Tweaking the paradigm’s tail … public altars

I’m not an in-your-face kind of witch.  I actually like flying under the radar.  There’s just something about it.  A power in the silence.

But if I am going to tweak the paradigm’s tail, spring’s the time to do it.  So here goes.  My little piece of spring madness:

Sometimes, I am one of those starry-eyed witches who wishes that I could walk out my door, turn a few corners, and happen upon a public altar to the old gods, out where everyone can see it.  Out where everyone can use it.

Sometimes, I am one of those flinty realist witches, who thinks that such altars would be (1) covered in hate graffiti, (2) held hostage by squatters who want to ‘posses’ the craft as if it were a toy, and (3) staked out by numerous spies of church and state, all taking notes about who’s visiting and what’s being done.

Mostly, I am a witch of the middle ways, who believes such places are possible, if problematic.

So let’s engage in a few minutes of fantasy together.  How could a public pagan altar be made, so that it had some chance of sucess?  Let’s agree to define success simply, so it is tantalizingly possible — success is 10 strangers coming upon it, and using it in active devotion to its gods.

What would such an altar look like?

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Perhaps it would be chthonic — built under the overpass of a freeway.  One with heavy foot traffic.  The pillars are spray painted with the images of gods, together with words for their devotion.  “Blessings upon you who makes devotion to Me.  Say My Name three times while stamping your right foot, clasp your hands to your heart, turn on your own axis clockwise one time, and bow.”

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Or perhaps it would be an altar chalked onto a sidewalk near a sporting field.  “I smile upon you who tread My Pattern.   Hopscotch through the numbers to trace My Sigil.  Strength to your team.  Honor and victory to you in your upcoming game.”

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Even a hopscotch pattern for the devotee to divine his or her fortune, like the one using the Magpie Rhyme in Morecambe, England.

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The family who builds an altar together would be truly altered.  Taking a leaf from Sannion’s Herm of Gratitude:  At an auspicious family gathering, each member remembers an instance when Hermes favored them, and, using a paint pen, marks  the details on a small stone.  Leave the stones piled in a  herm at the place where 3 sidewalks meet, along with a paint pen and blank stones, for the use of passers by.

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Upon the lip of a public fountain, a sturdy piece of paper, pinned in place with a rock.  “Kiss the palm of your hand, and touch it to the water in My Name.  Anoint your forehead with My Waters.  For I am She who will buoy you up through the storms of love.  Whose gentle rains will wash you with Beauty.” .

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You who read this.  You understand. Because it stirs at the pit of your soul, as well.  At the star in your third eye.  Get out there, and make a little spring mayhem.

And if you do, please, feel free to send pictures!

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13 Comments

Filed under To the Old Ones

13 responses to “Tweaking the paradigm’s tail … public altars

  1. flybynightwitch

    Yes! What a great blog post! This idea stirs the soul and tickles the heart of mayhem! Beautiful insight and images of potential altars that exist around us. What a joyous celebration of Spring and of life to set up such a place.

  2. I think about that often. One of the most memorable times was when I was in Las Vegas. It’s strange how all that artificial beauty is created to capture ambiance and atmosphere of places on the other side of the world…when to me, they unmistakably brought a piece of that heritage, mythos and spirit with them in their replicas.

  3. I like this idea a lot. I live in a city and often wander past derelict and industrial places looking for otherworld portals or places of magic. I think they could exist anywhere and so could these little urban shrines or altars. Perfect.

  4. Corsen

    This is how I think of fountains, when I see coins that people have tossed in for wishes and luck.

    But I love the idea of sigil hopscotch.

  5. Oh that is absolutely beautiful! 🙂

  6. the ocelot

    I’d plant four gardens – one with cacti and other desert-type plants, one with lush and unplanned native wildflowers, one with evergreen plants and shrubs, and the last a formal garden. In the middle, I’d install a freestanding door that says “To The Other Realms” on both sides. The door would also rotate on its axis so that one could pass through it from any starting point.

    I think it would look enough like a strange art installation that we could get it in under the radar.

  7. Wonderful post — absolutely great! I was so inspired I had to do something. Can’t say thank you enough. http://phantomcircle.blogspot.com/2012/05/public-altar.html

  8. In New York city, there were many, many altars to remember the dead immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001 – on every street, photos with flowers and candles. One such altar has survived for years: on the corner of 7th Ave and Greenwich Ave, there is a chain link fence that has hundreds of ceramic tiles made by children wired to it, to commemorate the victims of the attacks. On the anniversary, someone placed right by it, a bench where people leave flowers.

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