Nazar Boncuks on my stoop, a Mezuzah on my door frame, prayer flags outside... help me represent all faiths!
February 24, 2010 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Help me decorate a multi-faith home!

I'm in the process of moving into my new (and first!!) apartment. It's mine, all mine. It's been quite exciting. One thing in particular that I want to do is to add various items and ornaments from different faiths. (I'm Jewish, but I kind of add on stuff from other religions). I live in Turkey, so the nazar boncuks (blue "evil eye") at the door step, and around the house are a given. I'm getting a mezuzah from my rabbi to post outside the door, I have a few framed bible verses to hang up, and my friend is bringing me back Tibetan prayer flags for my balcony.

What are some other religious/spiritual ways to decorate my house? Preferably not anything like "Painting all your ceilings neon green will ward away bad spirits" (that's a little too overwhelming, and hard to accomplish), but simple little charms, placement of objects, anointing oils, etc. would be best. I'm not too keen on hanging up large crucifixes, though, to be honest.

Anything from any religion/sect would be great. The more obscure the better! Though, because I live in Istanbul, certain "worship" objects might be a little hard to obtain. And to anyone who thinks I take other religion's sacred objects lightly, don't worry. I'm only going to use what I can find my own personal significance in.

Thanks in advance!!
posted by hasna to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're not keen on the crucifix—it is, when you get down to it, an emblem of sacred torture and violence—you could consider icons, pictures or statues of the Madonna and child. Many, many non-Protestant Christian homes have them, especially if they have children. My own (Catholic) parents have two.

It's one of the most reproduced images in all of Western and Eastern European art, and I understand Mary is venerated in Islam, so you shouldn't have any trouble at all choosing from a selection of ones you like, even in Istanbul.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2010

Perhaps your friend could also bring you a butter lamp and a thangka from Tibet.
posted by desjardins at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2010

I know the "negative energy" aspect of this can seem a little woo woo, but whenever I move into a new place, I do a sage smudging. Smells good and it's a calming little ritual. Similarly putting up a small altar in your new place where you can deposit some of these specific trinkets may give you a way to focus the things you collect.
posted by jessamyn at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could add a feng shui mirror or Bagua to your front door to ward away bad spirits. In fact, many of the items for good feng shui are nice to have around an apartment: plants, running water, etc. Pick up a book on feng shui while you're at it.
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:50 PM on February 24, 2010

I grew up Catholic--here are some items I remember seeing in people's homes:

Art (paintings, very small statues, medals) portraying the Sacred Heart
Art portraying various events in the life of Jesus, such as the Immaculate Conception and the Crucifixion
Art portraying the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as the Immaculate Heart, Our Lady of Guadalupe or Lourdes or Fatima or Perpetual Help etc
Art portraying specific saints: St. Francis of Assisi and St. Patrick are popular, as is St. Anthony of Padua, the patron of lost items
Crucifixes (usually a few inches tall rather than large)
Rosary beads
Small bottles or fonts of holy water
Nativity scenes (usually just at Christmas)
Last but not least, a framed photo of the current and/or prior Popes; if you're Irish Catholic, these will hang next to your picture of President Kennedy ;-)

FYI: I trust your sincerity, and I'm not religious so I don't care how you decorate, but some people are sensitive about worship items used as decoration rather than for worship. The Catholic Church says:
Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.
posted by sallybrown at 2:59 PM on February 24, 2010

Last but not least, a framed photo of the current and/or prior Popes
That's not a bad idea, sallybrown, especially since photographs like those would not be in themselves sacred.

In the spirit of what you're doing, hasna, may I suggest John XXIII or Paul VI, who convened the Second Vatican Council (AKA Vatican II), which produced Nostra Aatate, the Church's statement of ecumenism and teaching about other faiths?
The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2010

I nth the suggestion to get statues or pictures of Mary. I always thought Greek Orthodox icons are cool too.

Just something to think about however...I know that Istanbul is much more irreligious than the rest of Turkey, but large swaths of the population are still Muslim. And even as a non-Muslim, I would be really confused when I come over to your house and see images and objects from lots of different faiths. You should have a good explanation handy for why you have so much stuff from different religions, and why those are important to you. Decorating your apartment with items from religions that you have no intention of worshiping but are used for decoration only is bound to offend some people.
posted by pecknpah at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2010

In addition to sage smudging (mentioned above) I also put salt in the corners.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2010

It's not a crucifix technically, but a common Irish thing is a St. Brigid's Cross above the door. Folklore states a couple things:

* It's called "St. Brigid's Cross" because St. Brigid was trying to explain the story of the crucifixion to some Irish peasants and needed some kind of visual aid, so she real quick took some straw and weaved it into the cross shape to show them what she was talking about.

* It protects homes from fires.

I personally kind of dig on St. Brigid because she's one of those "it most likely was a case where a pre-Christian deity got 'converted' to sainthood," and because the early stories about St. Brigid make her sound like kind of a proto-feminist bad-ass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2010

Sacred Heart iconography is very big in Mexican folk art. Several people I know - none of them either Mexican or Catholic - collect and display painted tin ornaments and other decorative items on the theme. Not sure how likely you are to find any in Istanbul.
posted by expialidocious at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2010

Lord Ganesha/Ganesh (spelling varies) from the Hindu faith is known as the remover of all obstacles. His name is usually taken before beginning anything new.

I am not sure where you could get this in Istanbul, but if there are any Indian's there, then a Indian store would be an appropriate location. Of course you can also purchase a statue online.
Size wise, I would get something 2 inches tall and an Inch wide. People sometimes also place this above the front door to the house to bless the house.
(amazon has statues too).
posted by VickyR at 7:06 PM on February 24, 2010

My Mom bought me an inverted star ornament from a Mormon gift shop. They use it in some of their older architecture, and the masons use it too. I think it's awesome; if you are "in the know" you can get into the history of it and really have fun with satan worshippers. ;-) (Star of Bethlehem)
posted by circular at 8:45 PM on February 24, 2010

Almost every Baha'i home will have a nine-pointed star or a calligraphic rendering of Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá ('Oh Thou the Glory of the Most Glorious') or The Greatest Name ('Baha' which translates as 'glory' or 'splendour').

There is also the ring symbol, which is most often found on jewelery. I had a fondness for its representation when I was growing up (and still a practicing Baha'i).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:48 PM on February 24, 2010

Ooh, seconding Ganesha. That's a good one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on February 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you so much to everyone for your ideas! I'm really excited about implementing some of them in my home. Teşekkurler! :)
posted by hasna at 3:17 AM on March 25, 2010

« Older Could anyone beat a chimp in a fight?   |   Page numbers in Word 2007. AAARRRGGG!!!! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.