Author Topic: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines  (Read 16248 times)

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Offline Nephi

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Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« on: June 12, 2013, 10:22:59 PM »
I've noticed an interesting feature appear sometimes in Japanese media, namely home shrines. Apparently they're called butusdan, or at least this seems to be the pertinent Wikipedia page. Here's an example:



I've seen other people's icon corners have pictures of their deceased loved ones as well, which got me thinking. We incorporate religious imagery, photos of loved ones, incense, chanting, prayers, candles, and so on. While obviously some things are going to be very different (the subjects and objectives of the prayers/chants, etc.), it seems that there's a, perhaps superficial, similarity between our icon corners and other religions' home shrines.

So, while I mean for this thread to be a general discussion about all (not just Japanese) the various home shrines in comparison to icon corners, I was wondering if anyone with more direct experience of other religions could chime in and give a few thoughts. E.g. similarities, differences, things they may like about them, etc. Also, do Asian Christians use a Christianized version of these in their homes instead of what's seen among Orthodox and Catholics in the West?

Offline Gyllynn

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2013, 03:15:55 PM »
I think it is also worth mentioning kamidana, or household shrines dedicated to "kami" (gods or spirits). 



I'm also interested in knowing whether Orthodox Christians in Japan use more traditional icon corners or "baptised" versions of kamidana and butsudan in their homes.

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2013, 03:18:39 PM »
Glad someone bumped this... hopefully it gets more responses :)

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2013, 07:38:32 PM »

We do not include photos of lived ones in our icon corners.

In fact, if an icon and a photo, plaque, painting,...share a wall, then the icon is to be hung the highest.

This is what I've been taught.   

For example, we have a little corner shelf in each bedroom. On it stands an icon(s). Any painting, photo, etc. hung on either of the two walls must be hung slightly lower than the icon shelf.


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Offline Nephi

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2013, 10:08:00 PM »
We do not include photos of lived ones in our icon corners.

In fact, if an icon and a photo, plaque, painting,...share a wall, then the icon is to be hung the highest.

This is what I've been taught.   

For example, we have a little corner shelf in each bedroom. On it stands an icon(s). Any painting, photo, etc. hung on either of the two walls must be hung slightly lower than the icon shelf.

I see. I suppose when I've seen photos of loved ones they have usually been at the lowermost area of the icon corner, but still in the icon corner itself.

Offline Nephi

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2013, 10:45:37 PM »
Japanese Christian family altars I found using Google:



Offline Nephi

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2013, 10:48:23 PM »
Quote
Ideally, the icon corner is located so that it is visible when one first enters the house from the main entrance. Traditionally, when first entering the house, an Orthodox Christian would venerate the icons before greeting the members of the house.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icon_corner

Likewise, I've heard that it's (traditionally) respectful for guests to pray before a butsudan when visiting.

Offline Nephi

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2013, 11:05:44 PM »
More Japanese Christian altars.

I wonder if the crosses with writing in the bottom-left picture are Christianized ihai, with the names of deceased family members.



« Last Edit: July 21, 2013, 11:09:08 PM by Nephi »

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2013, 11:29:58 PM »
Nephi,

Check this out: http://hinduism.about.com/cs/temples/ht/pujaroom.htm

That article gives some basic directions on how to set up a Hindu prayer corner or room.  If you read the guidelines, they're roughly the same as an Orthodox icon corner.  They're even supposed to face East or be in a Northeastern corner.  :P

And a simple search for "puja room" on Google Images will show a variety of styles: simple, complex, "designer", and so on.  Many are similar to the Japanese examples you have posted. 

I've been to stores where the idols, images, and religious supplies are sold, but I've never actually seen one of these set up in a Hindu home.  I'd love to, if I could do so without causing disrespect by not praying, but I once heard that it was customary/polite to do so when entering the home.  I'd rather avoid an uncomfortable situation (idolatry), so I am strictly "Don't ask, don't tell" with such things.  But if I can ensure that I can simply "visit" and "observe", whether in a home or an actual temple, I'd be quite interested to do so. 

Indian Christians, in my experience, don't have anything really resembling the puja room or Orthodox icon corner intentionally, but the pious do, and even most "normal" folks have a place where they have some combination of at least one or two icons, photos of deceased relatives, a Bible, a cross, candles/oil lamp, etc. and before which they say their prayers.   
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Offline yeshuaisiam

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2013, 11:51:30 PM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2013, 11:52:19 PM by yeshuaisiam »
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Offline Nephi

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2013, 11:56:07 PM »
Nephi,

Check this out: http://hinduism.about.com/cs/temples/ht/pujaroom.htm

That article gives some basic directions on how to set up a Hindu prayer corner or room.  If you read the guidelines, they're roughly the same as an Orthodox icon corner.  They're even supposed to face East or be in a Northeastern corner.  :P

And a simple search for "puja room" on Google Images will show a variety of styles: simple, complex, "designer", and so on.  Many are similar to the Japanese examples you have posted.  

I've been to stores where the idols, images, and religious supplies are sold, but I've never actually seen one of these set up in a Hindu home.  I'd love to, if I could do so without causing disrespect by not praying, but I once heard that it was customary/polite to do so when entering the home.  I'd rather avoid an uncomfortable situation (idolatry), so I am strictly "Don't ask, don't tell" with such things.  But if I can ensure that I can simply "visit" and "observe", whether in a home or an actual temple, I'd be quite interested to do so.  

Indian Christians, in my experience, don't have anything really resembling the puja room or Orthodox icon corner intentionally, but the pious do, and even most "normal" folks have a place where they have some combination of at least one or two icons, photos of deceased relatives, a Bible, a cross, candles/oil lamp, etc. and before which they say their prayers.  

Thank you for pointing all this out. Very interesting. A couple of questions if you don't mind:

1) Do Indian Christians do anything particularly "Indian" (i.e. reminiscent of their cultural and religious context near Hinduism or otherwise distinct, etc.) in their praying before their home altar, even if a simple altar? An example to compare might be a hypothetical Japanese Christian ringing a bell and clapping before an altar like their non-Christian counterparts (btw I don't know if Japanese Christians actually carry this practice over).

2) What do the pious ones' altars look like? It seems Google translate into Hindi + image search fails me.

Interestingly, it seems the "normal" folks across the board in many places have a very simple altar that's usually a couple icons, photos, a Bible, etc. on a shelf or desk. Even many "normal" EO seem to have these sorts of simple icon corners rather than the elaborate wall-spanning ones we sometimes see. Some of the Japanese Catholic home altars I found through Google were very simple like this.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2013, 11:58:24 PM by Nephi »

Offline augustin717

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2013, 07:53:37 AM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
Perhaps once the industrial reproduction of religious artifacts became commonplace. And even so it would still be a stretch to say these elaborate shrines are common in EO homes.
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2013, 08:00:18 AM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
Perhaps once the industrial reproduction of religious artifacts became commonplace. And even so it would still be a stretch to say these elaborate shrines are common in EO homes.

They are indeed common. Very common. In the vast majority of cases, icon corners in EO households in traditionally Orthodox lands or regions were/are simply a shelf on which icons, a brass censer, and other devotional items were placed. Sometimes, instead of a shelf, the top of a cupboard, dresser or wardrobe was/is used.
Am I posting? Or is it Schroedinger's Cat?

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2013, 08:05:33 AM »
I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.

I wouldn't be surprised if the custom started once Christianity stopped being persecuted and people moved out of home worship into dedicated churches.

I do know that throughout the Ottoman rule centuries, long before anything industrial, Greek homes had icon corners, and I believe Russian homes were similar. In the 1990s, during the massive repatriation of Russian-born Greeks, there were several old icons to be found for sale, some even following the custom of listing the birthdates of the family's children in the back, dates going back to the 18th century.
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2013, 08:08:29 AM »
Quote
I do know that throughout the Ottoman rule centuries, long before anything industrial, Greek homes had icon corners, and I believe Russian homes were similar.

Precisely.
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Offline augustin717

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2013, 08:14:28 AM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
Perhaps once the industrial reproduction of religious artifacts became commonplace. And even so it would still be a stretch to say these elaborate shrines are common in EO homes.

They are indeed common. Very common. In the vast majority of cases, icon corners in EO households in traditionally Orthodox lands or regions were/are simply a shelf on which icons, a brass censer, and other devotional items were placed. Sometimes, instead of a shelf, the top of a cupboard, dresser or wardrobe was/is used.
I've entered in many old houses in a traditionally orthodox land and there were nothing like icon corners in there. Of course there were a cross or a couple of lithographs usually Italian, at times German or even Greek or Romanian but all dispersed throughout the house and nothing like an icon corner. I distinctly remember how an old woman kept a cross and a little icon not on the wall but on one of the ceiling beams. What I dispute is the idea that icon cornea are a constant throughout orthodoxy.
 
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 08:15:14 AM by augustin717 »
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.

Offline LBK

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2013, 08:20:14 AM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
Perhaps once the industrial reproduction of religious artifacts became commonplace. And even so it would still be a stretch to say these elaborate shrines are common in EO homes.

They are indeed common. Very common. In the vast majority of cases, icon corners in EO households in traditionally Orthodox lands or regions were/are simply a shelf on which icons, a brass censer, and other devotional items were placed. Sometimes, instead of a shelf, the top of a cupboard, dresser or wardrobe was/is used.
I've entered in many old houses in a traditionally orthodox land and there were nothing like icon corners in there. Of course there were a cross or a couple of lithographs usually Italian, at times German or even Greek or Romanian but all dispersed throughout the house and nothing like an icon corner. I distinctly remember how an old woman kept a cross and a little icon not on the wall but on one of the ceiling beams. What I dispute is the idea that icon cornea are a constant throughout orthodoxy.
 

I'm with Arachne on this. I can vouch for Greeks and Russians, both in the "old country" and abroad, having icon corners, and across several generations.
Am I posting? Or is it Schroedinger's Cat?

Offline Arachne

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2013, 08:32:08 AM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
Perhaps once the industrial reproduction of religious artifacts became commonplace. And even so it would still be a stretch to say these elaborate shrines are common in EO homes.

They are indeed common. Very common. In the vast majority of cases, icon corners in EO households in traditionally Orthodox lands or regions were/are simply a shelf on which icons, a brass censer, and other devotional items were placed. Sometimes, instead of a shelf, the top of a cupboard, dresser or wardrobe was/is used.
I've entered in many old houses in a traditionally orthodox land and there were nothing like icon corners in there. Of course there were a cross or a couple of lithographs usually Italian, at times German or even Greek or Romanian but all dispersed throughout the house and nothing like an icon corner. I distinctly remember how an old woman kept a cross and a little icon not on the wall but on one of the ceiling beams. What I dispute is the idea that icon cornea are a constant throughout orthodoxy.

I've never been in a Greek house that didn't have an icon corner. No matter how poor or unlettered the people were, there was always a place for one or two icons, an oil lamp and censer, palms and holy water. Old country houses in my neck of the woods (my grandparents' included) often have a niche actually built into the wall for that purpose.
'Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against stupid. That might actually make a difference.'~Harry Dresden

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Offline augustin717

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2013, 08:41:30 AM »
Interesting...

But I'm going to back out and not be a part of this thread other than this post.  I'll stick to posts where I don't have controversy for a bit, and focus more on similarities.

I would be curious (not seeking originality as in my other thread - totally different topic) of when icon corners became common in the EO home.
Perhaps once the industrial reproduction of religious artifacts became commonplace. And even so it would still be a stretch to say these elaborate shrines are common in EO homes.

They are indeed common. Very common. In the vast majority of cases, icon corners in EO households in traditionally Orthodox lands or regions were/are simply a shelf on which icons, a brass censer, and other devotional items were placed. Sometimes, instead of a shelf, the top of a cupboard, dresser or wardrobe was/is used.
I've entered in many old houses in a traditionally orthodox land and there were nothing like icon corners in there. Of course there were a cross or a couple of lithographs usually Italian, at times German or even Greek or Romanian but all dispersed throughout the house and nothing like an icon corner. I distinctly remember how an old woman kept a cross and a little icon not on the wall but on one of the ceiling beams. What I dispute is the idea that icon cornea are a constant throughout orthodoxy.

I've never been in a Greek house that didn't have an icon corner. No matter how poor or unlettered the people were, there was always a place for one or two icons, an oil lamp and censer, palms and holy water. Old country houses in my neck of the woods (my grandparents' included) often have a niche actually built into the wall for that purpose.
My only contention is that the arrangement isn't as universal as sometimes implied. That's all.  In my neck of the woods people would have found it bizarre to put anything in a corner, other then brooms . The icon was on the center of the wall, if there was one. And most had one or two or three. I have three old lithographs prob more than a century old . They look like Austrian prints.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 08:42:45 AM by augustin717 »
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2013, 09:05:25 AM »

We have an icon in every room (except bathrooms, hallways, etc).  The bedrooms have a corner shelf with icon(s) and the brass lamp hanging over them. 

The other rooms have them hanging on a wall (not in the corner, as the corners are taken with curtains, shelves, etc.)

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Offline LBK

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2013, 09:32:06 AM »

We have an icon in every room (except bathrooms, hallways, etc).  The bedrooms have a corner shelf with icon(s) and the brass lamp hanging over them. 

The other rooms have them hanging on a wall (not in the corner, as the corners are taken with curtains, shelves, etc.)



Having an icon hanging in the main rooms of the house is very much a Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, less common among Serbs and others in my experience) custom, and a lovely one at that. If possible, corners are used, ideally the eastern corner, or the first corner one sees when entering the room. Wedding icons (a matched pair of Christ and the Mother of God, brought to the church by the couple, placed on a stand for the duration of the wedding ceremony, and then taken home by the newlyweds) are usually placed as a pair at right angles to each other in a corner, and, very often, in the couple's bedroom.

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2013, 09:58:52 AM »
To return to the OP topic: In terms of other religions, I'm mostly familiar with branches of modern paganism. Home altars/shrines in those are both highly personalised, not following a strict creation pattern, as well as often seasonal, looking totally different from one festival to another. I've picked a couple of the most generic-looking ones as samples:

Wiccan
Kemetic
Asatru
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Offline Nephi

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2013, 10:21:11 AM »
To return to the OP topic: In terms of other religions, I'm mostly familiar with branches of modern paganism. Home altars/shrines in those are both highly personalised, not following a strict creation pattern, as well as often seasonal, looking totally different from one festival to another. I've picked a couple of the most generic-looking ones as samples:

Wiccan
Kemetic
Asatru

Interesting. If some change "from one festival to another," it would be similar to those Orthodox that rotate festal icons. Google searching, it seems some of their altars do occasionally include family photos, but do vary a lot like you said.

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2013, 10:25:38 AM »
To return to the OP topic: In terms of other religions, I'm mostly familiar with branches of modern paganism. Home altars/shrines in those are both highly personalised, not following a strict creation pattern, as well as often seasonal, looking totally different from one festival to another. I've picked a couple of the most generic-looking ones as samples:

Wiccan
Kemetic
Asatru

Interesting. If some change "from one festival to another," it would be similar to those Orthodox that rotate festal icons.

The festal icon rotation can be associated with changing the God/Goddess images or figurines, as each festival celebrates different aspects of deity, at least in Wiccan practice and its offshoots. The complete overhaul of decorations, though, is beyond even the Slavic practice of different coloured altar cloths.
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Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2013, 10:52:21 AM »

We have an icon in every room (except bathrooms, hallways, etc).  The bedrooms have a corner shelf with icon(s) and the brass lamp hanging over them. 

The other rooms have them hanging on a wall (not in the corner, as the corners are taken with curtains, shelves, etc.)



Having an icon hanging in the main rooms of the house is very much a Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, less common among Serbs and others in my experience) custom, and a lovely one at that. If possible, corners are used, ideally the eastern corner, or the first corner one sees when entering the room. Wedding icons (a matched pair of Christ and the Mother of God, brought to the church by the couple, placed on a stand for the duration of the wedding ceremony, and then taken home by the newlyweds) are usually placed as a pair at right angles to each other in a corner, and, very often, in the couple's bedroom.



I'd never actually thought about it, but, you are so correct.  In my mom's room she has the two icons she received at her wedding.

I'm preparing (hopefull) to redo one of the rooms in my home and make it more in to a icon corner/wall.  I have accumulated and been gifted many lovely icons which I feel I ought to hang.

Funny thing....I have two matched icons that my mother and I purchased some 20 years ago, when we visited Ukraine.  They were slotted for my wedding.  As that never happened, they've been sitting in the box with all the other wedding stuff my mom had prepared (cloth for tying hands, embroidered towel to stand on, candles, etc. - she must have thought it would be a shotgun wedding, and need to be ready in a split second ;)  ).  I am thinking of hanging them up.  They've been hidden away in the dark, too long!  ;)

I've only brought them out during the Sunday of Orthodoxy, taken them to church for the kids to hold.

They are all my icons, however, the one on the right is my "wedding" icon of Christ.



and of the Mother of God, on the left, held by my niece Lily in the black coat.


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Offline LBK

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #25 on: July 22, 2013, 11:03:35 AM »
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she must have thought it would be a shotgun wedding, and need to be ready in a split second  ;)

 :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

Lovely pics, Liza. The two tots in the first picture (twins?) in red skirts and white coats are just gorgeous.
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #26 on: July 22, 2013, 12:44:06 PM »
Thank you for pointing all this out. Very interesting. A couple of questions if you don't mind:

1) Do Indian Christians do anything particularly "Indian" (i.e. reminiscent of their cultural and religious context near Hinduism or otherwise distinct, etc.) in their praying before their home altar, even if a simple altar? An example to compare might be a hypothetical Japanese Christian ringing a bell and clapping before an altar like their non-Christian counterparts (btw I don't know if Japanese Christians actually carry this practice over).

There's no book where rubrics for such things are set down, everyone basically does their own thing.  But I have seen people decorating icons or photos of relatives with garlands of jasmines or other flowers and the use of traditional "Hindu" oil lamps, of the stationary or hanging kind.  Some of these are "generic", but there are some that are surmounted with a cross.  We use these in churches, but people have them in their homes as well.  In church they're always lit, but in homes I haven't seen people keep them lit except maybe when praying or on some "auspicious" occasion, like a house blessing or other family event.  I keep an oil lamp burning before my icons whenever I'm home and awake, but most people probably use them less. 

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2) What do the pious ones' altars look like? It seems Google translate into Hindi + image search fails me.

Are you asking about Christians or Hindus? 

If Hindus, just put "puja room" into regular old white bread Google and hit search: there will be a link for images.  If Christian, I've had a tough time trying to locate them.  Most of the pious Christians will have a cross, a couple of candles, an icon or two (usually Christ and the Virgin, but it's not uncommon to find some of the popular saints as well), a Bible(s), a prayerbook(s), blessed palms, perhaps some photos of (grand)parents or other deceased family.  How these are organised is completely up to them, though usually the cross is flanked by the two candles the way you'd see in church. 

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Interestingly, it seems the "normal" folks across the board in many places have a very simple altar that's usually a couple icons, photos, a Bible, etc. on a shelf or desk. Even many "normal" EO seem to have these sorts of simple icon corners rather than the elaborate wall-spanning ones we sometimes see. Some of the Japanese Catholic home altars I found through Google were very simple like this.

Yeah, I think you're right.  I always presume that the people with icon walls have so many up because they really like icons or just have so many and don't know what to do with them.  Personally, I prefer having something simpler, but still have a lot of icons "in storage" that come out on a rotating basis until I can give them away.   
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #27 on: July 22, 2013, 02:06:29 PM »
Interestingly, it seems the "normal" folks across the board in many places have a very simple altar that's usually a couple icons, photos, a Bible, etc. on a shelf or desk. Even many "normal" EO seem to have these sorts of simple icon corners rather than the elaborate wall-spanning ones we sometimes see. Some of the Japanese Catholic home altars I found through Google were very simple like this.

Yeah, I think you're right.  I always presume that the people with icon walls have so many up because they really like icons or just have so many and don't know what to do with them.  Personally, I prefer having something simpler, but still have a lot of icons "in storage" that come out on a rotating basis until I can give them away.

I've only been in two homes with icon walls - one belonged to a priest and the other to an artist. Most Greek icon corners will fit on a small shelf; usually they have just one or two 'good' handpainted or silver-plated icons and perhaps a couple smaller, printed ones. Growing up, we only had a silver-and-gilt Panagia.

If I could find one of those icons that are painted on the inner side of a piece of tree bark, leaving the outside intact, I'd put nothing else with it.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 02:06:55 PM by Arachne »
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #28 on: July 22, 2013, 02:20:54 PM »
If I could find one of those icons that are painted on the inner side of a piece of tree bark, leaving the outside intact, I'd put nothing else with it.

There are such things?  I'd love to see that. 

The gift shops in the monasteries of Elder Ephraim over here seem to like icons on rocks, crystals, etc.  They're interesting in a nice way.  Is that, and the tree bark, a fairly common Greek thing? 
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #29 on: July 22, 2013, 02:27:33 PM »
Is that, and the tree bark, a fairly common Greek thing? 

You see them very often. Not in churches, but in homes, offices, etc.

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #30 on: July 22, 2013, 02:31:37 PM »
If I could find one of those icons that are painted on the inner side of a piece of tree bark, leaving the outside intact, I'd put nothing else with it.

There are such things?  I'd love to see that. 

The gift shops in the monasteries of Elder Ephraim over here seem to like icons on rocks, crystals, etc.  They're interesting in a nice way.  Is that, and the tree bark, a fairly common Greek thing?

Small silver icons fixed on slabs of glass, porcelain or glazed terracotta, or geode slices (an ingenious way to fill the hole in the centre) are common in gift shops, especially on the islands. The tree bark ones don't seem as common, though. I suppose it takes a lot of skill to paint on a small concave surface without distortion. There was a jeweller, of all places, in my area in Athens that used to carry them, but the shop has been gone for years and I haven't been able to locate them elsewhere. Can't even find pics on Google to give you lot an idea of the sheer awesome they were. :-\
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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #31 on: July 23, 2013, 07:32:00 PM »
I'm most familiar with Tibetan house altars, and they do bear a resemblance to icon corners; the bigger ones are quite similar to an iconostasis.

Some photos from Flickr of a variety of authentic Tibetan མཆོད་ཤོམས་ (chöshom, altars):



This is a very simple altar: just some photographs of famous lamas and a few prints of favorite bodhisattvas. The main photo is the 10th (previous) Panchen Lama. He worked with the PRC, but is still immensely respected by Tibetans, so his image is one of the safest ways to express Tibetan nationalism in places where photos of the Dalai Lama are forbidden. Directly underneath him are 2 postcards of Jowo Je, the main Buddha statue in the Jokhang in Lhasa, the oldest and holiest shrine in Tibet. This is another safe nationalist symbol. (Of course these two also inspire fervent, genuine religious devotion, but I wanted to point out the political subtext)

For worship, there's simple brass water offering bowls, an incense burner, and electric Christmas lights. Also note two rosaries (trenga) and some butter lamps ready to be lit on the little side table.



A fancier altar. Mass-produced statues of red Amitayus, Guru Rinpoche, and green Tara. Normally a statue or picture of Guru Rinpoche in the central position means the shrine is in a household belonging to a Nyingma lineage, but in this case the lama in the photo underneath him wears a Sakya hat, and indeed Sakya has its own lineage going back to Guru Rinpoche. In any case it's is a very ecumenical shrine: there are also pictures of Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lamas.  Also 2 identical postcards featuring a grand slam of "safe" nationalist symbols: 1) the 10th Panchen Lama, 2) Jowo Je 3) the current PRC-approved Karmapa, all hovering above 4) the Potala Palace.

The two doors on the sides house sacred books. The top panels are decorated with the 7 auspicious symbols, and the bottom panels with the white conch-shell and wheel of dharma. These both represent the Buddha's teaching, probably the closest equivalent to the cross in Christianity, but they take up a less important position on the altar than a cross would.





Even bigger altar, but still relatively modest, as it only has prints, not bronze statues, and painted rather than carved decoration. From l to r, the Buddha and his 2 main disciples, Je Rinpoche (founder of the Dalai Lama's lineage) and his 2 main disciples, 4 armed Avalokiteshvara, Red Amitayus, Vairocana. Note the Renminbi bills wedged between the glass. Quite unusual for a home altar - people usually only offer money in public temples.

And of course the omnipresent posters of the Panchen Lama, Jowo Je, and the Potala Palace, with Avalokiteshvara floating above it underneath a rainbow. Any Tibetan will recognize this as a reference to the Dalai Lama, who is the living embodiment of Avalokiteshvara. Incidentally, the posters of the Panchen Lama and Jowo Je, as well as the altar itself, are all draped with silk scarves (khatag), just like Orthodox icons.

Underneath the poster of the Panchen Lama is a large traditional book (really just loose folios wrapped in cloth, with two wooden blocks as covers). This is "the Mother", the Perfection of Wisdom sutra in 100,000 verses. This is another common symbol for the teachings as a whole. Ideally, every altar should have representations of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas. A wheel of dharma or a copy of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra represents Dharma and the Buddha's speech.





An ornate shrine, although nowhere near the most lavish I've seen. For many Tibetans, the house altar is by far the most expensive thing they own (other than real estate). These are hand-modelled and gilded bronze statues. The central figure is Je Rinpoche, flanked by his two main disciples. This is therefore clearly a home belonging to the Gelugpa (the Dalai Lama's) lineage, which he founded.

To the left, a large framed poster of the Buddha and his 2 chief disciples, and on the right once again Jowo Je. Directly in front of Je Rinpoche is a dharma wheel flanked by two deer, a reference to the deer park near Varansi where the Buddha first "turned the wheel of dharma" (i.e. began preaching). This time the wheel is positioned more centrally, like a Christian cross would be.

The dark wooden box on the floor is a typical Tibetan incense burner.

Also note the electric butterlamps. This person could clearly afford to burn real butter, but probably decided to go electric because butter smoke tends to leave soot everywhere.



Every altar has at least one set of offering bowls. These represent the gifts used to welcome honored guests in ancient India: water to wash the face/rinse the mouth, water to wash the feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume, food, and music. In all the above pictures, people have just put water in each bowl and visualized the appropriate gift, but if someone wants to put in the time and effort, it's considered more meritorious to offer the real thing in the right bowl, as in this picture.

Hopefully this gives a good idea of the variety of Tibetan altars, and a bit of their symbolism.

 

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Re: Icon Corners and other Religions' Home Shrines
« Reply #32 on: July 25, 2013, 01:50:42 AM »
^ asanga, thank you very much for the informative post!