Wicca Basics: Creating a Shrine
What Is a Shrine?
A small shrine (which is different than an altar) gives you a place to go daily to focus on your relationship with your deities, to show devotion, to pray and meditate. It does not have to be big, or fancy, or cluttered with lots of tools and decorations. It can be quite simple—in fact, simple is often better because it eliminates chaotic clutter, distractions and dust catchers. Once in a while though, you may wish to build up your shrine and make it grand for a special occasion.
Creating a shrine is surely a personal endeavor, and no two shrines will be the same. Let’s look at the overall principles, so you can figure out the approach you want to take.
My Hecate Shrine
Find a Place
The first step to creating your shrine is finding the perfect place. For a small, permanent shrine, look for a place where:
- You have easy access to visit when you please.
- You can have privacy.
- You can get comfortable for meditations and such.
- You don't have to worry about prying eyes or people who might touch/disrespect your shrine.
- It is clean, calm, quiet and pleasant.
You can really have a shrine in any room—you might worship a Goddess like Hestia or Brigit and keep a small shrine near the stove; perhaps a trivet with a red candle and small bowl for offerings, and you can go to it when you cook. You might put a shrine out in the garden or a wild spot in your yard if you prefer to worship outdoors. If you like to give thanks before eating, you might find a little shelf for one in the dining room.
If it’s a shrine for a special occasion, the criteria is:
- Someplace conveniently close to the heart of the celebration.
- Someplace prominent.
- Someplace with enough room to go all out decorating.
For me, this is done when there is some kind of holy day or festival, such as when honoring a specific deity for a specific occasion, such as a shrine to Lugh on Lughnasadh.
Examples of Shrines From Various Religions and CulturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
What to Put on It
None of the following suggestions are mandatory, but things to consider:
Representations of Deities/Objects of Worship: a statue, a candle (pillars are best for this purpose) or a picture. Put it in a frame, and if you like you can decorate the frame.
Not all shrines are built to deities—some are built to household spirits, guardians, spirit animals, Elements, Elemental beings, or even to ancestors. That’s fine, too—just pick something to represent them on the shrine.
Sacred Symbols/Objects: if you worship Artemis, you may put an arrowhead, a statue of a dog, and a crescent moon plaque out. For Brigit you might include a Brigid’s cross, a figurine of a well and an “eternal flame” lamp (an electric candle-flame looking lamp, about nightlight size, that you can leave on). It’s all about honoring and making your deity (or the object of your worship) feel like an honored guest.
Items to Enhance Spiritual Experience: candles are very common. If you can’t burn candles, consider getting electric candles, low wattage lamps, or hang string lights above your shrine for atmospheric lighting.
Scent is a powerful part of spiritual experiences so you may wish to include a censer. If burning incense isn’t possible, consider an oil burner, an electric oil warmer, potpourri crock pot.
Music can also be mood enhancing—though I don’t like to put a CD player on the shrine, I keep one nearby with meditation CDs on hand. You might also put an Mp3 player nearby or a music box.
Receptacles for Offerings: a cup, bowl, basket, vase (if you plan to bring fresh flowers), or any combination thereof. At a small permanent shrine offerings will probably be small; for a big shrine at an occasion, you may need space for many more offerings.
Decorations: Of course you want your shrine to be attractive, so you might want to put a nice altar cloth out, some pretty crystals or seasonal décor.
My Family's Samhain Shrine to the AncestorsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Putting It All Together
For a daily shrine, you don’t need to overdo it. In fact the clutter can be a dust trap and have a chaotic feel to it that can defeat the purpose of the shrine. It should be a place of peace, not a place that is over-stimulating and visually confusing. So of all these items, choose only what you feel are necessary to enhance your experience. A good rule of thumb is: when in doubt—leave it out. If you really have to think about it, you don’t need it. You might even start with just one thing—your deity representation—and then just add other things you feel you need as you go along.
For a celebratory shrine on a special occasion, usually the opposite applies—you want to make it grand, you want to do it up in a big way. Think of it as throwing a party, and your deities (or perhaps some other spirits, or even your ancestors) are the guests of honor. This is a great way to have a very festive and meaningful celebration; it’s what separates an ordinary day from a holy day.
It might surprise you as to just how enriching an experience it can be to go to your shrine once per day—perhaps when you first wake up, or on your way to bed at night—even if it’s only for three minutes to say a prayer and contemplate your deity. If you’ve been longing to deepen your connection to your Gods, or to make them a bigger part of your daily life, you may want to try it.