Empty Altar Essays: The Empty Altar


At the top of a mountain stands a stone altar. To reach the altar you must climb a steep, narrow, and winding path. The path is covered in pebbles and riddled with holes. On one side is a rock wall, slick and high. On the other side is a sheer drop. The climb is terrifying.

The path is full of mothers. Mothers slipping on the stones and tripping in the holes, mothers helping each other up and other mothers pushing through the crowd. Each one carries a sacrifice - a piece of self to lay upon the altar.

“Here are my hopes and dreams”, one mother whispers as she unwinds her hair from her scalp. She lays it upon the altar and begs, “Now that I have given up my hopes and dreams, am I a good mother?”

There is no answer.

Mothers step up offering their limbs, their breasts, their stomachs, their hopes, their joys, their sexuality, their needs. They offer sacrifice after sacrifice and hear only silence.

Another mother steps up, opens her chest and lays her beating heart on the altar. “Here is my truest, deepest self. I relinquish it. Now am I a good mother?” There is only silence as there has always been. The mother sags at the base of the altar, unable to move on without her heart, stuck in this sacrificial pose as other mothers step around her and lay their own offerings down and send their own prayers up.

They believe the silence is proof that they have not given enough, or that they have not given correctly.

They never notice that there is no one behind the altar.

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