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PSG Roundtable #8: Altars & Shrines for Non-theistic Purposes

Want to make an altar or shrine to a principle, concept, or impersonal subject that isn’t a ‘conventional’ deity, complete with names and symbols and pre-defined rituals?

First, you need to know what its purpose is.  There’s no clear delineation and they often get combined in contemporary practice, but generally speaking, a shrine is a space for devotional offerings, meditation, and/or self-reflection whereas an altar tends to be more of a practical workspace.  Both shrines and altars act as a space in which you interact with the immaterial in some way.  They’re liminal.

Please note that everything I say here is opinion, and I invite you to accept or reject what you will according to your own beliefs, needs, and desires.  I’ll be using my devotion to Death as an example, but you should be able to extrapolate for the universe, moon, sun, nature, etc.  I’m going to stick to the word “altar” for simplicity’s sake.

  • What is your altar dedicated to?

Be as specific as possible.  This helps you know exactly what you’re wanting to deal with.

Ex: Death.  What part of death?  The whole cycle of life-death-rebirth?  Death as the ultimate symbol of transformation and impermanence?  For me, death is the greatest power, and I have an obsession with the concept of entropy.  (Asimov’s “The Last Question” and Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God” are two of my favorite short stories.)  It is the concept by which we define our very nature and how we understand our existence, the source of our greatest fears and anxieties as a mortal species, and the one truly unifying experience for all humans.  And a lot more besides, but I could go on all day about death so I’ll stop here.

  • How do you want to engage with this concept/abstract?

Some common ideas:

  1. Reflection, meditation
  2. Devotionals, worship
  3. Spellcrafting and magic

How do you normally do your meditation or magic?  How can the materials, timing, and other components be adapted?

  • What associations and visuals do you have for this concept?

Consider all the senses: scents, tastes, textures, fabrics, sounds, colors, stones, herbs, numbers, symbols, words and phrases, music notes and songs, emotions, aspects of nature, etc.  Make lists.  Hell, make aesthetic posts.  These will help you choose what kinds of objects, tools, and materials to put on your altar to best facilitate the kind of meaningful experience you’re looking for. 

(Make sure you’re not appropriating anything from a closed or initiatory tradition.  There are usually about a hundred thousand alternatives for everything, so don’t go taking sacred things out of their proper context and using them in ways they weren’t intended to be used.)

Ex: my personal associations for death include black, white, and silver; camphor, menthol, the smell of wet dirt; quiet chill, both damp and dry; grief, dissociation, sarcasm and morbid humor, relief, freedom, truth, rebellion, empowerment, justice, existentialism; the numbers two, three, and seven; obsidian, jet; Southern Gothic folk rock (Jen Titus’ cover of the American folk classic “O Death,” anyone?); black mirrors, slim dark-handled knives, scalpels; images of space; “evanescent” (the SAT word, not the band), “fate,” “tradition,” “stories,” “power”; bleached bones, blood both old and fresh, winter, corvids, silhouettes of bare trees, white bedsheets, gauzy curtains, empty hospital beds, abandoned houses, sexuality, dried flowers, candles burning either singly or in the hundreds.  See, as silly as aesthetic posts can be, they really can be useful.

Now look at your own lists and see what underlying trends and themes there are.  For me, I see impermanence and unadorned realism.  (I left out the more graphic and triggering associations I have with death because I don’t want to distract from the purpose of this post.)  Someone making a list for the sun, on the other hand, may find ‘strength’ or ‘optimism’ is a common theme in their associations.  I find that understanding the themes in your associations helps you understand your own relationship with the concept itself and why you might feel drawn to it so strongly.  It may also help you choose in which direction you want to take your engagement with it.

  • Setting up the altar.

Do what you would do for a conventional altar: cleanse the space (or container, if you’re making your altar in a box, cupboard, drawer, or something similar) and everything you’ll be using on it.  If you don’t have a tradition that comes with a prescription for setting up an altar, you can look up how to cleanse and consecrate altar items in any number of ways and choose the method that’s most appropriate for you.  I do recommend using methods that reflect back to your concept.  For example, salt, as an agent for drying, preserving, and purifying, would be appropriate for death, as would frankincense, which in a multitude of cultures is a required component of funerals.  For something dedicated to the universe as a whole, I would probably incorporate sound into the cleansing, as sound is a wavelength and much of what we know about our universe (sound waves, radiation waves, gravitational fields, matter itself, etc) is based on those principles.

Ex: My altar is dedicated to death in the impersonal, entropic sense.  This means that anything personal goes to a different space set aside for my beloved dead and ancestors; this altar is for the vast, inhuman concept of “the end” that can be so oppressively terrifying or incredibly freeing.  The setup is based on a visual that came during a meditation: the altar cloth is black with a ring of alternating smooth and rough obsidian stones (which betrays my bias as an Irish polytheist) around a circular mirror in the center.  A small sphere of obsidian sits in the center of the mirror.  A black pillar candle stands tall behind it all.  The setup is designed to facilitate my journeyings by creating a symbolically liminal space represented by the ring, made of stones that naturally draw in power rather than reflect it.  The drawing in reflects my journeying technique as well as how I connect with the greater, impersonal energy of death and darkness and all those cheerful things, especially when I hold the obsidian sphere, so it works for me.  If I were doing ancestor or spiritwork I would probably use more white, which recalls a different aspect of “death” than black does to me.

The “nature worship” tag has additional commentary on non-theistic practices.

- mountain hound  

So, Hound covered more of the altar stuff. I’ll add my thoughts on shrines. for ease of reading, I’ll mimic the format starting with

  • What is your Shrine dedicated to?

I find a shrine is much more free form than an altar due to its fundamentally different nature. Whereas an altar is used for practice in spellcraft or meditation a shrine, in my opinion, is about devotion connection in a way that is different than an altar is used for. As such, while I see altars as something that needs to be more specific (as Hound mentioned above), I find shrines do not need to be so specific. For example, my shrine is to Nature, in all its forms. I do not emphasize more the harsh wilds or the tame fields but all its forms under the complete object. If you wish to emphasize one or the other, you can, I just do not find it as necessary to do as with an altar. 

My reasoning for such is (and feel free to disagree) an altar is used more in a practical sense for spellcraft and meditation and other uses that are generally to garner a result. As such being as specific as possible is advantageous as it leaves less room for error.  A shrine, however, is used for more abstract things such as offerings, self-reflection, etc. which are generally things that are not (though can be) used to garner some sort of result. For example, I will leave offerings at my shrine more as an act of devotion with no end goal as opposed to an offering I may give a spirit when requesting its services (which is a good example of an offering to garner some sort of result).

The rest of the points are very eloquently put and can be easily applied to both altars and shrines; the primary difference is the function of active vs passive respectively and how narrow and broad the scope respectively.

Sparrow

The PSG Roundtable Index
before asking | faq+tags | resource blog

pairing: dazai/chuuya
summary: “i’ll see you next month, chuuya. thanks for dinner.”
prompt: day one: “once upon a time on the same side”

“You’re different.”

“Not bad. And here I thought you’d be pouring me a cheap wine…”

Scoffing, Chuuya’s eyes narrowed as he watched Dazai swirl the glass, nimble fingers holding the stem. Of course he wouldn’t, he wanted to say, and not because it was for Dazai. But because Nakahara Chuuya only had the finest wines and wouldn’t subject himself to anything lesser.

Not because his guest that night was Dazai.

Dazai could drink mud, for all Chuuya cared.

Dazai wasn’t even a guest. Just an unfortunate passerby.

“Different?” Dazai echoed after taking a sip, head tilting and looking at Chuuya a bit too curiously, too innocently. “What do you mean?”

“From when you were in the mafia,” Chuuya muttered, eyes dropping to focus on his empty plate. “When you were my partner. You’re different.”

“Ah.” Dazai smiled. “Well, that’s to be expected. This kind of demeanor would be quite odd to don inside the mafia, no?”

“Still,” Chuuya contested quietly, tilting his head back to finish the rest of his wine. He could feel Dazai watching him as he lowered the glass, sighing and still focusing on his silverware.

Having dinner with a defect wasn’t exactly approved behavior for an executive of the mafia, but this was Dazai and this was Chuuya and no matter what, that cockroach kept finding his way back.

(Maybe Chuuya left a trail.)

“Chuuya,” Dazai said, voice so quiet but still strong, and Chuuya looked up tiredly, struck by the way Dazai was looking at him. “I meant what I said, you know.”

Chuuya frowned. “You say a lot of stuff. Doesn’t mean I remember everything.”

“That you make me happy.”

His breath caught in his throat. It may have been because of the unfortunate romantic lighting of the candle or the alcohol swimming in his veins, but Dazai made Chuuya’s breath stop for a moment and he wanted to punch the daylight out of him for it. Swearing, he looked away and stood quickly, balance compromised.

But when he reached out to steady himself on the table, his fingers never met wood. Instead, Dazai’s hand took Chuuya’s and when he looked up again, he was still looking at him with that same look.

“That’s bullshit,” Chuuya snapped.

“It’s not.”

“It is.”

“It’s not.”

“It is.”

“It’s no–”

“Then why the fuck didn’t you ask me to come with?!”

Chuuya’s free hand came down on the table, jostling everything on it. Dazai remained calm; Chuuya bowed his head, breathing a bit uneven. When he felt Dazai give a soft tug, he resisted; he didn’t want to be held. He didn’t really ever, especially not now, especially by him. Dazai sighed and Chuuya reacted by grabbing his shirt, slamming him against the wall.

When he looked up, he was met with that same, that exact same, look; did he only have one expression? What was wrong with his face?

What was wrong with Dazai?

What was wrong with Chuuya?

“I didn’t want you to,” Dazai answered. “Because I wanted to keep you safe.”

“Bullshit! I can take care of myself, we were the most feared duo–”

“It’s easier and safer for you to stay here. And because I couldn’t be the only reason you left.”

Chuuya stilled, their gazes locked as the grandfather clock continued to tick with the passage of time. The reason wasn’t good enough for forgiveness, but it was enough for tonight. Chuuya relented; he let go of Dazai after a moment and stepped back, allowed the other to fix his clothes. “…We were on the same side once, you know. Didn’t have to be like this but you went and fucked things up.”

Dazai smiled. “Sorry.”

“You’re not.”

“You’re right. I’m not.”

Dazai brushed past him and the feeling of their arms brushing left electricity lighting Chuuya’s skin as he heard Dazai pull on his coat. He caught a whiff of his cologne before realizing Dazai was in front of him; a crooked finger tilted Chuuya’s chin up and his eyes were half lidded as the other stole a kiss, dry lips brushing against each other, curling into a smirk even before pulling back.

“See you next month, Chuuya. Thanks for dinner.”

And then he was gone, slim figure and dark hair disappearing into two hours past midnight. Chuuya lingered by the closed door before pushing himself off and going to clear the table, smirking slightly, tiredly.

“…Yeah. Next month.”

Dunno the convention for intermittent disappearances

but uh…still feel kinda guilty about it no less. Mood, up and down, life, up and down…but I suppose that’s just the way things can be. To what followers I have, um…I’ll try to throw a few things up on queue, or something. (Unrelated: where the heck are additional comments/commentary supposed to go? written in the tags so as to not disrupt pictures or just thrown on. Tags can create a giant list of droning on…wait, I’m droning on. Uh. Bye.)

Thank you all. 

(have a gif of Don Airey I made back around Eurovision. It’s Don…at Eurovision, the year they won) 

juniejuniejune  asked:

Do you know of any deities or other entities who are specifically asexual, agender, nonbinary, etc? Thanks!

Athena comes to mind as you could argue that she is asexual, having no interest in romantic pursuits with others and often being repulsed by sexual advances. (I believe in the Homeric Hymns it is stated that she is one of the few gods Aphrodite holds no power over) In terms of gods who aren’t cisgender, Baphomet is said to be the embodiment of both a man and a woman while also being neither at the same time. There are also lots of tales about deities presenting (shapeshifting) as other genders, especially in hellenistic and norse stories, so you might find something there too. Hope this helps! 

-Copper

The Tetrad++ (Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, Pancrates, Paneris, Panprosdexia) are “transgender or gender-variant deities who have come into being in our time as divine figures whose living myth reflects the realities of twenty-first century gender diversity.” Polytheists I personally know, respect and trust were present at the births of the Tetrad++.

- Heathen Chinese

Anpu (Anubis) has a feminine side to his conventionally understood masculine one; in my personal experience, he’s more androgynous.

This isn’t about specific deities per se, but there’s a book coming out called Jailbreaking the Goddess by Lasara Firefox that offers a new model for feminine energy outside of the usual Maiden/Mother/Crone.  I attended one of her workshops for this new fivefold goddess archetype and she presented it as one that is fluid and nonlinear, based on mentality and action rather than biology, and isn’t restricted by gender, sexuality, or other heteronormative institutions.  Lasara herself is genderfluid, currently using feminine pronouns, with a nonbinary kid, so she’s also coming at it from personal practice rather than just theoretical.  She also discusses deconstructing power dynamics as well as the intersectionality of neurodivergence, race and the problematic aspects of white feminism, cultural appropriation, politics, and other issues of social justice.

Our “nonbinary” and “asexuality” tags have additional commentary and resources.

- mountain hound

before asking | faq+tags | resource blog

  • 4chan: we're going to get tumblr
  • 4chan: by flooding tags that people search to find things with shock images
  • tumblr: *doesn't actually use tags to search things*
  • tumblr: *uses tags to add additional commentary, making loads of unique useless tags*
  • 4chan: haha we win or something
4

OUaT Season Four Countdown - Season Three Rewatch Edition (Day 2)

  The countdown continues! In 33 days time, we’ll all be eagerly awaiting the start of the season we’ve been waiting so long to see. As the hiatus draws near to its end, the impatience starts really kicking in and things seem to drag on longer than usual. To help combat this, we’re hosting a rewatch of the third season. Check out all of the details and episode schedules here. Today is our second day! That means you need to find sometime today to watch ‘Lost Girl’. Watch via DVD/Blu-Ray, or one of these links. If you don’t want to pay, it’s up to you and google to find a different link.

Make sure to liveblog! But if you’d rather do something along the likes of a gifset or graphic, go ahead with that, too. But don’t forget about the season three appreciation weekends. ;) We’re tracking the tag 'S3RW’, so make sure to tag all posts dealing with today’s rewatch with that tag in one of the first five tags. Otherwise it doesn’t show up in the tag. Below the cut is a completely voluntary fun little form to fill out and post to your blog once you’ve finished the episode.

Keep reading

4

OUaT Season Four Countdown - Season Three Rewatch Edition (Day 1)

  The Countdown has officially begun! In 34 days time, we’ll all be eagerly awaiting the start of the season we’ve been waiting so long to see. As the hiatus draws near to its end, the impatience starts really kicking in and things seem to drag on longer than usual. To help combat this, we’re hosting a rewatch of the third season. Check out all of the details and episode schedules here. Today is our first day! That means to kick things off, you need to find sometime today to watch ‘The Heart of the Truest Believer’. Watch via DVD/Blu-Ray, or one of these links. If you don’t want to pay, it’s up to you and google to find a different link.

Make sure to liveblog! But if you’d rather do something along the likes of a gifset or graphic, go ahead with that, too. But don’t forget about the season three appreciation weekends. ;) We’re tracking the tag 'S3RW’, so make sure to tag all posts dealing with today’s rewatch with that tag in one of the first five tags. Otherwise it doesn’t show up in the tag. Below the cut is a completely voluntary fun little form to fill out and post to your blog once you’ve finished the episode.

Keep reading