My Special Altar
“If your altar is not active, your voice will not be strong” ― Steven Chuks Nwaokeke
Today’s newsletter will start with an answer to a question posed by a reader.
“Mike, why do your newsletters start with a story?”
One of my Irish family ancestry lines consisted of great poets who may have been bards going back to the time of the Celts. Many of them were poets of various royal courts across Ireland. A number of them were the “Ard Ollamh” (Chief Poet) of Ireland.
So in the tradition of my ancestors, I am determined to become a great storyteller.
After responding to the above question, guess what? No story today…
Today is a follow-up to my newsletter from a couple of weeks ago regarding altars. If you missed it, here is the link, “Approaching the Altar.”
True to my word, I have put together an altar over the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if I would call it an actual pagan altar because I have no items related to gods or deities. One step at a time for me. Since altars are very personal and can vary drastically, I want to use, test, and observe what I have. Then I can slowly add additional items, including perhaps a god from the Celtic pantheon.
Here is my altar! (Please excuse the photography. I am learning how to use a new mobile phone hand gimbal.)
Drum roll, please….!!
Now, let’s go through the contents of my altar.
The altar cloth is a Celtic pattern with a Celtic triquetra in the center.
I purchased the wooden two-level altar from a seller on Etsy. It probably would have cost me a lot more money, time, and a few fingers if I had tried to make it myself.
The book in front of the altar is the history of the O’Daly family, including lots of poetry. These are the same ancestors I mentioned above that were poets.
Now let’s go from left to right on the table and first level.
1st Regiment, Irish Brigade Flag. This flag represents the battle colors carried by the 69th New York State Volunteers, Irish Brigade, during the American Civil War. My great, great-grandfather served in the 69th. He was wounded and partially crippled during the Battle of Fredericksburg.
I feel a powerful connection to my great, great-grandfather. Since there are no known photos of him, he is represented on my altar by his Regiment’s flag.
Next on the first level is a piece of Irish turf on a burning stone. Unlike what I initially thought years ago, Irish turf is not a piece of Irish grass. It is peat harvested from bogs in Ireland. One of its uses is fuel for heating. Many Irish households burn turf in their fireplaces instead of wood.
In the first plastic container are a few pieces of white sage.
The Rocky Mountain Druid states, “Sage can drive away negativity, tensions, disturbances, and misfortune. It is symbolic of immortality and wisdom. Sage attracts money and manifests wishes. It also raises one’s spirit. Sage is an herb of Venus and Jupiter and is excellent for Samhain, consecration, and purification.”
Right next to the sage is wormwood.
The Rock Mountain Druid says, “The scent of wormwood is said to increase psychic powers. Wormwood is a tree of Venus and is great to use at Samhain.”
Behind the sage and wormwood is a photo of my paternal grandparents. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I was born. *Remember, a feature of altars is ancestor veneration*.
To the right of the sage and wormwood is fumitory.
As per the Rocky Mountain Druid, “Fumitory is an herb of Saturn and is an excellent herb for Samhain. Burn fumitory to exorcise unwanted spirits.”
To the right of the fumitory on the first level (center of the first level) is a small offering bowl containing different colored glass beads.
Moving to the right, still on the first level, we have hazel.
The Rocky Mountain Druid states, “Hazel is a tree of wisdom, inspiration, and poetry… Hazel is an excellent herb for Samhain and divination. Hazel is an herb of Mercury. The Salmon of Knowledge lives in a well surrounded by nine hazel trees. Nuts to fall from these trees are said to bestow great knowledge. A knowledge so great that only the Salmon of Knowledge is permitted to eat them. Not even gods and goddesses are allowed.”
White oak is the last of the herbs, on the far right of the first level.
As per the Rocky Mountain Druid, “Oak trees symbolize fertility, abundance, longevity, healing, strength, protection, and raising spiritual awareness while remaining grounded in the material plane… Oak is a tree of the sun and Jupiter, is sacred to both the Dadga & Brighid, is one of the sacred Ogham trees, and is a great herb to use during Samhain, Lughnasadh, purification, and consecration.”
On the table, on the far right, is a mason jar with a turf incense. It is made by grounding up turf (like the piece I previously showed) and then rolling it onto sticks to make incense. I used to have a monthly subscription to receive turf incense. In the below photo, you can also see my great-grandfather’s pen behind the candle.
Behind the white oak and the candle on the first level is a photo of my maternal grandparents. This photo was taken shortly before my grandfather left for World War II. He was an Army Air Force medic in the South Pacific.
In the center of the second level, I have artificial heather. Every altar needs flowers, after all. So I thought the easiest thing would be fake flowers. Why heather? I like it; the fields of heather I saw in Ireland were amazing.
The last two items. On either side of the heather are photos of two sets of my great-grandparents.
Lastly, I should mention that there are also four tea candles on the altar. What’s an altar without fire?
Here is one last look at my whole altar.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tour of my first altar! I look forward to using it and experimenting.
So, what do you think of my first altar?
Let me know in the comments. Keep in mind this is a work in progress.
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Have a great weekend!
My name is Mike, and I am a skeptic and recovering accountant just starting to make my way through the world of the Druids, Celts, and Pagans.
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With a skeptical mind and an analytical eye,
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