When I was in my pagan infancy way back in the mid 1990s, I can remember staying behind after school one day to use the Internet–which we didn’t yet have in my early adopting household–just to try to find images of what Wiccan altars looked like. As I recall, the books I had at the time offered a few idea diagrams. I didn’t manage to find much, but I did find a very blurry image of the deity representations Doreen Valiente used. I’ve provided a much clearer picture of her alter set up here, and–as you can see–the deity figures definitely compel your eye to them. Frankly, I didn’t even notice the animal feet for several minutes.
I have a hypothesis that many of today’s Wiccans carry the image of Doreen’s altar somewhere in their subconscious. We’ve all probably seen it at one time or another, and–given Doreen’s prominence–it’s definitely something we’d take note of. I think that perhaps it’s inadvertently due to her that so many of us desire complementary deity figures. As I’ve noted before, there’s not exactly a lack of options on today’s market for such figures, and–of course–many more of us create our own.
And now, there is one more option to add to the list, for artist Mickie Mueller has recently released an altar set with the statuary company Sacred Source.
The full set of seven pieces–a God and Goddess figure, a pentacle, and four elemental votive holders–retails for $169. The pieces are also available separately, with the deity figures retailing at $35 apiece, the pentacle at $29, and the elemental votives at $24 apiece. A little bit of math will tell you that if the full set does indeed interest you, you’d best purchase it as a unit since the total for the individual pieces is $195.
All in all, I quite like Ms. Mueller’s set. I have to admit that I first thought the deity figures as a little static and boring, with little symbolism to cue the subconscious into seeing them as Gods and not people wearing pretty dresses and horns. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had this reaction because my own personal aesthetic has radically shifted from what it was when I first became a witch. Aside from the fact that Mueller’s figures are standing (and that her God is wearing pants), they’re not all that different from Momma Doreen’s figures. Moreover, I quite like the fact that each of them includes a built-in votive holder. As Ms. Mueller showed on her own blog, the figures do look quite stunning when lit from below. The votive space can also double as an offering receptacle, which is nice.
The real stars of the set, though, are the votive holders. Each displays the alchemical symbol for its appropriate element, and that symbol serves to frame a depiction of the appropriate elemental–gnome, sylph, salamander, and undine. The base of each is also detailed with appropriate elemental symbols, as are the sides and back, which Ms. Mueller also showed on her blog. Each one is really its own, self-contained mini-altar to the elements. And, of course, each looks wonderful when lit by a candle, and that candle space can also be used as an offering bowl or to contain a real bit of each element should the use of a candle not be desired. Really, each votive holder is a lovely, flexible piece in its own right.
All in all, I do really like this set, and I think it comes to the Pagan Marketplace at an important time. As many people know, Paul Borda of Dryad Designs retired his lines in the first half of 2012. As many others know, he was pretty much the only artist who offered a full matching altar set. Ms. Mueller is perfectly poised to fill the sizable gap Mr. Borda has left, and I wish her a long and productive product run!