domestic altar

The Domestic Garden Witch: Don’t Blink

So maybe you’re a college witch with limited space and money, limited to the one window in your dorm. Or, maybe you’re a witch without extensive backyard space who wants to start up a magical garden. Perhaps you’re a kitchen witch who wants the freshest herbs right at her fingertips.

For many witches, having a garden seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. After all, plants and magic go hand-in-hand. Plus, when thinking of a witch, it’s hard not to think of a cottage in the woods with a little vegetable garden out front. Unfortunately for the majority of us, our cottage in the woods is a tiny flat, and our garden out front is a windowsill with limited space.

This is when it comes time to embrace your craftiness and bring your garden indoors! Not only does it place your garden in a convenient location, it also allows you to freshen the air, recycle what would otherwise harm the earth, and embrace your witchy green thumb!

Gardens as Shrines

Okay, so unless you’re a fan of Doctor Who, it’s unlikely that you get the title. That’s okay. And if you do get the title, you get brownie points! Regardless, the container garden that we’re looking at today is one that I see on rare occasion, but I wish I could see a bit more often: using statues or statuettes as a gardening medium.

In this case, it’s a bit less of what the container is made of and more of what the container depicts. But before I get to that, the garden is simple to create. Simply take a statue that has some sort of surface that can be planted in (the picture above is from a DIY site that featured this same type of project, and they used a faerie holding a cupped leaf as the container part of the statue). Using an appropriate drill bit for the container material, add drainage holes and then plant as usual! Gardens like this can vary depending on how deep the planting surface is, but generally succulents benefit most because the majority of statuettes such as the one above are designed to double as bird baths, and so have a shallow bowl.

A Living Offering

The beautiful part of this type of garden, as I mentioned above, is not the type of material the container is, but what the container depicts. When someone says the word “shrine” it can often bring about mental images of small altars dedicated to a deity, or of the little Shinto altars in Japan, or even of the little altars set up to attract business in some small shops (there’s a nail salon near where I live that has an adorable little Hindu shrine right as you walk in, and in all the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen them struggle).

But many pagans today follow faiths that bring them very close to nature, and encourage finding a balance. Despite this, it’s not uncommon to see altars that are built or set up somewhat apart from nature. They may be made of natural objects or have natural materials placed on them, or may be built in a natural area, but there’s still often some sort of line between where nature ends and human interaction begins. This type of container garden is a great way to try to bridge that gap!

Depending upon your path, select a statue that can be dedicated and devoted to a particular deity. Then plant foliage and decorations that are linked to that spirit in some way. For instance, a very common garden decoration is the image of the Green Man. A container with the Green Man image can be planted with ferns or other forest-type plants in honor of the Green Man or in honor of Cernunnos (the god I usually associate with the Green Man in my path).

Not only can this be a discreet way of honoring the gods, it is also a very respectful way of doing so, as it provides a continual offering as you tend the plants that are growing in the shrine. Water the plants with waters that have been blessed, and every time you tend to the plants, you can turn it into a sort of meditation on which you interact and commune with that god.

But gods are not the only spirits such gardens can be dedicated to. As in the picture above, you can dedicate a shrine to the Faeries of the area. Consider using plants that are pleasing to their eyes, and care for those plants while also leaving the occasional offering for the small folk!

A very common statuette to find is usually of saints. If you follow a tradition that is linked to the saints in some way, you can do the same project in honor of that saint!

So next time you look at that empty statue bowl sitting just outside your apartment door, consider ways in which you can turn it into a magical shrine that is ever-present, right there at home!

May all your harvests be bountiful!
Blessed Be! )O(

anonymous asked:

What are your tips for maintaining an altar for a deity or group of deities? How often do you suggest changing water or burying offerings? Do daily prayers annoy some deities? Will an altar help you get closer to a deity and communicate with them easier, and if so, what are your tips for doing this? -Ernest Bunbury of Dis

Hi  ❣️

I apologize but I’m going to write an essay because of just how important these sorts of questions are to my heart.


So I’m going to put this disclaimer out: My altar and my idols are my everything in religion. Prayers, offerings, any rituals, all come as a package deal to maintain my altar which is my relationship to the Gods. The importance to me is simply not fully describable, kind of like sometimes people can’t fully describe other spiritual experiences. However, people reading:  don’t make this feel like you hands down need an altar period, your religion is your own.


 Idols & Ancients

Animated Idols are precious gifts from the Gods to me. It is a gift they do not need to give me, but I feel as if they do. Their Altar, or shrine if you prefer that word, is the necessary way to take care of them. Also, I call them Idols not Cult Statues or Icons because I am picky bleh.

I get this idea from the study of ancient traditions. Mine being mainly Mesopotamian and Greek.

In Mesopotamia the Idols were sacred beyond words, treated like kings, fed, clothed, given water to bathe, entertained with music and dance 24/7. The theft or destruction of an Idol had devastating effects to a city; that is a whole essay in and of itself, which I’ll link to. An Idol was not a statue, it was the god: “Once the statue was imbued with the essence of the god, it ceased to be a statue, and was seen as the embodiment of the god [. . .] the statues of the gods are referred to only as gods, not statues,”(1).

In Greece the temples of the Gods were considered their homes and the Idol resided within them. Due to them being consider the God’s house, rituals often took place outside them (2 p. 19).  Within the domestic setting the altar “constitutes the basis for communion between humans and the divine,” without the home altar the “religion would hardly exist” (3 p. 35). All holy objects of the household are placed on that altar, including statues of the Gods (3 p. 36).

(Shinto Ofuda have a similar idea, they are imbued with the essence of the Kami and then usually placed within a Kamidana, and renewed each year.)


 Idols to Me

Those ancient fervent beliefs about Idols resonate with my soul.

Some say that the gods can be anywhere they want to be, at any time, which I agree with. But animating an Idol makes the God tangible & visible, in my mundane, physical space. No astral, or dreams, or meditation; they are there and I am charged with taking care of this gift they have blessed me with.

The biggest difference between me and the ancients is the visibility of the Idols.

In both cultures they were closed away in their houses, the temples; in the Hellenic home it was better to have them out of sight if company was around, or to even cover it with a curtain if having it out of sight was not possible. With me I rarely feel the need to take down my altar; in fact, I dread the idea of taking down an altar with no plans to immediately set up a new one. I have felt no discontent from any God for keeping my altar up and having their idols in view (granted atm I live in a private basement but I used to have a studio apartment so everyone could see). It does seem strange a bit considering past tradition but, I have no city temples, I have no dedicated spare room in my house, and I am fiercely in love with the Gods— if I trust someone enough to invite them into my home then I doubt they would see a problem with it. Except maybe a few family members. If a God wishes to not bee seen I cover their Idol with a pretty cloth.  


 Altar is core of my practice

Of course my altars don’t always house Idols though, often they are representations of some sort, especially travel altars, but the following concepts apply.

Assuming I have access to my Altar then:

  • Formal or petition prayers are given before the altar.
  • If I want to say a short simple prayer I look in the direction of my altar. I used to live in a studio apartment so I could almost always see it and pray from any spot. Now I can’t really do that much, but if I am within my room and say a short prayer I still look towards the altar.
  • I preform libations on my altar, if I want to libate say outside or some where else that glass of water will stay on my altar, enough to say a short prayer over it.
  • Food offerings are always presented at the altar even if they are not physically left there.
  • Religious jewelry, when not being worn, is placed on the altar.
  • If I want to feel there presence more or say “this task is dedicated to you,” then I light a center candle at the altar.
  • As a rule of thumb for me is I avoid looking at the faces of my Idols when I am going about my day because I’m well….usually not presentable and my altar is smack dab in the middle of where I walk by. 
  • But when I wake up from flashbacks or nightmares or am panicking, I often turn over in bed and just stare at the altar and the peace and comfort it brings to me
  • And probably other things.

My altar has been able to become more elaborate since I came home (a lot due to the fact that I got a bigger table).


So now that you have an essay showing where I am coming from maybe I can help ?

💬 What are your tips for maintaining an altar for a deity or group of deities?

Find a spot first and foremost. A top of a shelf, a book case, inside a cabinet, a table, a desk.

Then decide what you want your altar for, if it is dedicated to the worship of a deity place something that represents that deity. It does not have to be an Idol or statue or anything expensive. It could be the $1 lion figurine I bought for Nergal and put on my altar, a picture, a little trinket.

Once you have set that up decide what your practice needs.
Do you need to do offerings or libations? Then you might want to keep bowls / vessels on the altar or nearby.
If you have methods of ritual purity you must due before ritual or prayer then you may want to keep that on or near the altar, such as a bowl for khernips if you are Hellenic.

That’s the basic: a location, a representation, and what your practice requires of you.

Once an altar is set up try to keep it clean, avoid putting it in a place that collects dust, brush off the surface now and then. Check to make sure wax hasn’t gotten anywhere if you use it; or any other substances. Clean any and all dishes you may use.

Lastly….try to make it “pretty” and I don’t mean go all elaborate. I mean give it some life in a way that makes you happy. If you don’t like the way your altar looks, would you really want to offer that up to a God?

💬 How often do you suggest changing water or burying offerings?

If I have water on my altar (which I usually do but check out my tag #mystery illness as to why I don’t nowadays) I change it every other day mainly because it is in a small cup. If I had a large bowl I would change it every day. If it gets dirty in some way I change it right away.

AH! Offerings are tricky. At the moment I eat my food offerings for various reasons, I haven’t written a post about it but that’s how I roll~

💬 Do daily prayers annoy some deities?

I can’t even begin to imagine why it would. If your prayer every day is “do x y z for me” then yeh, that would get annoying to everyone. But as I wrote before in ancient times Gods were taken care of every single day.

💬 Will an altar help you get closer to a deity and communicate with them easier, and if so, what are your tips for doing this?

Well it certainly has for me! 

However, let’s go back to basics and say you simply have the location, a representation, and maybe some tools. No idols, no fancy anything, just a few objects. 

The altar is a point of focus. It is a place you can stand or sit down in front of with the sole intention of focusing / worshiping what ever gods are represented there, it puts you in that mindset. Additionally, taking care of the altar is an act of worship towards the Gods in and of itself. There are countless ways you can use an altar to get closer to your deity. 

When you are in this mindset at your altar, focusing on the altar and the Gods it is made for lets you slip away from all the everyday things around you. You can just pray, talk, meditate, sing, dance, before the altar as an act of worship towards the Gods. “Communication” with the Gods is very subjective. I have had experience I guess people call “God Phone” I wait for a certain feeling before I feel it is okay to try and offer the God and Idol I wish them to animate. 

But even if there was no earth shattering communication, oracles, messages, signs, or anything of the sort— I worship the Gods because I love them and believe they are deserving of worship, and that is all that matters to me.

Sources 

(1) ”The Phenomenon of God-nap in Ancient Mesopotamia: A Short Introduction” by Erika D. Johnson from the University of Birmingham. http://www.rosetta.bham.ac.uk/issue5/phenomenon-of-god-nap/ (This is also the article I mentioned I would link to) 

(2) Kharis Hellenic Polytheism Explored by Sarah Kate Istra Winter 

(3) Hellenic Polytheism Household Worship by Labrys 


(AND HAH I need to make the Altar Anatomy and Meaning page since I took the blog post of it down. I keep forgetting. I’ll def be using a ton of material from this post probs. But thats a huge essay with pictures oh no.)

Doll made of  wood, gofun, silk, natural hair, crystal .   17th century, Kyoto, Japan.  This puppet, called “Odairi Sama,” represents a prince and is used in the puppet festival called “Hinamatsuri."  

National Museum of Anthropology , Japan

From as far back as the Edo period, a festival called Hinamatsuri (Hina means puppet and Matsuri means festival) has been celebrated in Japan, in which families lay out puppets and dolls on domestic altars for the purpose of praying for the health and growth of the girls. This festival is celebrated every March 3rd. The dolls are stored away from one year to the next, even though at the beginning they were made of paper and thrown into the river, so that the girls’ imperfections were carried away by the water current. Traditionally, the two main puppets would represent the emperor and empress, and offerings were made during the festivities. The oldest ones were made of wood covered with a substance made of oyster dust called “gofun”, filled with straw and dressed with rich garments of silk. They could also have different accessories on the hands, made with natural hair. At present, the puppets have been reduced in size because of the decrease in the birthrate and the limited size of Japanese housing.

Domestic Magick success! 🏡✨

Last week, I got a letter from my landlord saying she’s not renewing my lease for next year. I wasn’t devastated because the rent’s getting to be too much for me to pay on my own but I definitely wasn’t prepared to buy boxes, pack up, go apartment hunting, and interview for new roommates… I put the letter on my domestic altar, lit a candle (sprinkled it with catnip) and asked Bast to protect me in my home, by whatever means necessary. I had no idea what I was asking for and forgot about the prayer. I prayed one more time that weekend, asking for a solution by whatever means and for my Highest Good.

On Saturday, my landlord called me. She asked if I’d found a place. After a week, I said of course not. She said she didn’t actually want me to move. Her son wanted to build on my apartment and after a week’s consideration, she decided she didn’t want him to. I was shocked. I gathered my composure after having my prayers answered and asked if she’d let me have a room mate. She was elated at my suggestion and I DON’T HAVE TO MOVE! 🏡✨

Praises to Bast! 🐱✨🌿

2

Finally got together my domestic altar for my kitchen. Lady Bast (Kemetic goddess of joy, magic, healing, music, dance, sex, prosperity, protection, women, children, childbirth, and domestic cats) has stepped up to guard and bless my home and ensure continued prosperity and protection.

Using her favorite colors (green, gold, and black), I set up:

  • a green candle
  • my New Job spell bottle
  • my Golden Opportunities spell jar
  • a gemstone pouch for prosperity (citrine, aventurine, amethyst, gold rutilated quartz, emerald, and peridot)
  • a coin/change jar that I’ll be adding to over time but not taking from (attracting abundance)
  • catnip as an offering
  • an orgonite dome to bring in abundant energy
  • an obsidian tower (looks like an obelisk)
  • an Arabic green perfume bottle filled with rose oil as an offering
  • a statue of Bast
  • a green aventurine stone
  • a black tourmaline pyramid

Daily worship of the Lares involved not only the dominus and his family, but also the slaves of the familia. While in small households there might be only one altar to the Lares, used by both free and slave residents, larger households generally had two or more shrines. Shrines used by the dominus and his family could be located in the center of the house,while less elaborate shrines used by the slaves were most often located in the kitchen or in peripheral rooms associated with slaves [note]. Normally the paterfamilias led the daily worship of the household Lares, but should he neglect to do so (or be unable to do so), then another family member would perform the rites. In the prologue of Plautus’ play, the Lar announces that because Euclio, the master of the household, has neglected to perform the daily worship to the Lar,his daughter has taken the responsibility for this office.

(Titus Maccius Plautus (3rd-2nd century BCE), Aulularia 23-25)