Many heathens and pagans of both today and ancient times, used many methods and items to assist them in better connecting themselves to the holy powers and the worlds beyond, at rituals and other sacred times. This includes, ritual items such as Hammers, Bowls, Knives, tree sprigs, altars (Ve), etc. Often times all of these items would be found on the altar. Altars can play a major role in the modern day heathen’s life. Every person is different; personally I have a Ve, dedicated to The Holy Powers. Here is an example of my Ve, although it changes from time to time.
From Right to Left:
Book of Blots, general info Etc.
An Amethyst (As to all the crystals, I do not use them in practice at all, I just had them and no where else to put them….)
My hammer for my warding rituals.
A box where more tools (a knife, my rune set) are kept.
All of these items have significance to myself, and would not really to others. Everyone’s Ve, will be drastically different. Some altars will be dedicated to specific beings, or groups of beings. While others, like my own might be more general. May times, God Poles will be present on altars, or individually in fact. Now I would like to talk about God Poles, for they played a large role in ancient spiritual practice and today.
God Poles are ANCIENT and there are many that have been found that are thousands of years old. One could compare them to the Native American Totem Pole in appearance and some function. They could be any size, from very small, to very large. Traditionally, they are made out of wood, although some could have been carved into stone (Although it was no longer very pole shaped at that time but served the same purpose). They can be any height (remember however that it does need to go into the ground far enough to secure it if you are making a large one, so make the overall length longer than you actually want it) and diameter you want. I personally favor ones that are about six feet tall and at least a foot in diameter. Ideally, I would have a ring of them in my back yard with a stone harrow in the center... But we can all dream cant we?
Once you have the type of pole you want, then you carve the pole to the likeness of the deity you are honoring. Don't worry! You do not need to be a master artist, but if you want to have someone else do it, that is fine as well. Then after the pole is all finished, it is time to put it in the ground and do the ritual that goes with it. I shall not go into details on how to put a pole in the ground, it should be pretty self explanatory. One thing that you can do as part of the ceremony, that I think is a nice little touch but is not needed, is to put offerings, (of whatever kind) into the hole before placing the pole in it. That way, they shall always be there at the base of the god pole as an offering to that deity, and I think it is a cool way to make an offering.
Next you just pray to the deity you are consecrating a pole to, hallow it, and leave a libation or some sort of offering, and that is about it for how to make one. In ancient times, as well as now (this part is based off of my own opinions so tread lightly) God poles are used to get closer to the gods, to better feel their presence. People put offerings in the mouth, in their arms, around their necks. People feel that if the offering is placed on them, in them or near them, then maybe it shall reach the gods faster. I, and others feel that having a God pole watching over you during ritual, and during your everyday life gives you a greater sense of the divine. That particular god or goddess is watching over you, guarding you. If I had a God Pole in my back yard watching over my house, I know I would at least feel safer. It makes it so that the gods are closer. Is it because they have a better conduit to reach you? Are they drawn to the offerings? Are they there because they like to see themselves? I, and I do not think anyone else, can tell you. But it seems, to me at least, that the gods are around more when you have god poles present then at other times. Not to say of course they are not around if you do not have a pole, for of course they are. When doing a ritual, I can only imagine that having a god pole watching over you enhances the already amazing feeling of blot and ritual. When I can get my hands on a few god poles, you can be sure that it will.
Now we shall get into Statues, this section shall be very, very short for a good reason. Statues serve the same purpose as God Poles, save they come in more variety and can be used indoors. Simple as that, two different mediums for the same function
Now onto Altars once again before we conclude. Altars have changed a lot in the appearance from what they were for our ancestors, however their purpose has not. The ancients maybe had large stones for altars, with a ring of god posts surrounding it. Effectively creating a temple or Hof. These large stone altars would be used to place offerings, to make blood sacrifice, and hold any other sort of ritual they may have been having.
Then, below is my outdoors altar. It is as simple as it can get. It is just a wooden mjolnir that I made hanging from an apple tree. It is here, "under Thor's eyes" that I do many of my blots (Although I have been more adventurous lately and have actually been going up into the mountains) I have never needed to replace the string and it has never fallen off. Through some crazy thunderstorms and strong winds, it has stayed right where it is and has never moved. Think maybe Thor likes it there? =)
I believe when we hear the word Altar, we think of a very specific thing, but in Asatru, at least the way I see it, it can range from a large variety of things. I just like to think of it as a place where you do your rituals and pray. Of course, this could also be your temple, ve, harrow, or hof.
May you all find the wisdom you seek and may the holy powers watch over you!