Ahhh yes! Working with an altar can become a juicy, tangible way of working in our personal spiritual practice. They bring us a physical place to tend to. It works with the powerful subtlety of symbols directly speaking to our subconscious. On a left-brained, scientific side of things, an altar brings together electromagnetic frequencies of items and the energetics of thought, intention and emotion - to generate a specific vibration - which in turn affects the world around us and our physical, emotional and etheric bodies.
Let's look at a couple things before we consider how many altars we might want:
It is a beautiful way of working, one that our human tribe has been inspired by for longer than anyone can truly tell. Often I hear people mention having many altars around their homes, or the jubilant desire to create many. To me, this signals a caution to look at - it can end up feeling like a bit like a home with every single light on, with a whole lot of energy beaming out from many points around the house. If we go further and imagine each light bulb has a different intense colour; like each altar might have a different intention, the effect could be rather overwhelming, confusing, or even conflicting. It can become a lot to mindfully tend to on a practical level. A lot to feel. A lot of energy coursing through the night while you sleep.
In many traditions an altar or shrine to one's ancestors is tended to for our beloved deceased. Some ancestral altars or shrines are actually kept in a cupboard, special box, or are only created during certain times of the year, due to the added feel of "company" or a sense of more personalities within one's home that may stem from such altar work. For myself, I have an altar for my personal work, or work on behalf of a friend, client, or family member, and we have a shrine for our Ancestors. To me, this is plenty to work with. My altar changes and refreshes as I do, as my practice does, and is definitely something I feel sensitive about when I have company over, especially because it is in our main living space. With energetic work like this the fields of those present may be affected and can contribute or interfere too (lets face it, lovely energy and beautiful objects are attractive to touch!) My preference is to lay it to rest and keep it covered when guests are over. It is a place of personal work, not a conversation piece.
Just these two power centers within our house create plenty for me to tend to, work with, and live in the energy of. Other people may have a different threshold - but it is interesting to me to consider the call to have many altars all over one's home as instead a call to work more deeply with just one. Consider too if you are one called to have many altars, what is your nervous system is experiencing - would more energy sources around a hyper-vigilant, excitable person create a harmonious feel or overwhelm? If you struggle with learning to rest, pause, think things through, would more power sources help or hinder? Do you tend to have lots of fantastic ideas but burn out before seeing them to completion? Does the dedicated time spent with each fit practically into your day-to-day? Would many shrines, places to honour, to experience gratitude at, and leave offerings with, fit the bill instead of more altar work? Having altars ALL over the house is really something to consider!
A bean feasa of Gaelic heritage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.