Altar Me

I was just scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across a whole load of pictures from various different Pagan/Wiccan groups displaying members altars. All of these pictures showed off some kind of wealth in the manner of which they had displayed plenty of expensive looking items. This has led me to think about how commercial paganism really is, beyond what any other religion may be. This is ironic because Paganism is a nature based spirituality, based upon ways of the old. How has modern day consumerism come to affect how we worship? I, myself, am guilty of wishing I had the money to splash on fancy chalices, athames and altar cloths. These things are expensive. I see the types of clothing that is fashionable, generally, among other pagans and free spirits and I wonder where on earth they are able to raise that kind of money. Do they still have all of their organs? Their limbs? I window shop with envy pouring out of my eyes.

As I was learning, online, about Wicca, most of the sources told me about how I should have an altar from which I could practice the craft and be at peace. They recommended that I have items that symbolise the elements. Wands, athames, crystals, candles, incense, statues, cloths, you know it. Then of course, there are all the different forms of divination that one could try their hand at. These too, can also be quite costly. I myself wanted to try and make everything. However, when I realised that my sister had thrown away my wand, and my best friends had gone mouldy from the oil that she had rubbed into it. At this point, I didn’t really talk about my beliefs and was still very much in the broom cupboard! I thought about making my own deck of tarot cards but after studying my first deck, I was worried that it would be far too complicated.

My own ‘altar’ is a window sill. I had a few small candles, a small card trinket box of tumble stones, an incense box I found on a car boot sale, with various different types of incense, and often a glass of water. It’s very basic but isn’t that what the practice is all about? Using what you’ve got, making what you haven’t, and keeping it close to nature, close to your heart? It’s almost like a status symbol or a competition. There’s a programme I liked that was on BBC called Switch, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it really did show, to me, what the community is like. They used ‘normal’ women vs ‘posh’ women. In the reality I see it’s ‘normal’, as I would class myself, vs the expensive lifestyle of the pagan hippy. I understand that this is pretty controversial and could probably cause some argument. The ‘free-living’ hippy lifestyle, doesn’t look very free from where I stand. That’s not to say that it is wrong and if you have the money to travel, to buy pretty things or to help people, then do it. Feel free to. A part of the Rede is to ‘Live and let live’, after all.

Anyway, I’m not sure what else I really have to say on the matter of the commercialisation of Paganism and Wicca. It is something I’ve been thinking about for years, ever since I’d taught one of my school friends about it and a few days later she’d persuaded her mum to buy her a very fancy carved table to begin her altar on. I was shocked that her mum had done that, considering I had third degree question from her mother- just in case I was badly influencing her daughter, of course. I have no idea what has become of that friends beliefs as she moved away and we’ve slowly lost contact as people do, but I’ve not forgotten. What are your thoughts? Is it all necessary?

Thanks for reading! See you soon x

Side Note: Image is not mine.

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8 thoughts on “Altar Me

  1. Do you have a picture of your altar ? I want to see it 😀 Well I’m still working on my altar (note: I’m not a Wiccan or a Pagan, but something more broader and undefined yet) and I also have some items. For me I don’t chose based on “keep it simple” or “keep it close to nature”. For me I select them based on my feelings (I guess by its energy?), and I don’t buy them at shops. I buy them second hand or on flea market. Not really because the price (well in fact price is an important factor !) but more because the story behind the item. And also you found that item at the flea market, like it was waiting for you. In the item’s life it could have hunderds of previous owners (or just one) and it could have lived thousand of adventures just to start another one with you. I once bought a coin from Africa 1940, so I think about the story of a coin in the WWII era. How it travelled from one person to another and the places it have been and so on.

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    1. I’ve actually just moved house and I’m staying with my boyfriend this summer until I go back to university but when I unpack and everything finds it’s place I will happily show you my altar, in fact, it will probably be a feature picture of a future article haha Well, that’s fine, most people do organise their altars based on their feelings and attachments. It’s meant to be a person’s happy place (: I usually get things secondhand too (: In my case, it’s purely down to price haha but sometimes, these things do feel like they were just waiting for you. Wow, that’s awesome!

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    2. I have made my alter at the back of our bar, it a place I used to put things, then claimed it as my space,
      I started collecting items in brass as I was drawn to it one day when I was on eBay, and I have collected many great little goodies, my wand I made myself out of willow branches and dressed it up with items from my house, but it’s to special to take out so most of the time I use a branch at the beach or parks, and I have one in my handbag all the time… (For just incase?)
      I’ve also dug out the grass and dirt in my back yard to create a circle for my own secreat space and planted a pink magnolia tree in the centre, ( one of my friends said to me last year,if you have a magnolia tree at the front of your house, you should have one at the back, something to do with the thick leaves stopping negative getting past the plant into the home) so I now have both bases covered. when I can I purchase most of my things from ebay, so the items are cheaper and are being re homed.

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  2. Good points. I can’t speak for everyone out there.

    I think when you first find the path, you go through the shinny new phase and you want the toys.

    The most expensive things in my collection were inherited from our high priest emeritus after he passed. Every time I look at them I remember him and the other leaders we have lost.

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  3. My altar is a desk, and old DVD case, and a random assortment of handmade bits and pieces (wand, fan, oil blends, paintings) or items found at second-hand stores or dollar stores. I think my athame is the most expensive thing I own, but I can internally justify it as it was made by a local artisan who does blacksmithing for a living (giving back to the community!)

    All of my shiny toys that I first felt I HAD to have are now in a drawer, slowly being giving away, re-purposed or generally forgotten about.

    For years I refused to have an altar because I worked outdoors, at the beach, and didn’t need one. Then I moved interstate to the city, away from my little coastal town, and withdrew. Living with family made me feel the need for an altar just so I could have something of “me” there to focus on.

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  4. Many Pagans are also great bargain hunters. Finding a silver chalice at a flea market and polishing it until it shines, for example. Don’t assume that the pretty, shiny things were purchased new for a lot of money. Most Pagans and Witches I’ve known in my 20 years, find their ritual tools at flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores … or make the items themselves, or trade with craftsmen who create beautiful works of art.
    Also keep in mind how long a person has been practicing – after 20 years, I’ve slowly accumulated some very nice stuff. When I first started, it was mostly dollar store items, hand-me-downs and random stuff I found on walks.

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  5. Your altar is your altar : it is a space that you keep sacred to recognize, honour what is meaningful for you. The price tag on the athame will not be considered by any Divinity you honour. Unfortunately, there are those that tend towards commercialism. If you don’t have the needful to make your altar pieces, you kinda have to get them somewhere. there is a place for it, but it doesn’t have to be the end all and be all. My advice as HPS to anyone I work with : if it is meaningful to you, then go with it. Preferably, your choice is for natural materials. If the 300$ athame is what speaks to you and you can afford it, sure, go for it. Otherwise, use an alternative that does have meaning for you. Everything is a process, a cycle. Don’t worry if you do not get every article at the same time. “all in good time” 🙂 Cheers!

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