Goddess Flower symbol I carved into my pumpkin
Samhain 2010 That was also a part of my altar.
Merriam-Webster's 2nd definition of Altar reads as follows: A table on which the eucharistic elements are consecrated or which serves as a center of worship or ritual.
My first experience with altar's started when I was very young in the Southern-Baptist church I grew up in. Our Pastor would bless the anointing oil for healing placed on the table/altar with beautiful candles and fake flowers. Also consecrated were the wafers and juice for communion and the tithes and offerings that all may prosper.
Of course as you can tell my beliefs have changed over the years but still altars are an important part of my day. For me altars are a focus point and a reminder. When loved ones are ill or passing we keep one table to light candles to focus our thoughts and energies on in their name. Another in the kitchen to focus thoughts on the health and well being of my family and friends as we nourish our bodies and gather to break bread.
Often I assemble one quickly for special purposes:
from the simple
to the elaborate
Special celebrations with friends
Unfortunately we don't live where altar's and rituals can be a part of my outside life without them being a little disguised. Which is why I take full advantage inside whenever possible.
I know that many have blue prints and plans on how the altar should be set up. Where you place water, salt, varying candles, wands, athames, statues, etc. I won't go into deep explanation here because it's easily found in books and all over the internet. My purpose in this post is to discuss simply their function in my life. Upon finding my way to earth-based spirituality I read the books, I gathered and studied with other Pagan folk. Adhering tightly to the altar guidelines for each ritual type. Eventually I realized that those guidelines were simply that. A way to help me focus and understand the reason for an altar is to simply put me in a place mentally where I can relax, connect with spirit and focus my energies to work in kind with the Universe. Eventually you learn to tap into that level of consciousness on your own with practice. You start to see your altars becoming smaller and less extravagant, at times just 1 item or just thought and visualization.
Finally one of my favorite altars to share with my children:
my daughters 21st birthday cake
The Birthday cake! We gather around with loved ones, lights out, candles lit and a room full of love and joy. :-) We sing of happiness and blessings and then stand in silence and anticipation as you make a wish. Focusing all of your energy, taking your time and then blowing the candles out. The wind/breath from inside of your body filled with your intention flow over and meet up with the candles/fire burning building up energy and with that puff of breath...... your powerful wish is released into the universe!
Just typing this post today makes me want to set up another altar somewhere in this house, maybe a quick walk-by with a candle, matches and oil for those quick moments of silence during a hectic day.
Many blessings of love and light to you all