This is part of the Pagan Experience prompts. If you are interested in a blogging project, I recommend it!
Every third week the prompt for the Pagan Experience will focus on gods, spirits, and other entities that influence us. I’ve decided to take this time to focus on the many spirits in the Otherfaith. This week will focus on Althea Altair.
Althea Altair is the daughter of Adilene and the Firebird, created when the Laetha tries to devour Adilene. She is torn from her mother’s womb as a fully grown adult (similar to her own child Alynah Blake) and from that point on serves her father as his right hand. She is classified as a Younger Spirit, a type of spirit that challenges the expectations or assumptions made by other actors in the myths and otherworld. Althea is an excellent example of this, and she can confront us on our own biases. She does this not with nonsense or with riddles but with cold stares and sharp words.
Althea Altair serves as an initiator for those seeking deeper devotion to the Laetha. She initiates spirits and Other People into the initiatory order of Nix. Like her order, she represents negation and restraint. This also plays into her spiritual power – unlike her mother or her daughter, she is not as spiritually powerful. She is more of a supportive spirit. This doesn’t mean that she is easy to push around, however. She is still the child of a god and almost-divine spirit.
House: House Hark
Order: Nix (initiator for)
I first saw Althea Altair in a vision during my early journeys into the West. She appeared at a suspiciously stereotypical faery dance, wearing regal white clothes and inviting me to dance. I saw her later on during my journeys and eventually learned more of her as I initiated into Nix in pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Laetha.
She is born from Adilene and the Laetha, technically the Laetha Firebird. However, she serves all of the Laethas, with more or less obedience. Her sister Lilibell is born at the same time and falls to earth, carrying the heart that Althea lacks due to being the child of the Firebird. Lilibell eventually rescues/seduces Althea away from her duties, which she was originally firmly bound to (never leaving the Laetha’s house). This eventually results in her being turned into a unicorn, shifting her form so she isn’t bound to her father as she originally was, and gives her unicorn imagery. This is passed on to her daughter Alynah Blake.
Althea is cold. She has little kind words to share, at least up front. She exemplifies Nix ideals – restraint in her outward expressions and behavior. This doesn’t mean she’s not dangerous. Just because she is restrained doesn’t mean she doesn’t have boundaries or emotions. She might have been born without a heart, but she isn’t lacking in the wild feelings we associate with that part of our body.
Because she is so strict in her behavior, she expects a certain level of formality when others approach her. It is good to approach Althea out of utmost respect. She is a spirit that doesn’t care how you really feel, she cares how you act. Approach her while outwardly sulking is a bad idea. She holds others to the same standards she holds herself. Maybe too high, but it’s what she expects.
The most obvious of Althea’s themes are right action and formality. These all tie into her lessons on the importance of ritual and ceremony. Althea reminds us that talking to the gods conversationally is not the only part of religion – there is also the practice. There is formality and respect.
There is, in a word, piety. Which isn’t to say we don’t question the gods. If Althea bowed her head to what the gods willed she would not be the spirit she is. She may serve the Laetha, but she also questions them. She doesn’t always agree with the Laetha. This is very important, lest we trick ourselves into thinking that her devotion is about absolute faith and subservience.
(I think that leaving our perception and contemplations of her as a subservient spirit also plays into gross sexist gender roles. This is something we should always be wary of.)
We also shouldn’t take her to mean that only formality is appropriate. She butts heads with the gods and other spirits – she is a Younger Spirit. She won’t sweep in and tut tut at us. She does remind us that we may need to straighten our backs and bite our tongues, though.
One of Althea’s less obvious themes is that of personhood. This is one that will become very clear to spirit workers in the Otherfaith. Althea does not appreciate being treated like an object to be pushed around on your board of spirit work. Her restraint goes right out the window when she feels she is not being respected as an entity with her own life and goals. You can’t snap your fingers and make her appear. She will gladly hammer this lesson into spirit workers who do not understand it or think themselves much larger than they truly are.
What does having a spirit such as this in our religion mean? What does she teach us, and how do we live in right relationship with her outside devotional activities?
The ethical teachings we are offered are, simply:
But we have to beware approaching these on just their face.
Like the Laetha, Althea is all about utility. Reading the information concerning this on the Laetha’s page will help in understand this. Althea does not tell us to calculate out the numbers in a cold way, but to arrive at maximum pleasure with least amount of pain. This does not mean we should torture some people so others never have to experience pain, but that pain has to be spread out so that there is more balance of pleasure.
The consequences we face with contracts also becomes very clear with Althea. She is the initiator of the Laetha’s initiatory order. Once you initiate into one of the god’s orders, that is that – it’s done, you’re tied to the god, you’re cut off from other initiatory options in the faith. (As far as I know.) Once you sign yourself over to the Laetha, she’s going to come for you and start initiating you into that god’s stories – all the joys, pains, lessons, and nonsense.
- The star Altair
- Right action
- Cherry blossoms
- Gold bowls
- Sidereal compass
- Bowl Bearer
- Disaster Maker
- Fiery Steed
- Heart Holder
- Red Unicorn
- Red Woman
- Wolf Tamer
- Alynah Blake
- White Mare
Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.