Online Altars? There's an App for That!

Although I have a physical altar in my house - a lovely spot in my study with a collection of shelves I keep picking up off the side of the road and intend to paint, one of these days - for the most part, I find it easiest to make offerings online. And this is something which sometimes makes people tip their heads to one side and go "" Because how do you make an offering online? Do you put a handful of cherries into the cd-ROM drive and shut it and wait for the tech gods to email it to the gods in the sky? (No. No, please do not put cherries in your computer, I am not going to be held responsible for that.) Do you osmosis it through the screen? (Again: do not put sticky fruit on your monitor!)

The way that I do it is by upkeeping - loosely - tumblr blogs. To the casual observer, these look a little bit like aesthetic blogs; although at times, it might not be immediately obvious what that aesthetic is. Now, this is not an advertisement for tumblr - it is a deeply dysfunctional site - but what it does have in its favour is the ability to make as many completely free side blogs as you like. This is where I host my e-shrines, as they are commonly referred to online. To quote this article I wrote on alternative altars a year ago:

E-shrines are [blogs] where the target audience is an entity that you work with. For me, it is a place where I post images that I come across which remind me of the focus, as well as pictures of things which I might give them as an offering in real life. I also share my devotional poetry to the relevant shrines as a way to formally gift them, as they are in digital form.

E-shrines are so, so useful to me as a spoonie practitioner (something I've been admitting to myself lately, in a way that has made my spiritual life far less stressful) as they require very little effort. Sometimes, I'll find myself wanting to do something for my deities, but I've not got the energy or the drive to do it. But I do have the energy to lie in bed and scroll endlessly through the internet looking at pictures and funny text posts, saving the ones that catch my eye. And if I have a couple of pretty spaces set up that I can send things that remind me of my deities too, then I can do that from underneath my duvet.

It's also, well, free; I don't think I need to tell you that money has been hard for everyone for the past however many months. (What even is time, this decade? I don't know anymore, it hardly makes sense. It's last March and November 4th all at the same time.) A lot of people, when they first start out as polytheists or witches, feel that in order to do it 'right' they need to have all the right tools, and expensive set-ups and a crystal collection that doesn't fit in the closet anymore. While, if you want those things, you can have them... they're not necessarily. Unless you're following specific traditions that explicitly say "you need this", then almost any ingredient or material can be substituted. Your tarot deck can be an app. And yes - your altar can be online.

As a side-note: you don't have to have an altar. I choose to, and it is something that many polytheists use as a way to connect to and give thanks to their deities. But you 100% do not have to have one. It's all personal choice, there's no - at the risk of sounding like a broken record - right way to do things.

So let's say I want to give Loki a coffee, but there's a problem. It's a few days before payday, and I need to keep this last $15 in the bank I need food for the animals, or there's some other emergency. Or perhaps there's a pandemic and I have to "stay the blazes home" and so I can't go and buy said coffee. I could say "sorry Lokes, no coffee today" or I could hop onto the internet, find a picture of a coffee, and give it to him that way. No, while this may sound to some people like it's too easy or not substantial enough to be an offering, I raise you the following points. First, there was intent and energy involved in my choice to make the offering. Intent is the most important thing. And second, it doesn't matter how much work I put into it, Loki knows that I was thinking about him.

This is a little bit of a tangent, but you can also make an altar to yourself. This is, in a sense, a self-care spell that you set up and can just kind of recharge as you go. Essentially, set up a side blog as you would in the examples below, and charge it however you would charge any other kind of spell for energy, manifestation, health... whatever you want to use the blog for. For this example, let's imagine that I want a spell-blog-altar-thingy to help me with my depression. Whenever I see a picture that makes me smile, I add it to the blog. I've seen an image, it made me smile, I've shifted it over to the blog and I've charged the spell. With the sense that I have done something, I feel a little bit better about the self-help scenario.

Hey presto! Why not love yourself as much as you love your gods? They might even occasionally give you a nudge and go "hey, we're going to work with the dashboard goblins (tumblr term) to send you an image we think you'll like!" and when you see it and move it to the blog, you'll sort of know that your deities are thinking about looking after you. It's a nice warm, fuzzy feeling - I also get this feeling with my music playlist all of the time because my deities know I have Spotify open more or less 24/7.

So why maintain an e-shrine? It could be to give offerings just because it's something that you like to do with your gods. It could be a place to make offerings when you're making a prayer and you feel as though you need to offer something in return. It could be a place to substitute ingredients for a spell that you know that you cannot afford. It could even just be a sort of digital Book of Shadows, keeping a record of the lessons a deity is giving you. Sometimes I feel like my deities need some extra energy - they're not infallible! - and so I make an offering to give them a little sort of belief-boost.

Whatever the reasons, as a modern witch the internet is a location as much as a study, a sacred grove or anywhere else you may practice your magic. Be creative - in altars, and in anything - and you may surprise yourself!

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