The Pagan Blog Project: L is for Lantern
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really have a good feel for deities. The ones I’ve connected with the most are those in heathen traditions. Today I want to talk about imagery used for deities in my experience.
I’ve used two main image sources for altars: actual physical statues/picture representations and symbolic imagery. Statues and pictures are nice if you find something (or better yet are able to create something) that speaks to you as authentic in your mind. I’ve seen people commission artists for portraits to adorn their altars and shrines which can often be much more personalized than ordering one of maybe four designs of a deity’s statue online. Depending on the deity, you may have more options or much, much fewer.
For me, I find hard images to be helpful if I don’t have a great grasp on the deity. The face is helpful. There is of course the drawback though that being fed an image created by someone else, you are going to basically imprint with that specific image in mind. Still, if the image works for you, use it. And remember, it doesn’t always have to specifically be a statue or portrait of that deity. This may go a little into the realm of symbolic imagery, but if you have an image of a character that makes you think of that deity or an unrelated design that just strikes you as perfect, those are perfectly acceptable as well.
I usually enjoy symbolic imagery better for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t feel as if I’m drawing impressions off of someone else’s idea. But possibly more important for those who have to keep their pagan life sort of secret, you can be a lot sneakier with symbolic imagery. And by sneaky I mean you could possibly create a shrine in the middle of your living room without guests or family ever batting an eye at it in suspicion.
The title of this post is “Lantern” because that is one of my main symbolic images. The first deity I was very drawn to and to this day continue to go back to when I’m lost is Heimdall. After awhile, I wanted some kind of image of him, but was not satisfied at all with the sculptures available (which are sadly few and far between). I thought about a Gjallarhorn representation, or something Bifrost-like. While the horn didn’t really work out, I did end up making a multi-colored tile incense burner for his shrine. But it was more for him and not for me to use as a way to reach him.
I ended up choosing a lantern because to me a lantern represents vigilance as well as self-knowledge and path-finding. All three of these things are aspects I see in Heimdall or that he has helped me with. I like this even more because the lantern I found (pictured above) has a tealight holder in it, so lighting a tealight is sort of like training my mind to get into a different mode.
Each person should really use whatever speaks the best to them. While I’ve noticed that my symbolic images tend to resonate with me more than the statues or portraits, I know many people really enjoy the more traditional route and get a lot out of it. But I am also glad that I found something that worked for me. The lantern has provided a lot of comfort at very dark times.