by Erica Sittler
Currently, there are five or so active altars in my home. Four of them are permanent and one of them is temporary in honor of the time in place on the Wheel of the Year.
You may think that these altars are massive sprawling things that each take up multiple square feet, you might be surprised and miss them entirely if you came into my home.
My oldest altar that I have maintained for almost 30 years is more of what you’d expect in a traditional altar. It holds a prominent sacred place of honor in the center of my home: my kitchen. Visible to all who enter and all who entertain it is what started off as a purely Christian altar with icons and a stained glass hanging votive holder. It has slowly evolved into a truer reflection of our blended religious family of witch and Jesus folk. There a cauldron there stuffed full of found feathers and stalks, intermingled with holy palms and woven crosses, including a St Bridget cross from rushes from Bree’s holy well in Ireland. There are also wondrous things like a fossil, a tiny baby snake that frizzled instantly on the asphalt last week, random bones, some lovely crystals and flower pods and oddities that you might normally expect to find in a 10th grade science classroom.
And I supposed some of our none-the-wiser friends suppose that I am the eccentric wannabe science teacher. After all, I once carried a dead squirrel by its tail halfway through the neighborhood, in the middle of the day, just so my children could get a closer look at squirrels and their lovely whiskers and tiny claws. The children were mortified. I left the squirrel by the base of a tall pine tree nearby and covered him gently with pine straw, undeterred in my wanderings, despite their dismay.
My home altar is simply a brass ashtray. Simple, lovely, compact. It rests on my mantle most of the week, but drops down to its hearthstone each Sunday as I bless it and the home it embodies.
I consider my Temple Treasure Vessel an altar. It connects me to the community at large and is simple a copper cup, the kind you’d serve mulled wine in. Yet out it comes and each time I pull it from its hidden niche and whisper to it, my heart is made all the happier because I am part of something bigger than myself.
There’s the festive altar, which is actually a fancy pewter salad plate shaped like a Celtic 4-leaf clover. It is just the right size for a tea light, a tiny vase for flowers, a ritual offering and a tiny dish for incense. This altar will disappear in a few days time… and is easily missed if you don’t know what you are looking for.
Another altar is in my bathroom and consists of only two things: a small statue of Hecate and some beads made with rattlesnake bones and such. I find I am more apt to say my mantra there than anywhere else in the house. No one sees that nor knows it is a sacred space.
Then there is Wart and Drake. These are simply plants on my front porch. To me though they are altars… their pots contain spirit links to the plant kingdom and they both have special things added to their containers to bless and honor them. Drake is of course a mandrake and he has been sleeping for quite some time now.
Ancestor altars on little trays come out on special days….
What is an altar? Elaborate or a simple stone or plant or spring, an altar is a place to focus devotion. A space set apart that rips the veil of time and space. A place to where mundane, magick and divine coexist.
Erica Sittler is a Witch practicing her craft in Mississippi where she is a local, active member of the Temple of Witchcraft. Her magick is in the mundane and in bringing honor and attention to those small things that build a sustainable and adventurous life. She is a Witchcraft I Mystery School student under the instruction of High Priestess Sellena Dear.