My Yule/Oshogatsu altar


Yesterday I decorated my indoor altar for two upcoming important festivals for me – Yule and Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year). I put a large wreath behind the pentagram at the centre of my altar, and added some other Yule/winter symbols with Pagan connections – holly, ivy, pine cones, apples, mushrooms and a little Christmas tree (unfortunately they’re mostly fake – I would prefer real ones but I’ve had the fake ones for years and it can be tricky to obtain the real thing). I also have a fake pohutukawa; a type of red flower that blooms at Christmas time in New Zealand, so the altar incorporates a little of my husband’s Kiwi heritage as well. For Oshogatsu, I’ve put out a gold fan, an old Christmas card of a torii in the snow, and several Daruma dolls. Daruma is really a Buddhist figure, but he’s strongly associated with New Year in Japan and what with Buddhism and Shinto being so conflated in Japan the distinction hardly matters. Plus, with his plump body, red colour and reputation for granting wishes, I can’t help but see some similarities between the daruma doll and Father Christmas.

yulealtar3I put up a Christmas tree as well (again fake), but this is more “personal” than Pagan – it has a Gothic/Kiwi theme, with black and silver baubles, glittery skulls, black and red roses, silver ferns and even a Father Christmas in an All Blacks kit!

I feel bad that I haven’t really decorated my outside Inari shrine, but it really isn’t easy with the cold, wet weather we’ve been having. Perhaps if I find the occasion to collect some natural pine, holly or ivy I might use that. But I did place some fresh offerings at the shrine, including a seasonal apple, satsuma and persimmon.

I would also like to add a gohei (Shinto wand of purification associated with Oshogatsu) and perhaps some figures associated with Yule in Paganism, such as Saturn or the Holly King. I’ll see how much time I get!


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