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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Altared Spaces

Enrique Ugalde goes down on one knee and scoops up a precious necklace. It was given to him after he studied with a Huichol peyote shaman from Mexico — not an easy guest list to get on. Ugalde leans in and places it on the top level of his three-tiered altar.

A few minutes before, the altar was an old computer desk he found at the Goodwill bins for $10. First he covered the desk with a cloth he had lying around. Then he added a few glass-cased devotional candles and hid one of his surround-sound speakers underneath it. Sage smoke rises into the folds of the white parachute that covers his ceiling, and he gets to work.

Altars come in many forms: think of Abraham’s butcher’s block in the Old Testament, or the altar as bookshelf in modern synagogues and as kitchen table in Roman Catholic churches. Shrines to the dead sometimes resemble altars, while the “glory wall” —a collection of photos of the owner posing with celebrities or politicians — is a common way for people in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to express their power.

But if anything captures the uncommon spiritual practices of Portlanders it’s the home altar. Full Story

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