Altar space / sacred shelf

IMG_1538Our sacred shelf has moved!

Ever since i became aware of the deep connection that I feel to nature, I felt the desire to have a space inside my home that reflects and honours this. A space to create a seasonal display that reminds me of what’s happening outside in nature, that inspires me, that gives me peace and healing through being that little portal to a forest, beach, hill or other beautiful place. A place where I could meditate, work spells and celebrate solar and lunar festivals. For more than a ten years I’ve created such a display, a kind of school-nature-table-with-candles (and usually a picture or three, for there are just so many beautiful cards in the world! ).

My first altars were in my student accommodation rooms; on a cardboard box disguised under a sheet . Then came the sacred shelf format – on top a chest of drawers, mantlepiece or – after our move to our current home – bookcase. Our stone Buddha head and shoulders joined it at this point to represent the East-meets-West union in my spirituality of ideas from Buddhism, Ayurveda and European pagan beliefs.

The bookcase sits in an alcove in a corner that generally has at the least a chair in front of it – usually accompanied by Dylan’s trike and toys and the contents of the root veg drawer too. I’d change the shelf’s decor with (most) moon phases and festivals but it wasn’t really being used to prompt reflection or discussion, wasn’t really the focal point I wanted it to be and wasn’t really…living.

Rob and I agreed that our sacred display should be in our kitchen as this is the room that we really live in. It’s a big room and is also Dylan’s playroom, it’s where we socialise together or with guests, it’s where most of our daily indoor activities are based (and leads to the garden, which we are in and out of all day). We want Dylan to be able to see the altar space and how it changes, and to use it like a nature table, but he’s not quite old enough for him (and the display!) to be safe if easily within his reach.

IMG_1534The kitchen table seems the natural place. It has meant a little pruning and downsizing of the display but this perhaps represents our recent efforts to simplify  our life and reduce our material possessions. However, Buddha and our singing bowl are still close by! They remain up on the shelf, with more space around them.

Our pinboard with seasonal images and our biodynamic gardening calendar and planting wheel hangs above this space. We already had a candle on the table that we normally light at mealtimes and this candleholder – beautifully made by Rob – is now incorporated into our sacred display to represent fire.  A small bowl of water (usually from either the sea or a natural spring) represents (can you guess?!), a pottery hand and disk represent earth and hold an offering, and a vase that we received as a wedding present holds flowers or incense for air.

These are arranged around a small tree stump we found in the woods where we married, and upon which sits our goddess statue from Starchild in Glastonbury, a spoon made by Rob (to represent the God aspect – it’s slightly phallic!), and seasonal decorations. These are often little bits and pieces found on our walks that are eventually given back to the earth. In the basket are things that represent particular events, themes, gratitudes or memories of the past month. At the dark moon, we look over them as a recap. For example, this month there is a piece of wool, a piece of wax and a wood shaving to represent how much crafting we have been doing with these materials lately. A button brought at a wood fair reminds us of our lovely, if logistically challenging. family day out there.

I’ll usually have a cloth placed under or wrapped around the display in a colour that represents the lunar phase or the festival. These cheery red hearts represent gratitude – something very much with us during this season of harvest and as the vanishing moon draws us into our inner world. – physical or spiritual. ♥

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3 thoughts on “Altar space / sacred shelf

  1. This is absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing! It’s so organic looking, and I love how various components are hand crafted or meaningful for various reasons. The hearts for the harvest season are a wonderful idea, I might have to get on board with that for the autumn equinox. 🙂

    • Thank you! Yes, something I’ve changed since we moved house is to rotate pictures and decorations more. In our last house, this was something we did with Dylan’s toys to keep things fresh for him (and reduce mess!). But we have a lot of beautiful postcards, cards, photo’s of Rob’s and paintings of mine that were all up on the walls. The walls felt a bit cluttered and crowded with them all. So, now, I rotate them according to season or festival, which actually means we notice and appreciate them more too.
      Re: the hearts, yes, do! The more heart shapes in the world the better, I reckon! Blessings ♥

      • Yes, I’m starting to rotate things more and more on my own alter, too. And I love the excitement and the fresh feeling it brings every time you change something up for the season! I agree completely about the heart shapes! ❤

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