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Saijen SilverWolf1 Profile
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Study Group: Altars


There has been some discussion in another thread as to what goes on an altar. Too many people believe that an athame (Wiccan knife) has to be on their altar, as well as specific candles, a Pentagram, dish of salt, a spurgelous, [sign in to see URL] other things. These are all items that go on an altar for a Wiccan rite. It's rare that all these items stay on an altar after the rite/[sign in to see URL] are used only during Circle.

Obviously, an altar is not a necessary thing. It is nice, however, if you wish to have a personal focal point, or a focal point in your home, where you alone or you, along with your family, can meditate, gather, give thanks, or keep special items.

The location of the alter should be where it's the least likely to be in the way, least likely to be bothered by [sign in to see URL] [sign in to see URL].
An altar can be indoors or outdoors, but if you do an outdoor altar, obviously the items need to be things the weather can't harm, and need to be affixed in some way that the wind won't blow them away.

The items ON a personal altar should be things that mean something to you and that appeal to [sign in to see URL] on a family altar, things that appeal to the family. An acorn that you found while on a meditative walk. A seashell that catches your fancy for some reason. A leaf. A piece of [sign in to see URL] it an odd shape, small piece of driftwood, whatever. A candle is always a welcome item on an altar, as is [sign in to see URL], cone or powder. If you do loose powder incense, it's best to have some type of covered dish with some sand. Use incense charcoal. I have a beautiful covered 'jar' (photos below) that I got from Hobby Lobby, and I put purple sand in it (no one said you can't be colorful! lol). If you like statuary, find something that appeals to [sign in to see URL] something to you

Something to also consider when creating an altar is putting some type of cloth over the table (or whatever you're using) before placing your items. One reason for this is to protect the furniture, especially if you burn candles or incense. If the furniture doesn't matter, then a cloth is not necessary.

When I had an actual altar set up, I put it on the top of my Witch's cabinet. In another thread I posted what that cabinet housed (books, Tarot cards, candles, incense, athame, etc.)

This is a photo of what my altar looked like:

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The next 2 are of the Censer (incense container for burning powdered incense) It is approx. 11 inches from base to top of lid knob.

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At the time I had this set up, it was set up as a Wiccan altar. When I finally get it redone, some of these items will be there, but not all.
As you can see, there is no cloth. This is an important piece of furniture to me, but not in a way that I need to protect the finish.


If you were to create an altar, where would you put it? What would be some of the items you would place on it? Why?



 

Last edited by Saijen SilverWolf1, 1/17/2012, 12:39 am


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TexasMadness Profile
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Re: Study Group: Altars


I think one other thing should be mentioned. Some people (myself included) make a distinction between a 'shrine' and an 'altar'. I used to see the two as very separate but I'm starting to see a blurring of the lines.

In general terms, a shrine is a static place to put things that mean something to you. It can represent an element, a god/goddess or anything. Most shrines I've seen have a narrower focus than things you might find on an altar. And people who are "shrine makers" tend to have more than one in their home. Any little collection of things can be considered a shrine.

An altar on the other hand, is a place to do something. Make offerings, a little spell or even a full-on ritual. Of course, most altars function as shrines during their downtime (they still hold all the meaningful objects). I'd say that people who have altars have one or maybe two. This is the working space of the spiritual stuff.

I've never had an official altar (I've made plenty of shrines!) But as I find myself drawn more and more to the idea of kitchen witchery (well, maybe not that I'm drawn more to it but that I'm actually doing something about it now!), I'm working on an altar in the kitchen. It is a focal point of the kitchen and will be a more mundane than usual altar. Much of kitchen witchery encourages you to use your 'magical' tools for mundane tasks. I will be keeping that space clear from clutter, etc but I will do regular cooking chores there as well.

Here's my "blank slate" right now.

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I plan to have a fire element shrine on the window sill and a working kitchen altar on the counter surface (it pretty much is right now but I want to do something "official" with it).

I already have two mortar and pestles. I plan to have a special knife and a cutting board just for that area. I will update as things progress!
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Saijen SilverWolf1 Profile
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Re: Study Group: Altars


Very good points in making the distinction between a shrine and an altar, Texas! Thank you for pointing those out.

I love the table you have as a solid starting point for your kitchen altar. A perfect place for what you intend!!

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Re: Study Group: Altars


Well, putting it that [sign in to see URL] whole house/RV is a shrine, my bedroom at night when I sit on my bed with candles and meditate, becomes my Alter? emoticon
I have 40 feet [sign in to see URL] out I'm [sign in to see URL]. with very little wall [sign in to see URL] you all TELL [sign in to see URL] the heck I am! emoticon
(Oh and you will be able to tell why I think in another life I was a Native..)

Tissue box holder
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Sandart
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My paper towel, spoon holders and flower pot.
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Closest thing I have to an alter/shrine
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Other half alter/shrine.
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runner rug
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My change pot and the "Ro-bear" [sign in to see URL] last name is [sign in to see URL] "Robear" in French Canadian.
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This is Jade [sign in to see URL] to me by my son. She helps me meditate.
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Feminine Divine in my bathroom.
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Eagle Dancer sandart
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Couch pillows and blankets/covers
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Copper clock
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Black wheat protection door hanging
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TP holder and towel holder in bathroom
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Re: Study Group: Altars


Got some beautiful pieces there, Queeny!!!! Love the black wheat door wreath! And I've always loved the Kokopelies. They remind me a bit of Pan.

And yes, where you do your meditations is a working altar! If it's what you use on a regular basis, then that is your working altar.

[sign in to see URL] because you decorate your home primarily in one style that means something to [sign in to see URL] doesn't make your entire home an [sign in to see URL] altar is more a sacred space, reserved inside or outside your [sign in to see URL] may be more a [sign in to see URL] entire home can be a shrine to [sign in to see URL] not an altar.

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Re: Study Group: Altars


I agree that an entire home could be a shrine (and not an altar). But I still tend towards the idea that a shrine is a mostly static thing. If it's truly part of your everyday living situation, it's hard for me to wrap my head around it being a shrine. You might have a whole room that is rarely touched that is set up for some sort of remembrance or holy place.

I'm trying to come up with another word to refer to general home decorations that all fit within a theme of the sacred. I guess I can't really find one - it's just living with your idea of sacred around you. I bet lots of people do that to some extent (Christians may have crosses or saint portraits on their walls, etc).
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Re: Study Group: Altars


So basically I live in a rolling Shrine! emoticon ([sign in to see URL] to!)
[sign in to see URL] bedroom is where any thing serious goes [sign in to see URL] only there. Hubby can't sleep next to me, hasn't for [sign in to see URL] horrible snoring keeps me awake and my tossing and turning from my back/sciatica keeps him awake, so neither of us gets sleep! emoticon
But this allows me to do my meditations at night... emoticon

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Saijen SilverWolf1 Profile
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Re: Study Group: Altars


Definition of shrine:
A shrine (Latin: scrinium "case or chest for books or papers"; Old French: escrin "box or case")[1] is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated.[2] A shrine at which votive offerings are made is called an altar. Shrines are found in many of the world's religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, Chinese folk religion and Shinto, as well as in secular and non-religious settings such as a war memorial.[3] Shrines can be found in various settings, such as churches, temples, cemeteries, or in the home, although portable shrines are also found in some cultures.[4]

A shrine may become a focus of a cult image.

Definition of altar:
An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship. Today they are used particularly in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism, as well as LaVeyan Satanism, Thelema, Neopaganism, and in Ceremonial magic. Judaism did so until the destruction of the Second Temple. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Greek and Norse religion.

According to [sign in to see URL]'re all [sign in to see URL]. I don't agree, totally, with this. These are from the online Webster's Dictionary.

altar:
[sign in to see URL]

shrine:
[sign in to see URL]





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Re: Study Group: Altars


Actually, I'd say those definitions fit my understanding. The shrine is the set of static objects that represent something (element, god/goddess) and the altar is the place to do something like make an offering, sacrifice, do a spell, etc. A Wiccan altar also acts as a shrine when not in use (because it typically contains things like representations of the god/goddess, the Wiccan tools, etc).
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Re: Study Group: Altars


I see your point, Texas. I guess, in a sense, that I'd always thought of a shrine as a place to honor someone/[sign in to see URL] until recently, felt an altar was the same. I'm learning differences, though, and can see what those differences are, and that yes, an altar can also be a shrine, but it's not JUST a shrine. Most shrines may have an altar in it's midst, but the shrine itself is NOT an altar. I think I said that right.

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