6 – Foundations: Altar, Grove, and Nemeton

Our hearth religion takes place around our home altar, the centre of which is our hearthfire. In addition to our hearthfire, we have representations of the Well and Tree. An offering bowl and decorations (usually flowers) complete this space, keeping our working space relatively simple so that we may perform any rite here.

The rest of our shrines aren’t as simple. In our home, we have shrines for the Ancestors, Lugh, Brighid, the Earth Mother, and Manannán mac Lir. All of these deities are accorded space around our home because they are the beings who feature most prominently in our hearth religion, and when we perform formal house rites, they all receive offering. Each of these shrines has a candle, and items associated with that deity. The Ancestors shrine includes photos of our blood and kin Ancestors.

We are not fortunate enough to have a permanent nemeton space for our Grove, so we construct our altar for each High Day. It is a large table covered with a white cloth, and at its centre are the representations of the Hallows — the Fire, Well, and Tree. We use two fires in our rites: our hearthfire is the same fire that is lit on the home altars of our Grove members, and the sacrificial fire is lit from the hearthfire for each rite. All who attend our rituals may make offerings into the sacrificial fire, but our hearthfire belongs to Brighid and our Grove. We always have two offering bowls, one for liquids and one for solids. This makes the presentation nicer and the cleanup easier. We have a water pitcher and chalice for receiving and sharing the Waters of Life. The rest of the altar items are dependent on the High Day, and may include representations of the deities, flowers, or seasonal items.

During the light half of the year, beginning at Bealtaine, we work outside. We rent a space in a conservation area and have held our rites there for seven years. For the dark half, from Samhain, we work indoors in a small community hall. The altar set up is very similar, except instead of fire cauldrons we use candles. We are blessed to have beautiful spaces in which to work, and pray that our public rites will continue for many more years to come.

[ 30 Days of Druidry ]

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