Fair warning, this is a very picture heavy post.
The altar, wīgbed, whatever regional variant you wish to use. The meeting point between the mundane and the Other. A port of sacredness in the ocean of profane. Insert more poetic figures of speech here. To me, it is the most important part of my home. It is where I begin my day and where I end it.
This post will be an overview of my wīgbed and my practice. This is the first wīgbed I have ever created and has been adapting and amalgamating alongside my practice as I find my footing in what I believe. Due to my living situation, finances and space, it is not exactly how I wish it to be, but I make it work. It will also remain this way for a little under two weeks due to the move.
I have discovered Heathenry, Fyrnsidu, and Religio Romana all within the past year and a half or so. It has been quite the adventure. I believe my altar portrays this in its makeshift ways. I am new to all of these practices. But at the end of the day, all I wish to do is honour the gods and my ancestors. For now, this will have to do.
Here is a photo of my wīgbed, so you can see what I am describing. I will go over it all in greater detail. This is the only altar I have, due to space restrictions. It is mostly an ancestral altar, with only two icons of different deities. When I move I plan on having three shrines, for the three different sides of my practice: Heathen, Roman, and Ancestral. But that will be a post for another day when it actually happens. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
It is located on a nightstand table just under a window. It’s one of the first things you see when you walk into the room and it’s almost always within eyesight, which is something I enjoy. Even just looking at it every once in a while is a calming experience. It is also at a good height to where I can access everything on it while kneeling. Whatever your opinions on kneeling for the Other, it is something I very much prefer to do. It shows respect at the very least. It has some useful storage underneath, where I keep all of the incense I own as well as some alcohol that I will use for libation every once in a while. But now onto the actual contents of the wīgbed. The wooden plate or slab that the majority of the contents are on is about an inch thick slice of what I believe is cedar. I carved a phrase into the wood in Elder Futhark when I first bought the piece of wood. I now know it would’ve been better to use Younger Futhark, but I was new and mistakes were made.
The foreground of the altar is for my Ancestors, who are the primary focus of my hearth cult. Without them, I wouldn’t be here at all. The first image represents my ancestors in general, by their names. My last name is James, my first name and my mother’s maiden name is Ryan, and my step-father and his family hold the name of Stone. The paperweight was a gift from my grandmother and is something I hold very dear to me. It’s not my family’s official coat of arms because that is something that takes a lot of time and money, but it was a wonderful gesture nonetheless. The keychain is something I’ve had for years, but I cannot remember where I got it. And I have never found anything similar to use for Stone. So I used an actual stone found in one of the waterfalls I’ve hiked to many times before.
Below the symbols of my family on the convenient small slide out table are for the most recent dead of my family. They are the pamphlets from the funerals since I haven’t been able to get pictures printed of them both yet. They are both from my step-fathers side, but that doesn’t make a difference to me. His family are my family. On the left is Courtney. She was twenty years old when she died, too bloody soon. On the right is Elizabeth Baugh, to me, she was just Great-Nanny. Though in reality, she was my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother. She was 98 when she died of her age, after a long and good life. They are the only two ancestors who I knew in life, so I speak to them the most.
My step-father’s family has a lot of Native American within it. This is something I added with some trepidation. I am very aware how many pagans appropriate this culture and turn it into nothing more than a fashion. But with my father’s family being Native American and using this with his permission, I felt like it needed to be added. It is a symbol and a focus I use to honour that side of his family.
The first image is the first carving I have ever made. It is an icon of Wōden, though when I carved it was before I transitioned into Fyrnsidu, so it was Óðinn at the time. When I placed the icon on the altar, my thinking was that he was the Allfather. That if any of the gods deserved praise and offerings, he should be the first. Even though my practices have shifted and adapted, this still holds fairly true. The offerings to him have become more sparse, but I still aim for at the very least once a month. I will keep this statue until I can either make or purchase a better one. I would like to clean it up and make the carving lines more defined, but the Dremel tool I used to carve him in the first place broke.
I don’t understand the reluctance of some to not have icons of the gods or honour them in some way. While, yes, they may not tend to each and every individual that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t offer to them outright. In a Reddit post last night on the religion subreddit, I mentioned my mindset when it comes to approaching the Other, whether it be the gods, ancestors, or the local wihta is that they will either hear me or they won’t. But I know for sure that they will never hear me if I don’t speak. But this is only the opinion of my hearth, everyone is free to believe how they wish.
In the second image, the ring on the left has some UPG attached to it. You can skip this story if you wish. It was a ring my mother found in one of her many trips to pawn shops to buy and sell jewellery and she immediately thought I would like it. It was at the beginning of my path into Ásatrú and I was looking for validation as many do. She gave this ring to me around the same time as I was learning of Yggdrasil and the nine realms. To me at least, the ring looks like a tree with nine points if you count the middle intersections. It could be coincidence or it could be something else. I know not everything that happens in this world is a sign from some being or another. But still, that experience held meaning for me. /UPG
The second ring doesn’t have some cool story behind it, but it is still meaningful. My parents bought this ring, which is around 50-60 years old, for me with the intention of it becoming an heirloom to pass down the generations. It’s something I will do, but I also want my ancestors to know the intention of this ring. To perhaps imbue part of them within the ring. My grandmothers on both sides of my family, mother, and sister have all told tales of feeling the presence of a certain loved one while in contact with an object that the dead held dear to them. This has become thew of the tribe and something I readily accept.
Now for the final image of the post. The clay bottle is used to hold the liquid I use for libations. Since where I live it is very easy to attract ants and various insects, I stick to libations rather than food offerings. Most of the time I will use purified water, though I have used various alcohols like vodka, whisky, and mead before. The bottle is acutally a bottle of Viking Blod from Dansk Mjød. For the longest time, it was the only mead I could find around where I live. And even then I had to drive an hour to the next city to buy it at a Whole Foods. Since then there has been an increase in the sale of mead around where I live.
In the front of the picture is just an incesne holder that I picked up from a yardsale. I offer incense every night but only a small amount at a time. I’m in a small room and if I burn too much, especially of certain scents, it makes it hard to breathe. The most common kind I use is sandalwood, but that is more personal preference than anything. Somehow a lot of the incense I have smells like my grandmother’s perfume. So while it smells good from a nostalgia aspect, it is still kind of weird for me to burn that as an offering since she isn’t dead.
Finally to the biggest piece of my wīgbed, and the most recent purchase is a statue of the Roman Vesta. I will link where I purchased the statue below. I see many hearths have a gateway deity, a patron, tutelary deity, or something along those lines. For me, Vesta fills this role. I found Her through some UPG events that I won’t bore you with. But she was my introduction into Religio Romana, and it is something I am very grateful for. She is a goddess of liminality, but also the Mother of the Hearth. I title I use for Her often. Since the hearth is traditionally a place where family comes together, to strengthen their bonds to one another, I also give her the title of friþweaver. Just because it is a Germanic term doesn’t mean that the act behind the term ceases to exist anywhere else. Once I am able to, I plan on offering more elaborately to her at least once a month, and even more so during Vestalia.
So for now, this is the extent of my wīgbed and the practice behind it. This is the longest post I have created and the most I have ever gone into depth behind my hearthcult. Soon it shall all change, so this article serves a dual purpose. To inform others on how I practice day to day, but also as a snapshot on how I used to do things later on in my practice. If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to leave them.
And once again, thank you to Grennung Hund Heorþ for the inspiration behind this post.