I’ve had an altar or shrine of some kind in every home I’ve lived in since I was 13. I love creating and tending them, and find it fulfilling to customize them for every new space I’m in.
This has been an interesting year, though, since I’ve been traveling. Each stay of longer than a month has required an established shrine, and each new space has presented new challenges and opportunities for me to create a shrine that fits the environment.
Let’s see how I did. (Useful links to my supplies are with the descriptions, but feel free to ask about anything I missed!)
Shrine #1: Ohio
In Ohio I had a TON of space for a shrine, and my shrine reflected that.
This picture was taken early in the process, before it was completed, so there are a pair of empty frames on the top I later filled. But even in this picture you can see my representations of Land, Sea, and Sky – the Tree on the bottom right for Land, the Ancestors on the bottom left for Sea, and the armillary sphere on the top center for Sky/Universal Order/my Lady.
It also had photos for honoring, offerings, incense, candles, crystals, cards, my tuning forks… there was a lot going on here!
It was big and impressive, but even with that it was still pretty space efficient. Yay levels! This is actually the second time I’ve used this setup and I’ve enjoyed it both times.
It’s remarkably cost-effective, too. The structure cost about $30 – I got the base entertainment center for free, and the smaller entertainment center on top came from Family Dollar or Dollar General (I forget which, but they’ve had the exact same model for years). The frames are all from the Dollar Tree, and the images in them were all printed at home. The cards on the wall were a gift, as were several of the other pieces. Most everything else was collected from various thrift stores over the years, although I did purchase my armillary sphere new from Amazon.
Eventually, though, my time in that space ended. Onwards!
Shrine #2: Boston
Ohio was one of my more elaborate shrine setups. Boston is perhaps THE most compact shrine I’ve ever had (that wasn’t a set of prayer beads, anyway!). It was built on top of a plastic drawer unit thingie designed to hold legal-sized paper.
Boston is when I started actively exploring the ADF, specifically Proto-Indo-European practices. I wanted to explore the Tree/Well concept in an incredibly limited space, so this is what I came up with.
The Tree was a wishing tree from a wedding, made from two flat pieces of wood that interconnected. It was placed on top of a cardboard riser made from a cut box that rested over a black soapstone “well”. For some reason I really felt the need for a vertical Well/Tree representation – still do, as a matter of fact – and this gave me that. (For a sense of scale the bowl is only 4″ in diameter and 2.5″ tall.)
The Tree had three tealights nestled in the “roots”, and a tiny incense burner sat in front for offerings. I used a piece of trimmed scrapbooking paper as a pretty cover for the whole.
In the front pencil tray of the unit I stored a baggie of ground amber incense for offerings and the tuning fork/striker I use instead of a bell. Excess supplies (like a lighter!) were stored in the drawers underneath.
Voila! Done. But I was only in Boston for the summer. Off to winter in the frozen north!
Shrine #3: Maine
I spent the winter in Maine, on the edge of the sea. By the time I got to Maine I was waist-deep in exploring Proto-Indo-European culture, and I felt drawn to a more lararium-style setup reminiscent of Rome. With some modern additions.
Space-wise I was able to use the top of a standing dresser. I covered the top with a gold-edged red scarf, and put a marble slab on top of that as a base. Then time to get creative!
The centerpiece here was a flag case I painted white, chosen to give me the distinct house-shape of many larariums.
It’s hard to see in this light, but I mounted a window cling of a four seasons Tree in the glass of the case. The Well sat in front of the case, with an incense burner in front of that. To the left was a jar containing xartos (a Proto-Indo-European offering described in Deep Ancestors), and the jar to the right held incense.
All the other dishes were used for offerings, and of course my tuning fork and striker had a place too.
I did want to incorporate a little of the modern in this one, so I added LEDs to the flag case. It worked out well, although if I were doing it again I’d choose a softer glow.
All excess supplies were stored in the first drawer of the dresser, with my clothes beneath that.
But, like all things, the Maine setup came to an end when my time there did. Time to ditch the snow and head south!
Shrine #4: Texas
I was raised in Texas, but it’s been awhile since I’ve called the Lone Star State home. I always think of family when I’m here, and that was the inspiration behind my current shrine.
There is some obvious similarity here between this setup and what I did in Boston.
The Tree has been updated to a lovely silver and crystal version I got from Gaelsong (yay clearance sales!). It was designed to be a family tree that held photos of relatives. I repurposed it. The frames of my tree showcase symbolic representations of the Three Realms as well as representations of the Nine Virtues celebrated by the ADF; I put them together on my computer. I see the Virtues as the seeds of the Tree and relationships with the Realms as the fruits, so this way I represent both. I also find it really useful to represent complex concepts with simple images, so figuring all that out was educational too.
The Tree rests on an acrylic riser over the Well, which is the same soapstone bowl I’ve used for that on the two previous shrines. An incense burner and a representation of Fire (crystal candle holder) sit in front of the Tree/Well, with the jars and offering dishes from my lararium setup serving the same purposes here.
Bonus: Kitchen Shrine!
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed exploring over the last year is a relationship with Wéstyā, the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the hearth. I make offerings to Her every time I use heat to cook a meal. Before I made those offerings on my main shrine. Now I make them right in the kitchen!
While She can be perfectly well represented by a flame alone – as Hestia was in Greece – I found a statue on a local resale site that I immediately knew would be perfect as a kitchen shrine.
It took a bit of work to get the statue ready for the job, though. The statue had seen better days. So I refreshed it a bit.
The supplies were all either bits I had in my stash already or picked up from Michael’s. The white was one bottle of Martha Stewart’s Multi-Surface Acrylic in the color “Wedding Cake”. The bowl was done with variegated copper and gold leafing and Modpodge; the latter was also used as a final coat to seal the paint. The pendant and necklace were made for me in Scotland but were way too small for me. It worked out to be ideal for this, though – so ideal that I wonder if this was the plan the whole while!
Flanking that statue are the cups and saucers I use to make offerings to Xáusōs and Négwntī, the Proto-Indo-European goddesses of Dawn and Dusk. I got the cup sets and the stands from Amazon.
I love having this setup in the kitchen. Wéstyā, in particular, feels so much more present this way, more a part of the rhythm of the house. Having Her so visible also works to remind everyone here to live a life of hospitable piety, which I thoroughly appreciate.
Shrine spaces are, among other things, physical representations of our relationships with the Powers. As our relationships with the physical world changes (like during a move), and/or our relationships with Them, so too should our shrines.