Personal shrines are the backbone of a devotional practice. They are a physical manifestation of the relationship between the Power and the person, and as such serve as a site for honoring, contemplation, meditation, petitioning, and connection.
Not that you can’t do all of these things perfectly well without a shrine, of course. A shrine just helps everything along! Personally I find that just being able to see the shrine makes me more inclined to Do the Work. They’re reminders, and that’s one reason my shrines now stay in my living room instead of being tucked into a closet somewhere.
Why do we need reminders?
Just as a relationship requires regular maintenance, so too does a shrine. But it goes beyond that. Devotion is something you practice. Honoring is a verb. In the day-to-day rush it’s sometimes easy to forget shrine tending, or tell yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Too much of that leaves you without a shrine at all, just a dusty collection of stuff on a shelf.
Now how often you use your shrine depends on your relationship. *shrug* I have friends I talk to every day, and friends I talk to once every couple of months, and some that I can go a year before contacting. Some get a quick IM and others get hours on the phone and still others get week-long visits. Interactions with the Powers are no different, and the frequency and intensity of shrine usage will depend largely on the individual relationships involved.
That being said, if you’re not doing it frequently or intensely enough for Them, They will certainly let you know!
So how do I build one?
Short answer? However you like.
Better answer? There’s a lot of freedom, but within that freedom there do tend to be some commonalities. Most (but not all) start with some sort of visual representation of the Power to be honored and a candle. After that people add offering dishes, incense (another type of offering), pretty décor, items that somehow connect with Them, etc. They can range from fairly utilitarian spaces to lushly ornate ones. There is no “this is how you do it” guide, are no hard-and-fast rules. Since shrines reflect personal relationships, they’re as unique as T/those involved. No two are exactly alike!
What are some options, then?
FIguring out what to do can be pretty overwhelming, especially if shrines aren’t something you’re overly familiar with. So I contacted some people and got some examples. Below are shrines I received permission to share, used by people from a variety of traditions and honoring a variety of Powers. Hopefully these can help jump-start you if you don’t know where to begin, and inspire you if you want to freshen up shrines you already have. Because yes, shrines are not static. So don’t be scared to jump in and get to it – you can always change it around later!
A Collective Shrine Space
This happens to be my shrine space. Apologies for the blur!
The pictures at the top – photographs from Winter Wind Photography – represent the Three Realms of Celtic cosmology. The picture on the left represents the Land, the one on the right represents the Sea, and the picture in the center represents the Sky. Each picture has a shelf underneath, holding offering dishes and a candle. The shelf under Sea also contains rocks from Wales, where some of my Ancestors are from.
The middle of the setup is the working surface. There’s a crystal ball and a crystal skull flanking the central flower vase, representing the concept of cycles. The red powder in the glass jar is loose incense (amber resin), while the carved grey soapstone is my beloved incense burner. The black box on the left contains some specialized offering supplies, while the figure on the right holds my prayer beads in her hands and my ritual necklace in her lap. If I need any additional space for anything, including a full magickal altar, I either rearrange this shelf to free up the space or do the more space-intensive stuff elsewhere.
The cubbies underneath are all shrines and storage. On the top row I have storage for candleholders, my Lady Arianrhod’s shrine, my small need-based “working altar” space (for things like prayer requests), and candle storage.
The second and third rows are shrine spaces. At minimum each one has a picture representing the honored Power, offering dishes, and a candle. This time next year they will look very different, but this is now.
The bottom row is all storage, containing “working altar” supplies, incenses, altar cloths, etc.
A Shrine for the Morrigan
The man who uses this shrine credits the Morrigan with saving him and guiding him through the darkest times of his life. For him the shrine serves as a thank-you, a reminder to BE thankful, and a place to ask for further guidance.
The raven sitting on top of the tree branch was purchased at a local-to-him Pagan shop, where he felt called to purchase it. The “chalice” is temporary, used every dark moon or so for liquid offerings when he provides Her a “champion’s plate” of red meat, potatoes, etc.
A Shrine for Eleggua
In the words of the gentleman who sent this to me:
This is my shrine for Eleggua, the Orisha of the crossroads, opening doors, and liminality.
His shrine contains His keys, coins and money that is either found out on the world or given to Him in offering or thanks, some small personal gifts and objects that I have given Him, and a lithograph of St. Anthony of Padua with the Christ child. While Eleggua is represented with a few different saints, St. Anthony with baby Jesus resonates because, to me, I see it as showing our relationship. I particularly like this image because St. Anthony is carrying Christ while he walks down a road, which speaks to the nature of Eleggua as both the master of the road and as always moving.
On Mondays, I give Eleggua a shot of rum, some fresh water, and I light His candle and spend some time with Him. I try to give Him something else as an offering when I can, and when I took this photo, I had given Him a cup of Cuban-style coffee, which He enjoys.
Eleggua is traditionally kept on the floor and near an entrance, which is where He lives in my house.
A Shrine to Blodeuwedd
This is Anne’s shrine to Blodeuwedd – yes, the same Anne who shared her prayer beads!
There is a picture to represent the goddess, a rose-scented candle in a flower-shaped holder, and a cute owl. The cup is full of chamomile flower tea, with 2 sugar cubes and a stirring spoon on the saucer. Also offered are a few spoons of honey in the cupcake liner and a chocolate.
A Northern Tradition Shrine
Úlfdís of Ironwood Witch shared her shrine space with me (her working altar will be in a later post).
First, the overall setup:
The painting over everything is one Úlfdís did herself, and depicts the Nine Worlds of Norse cosmology arranged around the World Tree. The shelf below the painting serves as a collective shrine space for all the Powers she honors.
On the left we have a shrine for Freya and Frey. Freya is in the picture to the far left, while Frey is in the the smaller picture to the front. Both have candles. The boar tusk bottle opener in front of Freya’s picture has a story – it belonged to Úlfdís’s ex-husband, but kept winding up on the floor in front of Freya’s shrine. So why fight it?
Odin and Frigga are in the center of the shelf. In front of Frigga’s picture are a key to Úlfdís’s house and twelve blue stones representing Her twelve handmaidens. Both Odin and Frigga have a candle as well.
The far right of the shelf is for Loki, Sigyn, Narvi and Vali. Loki’s candle is visible on the left, and you can see sparklers and a bowl of candy as offerings.
A Shrine to Lakshmi and Ganesha
This shrine has an interesting story behind it. The creator is an eclectic practitioner who had never really considered working with Hindu-specific Powers until she began sponsoring a child in Nepal. As she began research she “fell into the Hindu deity void for a bit”, and felt called to establish a shrine for Lakshmi and Ganesha as two Powers relevant to her life right now.
It’s still a work in progress, with some additions and changes slated for the next few weeks, but this is the current honoring/meditation space.
And that’s all of them!
Hopefully you enjoyed seeing these shrines as much as I did. Next up are working altars!
*Note: Have a magickal altar, special occasion shrine/altar, or travel shrine/altar you’d like to share? Feel free to send me a pic or 5 along with a brief description for inclusion in the next post!