Tending the Altar

To call yesterday “unproductive” would be an understatement.  I know, it was Saturday, and being productive isn’t a valid goal in and of itself, but there are degrees of unproductivity.  There’s “I was playing and enjoying myself” and there’s “I so needed to rest and do nothing today” and there’s “I didn’t accomplish anything but something about it felt right.”

And then there’s sitting at the computer all afternoon, looking at a blank Word document, bouncing back and forth between e-mail and Facebook and news sites, surfing the Pagan internet looking for something inspirational, surfing the Patheos Catholic and Evangelical channels looking for something to rebut, and coming up with zilch.

I was about to give up on a post for today when I looked at my altar, hoping for some inspiration from one of the deities or through one of the talismans and relics.

And I saw my altar.

Now, I look at my altar several times each day.  My final daily prayers are said in front of it most nights.  I see Danu and Cernunnos.  I see other objects on the altar when I have reason to look at them.  But it’s been months since I saw the altar as a whole, living thing.

Everything on that altar was put there for a reason.  Tools and jewelry, candles from workings, mementos from gatherings.  I hear some of you screaming “that’s not an altar, that’s a shrine!”  It’s both.  Or at least, it’s both when I’m tending it properly.

But it was cluttered – just like my mind… and if I’m honest, just like my life right now.  Not badly, and not to the point of dysfunction, but badly enough to keep me from being focused on what I need to do.

I know all of the small objects came from various Pagan gatherings, but I can’t remember which ones came from which.  I haven’t used the elemental candles in several years.  The purple meditation candle has tunneled down to the point where it’s almost unusable.  The wooden platform had wax buildup on some parts and dust on others.

So I took everything off the platform, scraped the excess wax off of it, cleaned the dust off, and went over it with a coat of furniture polish.  I gave the statues a bath.  And I gave some serious thought as to what really needed to be on the altar.

The statues of Danu and Cernunnos went back first.  The red candle represents Morrigan – I used to have a statue of Her, but I was told to give it to someone who needed it more than me.  That candle was used to represent Her in the initiation of Her priestess.  I thought it might be time to relocate it, but given that She’s called me back to Her service (helping to publicize The Book of the Great Queen – look for an interview with Morpheus Ravenna on Tuesday), I decided it needed to stay.

The wands represent a connection to my personal power and the stone represents my connection to Druidry.  The white candle has been sitting in my closet – time to put it to use in meditation.

The only thing I threw away was the purple candle.  Everything else was relocated to a bookshelf where it can be used, or if not, repurposed.

I finished by lighting some incense and candles and making an offering of wine, which, after an appropriate amount of time was reverted.

It tasted good.  It tasted clean.

It tasted right.

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • Brian Michael Shea

    “And then there’s sitting at the computer all afternoon, looking at a blank Word document, bouncing back and forth between e-mail and Facebook and news sites, surfing the Pagan internet looking for something inspirational, surfing the Patheos Catholic and Evangelical channels looking for something to rebut, and coming up with zilch”
    Jeesh,that sounds like almost every day for me, unless I’m at work. LOL! Well except for the Catholic and Evangeical part.
    The altar looks and ‘feels’ so much better now.

  • https://undertheowlswing.wordpress.com/ Conor O’Bryan Warren

    Curious, what do you do with stuff that you remove from an altar or shrine? I usually dig a hole in the ground and deposit stuff there, but I’m interested in hearing how a Druid disposes of sacred items.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      The candles were put back on the candle shelf for the next time I need them. The mementos were moved to a bookshelf. Some of them – like the medallion that belonged to Isaac Bonewits – I’ll keep forever. Others may eventually be repurposed, or if that’s not possible, burned or buried.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

    What an improvement!! Man, I so relate, John.

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