Altars Everywhere, Part 2 by Carol P. Christ


This is a continuation of an earlier blog in which I discuss home altars as a way to bring beliefs about women’s spiritual power into the body and daily life.

In my bedroom, images of the Snake Goddesses of Knossos sit on a cabinet painted by a Greek woman with images of birds and flowers. Between them is a crystal ball, while before them are three shells, the smaller of which was given to me by a Maori woman from New Zealand. Above them is an image of the sea in Molivos, Lesbos, painted by my friend Judith Shaw in the year we were both living in the village.

On the adjoining wall, is a wand made from a small branch that fell from the Sacred Myrtle Tree, adorned by ribbons from our rituals there, and two small plaques, one of a tree and the other of a bird that was given to me by Laura Shannon who views me as her mentor and whom I view as my spiritual daughter. I will use the wand to bless my new home when all is ready.

In my bathroom I placed an image of a bird-faced Goddess from Cyprus who wears large hoop earrings and holds a bird-faced baby. She is surrounded by stones and shells I have collected from the sea over the years. These images turn bathing into a ritual.

In my dressing room, I remember my ancestors, especially my mother Janet Claire Bergman, her mother Lena Marie Searing, and Lena’s mother Dora Sophia Bahlke. When my friend Breedge Scanlon and I viewed the apartment I eventually bought, I commented that there would be no room for my great-grandmother’s couch that I inherited from my mother. “You must make room for it,” she insisted, and so I did. It was told it was covered in black horsehair originally, but when it was in my grandmother’s living room it was covered in light blue velvet. My mother recovered it in white silk with pink flowers and made it a feature in her bedroom. It now graces my dressing room.

My mother’s life-sized baby doll soon returned to her place on the couch. I also set my baby doll on the couch. She wears my Swedish grandfather Linneus Bergman’s christening dress, which must have been made by his mother or grandmother, and a baby jacket I stitched by hand for my baby brother who died shortly after his birth when I was 13. My mother and I both loved those dolls. She saved them and others for me. After my mother died, I washed and repaired her baby doll and bought her clothes for each of the seasons. The doll became a symbol of our love for each other and of our shared love for babies and children.

Above the couch is a large print with peacocks that I reminds me of the peacocks in my grandmother’s garden that flew in from the adjoining Los Angeles County Arboretum. Next to the couch is my grandmother’s sewing cabinet. On it sit a vase with peacock feathers from my aunt Mary Helen’s garden (how we loved those peacocks!) and a small collection of family photos. Above it is a poem “The Bridge” by Dorothy Hillard Moffat that I found hand-copied among my mother’s things. It begins, “The way I walk, I see my mother walking, her feet secure upon the ground.” Below the poem are photos of my mother and myself as babies and my mother as a bride.

My father’s mother Mae Inglis who was Irish Catholic taught me that the Blessed Mother is always with us. My altars remind me that this is true.

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.



Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Embodiment, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality

Tags: , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Thank you Carol! I’m glad you are making your new home a place of beauty and filled with the love of many, especially your mother and other ancestors; and Mother Sea.

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  2. I love that you have expanded the concept of altars from more formal, larger spaces to every kind of space and sacred objects to include such a variety of meaningful things! These ideas makes it so much easier to have altars and reminders of our sacredness all around us. I also love the soft colors of your new home. May it bring you joy and peace!

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  3. So beautiful, Carol. Thank you for sharing the sacred beauty you have created in your home. Blessed Be!

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  4. Oh, what a gift it is Carol that you are sharing the intimacy of your own sacred space with us…I am so grateful to be witnessing all this beauty that is so deeply attached to personal/collective meaning and family… you have such a wondrous space in which to heal – and I cannot imagine that you won’t…I just love being there. Thank you!

    I wonder what you would think of my little log cabin perched on the edge of a forest and brook with windows that bring the outdoors in all year long. I am never separated from nature – but family – except for furniture is missing – and there are days now when just looking at this furniture (except my brother’s and my toy chest and an old desk on which my grandmother put us both in order to watch the birds) brings a heaviness that I am not sure I want to carry anymore. Currently my favorite piece of furniture is an exquisite hand made table that a young artist friend made me with its cedar roots touching the floor and a great birch burl as a table top. This feels like a living being – and I keep it near and chose to leave it unadorned. Pictures of family bring pain.

    I can’t imagine having memories like yours…

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  5. Gorgeous! As I commented after I read Part 1, it’s wonderful for us to fill our homes with altars so that we’re living in an altar. It’s especially good that you’ve added articles filled with memories of your family and friends. Hooray! This collection of altars must also have healing effect. I hope you’re feeling better. Bright blessings.

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  6. It is so inspiring and moving to see how you have created this exquisite safe space for yourself in Crete. I remember how you wrote in your blog on June 29 that it had been difficult to leave your beautiful home in Molivos and to ‘be living without the protective skin that is the sacred space of my home’. You also wrote in that post:
    ‘Now that I realize that my home is not only an altar, but also provides the protection my sensitive nature requires, I trust that I will find the strength (slowly slowly) to re-root the sacred tree in my new home in Crete.’
    You have found that strength! You have made your home an altar! You have re-rooted the sacred tree! WELL DONE. May your new home be a healing sanctuary and a place of protection for you. Blessed be.

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  7. Beautiful piece, Carol. Thank you for sharing your new altars in your new home. Like you, I have “little altars everywhere,” to quote the title of one of Rebecca Wells’ novels. When I change them seasonally, they capture more of my attention. Winter solstice is coming, so that will happen in three weeks.

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  8. Love that you include images of your family in your altar. Blessings to you.

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  9. Just beautiful Carol. Thank you for sharing this piece of your yourself.

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  10. Lovely, you are surrounded by so much energy.

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  11. I love your dolls! I inherited some of my grandmother’s dolls (and her dollhouse), including a rare set of Dionne Quintuplet baby dolls and Shirley Temple dolls. I also received her precious wooden Hitty doll, carved from ashwood as a replica of the doll from the classic book Hitty: Her First 100 Years. My grandma bought Hitty when she herself was at least 70 years old and the doll traveled with her on her adventures, carefully packed in a traveling gown and in possession, at home, of her own little wooden writing desk, cradle, and chair.

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  12. Lovely post. Have you read the Mary Stewart trilogy about Merlin? One of the things Merlin says a lot is that Mary is the Christian name for the Goddess. I like to think that Mae Inglis is really happy with the ways you have shared Goddess wisdom.

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