Years ago when I began interacting with other pagans online, I found myself fascinated by their discussions about how they had integrated their religion into their households. I would read their words about household shrines and practices, household deities and their veneration with a feeling of such desire it could choke me sometimes with its depth.
The prospect of including one’s religion in their home life was foreign to me. My childhood was not overly religious and to my mind, including religion in the home meant asking Saint Anthony to find something lost or my mother doing her Hail Marys before a long trip. It was the little moments that meant religion had some foundation in one’s household, not an entire subdivision of a religious practice.
This isn’t to say that the little things like those described above were not enough or integrating one’s ingrained religious beliefs into day-to-day living. They were what I knew as a child and were sufficient at the time. But as I explored myself and the religion I had found, I found such a deep desire in going still further than the little things.
I found myself wanting a household shrine, dedicated specifically to the daily running of the home. I wanted a god, or many, whose specific realm was all the myriad things that make up running an entire household. I wanted what I saw in others’ practice and wanted to make it my own. I found myself longing more and more but couldn’t find what I desired from a Kemetic standpoint.
Household shrines, according to Egyptologists, were most likely in use for the ancient Egyptian laity but how important those spaces may have been is an enigma. Even knowing that it is feasible that they did in fact worship gods in their homes is good information to have, but it didn’t help me over much as I floundered my way on my path.
I kept thinking that I just wanted a space for gods whose sole purpose was, as with Hestia, to be the deity associated with hearth and home.
There were some netjeru who could fulfill the role I was seeking: Hetheru, Bes, Tawaret, and Djehuty to name a few. But I found that my attempts to lure either Hetheru or Djehuty in this way failed. Every time I considered approaching Tawaret, something pushed me off of that line of thinking. At this point, one could assume from this that I then turned to Bes and went that route.
They’d be wrong.
My relationship with Bes had always been a sort of ephemeral thing; there was no substance behind it. It was just little things here and there but nothing beyond that. It didn’t feel appropriate to reach out to him then, so I left him alone while I struggled.
I went through altar porn and blog posts. I looked into how the Romans and Greeks did it in antiquity, trying to cobble something together that would feel right. But every time I looked into what they did, I found myself staring down a dark hole that seemed to have a giant neon NOPE sign blazing down in my face. The information I was learning was interesting, but it wasn’t for me.
I got tired of wanting and tired of not finding. With the sort of stubborn headed foolishness that is my personal knack, I decided I didn’t need gods. I didn’t need to know what other people were doing. I didn’t need any of that nonsense! It obviously wasn’t what I should be focusing on anyway!
So I began moving away from gods and others’ practices. I began looking deep within and all around, trying to find something that I could cobble together so that the want would finally go away.
If I was asked to describe the one prevalent thing in my practice in a single word, the first thing that would come out of my mouth would be: foundations. I hear this so often from my gods, in my daily Tarot card pulls, and from a variety of other quarters. I am constantly being reminded to go back to the basics, go back to the foundations, go back to the start so that I can either build a new base or work on fixing up the existing building blocks in place.
When I decided that I wasn’t going to force myself into what I saw others crafting for themselves in the realm of their household shrines, I thought about the ongoing message about the basics. I had to build this from the ground up and the only way to really get there was to decide what I was really looking for.
Eyeballing pictures from other peoples’ altars was all fine and well, but that didn’t a practice make. Even reading their blog posts or comments on forums didn’t really help me.
I wanted a space that was about, well, my home. I wanted it focused on the people who inhabited my home, who lived here day in and day out with the good and with the bad. I wanted a place that sort of cried out to everyone about who we are as a family and what this place is as our home.
With whispers of “foundations” in my mind, I began trying to figure out what our home was about. And you know what? That was pretty damn hard. I didn’t know who we were as a family. We’ve been living in a very small place in general agreement that this living situation is temporary. Yeah, well, temporary though it may feel, we’ve been here for eight years now.
Even with all of that, it was still difficult to figure out who we were because we’ve never really put our mark on this place. It’s only been in the last two years that we’ve finally situated ourselves where we’ve come to the determination that we may leave this place at any given moment, but in the mean time, we’ve had to put down roots… roots that we’ll cut if and when we move on.
The transitory sort of feeling to our home made it difficult to figure out what I wanted to achieve for a foundation, so I started color-coding certain portions of the year on my Place of Truth, hoping that I’d get somewhere with this home and hearth altar eventually.
It was actually out of my four-times annual change out of my Place of Truth that I was finally able to come to a certain general idea about who I am as a person. And out of that, I was able to kind of define who my family is and what our home should be like:
- We’re in transition.
- We’re nerds in every sense of the word (books, video games, random facts, etc).
- We’re jokesters.
- We prefer comfort and functionality over frills.
- Our home is warm (sometimes a little too warm).
- Our home is filled with laughter.
- Our home is not very well lit, but at least the walls are light-colored so that what natural light is let in, it reflects… in our eyes…
- Our home has its problems, but we’ll work through it.
These ideas formed the basis, or foundation, of what I wanted my household altar to look like. I started adding little bits and pieces to my Place of Truth that I felt kind of indicated who we were based on my list.
I added toys from my son and from my significant other. I put bits of crystals and doo-dads that made me think it kind of indicated who we were. With my general color scheme, I was able to tie everything together into a cohesive theme until I felt that, well, I wasn’t doing too bad for all of that.
I made sure to spend time at the space. I would light Reiki-infused candles with a specific purpose in mind, depending on what purpose I wanted to achieve. I would pull daily cards for my son or myself there that had a more general message than anything specific. But above all, I felt that this place was a more than adequate symbol for who we are and what our home is like.
It took years for it to get built up to a point where it stopped feeling like something I had cobbled together on the fly and began to feel more like something established. It began to feel like it was something with… well… a solid foundation.
Once I felt comfortable, I was thrown another curve ball because Bes began showing up. This was partly my fault. For years, I had assured myself that I would purchase myself a protective amulet of Bes for every day wear. Not long after the amulet came home, I began to feel him haunting my already well-laid foundation at my household altar space.
It took some back and forth before I finally was able to get a straight answer out of him. He wanted to join this realm of my life, but before he could do so, I needed to get a solid… you guessed it… foundation in place. I was not surprised by this answer in the slightest.
Once I had come to terms with this, I realized that I felt comfortable with the idea of adding him into the place. What had first seemed confusing and a little weird, now seemed like a perfectly good idea.
When I began working on my home/hearth altar space, it seemed almost like adding a god or six into the mix would be like forcing them into a niche that wasn’t made for them. But now, I realized that out of all of the building I had been doing, I had still kept a space available for a god… if one decided to show up eventually.
Or maybe I always expected him to show up one day.
I looked around and found an icon that I felt would be appropriate for my small space and inserted him into something that I had worked hard on making on my own. As I set his icon in place for the first time, it felt a little like things were finally coming together in a way that I had always dreamed of but hadn’t really ever expected.
Bes, of course, brought friends with him to add to the space. It was not that long after I had added his icon to my space that he asked me to include Wenut and Tawaret, in whatever capacity I so desired, to the mix. I very quickly found hand-made wooden pieces of hippos, snakes, and bunnies that I felt would fit the bill. He seemed pleased with my selection and I was soon welcoming those two ladies into my home. They have proven to be far more quiet than Bes, who isn’t exactly a chatty type of god.
Now the three of them haunt my home and hearth altar. Periodically, I focus on the gods that haunt this space. And periodically, I focus on the family and home that this space is supposed to symbolize.
Together, we’ve managed to build things into a functional capacity that, years back when reading other peoples’ descriptions of their home and hearth related sojourns, I could only marvel at.
Nowadays, Bes and I are focused on a very specific project that I’ve been working on for actually a couple of years. Every few days, I light one of my candles and I give offerings to the gods that inhabit my space so that I can achieve a goal that has been a very long time coming.
I can only hope that once this goal has finally been achieved that the three of them will be coming with me on the next new adventure for my home, for my hearth, and for my family.