I redecorated my altar a couple days ago to better match my growing knowledge of Hellenic rituals. There have been some major additions, and some rearrangement as I made more space on my bookshelves.
The altar itself resides on the top two shelves in the picture, with the bottom two shelves for ritual items and related texts. The whole set up in the middle of my bookshelves in my bedroom, but as they are for books, the shelves are very shallow. Ideally, I’d like to be able to have the altar arranged on a deeper surface so I wouldn’t have to separate out my Fire and Well.a
One of the big changes/additions I made to my altar was to add an omphalos (or navel stone) for offerings. The omphalos is the Navel of the World, and so it’s arranged to sit at the base of my Tree. I’m not entirely sure what kind of stone it is, but it’s a bluish gray, shot through with streaks of white.
My Tree is a copper wire representation. I especially like how I can send the roots down into the bowl where the omphalos sits. Most of my offerings over the omphalos have been oil, though I just recently went out an got some nice deep red wine.
Gods of the Wild
On the left side of my alter I have my representations of the Wild and some of the Gods who protect the Wild. The unicorn rampant represents Artemis. There are many myths regarding what type of animal pulls the chariot of Artemis, and one suggests that it is pulled by 8 unicorns. In the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili there is a plate illustrating what is supposedly the chariot of Artemis (see spread #88). The black disc at the base of the unicorn sculpture is a deer, one of the sacred animals to Artemis. So, I use this combination of symbols to represent Artemis on my altar.
The other wild god represented on my altar is Pan. I would like to update this representation of him to be more goat-like, and less deer-like. I’ve also go the twigs shaved into a spiral that seems to resonant with Pan right now, so they will sit by him until it seems they no longer should.
I’m still missing a representation that really speaks to me for Dionysos. The closest thing I have for him right now is the silver leaf sitting below Pan. It loosely shows Dionysos’s domain of vegetation, including grapes for wine.
The ladybug is a polished red stone (I don’t know what kind) that is painted to look like a ladybug. This has a place on my altar partly because ladybugs are sometimes said to represent piety, and it also has a place on my altar in part to represent the Ancestors. The reasoning regarding the Ancestors comes from the following rhyme, which can be interpreted to tell the story of ancient pagan temples and people being burned and persecuted as Christianity took over. So, in general, it serves as a reminder to follow the ways of the Ancestors.
“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
All but one, and her name is Ann,
And she crept under the pudding pan.’
‘Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your little house is burning.
Your little mother is crying and
Your father is on the threshold,
Fly away to heaven, away from hell.”
My Well is in a glass dish surrounded by stones that change as they feel charged and with the seasons. Just to the right of the well is an incense burner that I mostly use for Artemis. I plan on getting a separate place for smoky offerings for each deity on the altar, but for now they share. Behind the incense is a stained glass dragonfly container. I keep my offerings for the well in this.
Flames of Importance
The representation of Fire on my altar is completely separate from all the other flames on the altar.
I have a candle specifically dedicated to Hestia. It was lit from our Grove’s Flame and from the Hellenic Kin’s Flame. This way it represents the strength of my own hearth, as well as kinship between myself, my Crane-kin, and other Hellenes. I made this candle by carving down a votive candle and carving Hestia’s name into it. After I’d carved her name, it wasn’t really showing up, so I then melted some wax from a blue candle and pushed it into the carvings, let it cool, and then gently shaved down the candle again so the blue wax was only visible in the carvings. Her name is barely noticeable when then candle isn’t lit, but when it is, the glow of the yellow candle makes her appear to darken, as shown by the picture.
The white candle in the bud vase is our Grove’s flame, lit from the flame of Kildare. The Grove flames I the one I use to keep the Kinship with Three Cranes alive. It is also the flame we use when we’re doing house blessings. Sitting below that flame is a small folded paper crane to represent Garanos. The Crane is a guide for transformative work, and I occasionally call him as a gatekeeper.
Some more recent additions to the new altar are a larger tree that is a tea-light candle holder. The candles sit at the end of each branch, and there are five of them. It sits in the middle of the new altar. Below it is where my Greek Alphabet Oracle usually sits when I’m not using or charging it. I kept a set of runes there for awhile, but they were in a fox fur bag, and the cats saw that as an open invitation for them to play Godzilla on the altar, so the bag of runes has moved to a drawer where the kitties are less likely to eat them.
There is also a statue of the three aspects of Brigid. She has a candle lit form the flame of Kildare, as well as a bit of charcoal in front of her. The charcoal is what I use for her because it the one thing that connects all three of her aspects. Charcoal in pencils for writing (inspiration), charcoal for heating a forge (crafting), and charcoal for purifying water and cleansing toxins (healing). She originally claimed a place on the altar for Thom, but I’ve begun working with her as well.
Some Hellenic Gods that have claimed space are Athena (and her many owls), Hera (a bit of peacock feathers here and there that I have to protect from the cats), Helios (a very shiny pillar candle), and Poseidon (a bowl full of sea salt). I’ve been working with Athena more closely since I began teaching. She has the pursuit of knowledge and has helped me to deal with the challenges that working with youth and encouraging them to learn bring. Hera has begun knocking at my door with my upcoming marriage. I suspect after the wedding my relationship with her will develop more fully and deepen. Helios I’ve been working with strongly ever since I wrote our Grove’s Yule rite, and I decided to do Heliogenna with him as the Deity of the Occasion. Poseidon has been calling to me for a couple of months now, and I’m not sure where my relationship with him will go, but I’m trying to keep him happy, and keep the door open.