The Naturalist’s Altar

An altar of nature's specimens

I befriended an entomologist in Oregon who studies bees (and whose name coincidentally means honey bee) and we performed a naturalist’s trade – Pacific Northwest bee specimens and a beautiful alder borer beetle for specimens of feather, bone, wood, and resins from my collection. I am utterly and completely in love with my bees from the golden-coloured honey bees and fat fuzzy bumble bee queens to the tiny metallic blue and green bees. Now to find a wooden display case for them to truly honour them and keep them safe.

PNW honey and bumble bees Metallic bees Banded Alder Borer beetle A large queen

I have an altar of horn and bone and I felt the draw to create another altar to honour Nature’s trees, plants, and insects – a naturalist’s altar. On an altar cloth of a vintage beaver pelt (complete with face, toes, and tail) I placed my bowl of necromantic honey comb from Nikiah’s hives, my new collection of local bees, the phallic root ball of a hemlock tree I found on my mountain by a sacred spring, a cicada carving gifted me by a former student, water and a holed stone from the Chalice Well, and specimens of deer vertebrae, yew, poplar, lichen, stone, and crow egg shells with a tiny silver cauldron for burnt offerings and a toad standing guard.

Honey comb and crow egg shells

The naturalist's altar The naturalist's living room

The egg shells I found last week under the trees of the park by my house. February is a sexy time of year for nature in the Pacific Northwest rainforest with the phallic catkins appearing on the trees bursting with pollen, flowers and leaves budding, and new growth sprouting from moist dark earth.  The crows have been busy too, finding lovers and making little crowlings.

With the first stirrings of spring I feel like a veil has been lifted. I spent the past weekend finishing unpacking and organizing my new home. I created an office space and a crafting space so I can get more done. Now back I go to my woodcarving and the flying ointments brewing in their oils…

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • hynafol says:

    I love the hyde you used~!

  • muninnskiss says:

    Gorgeous, and very interesting. The lore in myth and legend about bees world wide is very rich and varied.

    ~Muninn’s Kiss

  • James Wilson says:

    Beautiful Altar! I think Bees are the absolute Saints of Nature.

  • rox says:

    I love this post Sarah !
    Lol are you sure you are not a homeschooler ? I am just about to write a post on natural history & nature study ! I remember making a pin board with our ds Indigo when he was 5yo he used insects found in the garden but he did not know them all so he made up names for them and when my sister came over it appeared so professional she thought he was speaking of true insects lol he must’ve been good she is an anthropologist 😉
    my sil just sent me a link on how to raise bees from the wild ! I am so interested in being able to suplly myself with wax .
    we are having snow the next few days so not sure how long before we get the return of the crow . I’m trying to stay positive and going over the calendar with ds11 when we can start seeds .
    the photos are so earthy ♥

  • Hi! I found your post through the FuckYeahAltars tumblr, and I think it’s just gorgeous! I especially love it because I only just moved out to the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of this month from Pennsylvania, and I’m really excited to get to know a whole new ecosystem in my new home!

    Also, I was wondering if you’d be willing to let me republish this post on the Pagan Newswire Collective’s nature blog, No Unsacred Place ( I’d love to be able to feature this kind of creative use of altar space to reflect the local bioregion. You’d get full attribution, with an author’s bio and a link back to your site. If you’d be interest, please drop my an email at:

    nature [at]

    Or, if you have any other essays or images you want to share, you can check out our submission guidelines here:

    Thanks again for the awesome post!

  • Helena says:

    Beautyfull! In Finnish folklore bees are called the cattle/stock/herd (sorry for my rusty english) of the Earth Mother ,seen as sacred also here. Here we have to wait for spring for another two months! But the sun has finally started shining on the high drifts of snow in the last three days, makes my head spin – and the crows go crazy!

  • Granthrax says:

    I do love Bumble Bees – I have only ever seen one myself in the wild, but it was too cute for words. They look like they shouldn’t really exist, like they are something that a kid dreamed up.

    It’s so funny to read about you heading into spring while here in Australia we are finally, FINALLY, getting the cooler weather that signals the descent into Autumn. I’m so happy – I have twice as much energy and I am so positive and hopeful at the moment.


  • Marilyn says:

    Cool beans! (or rather bees!)
    I especially love those metallic green bees as they live here in Michigan too and are always busy in the hosta and cosmos flowers. They also, along with hummingbirds, have a tendency to show up often in my sacred spots as well as a wilder corner of the yard chosen by the genii loci.
    Lovely post as always!

  • laureleiblack says:

    Oh, I’m doing my own happy little bee girl dance! Our little homestead is adding bees this year, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve always loved them, since childhood. What a beautiful altar!!

  • theredlass says:

    Your themed alters have really made me do a double take on mine. I’ve been feeling lately that there is a bunch of stuff on there that maybe isn’t as vital to me as a healer as it is the the wiccan vein into which I first came. I need to do some research and really think about how to better align the alter with what I do and the path I’ve chosen. Not to mention I need more workspace and to me a healer with a workspace driven alter just makes practical sense.

  • Worsanos says:

    What a beautiful altar! You’re always so creative! I’ve never really thought about insect specimens as being spiritual in any way, but they were living beings, so it certainly makes sense.

  • Harold Roth says:

    I was feeling a little disappointed that we have not had a full-bore winter here, but now that the buds are getting fat on the trees, I too feel like a veil has been lifted. Part of my work this weekend will be starting seeds.

  • greycatsidhe says:

    Beautiful altar, Sarah! The Nature Spirits are so important to my path, that I also have a growing altar to them. I really like how you refer to it as a “naturalist’s altar.” It’s an accurate description.