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Author Topic: altar inquiry-plants and flowers  (Read 2734 times)

caffinitive

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altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« on: November 15, 2014, 12:14:19 am »
would it be considered rude/disrespectful to use dried flowers on an altar? i believe they're just as beautiful, and that death is an important part of the reincarnation cycle, but i'd like to avoid making any ignorant decisions.

also, since yule is a month away, i've been wanting to fix my altar accordingly, but all of the holly, mistletoe and pine/evergreen i've got are fake. again, i'd like to think it's the thought that counts (until i can scrape up some money to grab the real deal or time to scavenge for it), but considering my connection with nature, and natural life as its own deity, i've got some mixed feelings on the whole plastic thing...
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Aisling

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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2014, 10:02:35 am »
Quote from: caffinitive;165290
would it be considered rude/disrespectful to use dried flowers on an altar? i believe they're just as beautiful, and that death is an important part of the reincarnation cycle, but i'd like to avoid making any ignorant decisions.

also, since yule is a month away, i've been wanting to fix my altar accordingly, but all of the holly, mistletoe and pine/evergreen i've got are fake. again, i'd like to think it's the thought that counts (until i can scrape up some money to grab the real deal or time to scavenge for it), but considering my connection with nature, and natural life as its own deity, i've got some mixed feelings on the whole plastic thing...

 
You're probably going to find that this is one of those things where your miles may vary, depending on the purpose of your altar, who you are honoring with it, etc.

My personal take on it: Plants and flowers appear on my altar for one of three reasons - as offerings to deity, for blessing by deity, and by specific request of deity.  Plastic doesn't lend itself well to these purposes, as the focus tends to be on the energy and property of the plants rather than their decorative value.
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Jenett

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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2014, 12:21:16 pm »
Quote from: caffinitive;165290
would it be considered rude/disrespectful to use dried flowers on an altar? i believe they're just as beautiful, and that death is an important part of the reincarnation cycle, but i'd like to avoid making any ignorant decisions.


A good way to think about questions of this kind is "What am I trying to do here? What does this thing on my altar do?"

If you are looking for something for decoration, then dried flowers or something like silk or paper flowers might do nicely. However, if what you want is a representation of life in the current season, those aren't going to work so well.

One of the reasons a number of religious traditions use evergreens in the winter is that they are a form of life that's still growing, even in the winter and the shortest days. So, if that's important to your practice as an altar symbol, then having something that isn't alive (or recently alive) isn't going to work.

The other aspect is that often altars work well when they appeal to all the senses. If I walk into my house, and I have pine branches on my altar, I can smell them. If I have a fake version, they're not going to smell the same - they're not going to have all that piney goodness.

Fortunately, there are a bunch of options here. One is to keep your eye open for inexpensive seasonal flowers at your local grocery store or farmer's market or whatever. For pine branches, do you have any groups who sell holiday wreaths? (it's often Boy Scout troops where I live, but a number of youth groups do this kind of thing). They may have cuttings you can get very inexpensively.

Another option is to decide to do something other than plants on your altar. I have health issues, and my ability to manage to keep up with plants (whether living and potted or cut flowers) is extremely variable at the moment - enough so that I've mostly not had flowers on my altar in a couple of years. (Because if I manage getting them, then I often forget to take them down when they start needing that, or I'm not up to going to the store for flowers at the point I'd want them.)

Finally, you mention that you want to fix your altar now, even though Yule's a month away. One thing you might think about is *when* you do that.

Personally, I don't do a lot of seasonal changes for my altar anyway (see above about health, and also I live in a small apartment and am looking to move again, so I don't want more things I need to fuss about packing). But when I do, I do them starting at the ritual that's for - so my Yule things don't go up until right around Yule (maybe a day or two early, but no more than that), and my Beltane flowers don't go out until right then.

This means that the kind of thing I want on my altar to be seasonal is pretty widely available (and that close to the holidays, often cheaper than if I bought it earlier.) Likewise, if I get a sprig of pineboughs or something on December 20th, it's likely to make it comfortably through at least New Year's day - where if I got them earlier in December, it wouldn't. It also means that I usually do my "Do I want flowers on the altar for X?" by wandering through a store around that time, and if something catches my fancy there are flowers or plants, and if nothing does, there aren't.

(I have occasionally done rituals where particular plants were specifically necessary, but I'm talking about in general, here.)
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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2014, 02:36:51 pm »
Quote from: caffinitive;165290
would it be considered rude/disrespectful to use dried flowers on an altar?

 
Depends on the altar, the theology you're dealing with, and so on.

I would note, though, that I have amazing artificial flowers on my ancestor shrine - they're made out of leaf skeletons that have been dyed and reshaped into roses.  This is some very deliberate symbolism for me, obviously.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

caffinitive

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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2014, 07:59:55 pm »
Quote from: Aisling;165306
You're probably going to find that this is one of those things where your miles may vary, depending on the purpose of your altar, who you are honoring with it, etc.

My personal take on it: Plants and flowers appear on my altar for one of three reasons - as offerings to deity, for blessing by deity, and by specific request of deity.  Plastic doesn't lend itself well to these purposes, as the focus tends to be on the energy and property of the plants rather than their decorative value.

very very true, thanks for your input!!

i think i'll wait it out until i can invest in the needed items. i'm starting to feel a bit silly considering using them in the first place haha :ashamed:
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caffinitive

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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2014, 08:10:26 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;165310
It also means that I usually do my "Do I want flowers on the altar for X?" by wandering through a store around that time, and if something catches my fancy there are flowers or plants, and if nothing does, there aren't.


i guess i got a little too excited about yule (and xmas, i'm a sap for meaningful holiday spirit...), i suppose i can wait it out since it is so far away. :o

thank you so much for all of your thoughts!! everyone on here is very helpful and informative :-) even if i do feel pretty embarrassed to ask silly questions like this...

but i mean, everyone starts somewhere, right? :ashamed::ashamed::ashamed:
"if you have love in your heart, no one can rise above you"

caffinitive

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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2014, 08:15:36 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;165314
Depends on the altar, the theology you're dealing with, and so on.

I would note, though, that I have amazing artificial flowers on my ancestor shrine - they're made out of leaf skeletons that have been dyed and reshaped into roses.  This is some very deliberate symbolism for me, obviously.

 
i think if i ever end up using dried plants of any sort, i'm going to keep any i use natural. i put some artificial poinsettias on my altar just to see if it'd feel right, and i automatically got a really...off vibe from it. so i think i'll steer clear from those!

thanks!
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Jenett

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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2014, 09:07:21 pm »
Quote from: caffinitive;165325
i guess i got a little too excited about yule (and xmas, i'm a sap for meaningful holiday spirit...), i suppose i can wait it out since it is so far away. :o


One of the things to think about is that there are tons of ways to look at the Sabbats in Wiccan-derived practice (I have a page on my website at http://gleewood.org/seeking/practices/sabbats/  that gives some options and links to more - and you might find other things on the site also helpful to you, like the booklist.)

But if we're talking about a *wheel* of the year, and something that has a sense of balance to it, then it makes sense that we might want to not rush from one season to another. So if we go from "Yay! Samhain! Yay! Hallowe'en decorations!" and two weeks later, we're at "Yay! Yule!" then we're missing some parts about sitting with the deeper meanings of Samhain, the things that don't rise to the top right away.

(In a lot of traditions, for example, the time between Samhain and Yule is a time to reflect and rest and be introspective - and that's hard to do if you're rushing around redecorating.  There's things that come up when you've been sitting with an idea for a couple of weeks that can be very meaningful, or the time simply gives you more time to reflect on something in the most recent ritual, or to try something out that came up then.)

I spent my teenage years as a Catholic in a parish with a priest who was *very* set on the idea of Advent - the idea that preparing for things, thinking about them, getting ready for them, but *not celebrating them yet*, is a really powerful idea, and one that our culture does really badly. (Our culture is so very bad at delayed gratification as a rule.) The older I've gotten, the more I've really thought he had a point.

If you've been hearing Christmas music for 6 weeks by the time you get to Christmas, it stops having an effect. If you have all the special foods and cookies before you get to Christmas, it stops meaning so much. If, instead, however, you wait on all the celebration parts, at least as much as you can, until very close to the next Sabbat, it has much more of an emotional effect.

(Obviously, this is tricky because the rest of the world not so good at that - but it means that while I'll go to someone else's Christmas party, or whatever, I don't decorate my home until close to solstice, whatever I'm doing. Things like that. There are foods I don't eat until I get to a particular Sabbat, music I avoid, and so on.)
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Re: altar inquiry-plants and flowers
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2014, 03:51:12 am »
Quote from: Jenett;165330
But if we're talking about a *wheel* of the year, and something that has a sense of balance to it, then it makes sense that we might want to not rush from one season to another. So if we go from "Yay! Samhain! Yay! Hallowe'en decorations!" and two weeks later, we're at "Yay! Yule!" then we're missing some parts about sitting with the deeper meanings of Samhain, the things that don't rise to the top right away.

 
Well, and, the Wheel doesn't only turn at the sabbats; it's in constant steady motion. Focusing on where it will be, several weeks ahead, can really interfere with noticing where it is now.

How important it is to notice that will vary from one trad or current to another, but I've often, and for years, observed that self-taught eclectics (of no current more specific than the very broad 'celebrates WotY') can get so fixated on sabbats (and on 'must do formal ritual for it; must do it on the right day!') that the whole idea of it being a wheel that turns falls off their radar.

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