One of my last posts was focused on the basics of how to blót, for the beginners who have just started to practice the rituals of the Norse/Germanic faith. Today this post is targeted to the beginners who prefer to have a central focus of worship for whatever pagan religon you are into. The basics of of to make your own altar or shrine.
Setting up your own altar is easy, there are only a couple of options to consider.
The first thing that you have to ponder, is if you want an outside altar or an inside one (maybe both?). If you are going to make an outside altar, you have to consider what kind of altar do you want to make, either a single large stone or piled rocks on which you can make offerings and leave them there, and pour libations. This is a great option if you own a yard, or a property cleared of all kinds of vegetation. Of course you can do it in your own apartment if the ground is strong, but that doesn’t make it private, nor is it pratical, and it takes away your own space.
The second type of altar that you may want to think about if you live in a place where you can’t have an antar outside, is one that you can have it in a private room, safe from children, pets and any one who might interfere with it.
Our Norse ancestors in some houses had their own shrine/altar, on a division of the house, just like a little house inside the bigger one. Making an house of the gods, spirits and ancestors. Inside that division, oaths were also made. Inside the room, in the altar, there would be a bowl, a blood-bowl to be more precise, it was called the hlaut, the blood of the sacrificed animals to the gods, sprinkled during the rituals.
You can make your own private shrine, it isn’t complicated, nor does it need to be overly ornate. However, with time, you will notice that your altar will become full of your offerings and other things that you consider to be appropriated for the altar. All you need to make your own altar or shrine, is a flat surface in a safe part of the house, or even a room just for it. You can place in it the bowl with which you will make your offerings, other icons of your religion, and even the images of the deities, personally I do not worship images nor figures, nor did my ancestors from my mother side, we believe that the power of the gods ins’t in their images, nor our faith should be places on those images because that is all those are, objects, our faith is within us and so are the gods. Anyway, going back to the subject, you can use a table, or any other type of flat surface to place your altar.
You know now my opinion on the images of the deities, but if you are into it, god-images don’t need to be very complex, at least on your case if you are starting just now. Nowadays, it is easy to find the images of the deities, even replicas of the historical ones, but you can also use anything that resembles the deity, anything you think somehow is connected to the deity. The altar and the place where you build it, must be of your liking, you must decorate it in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and let me put it in these words, put you in the mood.
Fire is also needed in the pagan altars, some people build their own altars on top of their hearth. You can add to your altar candles, it is a good way to have light on your altar and at the same time fire. Keep in mind, that you must be prepared to clean your altar often, a lot of wax, drink, food, etc will be spilled there, so make your altar in a way that will be easily washed, that includes any kind of cloth you place on it.
Many gods have their own favorite color, so you might want to add a cloth of the color that reminds you of the deity or deities.
As you can see, setting up your own altar is one of the easiest things you can do, with time it will evolve and become more complex, but for beginners, these steps are what you need to place in your mind, the basics. Personally, I don’t have an altar, I don’t need one, but I know that many people need to have a shrine in order to concentrate their faith in one place, its just a matter of personal mind organization.