Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finally... home.

When we left our old house in Hinsdale, NH, we were in a bit of a rush. Our new house wasn't ready, and we had to be out of the old one by a specific date, so we were forced to store much of our stuff up on a friend's land. We covered it well with tarps and stored only in good quality hard rubber bins, but we couldn't have expected a hurricane to blow through. Our tarps were still mostly in place, but had allowed water to get in and pool at one end which was a bit downhill. This resulted in several of our boxes being submerged completely. The ones that were uphill did fine (except for a couple that collapsed under the weight of the water on the tarp above them), but those lower ones were simply under water. The tubs did great at keeping things dry and clean during a rain storm, but not so much when completely under water. One of the boxes that got filled with water was filled with much of my important ritual gear.


It wasn't a total loss. Some of my papers went to the gods, but most of what was there turned out to be brass and silver, and a few fabric things that had to be thrown away because of the mold on them. My stole, thank heavens, was able to be saved (thank you @CT!!). As you can see in the above picture, though, the brass was in pretty sad condition. The silver and pewter wasn't much better. So yesterday, I sat down with both silver and brass polish, rubber gloves, a toothbrush, lots of paper towels and linen rags, and set to cleaning.

And clean!
The end result was exceptionally pleasing. Most of my brass is now clean, and all of the silver has been restored. There are 3 brass candlesticks and a couple of pewter offering bowls left to clean, but I ran out of steam (and my sinuses couldn't handle the stink of the polish anymore). I decided to dedicate the day to fixing up my altars, since I've now been in the new house for well over a month and had only put together temporary mini-altars to my gods. It was time to do it, and do it right, and so I proceeded to empty boxes, clean things, mount shelves, launder head coverings, and set up the altars the way they ought to be set up.

My altars in their alcove.
My room is a bit oddly shaped, but I do love it. With its natural wood walls and ceiling, I feel as if I'm inside a log cabin, a sensation which is heightened exponentially when it is raining or snowing hard outside. It's a bit chilly, since there's no other house walls around me, but I just don't care. I can pull on extra blankets, after all. This picture was taken from my doorway into my room. The end of the bed (a built in platform bed!) segues into the alcove which has become my altar area. In place of the stacks of big rubber tubs that were there earlier in the day, I now have my old bedside table (refurbished into a small altar for the ancestors) and a large but low bookcase (the top of which is dedicated to my lady, Hecate). On the wall are some pictures and candle sconces, my drum, and the built-in shelves which have been cleaned and turned into proper small shrines for various gods.

For my ancestors.
My ancestors altar has been completely revamped. In the new digs, I just don't have the room (mentally or physically) for all the pictures that were around my old ancestor shrine. Instead, I have a red table runner (which has always been used for ritual) on top of which is a picture I took at Arlington Cemetery, a chunky red candle on a large holder, and two offering bowls (one for liquid and one for solids). It's simple... but once I set it up and said my prayers over it, it felt RIGHT. To the right of the altar is a small cupboard, recessed into the wall, with a door. At the moment it's not clean, but once it is, it will become a storage area for extra ritual tools and such. Likely it will contain the large amount of brass candlesticks that I have, as they're difficult to store elsewhere and I like to be able to access them easily.

Zeus and Hera
The top shelf of the small altars is for Zeus and Hera, who I honor as the ones who watch over marriage and relationships. For me, they are the essence of strong marriage, which has to overcome the trials and tribulations of miscommunication, unintentional misdirection, and the occasional white lie. The myths have Zeus and Hera at odds constantly, and while I see those as moral tales not necessarily representative of the gods themselves, for me it's a strong indication that marriage is not meant to be "made in heaven" but lived here on earth, with all the tribulations that come with it. And so they sit at the top of the heap, so to speak, King and Queen of the gods.

Slightly below Zeus and Hera is the only other Olympian that I really give much honor to (except Hestia, but she's in the kitchen, as befits) on a regular basis. The small stuffed snake coils around an obelisk, happily watching all that goes on, looking for all the world like a serpent on a staff, a caduceus. There is a large amethyst rock there, and healing prayer beads that were made for me by a dear friend of mine. And beside that, a delicate clay rattle that sounds reminiscent of rain falling when shaken, and which was explained to me as being a healing rattle. When I or a family member is ill I will ask Aesclepius to bring us healing.

For Yeshua
Then comes the altar/shrine that will make my pagan peeps cringe: the one for Yeshua, aka Jesus. I am still working on that myself, because I spent so many years being "decidedly not Christian" even though I was never dealt any emotional blows as a young person by any incarnation of the church. Yet Yeshua tapped me, and I cannot deny that call anymore than I could deny the call from Hecate or the others. So for the first time he now has his own small altar. It's a bit sparse at the moment, as I slowly figure out the things he likes, but again, it feels RIGHT.

At the bottom of the shelves there is Dionysos, also a bit sparse because I haven't yet found all the items that usually go on his altar. He has taken a backseat to others, of late, and yet I still owe so much to his presence in my life. I remember being told that Dionysos was a "gateway god" and that he might disappear or fade a bit after a while, and how much that bothered me. Now that it's slowly happening, it isn't painful, though there's a bit of an ache. I doubt he'll ever entirely disappear from my life; we have too much history now for that to happen. Still, his altar is at the bottom both because he is more outside the rules of purity as I worship him, and because that bottom shelf is so close to the big altar for Hecate, which is where he's always been. Eventually there will be more things, too.

Long shot of altars.
Above the shelves is a copper pressing of the Parthenon, something I picked up in a box of art books many years ago at an auction. It's one of my most prized altar images. I'm sure it's just a cheap reproduction of something more expensive, but it has real energy to it, a real feeling of connectedness. I apologize for the slightly blurry quality of the photos, but I'm reduced to using the camera on my Android phone since I dropped a rock on my good camera and killed it (sob). Still, at least there are photos, right?

I'm very pleased with how my little altar area turned out. I wasn't sure what I was doing until the very last minute, when I asked @CT to help me drag that heavy bookshelf upstairs. It sits well there, though, and really completes the whole thing. I toyed a bit with putting it under the shelf altars, but realized that Hecate doesn't mind being next to the ancestors, and at least in my own mind there's a certain reason for her altar to be between the ancestors and the Olympians.

Capable of shrouding.
It isn't often that I shroud my altars. I generally spend my time worshipping Hecate, who doesn't care if I have contact with ancestors or dead things or have my hands on things considered ritually impure. I have no need to shroud her space. However, I like to be able to shroud my shrines to the Olympians, out of respect for them, and so I built in a shroud this time. The green cloth you see there can be tacked up to cover all the small altars, shielding them completely from view. And yet again, I knew it was RIGHT when I did it.

Head coverings
Across from my altar alcove I have several small pegs that I used to hang up my head coverings. I use these in many of my rituals and prayers, almost as a Jewish person would use a talit. In a way, they almost replace my old Wiccan robes (which I still have). Those I would put on to remind myself that I was "between the worlds" during ritual, and these I wear to remind myself that I am in holy space. They are not so different... in a way, they are a symbol that I carry that holy space inside me, always.

There, now it is done. I have enjoyed sharing these pictures with you, and I hope you enjoyed seeing them as much as I enjoyed sharing! Blessings to all!
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