Practically Practical

By Athena

“Altar” Your Perceptions


Well since there has been so much talk in the past month or so about altars and what each of us had for a set up, I figured I might want to touch on the subject.  However, how I actually decided to write on the subject is another matter.    I personally have no children, but I rent them from time to time to enjoy their company and be inspired by their truthfulness and playfulness.  Ok, so in short I baby-sit my niece Anni, but we call it “renting”  *G*.  a few weeks ago I was watching her tear through my stockpile of toys (not all for her benefit, though my husband and I are hard put to admit that at times). And she settled on an old favorite, the Lego blocks.  She was building me an in ground pool on the cover of the container the blocks came in (it has the same ridges surface as the blocks themselves) when it hit me – that container top would be PERFECT for a small altar! 


Ok so maybe I might not have it as my altar, but what if I were a child in a pagan friendly household that encouraged me to express my faith?  Then this would be perfect for me!  I could “build” my tools or statues if I wanted to, and the blocks come in the colors that represent the 4 elements – green, red, yellow and blue, so I have my elemental representations there.  And me being the kind of obsessive type of personality I am, I took the idea and ran with it.    What would, or could a child’s altar look like?  These are the possibilities I thought of, with the assistance of my students (who are also highly creative adult types). 


v     God representation – male action figure (I happen to have a TON of WWF wrestling figurines in the toy box)

v     Goddess representation – any female figurine/Barbie doll/baby doll etc

v      Air – feather

v      Water – shell, sea creature, bath toy

v      Earth – rocks or small cup of dirt (what kid DOESN’T like rocks or dirt?)

v      Fire – no lit candles here (except with direct adult supervision) but what about a red or orange crayon??  Shaped like a candle and the right color for flames.

v      Cakes and ale – well of course not ALE but what about cookie and kool aid?  If you want something a tad more nutritious then fruit juie water or milk will do just fine.

v      Wand – a found stick is wonderful and kids go by feel rather than looks.  I thin we should really take a note from them when we are trying to find things from nature to use in our rituals.

v      Athame (Knife) – again not a real knife, but a plastic one (even one you use with play-doh, but more on that later!) would work

v      Incense or aromatherapy scent – have the parent mix up a room spray to use in place of incense.  If that isn’t possible then perhaps have a bunch of wildflowers that have a scent that is pleasing to the child.


Now WHERE can a child have an altar?  How about a dresser top, a toy box top, a plastic storage bin, book case, bedside table, etc?  you might even want to offer them space on the family altar, or main altar in your home.  They are valuable members of the household and have a right to contribute to the spiritual well being of the home if they so choose.  If they wish to have a personal altar in their room, then if at possible, leave the choice up to them as to where it is and how large it should be.  Of course keep in mind that it has to be something that will not be a dangerous obstruction in the room, but other than that, I would try to leave it up to the child.  I would not even tell them hat they could not play with their toys that have made their way to be part of their physical spiritual expression – they are children and one of their most appealing and desirable qualities is their ability to play, and to be creative.  Yes teach them that ritual tools are for ritual only, but thin on this also:  when witches had to hide what faith they followed do you think that they didn’t use their magickal tools in their everyday lives?  Of course they did.  A spoon could be a wand, a cook pot a cauldron, etc, so please keep this in mind when you see a child play with things that they might have had on their altar.  They are also empowering these objects the more that they handle them, and this will be beneficial to them.


There are so many more things that are typically found in a child’s room that they can use.  Play-doh or regular modeling clay can be used to make whatever they need to represent on their altar, and if its salt dough – its non-toxic.  It tastes absolutely AWFUL but it won’t harm your child.  Believe me I had a little boy that when I did a craft involving salt dough I specifically said not to eat it, that it didn’t taste good, and of COURSE he had to test the theory.  His facial expression said it all.    You can color it with food coloring and do any number of things with it, even make beads for their very own ritual jewelry, and the best part is, you are also teaching them about empowering objects with their own energy while they are creating!  You can fashion statues to represent the God and Goddess, your elements, wand, athame, mock candles, heck even seasonal items!  Have them create grapes, pumpkins, flowers, eggs, loaf of bread, etc, and they can gain a deeper appreciate of the sabbat celebration.


And what household does not have crayons in them?  I have an addiction to the newly opened box of colors…the more the better!  You can use those beautiful crayons to draw whatever you need – how about a petition for some goal in picture form?  Or a lit candle when a real lit one is not possible? A child can use their imagination and create an offering in art for the deities, or even a picture of their “invisible friends” which we know may very well be an elemental or spirit guide that they have formed a relationship with.


Even nature walks with your child can be as much a learning experience as it is fun.  Look for different colored leaves, or flowers, as the season permits.  Show them how to harvest a live plant, by asking permission, giving thanks, and providing an offering in return for what was harvested.  Help them gather rocks that they find particularly interesting and then help them identify them and look up their properties.  Teach them about the Wheel of the Year and how each seasonal change reflects this, and then have them do a project to reflect their own personal thoughts on the yearly cycle.  Then it can be displayed on their altar for whosoever to enjoy.


A child’s life is inspirational to say the least – they exhibit in their own way how they enjoy life, love their surroundings, work through daily trials and sorrows, express happiness.  An altar is a wonderful way for them to manifest these in relation to their spiritual path – and we can learn from their example as well!  So the next time you feel run down, uninspired, stuck in a rut, what have you, go and watch a child do what they do best – be themselves.  I guarantee that you will come away from the experience with a renewed heart and spirit.