As I’ve said before, I’m not one for post-modernism or complaints about “privilege” and whatnot. But on occasion even I think about things that can be taken for granted, especially when it comes to the pagan community. Assumptions that because you’re pagan, then you’re an activist, an artist, an environmentalist, you’re bisexual or polyamorous, or that you buy organic produce and go camping all the time annoy the hell out of me, especially from people who scream “check your privilege!” at the slightest provocation.
But there are such assumptions prevalent in the pagan community. And one core assumption that influences others seems to be the assumption that pagans must spend all free time and money on all things pagan. The hypocrisy of this assumption being present in a community that so often decries consumerism and materialism should not escape you. I’ve walked into some houses so crammed full of crystals and statues and dreamcatchers and pagan tchotckes that I could barely bring my aura in with me. This is like walking into the house of a Christian that is packed full of bibles and crucifixes and saint statues and votives. This kind of atmosphere often fails to radiate “reverence” so much as “crazy-obsessive.”
And this is an expression of privilege.
Not everyone can afford all that stuff. Not everyone has the space for it. And it’s kind of impolite to assume that if you do, that everyone else does as well.
See, I’m moving. My last house had two and a half bedrooms, two full baths, and basement access. From there we moved to a one bedroom apartment with a small storage unit. And now my significant other and I are moving into a three bedroom trailer that we will be sharing with three other people.
Space is at a premium.
At my old place, I had an altar composed of a one by two foot table with drawers underneath, accompanied by a three shelf curio. It was very posh. In my current place, I had to consolidate to just the table, and I made it work. Now I will probably have to get rid of the table, reducing my altar space by about a third. Something’s got to go.
No don’t get me wrong — if you have the space and the money for all that stuff, good for you. If filling your house with pagan themed stuff makes you feel good, then go for it. If you really feel the need to have an altar that fills up an entire bookshelf, than all the more power to you. I’m not one to think that having that ability and taking advantage of it makes you privileged.
The assumption that everyone else use their space the same — or even worse, that they should, is where that privilege creeps in.
So how big should an altar be? Honestly, make it as big as your space allows, or as big as you want in your available space. Or as small as you want, or as small as space allows. Or don’t have one — who cares? But recognize that having a huge and elaborate altar is something that you may be able to do because you can afford the space/don’t have kids/have magically charged every possession you have so your whole house is your altar, but not everyone else can. Or likewise, recognize that if you had that space, but don’t anymore, you can survive the consolidation experience just fine.