada Parisii

Date: Apr 28, 2000 08:47

catching up…..there is so much richness in the thinking of people in general that to determine that any association is not valuable seems wasteful to me.  Still we must all follow the ones that call us most strongly and often that means leaving ones that call us less so.  Such is the nature of humanity.  The Wiccan way never called me, perhaps because at times of exposure to it  in my life I still suffered from the fetters of conventional christian thinking even though those bonds are lond dead.  Druidic philosophy has always called me, from my earliest life in the woods with my father, and I am gladdened that it is not so far apart from Wicca in the end.

I share Fleury’s deep concern with being true to my beliefs and the consequences to my self if I should act hypocritically.  Not to take away from the power of the symbology employed in Wicca but my philosophy brooks the existence of no gods (I often even have fits over capitalizing the word) and many spirits.  There is spirit to all things but no embodiment of divinity any more or less relevant than our own soul.  It can be said that, as I believe it, ‘I have found God and he is me’…which is I think exactly analagous to the principal philosophies of most major religions (Christian included when all is said and done).

My altar I carry with me….and I don’t mean that wholly metaphorically.  I am always with my pen and book for writing.  I feel incomplete without it.  I write down what I observe or feel, and later reflect on it.  It is all I need..that and the physical reality of a most beautiful world.  The power I believe is in the recognition of beauty and the single act of will that allows the underlaying energy of beauty to flow into you.  Doing something with it thereafter is another act of will that requires a trained mind to make the most of.  Tapping into energy this way has become the easiest of habits such that one need only remember something to get a boost from it.  Such as simple thing we all do and yet we rarely understand the significance.

But that is my own Druidic practice…there is both far more to it and nothing more to it than that.  The only difference is within the fulcrum of the trained and rigorous mind to discern truth and the vigorous will to act on it.

Message: Well OllahmLaoich,
Author: Dictionary Man – Daven Iceni

Date: Apr 28, 2000 12:17

I don’t really know how to describe the differences.  Mostly I go by how the Altar is used, and to whom the altar is too.

Right now, I am using Altar as a general term.  However, I will make it a definite distinction in a bit.

A shrine, in my estimation, changes a lot.  Things are added and taken away, offerings left, symbols changed as the mood strikes, and usually dedicated to one spirit or entity.  Thus, you could have a shrine for the Garden Spirit, the House Spirit, the Kitchen (Fire) Spirit, and so on.

On the other hand, an Altar, by my experience, is somewhat static.  Don’t get me wrong, an Altar changes just as anything else, just not as rapidly as a shrine.  An altar is usually dedicated to many Gods or Spirits, and it is used for ceremonies and rites, where as the shrine is generally left alone, or a quick prayer may be said at a shrine.

Altars are in Holy Places and centers of Worship.  Shrines tend to be in places of meditation and contemplation.

A Hospital chapel could be seen as having both an Altar and a Shrine.  It serves the functions of both, but usually the Altar will be one place, and the Shrine will be in another.  So too, can a Catholic Church be seen as having many shrines and one Altar.  The shrines are set up just before the alcoves where the Saint’s statues are.

A Voodoun has a Shrine, and no Altar.  The shrine is large, and the gifts to the Loa are placed there, and believe me, it changes rapidly.

The Buddhists have shrines, but I don’t know if they have Altars.  They might, but I don’t remember seeing them.  And the Shrines are spread all over the country.

Most Pagan (meaning Wiccan in this instance) groups have an Altar.  They are primarily used for holding the ritual objects.  In some traditions, however, they are also the throne for the High Priestess.  She is the only one who can sit on the Altar.  This activity, however, is generally only found in those traditions that venerate the Mother, to the exclusion of the Father.  And thus, the HPS is the leader, no questions.

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.)

In general terms, an Altar is static used for ritual.  A shrine is dynamic, used for prayer and meditation.

If you wish, set up a shrine someplace special to you.  Visit daily, and spend a few moments there.  Feel the energies that you are trying to bring to that place.  Call a spirit to that shrine, and dedicate it to that spirit.  It should come and reside there, and make the shrine it’s place.

There really is no plan to a shrine.  Generally, there can be candles, flowers, pictures, and such on the shrine, but it is really (REALLY) up to what the spirit moves you to put up there.  If, for some unknown reason, you get a feeling that you should put some Vodka there, get a small bottle, open it, and put it on the shrine, and leave it alone.  What you put on the shrine is literally an offering to that spirit there.  Anything that goes there should be with the attitude that you do not need it back, and if it is removed, take it outside and put it in the Earth.

Most times, the spirits of the shrines get offended if you take something back that you have given them.

Have fun.

Continued —>

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