As I grow as a practitioner and pagan it is astounding to literally see my practices evolve and delve deeper becoming less of practice and more of a natural religion. One place I find this most prevalent is in my altar and shrine set up. For most of us, we began our journey at the path that had the greatest wealth of information: Wicca. I typically shy away from judging the faith of others but, while the idea of a universal god and goddess was appealing, I always found myself reverting back to the ancient gods of Hellas. For years I set up my altar, god side, goddess side, pentagram in the middle and so on. This worked for a time but it felt more like a table with pretty things than a great altar to the gods. After about 4 years as a Wiccan and then 3 years unidentifiable pagan I heard the call of Hekate, a divinity I knew little about and had no interest in. She was the goddess who first forced me to recognize a specific deity by name and practice and forsake the idea She was just a mirror on some divine goddess disco ball. After this experience She took center stage and the transition started to take place, little by little.
At that point, most of my worship was conflicted and while I never had any problems with the craft, the religion part always felt as if something didn’t fit or, rather, I was struggling to make sense of my new goddess and the nameless gods I was use to. I was torn between my old ways of doing things, the Wiccan ways, and the ways a real and physical goddess was telling me to practice. Before long I found myself only praying to Her and not the “Lord and Lady” and confined them only to worship on the Wiccan Sabbaths. I then set up a shrine for Pan, and again, started to see Him as separate from the Horned God I use to know. For the next three years I left this set up. Goddess of the left, Hekate in the middle, Horned God on the right, and Pan on the floor. This somewhat satiated my viewpoint but still, something was missing. While my communication with Pan and Hekate was growing, my need for these nameless gods was waning and their purpose was almost exclusively nostalgic.
It was when my partner, Docteur Caeli D’Anto, began to have visions of Hekate in Her most ancestral form that I knew I could be so much more, and get much more from my faith. I decided, with his help that things needed to change. The god and goddess of Wicca had to be removed from the top of the altar! While I do still believe there is a grand Creator, male and female, my view on them is that they are far too large and far too distant to hear our prayers. That is why for thousands of years man spoke to the many gods right here in our own world. For evidence of this one must simply think on the idea of the Universe. The entire expand of space and time. While we cannot hope to explain the supernatural with the laws of the natural, the idea that the grand creators, the Lord and Lady, are swirling through the cosmos in the grand dance of Creation, yet somehow accessible to us, here on this tiny spec of the whole of what they began. My thought process began to manifest the gods, not as energies or thought forms but as physical beings and this concept that they can be bothered or interrupted from such a profound thing as Creation seemed unimaginable to me. That is when I realized my faith, my religion, was lost trying to connect with them. So I moved them to the bottom shelf of the altar and recognized their place in my history where they assumed my presumption that they were honored for the sake of leading me here, and of course Creation itself. Hekate then received the whole of the altar and it literally went from shrine to temple. The energy was no longer blocked and the connection I feel to Her became indescribable, I could feel Her everywhere! I could hear Her whispers! As a result, this lead me to a greater understanding of Pan and shortly after I had my first lucid encounter with Him. I have since started to honor them based solely on their traditional worship and instinct. Before, I was well versed on how to, I just made exceptions to accommodate my prior way of doing things. I removed the pentagram from my practice along with the Wiccan Lord and Lady and even began to offer wine in, not modern fluted wine glasses or gothic goblets, but traditional kylix, offering bowls, which were gifted by the good Docteur. I have always offered traditionally as far as dishes scattered around the gods as an almost feast, something that is very traditional in Helenic practice and would always casually give them fruit, bread, honey, milk and coins not for favor but as worship and symbols of devotion. Along with my hand blended incenses which I reserve for ritual, I now burn traditional resins like frankincense, and benzoin which is a traditional incense to chthonic gods. I also forced myself to find an adequate triple crossroad to offer to Hekate and the wandering dead, something I did not do frequently in the past. Before the altar of Pan, I keep an oil lamp burning and offer both fresh olive oil and fragrant essential oils traditionally used in Hellas. This is no longer my path, it is my religion. My altar is no longer simply an altar, it is my temple and now it feels like one.
In relinquishing the confines of modern new age practices I find that I now view my faith as something more than I had before. While this post may seem as though it is merely about the decor of an altar, it is far more. It is about the fact that many of us have lost the will to preserve the authentic practices of our gods. In finding and reviving these practices, the connection to the gods grows from a trickling stream to a torrential river. We must always remember the gods are very real, just as real as you or I. To build a lasting, powerful relationship to the gods we must give them what they have preferred for thousands of years before we interjected our need to make them socially acceptable to an Abrahamic, monotheistic society. If we hope to truly revive the gods we must do so by reviving their most ancient and powerful of practices. I discovered the true power of this and I can attest that it is life changing!