I don’t usually write such long titles, but I wanted to make sure I got your attention! Now that I have, let me tell you how to create a beautiful altar with little expense and the bonus of being easily disassembled and hidden.
First, let me say, it is absolutely true that you can create an altar with items you find on a nature walk and couple of candles. Nature walks are great ways to find things like attractive stones, pinecones, and seashells. (Please respect the rules of national parks/historic sites and don’t take items from them.) City parks and public beaches should be okay. I found a hag stone on a public beach.
If you’re like me, you prefer an attractive altar that combines both. Pagan objects are hard to find if you live in a tiny town like mine. When the holiday season begins, dollar stores are great sources of little pumpkins, cauldron-shaped candle holders, mini Christmas trees that can be used as Yule trees, reindeer, and a variety of Christmas ornaments that you can re-purpose into altar items.
You can use a fairy figurine as a Goddess figurine. You can use an angel. Figures to represent a male deity can be harder to find. Deer figurines can be a solution.
You can find amazing things in thrift stores, and the inventory changes every day. I found my carved wooden box designed to hold cards in a thrift store. I keep my first set of Tarot cards in it.
If you just can’t find what you need in a brick and mortar store, there’s always Ebay and Etsy. Pagan items are often very expensive, but they don’t have to be labeled pagan to be used on your altar.
My advice is to put your money into a small (I’m talking teacup small) real cast iron cauldron with three feet to ensure it doesn’t make the surface you place it on hot. DON’T burn anything but a candle in a candle holder. I had a heavy glass ashtray crack just from burning herbs. If you buy a cast iron cauldron, please read up on how to care for it so that you don’t accidentally ruin it like I did with my mom’s cast iron skillet.
If you’re looking for Goddess and God figures, you’ll quickly realize how expensive they are. My Rhiannon and Morrigan were $35 each. Here are two solutions for multiple goddess figures:
I have the Dover book. If you want to know if a particular goddess is featured in it, please feel free to leave a comment and ask. It’s a high-quality book and the art is, to me, much better than the book that costs twice as much. Just please remember to keep your paper dolls safely away from your candles.
You can use a picture as a Goddess/God representation. Print out something you like and frame it. The Dover paper doll book has a Rhiannon doll. I have it in a frame on my Rhiannon altar.
I have a seasonal altar devoted to fairies. If you’re looking for inexpensive fairies, search for miniature fairies on Etsy. I bought three, one white, one black, and one Native American, and three little mushrooms with spirals on them. They’re meant to be decorations for potted plants and had thin metal stakes on the bottoms. I broke off the stakes by working them back and forth, then used a nail file to file down the stub.
In another Etsy shop, I found stars (pentacles) made from grapevines. They’re small, and you can run any type of ribbon or cord through them to hang them up. The same shop sold miniature fairy brooms. You can use a broom to represent East on your altar. It’s a lot less noticeable than an incense burner ;).
On Ebay, I found a seller who sells candles about eight inches tall in female and male forms and in a variety of colors. They’re meant to be burned in spells, but I use my green female figure candle as a Mother Nature figure. Again, keep them away from candles you’re going to light to avoid softening the wax.
Candles. Candles are often pricey and can bring on asthma attacks if they have intense fragrances. If you want a safe, unscented jar candle, check dollar stores and the “ethnic foods” aisles of grocery stores for candles featuring saints. You can soak off the labels in hot water. Just don’t submerge the candles, because water can run into pockets in the wax, making the candle unsafe to burn.
When you re-purpose Christian items into pagan items, you may feel as if you’re doing something wrong. This is leftover guilt from rejecting your Christian upbringing. Remember that these are inexpensive items sold in bulk. Unless it’s blessed by the Pope, don’t worry about it. I painted a white plastic statue of Mary meant for garden decor black and used it as The Crone. I have yet to be struck by lightning.
Setting up an altar to a particular deity can be challenging. I recently discovered a line of vintage ceramic animals, people, and objects called Wade Whimsies. A figurine was included in boxes of Red Rose Tea, sort of like the toys in Crackerjack boxes, but really charming and collectible. Luckily, there are so many on the market that you can usually find a handful for less than 10 dollars on Ebay. Last night, while working on my seasonal altar, I decided that I wanted a mermaid to represent West. I got on Ebay and searched for Wade (not Wade’s) Whimsies mermaid. They made a mermaid! Several people were selling only the mermaid for eight dollars. Then I found a seller who had the mermaid and several other nautical-themed items for eight dollars. Free shipping. Now, please understand that these Wade Whimsies/Red Rose Tea figurines are TINY. They’re smaller than a quarter but nicely detailed, and many have “Wade England” inscribed on the base.
You may be in a living situation where you can’t keep your altar up permanently or can’t openly display pagan items because it would create conflict with roommates or family. Or you may not have space for a large altar. These situations call for “stealth altars.” Miniature and innocuous items are ideal for such situations. A candle is just a candle. A miniature fairy is just a miniature fairy. A pocket knife with a black handle is just a pocket knife with a black handle. You can hide little items easily if you have to. You do not have to have an altar cloth with pagan symbols. You don’t have to have an altar cloth at all. If you want one, you can use a scarf or placemat. I have my fairies on a wicker placemat. Just don’t use it for any other purpose.
There are many simple ways to cleanse objects of old energies. One way is to burn sandalwood incense and pass the item through the smoke. You can also burn a sandalwood candle. Your intent is the key. Another is to leave the item sitting on your windowsill in sunlight all day or moonlight (preferably full moon moonlight) all night, depending on your intent for using the item.
I don’t usually write such long blog posts. I’ve just been remembering times in my life when the people I lived with attacked me for being Wiccan. And, even now, working as a freelance writer, I still find myself looking for the least expensive items. Sometimes I can afford to spend $35 on a statue. Sometimes I can barely scrape up $4 for a book.
I haven’t discussed books yet. As a teen, I checked out books about Wicca from the library and hand-copied the most important parts into a big, multi-section notebook. I still have it. Hand-copying information about the deities, the pagan holidays, spells, and reference lists about herbs and stones and candle colors is actually a great thing to do, because you’re creating your personal grimoire or Book of Shadows. Right now, I’m dealing with cold-weather utility bills and I’m in a freelancing dry spell, so I don’t want to spend money on printer ink rather than a book. I’m writing things down, saving them in Word documents, and saving images with info into my camera roll. When I my marriage was dying a slow death and my ex-husband was going through my things on a regular basis, I created a virtual vision board for my books on my iPod. I was able to keep the iPod out of his hands.
I am strongly against stealing art, books, and music. You can find Creative Commons imagery. You can make notes from online articles and library books. You can buy a song on iTunes. Don’t pirate eBooks. It’s the same as stealing a book from a store. 99.999% of published authors aren’t wealthy. Even if they are, don’t steal from them. It’s wrong, and it’s not acceptable behavior for a pagan or Wiccan or witch. We are better than that.
Items you can find at thrift and dollar stores:
- Vintage funky candle holders
- All types of figurines
- Unused candles
- Incense burners
- Handmade things
- Holiday decorations
- Blank books/journals
- Vintage fabric items originally used to dress up dressers, vanities, and chests of drawers
- Mirrors (for scrying)
- Geodes (large rocks broken in half to display the crystalline interior)
If you’re lucky enough to live near a used bookstore, you can find all sorts of books about witchcraft, and novels. I have two copies of Triad, the book that inspired Stevie Nicks to write Rhiannon, that I got for less than five bucks apiece at a used bookstore. One is hardback with the dust cover, the other is paperback. Most thrift stores have a used book area. Unfortunately, stores affiliated with religious organizations weed out occult books. They often miss novels. Just remember that anything you intend for your altar or for ritual use must be cleansed, because it carries the energies of previous owners.
Are you artistic? The most wonderful and powerful objects are those you make with your own two hands.
I remember vividly what it was like to hide the pagan part of my life when I was young and when I was married. I remember wanting an altar that reflected me and honored the Goddess at the same time. I remember hiding books. I remember sitting in the library copying things by hand from books.
Now I don’t have to hide anymore, and sometimes I have the money for a pricey Tarot or oracle deck, or a figurine, or a cauldron. I just hope that this post helps you if you’re in the same position I was 30 years ago.
P.S. Again, please ask any questions by leaving a comment, or follow me on Twitter and send me a DM.
Solitary Wiccans/Pagans often come to depend on people who present themselves as teachers because we don’t have the support system of a coven. When that teacher’s path changes, we can feel as if the earth has shifted under our feet. It’s comparable to a Christian pastor announcing that she no longer believes in a key element of Christian theology and will no longer follow what she has preached for a decade.
Two months ago, I wrote about Doreen Virtue’s conversion to Christianity. We should have seen it coming, I suppose, as she increasingly focused on Mary and Mary Magdalene, the Templars, the quest for the Holy Grail, and the well at Glastonbury. I was fascinated by those things for years. That’s how I discovered Doreen and bought two of her decks. I do believe that Doreen’s Goddess Guidance Oracle helped me connect with Rhiannon when I realized that a Christian form of paganism was not for me. Then she went to angel decks. I had absolutely no interest in them. What bothered me about her conversion to Christianity was her decision to alter her previous work to remove deities that she now considers “dark.” That’s wrong. Are her old, original decks now worthless? Not at all. If you’ve been using one or more and they work for you, I say keep using them. You may miss her teachings using those cards, but if you still feel connected to the cards, that’s good. They’re still a tool for you and one hard lesson of Wicca/Paganism is that everything created and named by human beings is fluid. I question my witchy world daily. That’s the point. I picked this path because I didn’t want dogma.
I’ve recently been reading books by a prolific academic author and teacher. Just when I felt I was beginning to understand what I needed to understand about The Morrigan, like not saying I wanted to “work with” Her, this teacher underwent a profound spiritual experience, and her devotion to some deities, including Macha, has changed. At first I was shaken. Then I remembered that I was drawn to The Morrigan, Goddess of War, Queen of Phantoms, and possibly the most confusing Celtic goddess of all, when I “should have” connected with Brigid, goddess of hearth, poetry, healing, and many other things close to my heart. Why did I physically reach past Her for a statue of The Morrigan? I only had a superficial knowledge of Her. I just felt a connection. That connection isn’t broken by this very knowledgeable teacher’s change of path. Her previous writings aren’t to be dismissed. Our teachers are learning, too, examining their beliefs every day, as we should.
A teacher can’t determine what path is right for you or which deity or deities you should follow or call on . . . only you can know that, and you have to learn two things: how to read the signs that a deity is calling on you, and how to trust yourself.
I am Irish, Scottish, English, Dutch, German, French, Comanche, and Choctaw.
I have a deep and rich culture. My Native American blood is in my father’s family. He died two years ago. I hadn’t seen him since I was ten, and his family didn’t keep in touch with us after he left my mother. It feels strange, being descended from the invaded and the invaders.
I identify most with Appalachian culture: the Scots-Irish. My grandfather was a son of the Appalachians. A Protestant. After my father left, my grandfather put me in a Catholic school. It was the first of many gifts that he gave me. I learned that women figure in religion just as much as men. Oh, Mary and Mary Magdalene were denigrated, not goddesses, but I got that they should have been equal to Jesus, equal to God.
That set me out on the search that led to Wicca. I learned about the Celtic gods and goddesses. I learned that I had an indigenous European culture. I realized that my grandmother, Christian though she was, was a wise woman, and so was her mother. And my grandmother passed down some of my great-grandmother’s knowledge . . . cooking, healing, sewing . . . to me.
My white Christian grandmother said that my Comanche grandmother was a witch. She didn’t like my father. She had no knowledge of Native American culture. She gave me a box of photos, some over a century old now, and told me that I was the only one that she trusted to care for them. My father put a stone spear head into my hands. He found it in the Ozarks when he was a teen.
In one hand, I hold sewing needles and photographs, and in my mind I hold recipes and herbal medicine. In the other, I hold this piece of stone formed by the hands of someone who might have been my ancestor.
I realized that the earth itself was the connecting factor in my bloodlines. The moon and the feminine are essential parts of any religion to me. A religion that does not elevate the feminine isn’t real to me. Wicca combines all of the things that, to me, are holy. I study, endlessly, goddesses of Ireland, England, and Wales.
I read on Twitter that I can’t pick up a feather and a stone and make magic out of them unless they were handed to me. They were, physically, a stone was put into my hand, and I was given heirlooms and oral tradition.
Please don’t tell me what I can’t have or think or love. It’s taken me a long time to get over hating my father for abandoning us, but I claim all my cultures, regardless of which one calls to me in the most insistent voice.
Or even a “thank you.”
The Twitter pagan/Wiccan community is not, shall we say, up to speed on some basic social niceties. Like being nice. Half-a-dozen times, I’ve responded positively to a post, or raised an issue of concern to me, or DMd a popular Wiccan or pagan account and got . . . nuttin’.
And these were not situations where the person or persons running the accounts were inundated with responses to their tweets linking to their blog posts. Maybe I was supposed to go to their blog to comment? Well, I just don’t f’ing feel like jumping through all the hoops to comment on everyone’s blog, and NO, I am not signing in with Facebook. Ever.
If someone links to their new blog post, and I respond, “Great post, really made me think about Topic X” is it so damn hard to respond and say, “Thank you!” Or, “For more discussion, visit my blog.” Or even, “F*ck you!”
If you keep running into the Pagan Wall of Silence, it’s not just you. I can’t give you an explanation for the bad behavior, but it’s not just you.
Someone presenting her or himself as an authority on paganism ought to answer a question. Or at least say, “Hey, can you ask that over here on my blog?” I personally am not going to anyone’s Facebook page because I use FB as little as possible.
It is tempting to unfollow people who have no manners, but oftentimes they write the most insightful articles. I think–I hope–that their Twitter accounts are automated and that explains the lack of manners, but that’s still not okay. Protip: Everyone hates automated accounts. Everyone. Stop it. I don’t care if you’re the High Priest of Cthulu. You’re still acting dickish.
Sometimes, the articles you comment on and don’t get a response address noob concerns or basic, important topics. And then there will be a post about not doing the thing the person wrote about but ignored questions. So what the hell are you supposed to do?
Well, just because someone doesn’t reply to comments doesn’t mean everything they have to say is wrong. If the post resonates with you, study it for answers to unanswered questions. If you find it confusing or upsetting, go on your own search for answers.
A tip for people new to pagan belief systems:
Wicca and paganism are NOT about renaming yourself “Sister RavynnMorgyn” and posting digital art of voluptuous witches morning and evening and greeting all your friends with “Blessed Be, Sister GoldenDragonWing!” That’s a bunch of crap. That’s not real. The vast majority are struggling along just like you, struggling to learn, struggling to resolve conflicts between Wicca and our birth religion. And the people who put themselves out there as sources of knowledge should BE sources of knowledge instead of ignoring questioners. Wicca is all about questioning. You don’t have dogma. If you do have dogma, you shouldn’t.
Books. Libraries. Used and new book stores. Acquaint yourself with them, and accept that Wicca is like a university course that goes on until the day you die and then after.
Don’t let bad-mannered Wiccans turn you off.
I decided that the people who wrote the Nashville Statement really needed to hear from someone targeted in the statement. I’m one of those people. They said I shouldn’t live in a normal marriage because I can’t have kids and sex is only for procreation. So I looked up all of the signers who are on Twitter and sent them a link to my post below.
One person-a male, I will not call him a man-replied. He babbled something about “why does the Left always have to be pleased?” which made zero sense-the entire exchange is in my time line, I’m not looking at his feed for exact words because his hate sickens me-and then he said “just stay out of their churches.”
I replied, “You know who else would stay out of your church? Jesus.”
He said nothing about being sorry to hear of my health problems. He just spewed hate. Why does he matter? Why does the Nashville Statement matter? Because it’s inflammatory and inhumane, and evidently the people who wrote it suffer from a lack of humanity. You can’t fix that. They’re being roundly condemned, but they’re still spreading their hate at a time when a particularly virulent strain of hate has re-emerged in our society. They’re feeding that hate, and they know it, and they don’t care.
And, because their statement is getting so much attention on social media, the targets of their hate are reading it and we are already beaten down by a daily life that we can’t have. Maybe one day I’ll be in a position to adopt or be a foster mother. That doesn’t erase what I went through. The LGBT community . . . I’m almost at a loss for words for what they are going through now. Things had changed so much during President Obama’s presidency, and I honestly thought it would continue with Hillary Clinton. But the bad old days came back with whiplash-inducing swiftness as soon as trump took office. trump is an enabler of racism and bigotry. So are the writers of the Nashville Statement. And, as one proved to me tonight on Twitter, they’re utterly lacking in compassion or any other quality that Jesus had.
When I first moved back to North Carolina, I thought about checking out the Catholic Church associated with the school I attended as a young child. But I could not do it, due to their views on abortion and divorce. It took me six years to stop being afraid and fully embrace paganism. Six years to stop returning to that passage in the Bible where Jesus talked about divorce, to stop trying to understand what he really meant.
Then five months later, the disaster that is donald trump became a daily part of my life. I was depressed until the last month. Then I got angry. Very, very angry, and that is why I sent my blog post to the deeply disturbed writers of the Nashville Statement. Because I have decided that these people who say and do unacceptable, intolerant, harmful things need to be called out and told what they are, and that we simply will not accept the attitudes of the bad old days.
Oh, the guy on Twitter who offered no expression of compassion regarding my multiple surgeries, infertility, and feelings of worthlessness after reading a document that he signed? This is his Twitter bio:
“I’m right about some things; wrong about others–still learning. The one thing I KNOW is I have eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ”
I had a brief encounter tonight on Twitter with some creep insisting that the “Nashville Statement” (which besmirches the name of the great city of Nashville just because the piece of garbage was written there) hasn’t harmed anyone.
He’s an obvious liar. Let’s look at why. Let’s pick apart the Nashville Statement.
“Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing
publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials.”
-Who is “we?” Who are these people with the unmitigated gall to think that their opinions about your sex life and mine matter? Most of us-the people I follow on Twitter and who follow me-never heard of this group before the day before yesterday. The majority of people I follow work in the writing industry in some way and are smart people, but this group of loons came out of nowhere.
“WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.”
-This right here makes me so angry. If marriage is designed to be “procreative,” if I followed their belief system, I’d never get married again because I can’t have children. I found out that I had fibroids (benign tumors of the uterus) when I was 26. I had a myomectomy (basically a C-section but to take out tumors.) It was not successful. The fibroids grew back so quickly that I could feel them again just by pressing on my abdomen 11 months after the myomectomy. By that time, I had aged off my mother’s insurance, and my full-time job did not provide health insurance. I walked around with a uterus full of tumors, looking eight months pregnant, being asked when I was due, for five years. I was anemic and skeletal. I got married. We were sure that doctors in New York could “fix” me. They couldn’t. I had to have a hysterectomy. After the hysterectomy, they called me and told me that there was no sign of cancer in my uterus, but that I also had adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is a disease that causes the uterus to turn to mush and will eventually make you go septic and die without a hysterectomy. I believe that some of the problems in my marriage began when I didn’t get “fixed” by the doctors. My ex-husband wanted children, but only his own. Adopted children weren’t good enough for him. I believe that he drove me out in order to marry a younger, fertile woman, and that mindset is absolutely derived from this utter garbage expressed in the very first article of the Nashville Statement. And now, reading the Nashville Statement literally, it seems that I’m never allowed to marry again because I can’t procreate, and of course, sex out of marriage is a sin.
Guess which finger I’m holding up.
Then “they” say that God’s will for unmarried people in chastity. Wow. These “people” are so dialed into God and so disconnected from the real world. I recently read that 40% of brides in the first half of the 1800s were pregnant when they got married. People have always had sex outside of marriage and always will.
“WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.
WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.”
-Okay, at least there’s that.
“WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.”
-Evidently they aren’t Biblical scholars because that right there is heresy. The Bible says that women will bring forth children in pain and suffering as a result of “the Fall.” These people are all over the place. It’s like they said, “Well, let’s throw the women a bone before we start on the gays.”
Next, they belittle people born with “physical anomalies” (presumably intersex people) and dismiss “psychological anomalies” (presumably transgender, asexual, pansexual, and all those other words that they don’t know because they’re a bunch of perverse morons.) That’s the thing about the Nashville Statement. It screams perversity about the people who wrote it.
People born with “physical disorders of sex development” are compared to eunuchs but are cool as long as they “embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.” No pressure or anything.
Oh sweet heavenly Mother, this garbage goes on and on.
Being gay is, of course, unnatural. Apparently, if you’re gay, you should be celibate, or sentence yourself and your spouse to a life of misery while you try to pretend you’re straight.
“WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality— a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality. WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.”
-Are they talking about adultery? Pedophilia? They seem intent on ambiguity, or maybe they think they sound smart.
Next, it’s a sin to approve of homosexuality or transgenderism. Well, I’m a sinner. What are you gonna do?
They have decided it’s their Christian duty to shove their beliefs down your throat. IMAGINE THAT.
They follow that up with “pray away the gay.”
You can also pray away being transgender. This isn’t just flaky nonsense. It’s dangerous, because it leads parents to send their LGBT kids to psycho doctors, shrinks, and camps in the belief they’ll come back “normal.” Articles 12 and 13 of the Nashville Statement brutally illustrate why the whole damn thing is, as I told the jackass on Twitter, harmful in and of itself.
Finally it ends with Article 14. Jesus came into the world to save all sinners.
This is an incredibly offensive and harmful document. It verbally beats down the LGBT community and infertile people. It doesn’t actually matter, because it’s basically verbal masturbation . . . oddly the only sexual “sin” not addressed . . . but it does matter because just reading it made me feel dirty, depressed, and worthless again. As I told the sentient piece of garbage who tried to force me to accept his view that the Nashville Statement is not harmful, people who can’t have children suffer every day when they see people with babies and children. Women and men. This . . . this arrogant, offensive “insight” into the mind of God by a bunch of lunatics harms me, every other infertile, unmarried person, every gay person, every lesbian, every bisexual person every transgender person, every person who isn’t straight, married, and popping out babies by making us feel we have no worth other than basically living as monks and nuns. Even if I marry a man and we adopt children, we’re still sinning if we have sex.
You have to be mentally disturbed to believe that. If you’re a Christian (I am not, largely because of trash like the Nashville Statement and the people who wrote it, walking away from Christianity enabled me to find a better path where I’m a human being and no one attempts to police my sex life) I plead with you, stand up, refute the Nashville Statement, and rebuke the people who wrote it. They don’t care what I think because they already imagine me to be bound for hell. You, you Christians, it is your duty to speak out against this harmful and hateful edict.