Placing the Home Shrine
The Home Shrine requirement in the Dedicant Program was one of my favourite to finish (and even now it is a growing, evolving process), but I realised recently that there are some things that are not addressed. One of the most obvious things left hanging is where to put the darn thing.
The placement of the Home Shrine is entirely up to you, and should be a personal choice. Of course, I could say that until I'm blue in the face, and you'll be right back in the same place you were before. Instead, I'll give you my own theory on what to do with it.
A good home shrine is, ideally, at the center of your living space, which places it at the center of your life. That's not feasible for everyone, and in fact mine is in my bedroom, which is certainly not the center of my life or living space. I put it there, though, because my girlfriend, who also lives in my house, does not share my religion, and placing it in the center of our living space would feel (to me, not necessarily to her) as if I'd imposed my religion on our relationship.
A lot of the idea behind placing it out in a main portion of the house also comes from the fact that, as this is the Dedicant Program, we're committing to a life-long dedication to worship of our gods, of the Elder Ways. Part of that is not hiding who we are, and we shouldn't be embarrassed. When I give tours of my house (takes all of three minutes, but still. . .), the altar in my bedroom is one of the main features I point out.
As I was typing this, I began to thinking about placing a Home Shrine in its own special, magical room, and what that symbolized. It kind of seems to me that by placing it back in such a room, we're saying, "My religion isn't something I do all the time. It's something that I set aside 'special' time for, something that I haven't found a way to integrate into my whole life yet." Granted, I wouldn't suggest that that's what people are thinking when they put their altar in that room; they're actually probably thinking that their helping maintain its sacredness by cutting it off from the profane world that the rest of the house is. There's nothing wrong with that.
Still, in the end, it seems to me that if we separate the Shrine out spatially from the places where we live our lives, we are also removing it from the lives that we lead. I do think that if the worship is to be central to the life of those who live in the house, it should also be central to the home. We aren't pious people every other Thursday, and we don't separate ourselves from our Gods, so why should we move the center of our daily worship to a place where it will be both out of sight, and (by extension) out of mind?
But, of course, as I said above, different living situations will require different things. There's nothing wrong with keeping your Home Shrine in a different room, or in a room you rarely use. Keeping it in your bedroom actually has a lot of positive aspects: it becomes the first thing you see in the morning, and the last thing you see at night. Combined with devotionals, this serves to keep me ever mindful of the deities.
Keeping your Shrine in your kitchen is another excellent option, especially for a stay-at-home parent. For a lot of stay-at-home mothers and fathers, much of their time is spent in front of the modern hearth (the stove) fixing Mac 'n Cheese for the kids, and thus the kitchen becomes the center of their lives. It makes sense, then to keep the Shrine here, and thus keep piety at the center, as well.
Another great idea, moving along the same current as trying to keep your Shrine in the center of your life, is to have satellite altars placed around your house. I've even branched out into having a small one in my office since I do so much work there. It's not very visible to my co-workers, but it's there to remind me that piety doesn't get left at home.
The direction your altar faces is up to you. If you're used to your altar facing north, then aim it north . . . If east is more your game so you can watch the sunrise, then set it up that way. In the end, the Home Shrine is designed to be a personal expression of your worship, and really, any altar is.
No matter what, your altar will be an expression of your personality. It's very important that you do what you want with it, and that it be in the place that is most comfortable to you. For me, that means making it central; for you, there might not be the same connotations of "locality of your Shrine = locality of gods in your life". Put it where it feels right to you, and where it says what you want it to say.
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