I received a few questions from friends after my Easter post last week about the specifics of my hearth practice, in particular, the details regarding my altar, or wīgbed. This post will cover the basic details, as well as a few changes I’ve made recently. In the future, I’ll likely do a similar post on my Kemetic practice; for the time being, I intend to keep posts on each of my respective traditions largely separated. In the meantime, on to the description of my altar and how it factors into my practice.
By and large, I follow the ritual format detailed by the Lārhūs Fyrnsida. I would advise anyone with an interest in Anglo-Saxon heathenry to give the material on the Lārhūs’ website a look; their articles are well-researched, and their positions on praxis are well-grounded in comparative Indo-European studies. As far as I’m concerned, they are providing the best resource available on Anglo-Saxon heathenry.
First things first: a picture of the altar in question, somewhat updated since the previous post. A few icons have been added, one of which is new, the other moved from my smaller ancestor-focused wīgbed that I’ve combined into my primary one for practical and space-related reasons.
My altar is located on a shelf in my closet. Typically, I prefer to keep it more accessible, but present living conditions don’t allow for a great deal of extra room. Its position keeps it relatively sheltered from any disturbance while remaining sufficiently accessible to conduct ritual. Moreover, the corners and walls of the shelf help to clearly define the space, allowing it to remain more “set apart,” as it were.
That being said, the low “ceiling” of the shelf requires that I altar my ritual order somewhat. Rather than circumambulating with an altar candle, as I normally would, I instead move a lighting stick in a circle over the altar. After circling the altar with the flame, I light three candles, due to the general Germanic significance of multiples of three: one behind the icons and two toward the front corners of the wīgbed.
The altar cloth beneath the candles and icons is a silk pocket square that just so happened to fit well in the space; in the past, I’ve used plainer cotton fabric. I frankly don’t know whether such an item is really “necessary,” per se, but I prefer the neater, cleaner look of an altar with a cloth beneath it.
Beyond that are, of course, the icons. The small stand that the center three rest on serves as a sort of offering dish, due to space constrictions. It, like the icons themselves, was procured from an Etsy shop. For my weekly rituals, I make relatively modest offerings, typically a bit of food and drink and a votive candle burned for a certain span of time. The candle serves as a stand-in for incense which I can’t presently burn due to the aforementioned living situation. As a non-drinker, my libations are usually in the form of milk or water.
My preference has always been to leave offerings on the altar for a time before being disposed of, when I’m able; since the altar isn’t sufficient in size to leave my small drinking horn on, I leave a portion of liquid offerings in either a small glass or the water whistle pictured above, beside the candle. The bulk of the drink I dispose of immediately following the closing of ritual, the rest either the evening or morning after the offering is made, when I dispose of the food portion.
As to the icons themselves, I suppose I’ll address the elephant in the room (for some of the heathens out there) first: Yes, I keep icons of gods on my altar. Yes, that means the “big” gods. I do honor my house wights, naturally, but I don’t and have never really believed that there’s some kind of taboo on invoking deities within the home. It is, after all, the familial sacred space, the center of familial cult practice, and as acting Þingere (that is, family priest, more or less) within my household, I regard offerings to the gods as part of my obligation.
Getting back to the wīgbed, and its icons. At the center is Eostre, who I invoke as a gateway deity per the Lārhūs ritual format, and whom I regard as something of a regional matron deity. To the far left and far right are Tiw and Thunor, respectively, as pictured in my Easter post. To the immediate right of Eostre’s icon is a depiction of Frige, recently moved from my ancestor altar, and to the left is Veles, the odd one out. Typically I would only maintain Germanic icons on this altar, but due to my impending move to Poland (and a good friend’s recommendation), I’ve decided to tentatively attempt making offerings to Veles on this altar, due to the broad similarities between Germanic and Slavic hearth practices.
As I said, in the (perhaps near) future, I’ll likely do a similar post to this for my Kemetic altar. Likewise, since I do intend for this blog to serve somewhat as inspiration for those who either have no hearth practice, or have an under-developed one, I’d encourage anyone who would like to know more to leave a comment.