My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Friday, 21 June 2019

Summer Solstice: Our Home Altar

As with every spoke on the Wheel of the Year, I change the household altar to reflect the season. I find building a seasonal altar is a good way to connect to the changing year, to what is going outdoors in nature. I have a personal working altar in my study, which is more static in overall layout, and the altar I am showcasing in these pictures is our household altar in the living room. It's on wheels so I can roll it out into the middle of the space for group rituals, which is useful!

The two main aspects of Summer Solstice are 1) how the natural world is verdant and blooming in the height of summer and 2) celebrating the warmth of the Sun at it's peak (and also acknowledging that the days will then be drawing shorter again). The altar is set up to reflect those two things.
Green paneled wall, yellow altar cloth, pentagram candle-holder with sun plaque, home grown roses. Two green candle-holder jars. goddess shaped incense burner at the back. Two taper candles in green holders. The altar is a mostly symmetrical arrangement. Three incense sticks in a pentacle shaped flat incense burner.
Summer Solstice Altar. Incense sticks are on a pentacle incense holder.

The altar-cloth is yellow to symbolise the bright summer sun, but yellow is also the colour of many of the flowers blooming at this time of year. I also have the yellow altar-cloth over a green knot-work and pentacle altar-cloth, but it isn't visible from this angle. I put down two altar-cloths to make sure the top of the trolley I use as an altar cloth is protected, as it's a vintage item of furniture and has already got minor damage to the surface that I don't want to get any worse. For printed altar-cloths, I buy them from a local importer that sells Fair Trade hippie goods, and for plain ones, I use scarves I've bought, usually secondhand on eBay or from charity shops. The yellow altar cloth is a scarf (and the same one I used for Imbolc).

The wall behind is white with white dado rail, then green painted paneling. The altar has two white soy candles in green-glazed chunky candle-sticks. In the middle there is a pentacle candle holder with a purple soy votive candle at the top, a blue soy votive candle at the upper left point, a yellow soy votive candle at the upper right, a green soy votive candle in the bottom left, and a red soy votive in the bottom right, and there five tea-lights in the middle of the pentagram holder at the junctions. A sun plaque in red and yellow is hanging off it. There is a bouquet of mixed roses, peach pink and red, in the middle of the altar. On each side of the roses there is a green candle-jar, mottled with a leaf-shaped tag hanging off it. On the left of the altar there is a Goddess shaped metal incense sconce, on the right there is a pentacle-shaped flat incense burner, three incense sticks are visible. The altar cloth is bright yellow. In the foreground there is a sun-shaped ceramic candle holder with gold leaf and a tea-light. The image has a warm ambiance and was taken in the evening.
Summer Solstice altar. Sun candle-holder in foreground. 
I like going for a symmetrical arrangement on my altar; I think the beautiful altars from the churches I went to in childhood have inspired me, as has the traditional Wiccan arrangement for an altar, and just my own enjoyment of symmetry and order. I like that sort of formal arrangement, I feel it's a balanced aesthetic. I am not so much into seeing half of the altar as 'feminine' and half as 'masculine' because I am not into the duotheism of Wicca or the gendering of arbitrary traits - the Goddess incense burner is on the left but as is the Green Man above her, and the Green Woman plaque is on the right (you can just see a corner of each in the image above). Instead, I'm going to be shifting the imagery to fire and air on the right, and earth and water on the left - I will be switching the Goddess incense burner to the right side next time, but I have salt (in a stone dish, representing earth, on the left) as well as the green lotus leaf incense holder, which I've categorized as earth/water due to the lotus, rather than as fire/air due to being an incense holder.

Green paneling and yellow altar cloth. Pentagram candle-holder, with soy votive candles. Either side of the pentagram candle-holder are green ceramic candle-holders with soy taper candles. In the middle-ground is bouquet of roses with a peach rose facing the camera. On the left there is a grey stone pentacle dish with white salt, a green lotus incense burner with a traditional incense stick
Roses from my garden.
I like putting plants that are in season on my altar, so I picked some of the roses blooming in my garden and put them in a little glass bowl. I actually grow a lot of colourful flowers in my garden; not a very Gothic thing to do, I guess, but I enjoy gardening, and the front garden is tiny so just has flowers in it. The front garden is actually looking a bit scruffy at the moment, so I have a plan to tidy it up in the near future, with some bark chippings in the flower beds to help keep the weeds at bay (although weeds are just flowers growing in the wrong place - I actually put pretty 'weeds' in pots; they grow happily with little attention, and some have rather nice flowers on them, like wild pansies). Some more solar flowers would be sunflowers or marigolds, if you wanted to put something really big and yellow on there and they're flowering at the right time for you. I don't like buying flowers when I can grow my own ones. Having real flowers that inevitably wilt is a good metaphor for many of life's transient things, including remembering that summer isn't forever. 

The two chunky green candle-sticks at the back are glazed in a wonderful rich green. I bought them secondhand in a charity shop. The two mottled looking candle-jars in the middle were gifts from a friend and they have little fabric leaves and charms on them. The Goddess incense burner was a gift from Raven. The sun candle-holder with a tea-light in it is another altar item that I have had for a very long time, probably nearly as long as I've been a witch. The pentagram candle holder was bought in the January sales a while back. I will soon post about our Open Circle ritual. 

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