Monday, October 22, 2012

The Center of Devotion: The Home Altar

A foundational aspect of my own practice, and the practice of many Witches, is the central use of a home altar in the praxis. Anytime I encounter someone that doesn’t have a permanent altar setup in their home I am taken aback for a moment. This is not to say there is anything wrong with their expression of their path, just that I find it peculiar.

Growing up all the adult Contemporary Pagans I knew, Druids and Witches alike, had altars in the home that acted as the center of their spiritual devotion. This particular list isn’t long, not from the lack of people having altars but because as a child and later as a teenager there were not too many homes of adult practitioners into which I was privy. Most of my interaction with the greater community took place through CoR.  The list includes my Uncle, whose altar is the first I ever recall having seen, my Dad had an altar setup, and the Priestess of CoR. As an adult, every Traditionalist I know has an altar or more, and off the top of my head I can think of three households that have Temple rooms; other than my own. This is why I have a hard time grok’ing when this isn’t the cast.

I set up my first altar in my early teens. I set it up for the simple fact that as a devotee I believed that having an altar was a part of the normal practice of my religion. I have an at least one, usually several, for different Gods and Goddesses, ever since. For that matter, I even have an entire room designated as the Temple, which has little else other than a large altar, and some supply cabinets for the operation of the Temple. In addition to the main one in the Temple, I have a small one in the bedroom, my wife has a multitier altar in the kitchen area for her hearth workings, and there is a small one in the kitchen for family offerings during family meals (which are nightly).

An individual’s altar is their spiritual center of the household, it is the hearth. As a devotional religion the altar is our sacred center, the navel, the axis mundi, that is the conduit at which an individual works in their relationship with our Lady and our Lord. The home is the Temple and its spiritual center is the altar. It is for this reason that many altars are setup in the kitchen or living room. Here is an earlier post I made about the center of the home.

I am of the opinion, and I am sure there are individuals that can and will argue otherwise, that erecting, maintaining, and regular devotional rites at an in-home altar are essential in the religious nature of Witchcraft, and the greater Contemporary Pagan practice.

How important is your altar in your daily spiritual life?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."


thalia said...

I think it's essential, now that I have one. I went many years with either a borrowed feeling to mine or just an extra-small something that never felt whole or complete. Now that I have my own altar set, in the place in the home that I want it, with the decorations that called to me, and no one touches it or messes with it, it feels amazing.

The connection is very much like an umbilical cord, like I can feel it, sense it, anywhere I am in the house. Just like when the kids are roaming (especially when they were little toddlers) and there is a mental connection to them, a link, no matter where they toddled off to.

I guess it's like anything that takes time, effort, and daily practice. I feel off-balance if I go too long without playing an instrument and creating music. Likewise, I my altar isn't set up.

GreenFlame said...

Spanish Moss, how do you work with the one in the bedroom vis-a-vis the main altar? It's always been hard for me to work with more than one, yet as I remodel "my" room, I'd like to have something closer ... do you use it more for dreamwork and stuff like that?

Spanish Moss said...


As a teenager my personal altar was always in the bedroom, later in the barracks it might as well have been in the bedroom since I shared one room with a roommate, and then later in the condo, the frozen North, and then Atlanta I had my ODU altar in the bedroom. As my practice has shifted, my focus has moved to the Temple room but I still have a small devotional place on my bookshelf in the bedroom for the Gods thereon.

The use of mulitple altars for me revolves around either differences in culture/pantheon of focus of being. For example, in the temple room I have both a main altar traditionally setup for our Lady and our Lord, and I have an altar for work with solely the ancestors.


Anonymous said...

I live alone with my 2 black cats in a small house with 3 small bedrooms, so am blessed to have a meditation room and temple spaces. Those rooms have shelves all around so are wall to wall deity altars, some of which do not like to be next to each other. I consider these to be like a battery, all charged up, and you light and candle and say a prayer and boom the power is on. I also like Thalia's reference to the umbilical cord since in our first degree our red cingulum around our waist is attached to the altar and one is told "this is your umbilical cord to the Goddess."