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Home altars

| 31 Dec 2013 | 03:13

Special places, or thin places, are usually closer than you think. There are probably several around your home. We all have the need to mark certain spaces as different and special. This is not a girl-thing or a guy-thing. We all do it. We must create order to help us remember. They help us tell our stories about who we are, where we came from, what we value, who we are becoming. Such places are called “home altars” or “workbenches.” They are literally, laboratories, where people work (labor) and pray (oratory). It happens in homes, garages, basements and in yards. It is a kind of spirituality we all participate in. Its roots are in alchemy and shamanism, where making things and doing things were ways into other worlds, other realities. There were not products or chores. The useful and the spiritual were tightly connected.

Look around at your tables, desks, window sills, shelves, near your computer, car and truck dashboards. These are places that concentrate energy, focus memory and attention. That’s the way they function as altars. Can you see the hand and mind that has carefully placed and arranged the items there? Can you see an order, a story emerging?

My wife made one such place with objects she returned home with after her mother died. After a year they’ve now made their way to a drawer. That’s the interesting thing about these places, they hold and discharge meaning. They are not static. They reflect our moods and needs and change as we encounter the swells of living. Sometimes they help us quiet down and remember; other times they work to re-energize and get us going.

I remember clearing out my father’s work area after he died. It was a special experience: a mix of sadness, intimacy and initiation. I got to see and touch parts of who he was, how he presented and organized his life. I got to feel more about his need to save and prepare for the unpredictable future and finally, I got to possess some of those packages of washers, boxes of screws and a hammer. I still have them in my workshop, er home altar.

And you? Pictures of your home altars? Daniel Mack