Your altar can be considered a spiritual hub of your home. Depending on your traditions there is a great flexibility about how you decorate your altar and the symbols you use.
But what happens when the neighbors come to dinner or your child brings a friend over for a playdate?
Do you pack up your altar? Do you leave it out? I advocate for the latter. My reasoning is that this opens up space to have important conversations with people and allows us to dispel any myths that they may have come across. It brings our practices out from the shadows and allows us to embrace our beliefs and show others what is important to us.
Many people outside of pagan/wiccan/occult circles see altars as something to be feared, to recoil from. On the outside looking in you see candles, crystals, jars of stuff, skulls, perhaps snake skin, the earthy smell of incense….. All of which are very foreign items to have sitting on a table. Maybe the person’s only experience with an altar is a horror movie….or a news article like the ones below.
Reflecting on the idea that your altar may be viewed by others outside your belief system through those above lenses may help you clarify what you could say:
- If these are people who are guests in your home what will you say?
- How will you explain each item you choose to place on your altar?
- If it is merely for shock value with no other intent does it still hold purpose?
- How can you meet people with compassion when they question your symbols of “worship” without feeling you have compromised your values?
- Why do you choose the symbols you do in your life, what makes a symbol significant?
In the last two years there have been a few articles published in regards to altars. Based on there’s stories it’s clear that much work is still needed to be done to educate and inform people about altars and their use and purpose.
With 25+ years experience in the Pagan/Wiccan/Occult community, Lexi Phillips blends ritual and mental health practices to create positive change for practitioners. Lexi holds the designations of Human Services Counsellor, along with being a Certified Death Doula and a Certified Funeral and End of Life celebrant with CCAOC. Her focus supports Pagan/Wiccan/Occult, LGBTQ2+, and atheist communities. For all who may be seeking theistic or non theistic rituals to accompany their death planning in nontraditional ways, Lexi’s goal is to make sure a good death is within reach for all.
You can find her at: https://deathwishes56107056.wordpress.com/
While not everyone feels safe in being open about their religion, I encourage pagans who do feel safe to prepare an “elevator speech” for when someone asks about the pendant they’re wearing, the design on their messenger bag or tshirt, or the collection of objects on their shelf:
Mine goes like this:
“I’m a Greco-Roman polytheist, which means that I worship many gods and goddesses from ancient Greece and Rome. My deities are living, immortal, and benevolent beings who value justice and bless humanity’s striving for virtue and personal excellence. My polytheism encourages humans to live full lives, and to respect each other and the world we share.”
And then I explain the meaning of the item in question.