Shrines

Over the years I’ve had a lot of questions about the differences between altars and shrines. I have also been asked about how to create a shrine.

An altar is a working space for doing ritual and magic.

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Working altar

A shrine is static space devoted to a particular deity or purpose.

In my home I have one altar and I have many shrines.

Caring and feeding shrines takes devotion and effort. I wouldn’t recommend setting up a shrine and then ignoring it.

When I set up a shrine I constantly leave offerings, stop for prayer and meditation, and I am constantly “building” on it. Whenever I find something that I think is appropriate for the shrine, I rearrange and add to what is already there.

Shrines are a satisfying way of doing daily devotion and are good reminders for daily practice.

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A public shrine set up outside of local restaurant, Yuki.

Shrines can be anywhere, but many people have a hard time making a space or feel that they don’t have a “good” space for a shrine. Ive had a lot of students complain about having shrines on top of their dressers or bookshelves. They feel like the spaces aren’t respectful enough and the space itself is inconvenient, or that it’s too obvious when those who may not know about their spirituality are present. Also, in such daily space, things can get knocked over or touched more easily.

So I decided to get crafty for Yule this year. I made several close friends shrines for their personal practices.

I bought wooden crates from Michaels and painted, glued and cobbled together small shrines that can be hung on the wall or sat on a flat surface. They weren’t very big, about 10×11 or 16×8. I also bought small journals, votive candle holders and small glass plates to put inside each one. For one I added a small iron cauldron. For one person, I also found a necklace created by another seller on Etsy that was created for the goddess she works with.

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You know you’re a witch when…

I personalized each one for the person it was meant for, and made sure there was still plenty of space for the shrine to “grow.”. They were fun to do and were not hard to create. I felt like I was able to put a lot of thought, creativity and love into each one.

My craft skills are fairly basic and so I thought this might be helpful for the people who have asked me about shrines over the years. If you don’t have a good space for a shrine, this was a pretty straightforward way to make one that can easily be hung up away from daily life. I used glass, metal and mosaic glue (which cost me $7 from Michaels as well) for the heavy duty gluing. They all turned out to be incredibly sturdy, so they should last usual wear and tear really well.

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If you’re interested in one, let me know! I’m happy to make more. 🙂

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Enter Freely and of Your Own Will

This is from a column I wrote for The Pagan Household on June 3rd, 2013 and is a follow up to my last post:

 

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about magical etiquette. I thought I would expand on that topic a bit more and talk about what to do when you invite guests to your rituals.

When you invite someone to a ritual, don’t assume that they know or understand anything about what you’re doing, because, well…they probably don’t. Even if this person has been in the Pagan community for years, that does not mean that they will be familiar with the sort of ritual that you’re doing.

Make sure to give them some background about your group or tradition and explain what you’ll be doing in ritual. It can be confusing going to a new ritual; giving a guest some basic background information can help them understand your ritual a little better and allow them to ask appropriate questions. It also lets them know what they should be doing during ritual.

Explain your altar and the tools on it. Tell the guest a bit about why they’re there, what you will be doing with them and how the guest should act around them. Don’t want your guest to touch things? Tell them that, and explain why. You don’t have to give away secrets, you don’t have to go into a three hour lecture, you can just say hey…this is my athame, I’ll be using it to direct energy, please don’t touch it.

Make sure to explain any stances that you might be doing within ritual and let them know whether you expect them to follow along or not. I always explain what we will be doing at different points in ritual, why we do it and let the guest know that they can do the stance or feel free to just stand politely throughout. Not everyone’s comfort level is up to following along. It can also help to explain why you’re using a particular stance. In my rituals, we do a stance when we are calling quarters. It’s not only a stance that’s respectful, it’s also one that helps you ground the energy that we work with.  Clarifying things like this helps people be more comfortable with what they are doing.

And most importantly, explain what will be happening in ritual. Let them know what the point of the ritual is, what you will be doing at certain points and all the things that will be used in ritual. My significant other went to a ritual where they drank wine in the ritual. Sounds pretty standard right? It wasn’t until later that he found out that there was semen and menstrual blood in the wine. If you’re doing something like this, tell your guests, they have a right to know and the right to make a choice about whether or not to partake or to participate. If you’re going to be upset if someone does not want to partake or participate, then this is a ritual where you probably should not invite guests.

In this scenario, warning your guests about the possibility of death would be appropriate.

In this scenario, warning your guests about the possibility of death would be appropriate.

Make sure to take a minute or two here or there to see if your guest has any questions. This doesn’t have to take away from your ritual, there are always moments in ritual when you can pause and check on your guest. If there really isn’t a spot to pause, make sure to check in after ritual is over and make sure your guest understood everything that you did.

Rituals with guests should also not be long, drawn out affairs. People have a short attention span and when you’re a guest you aren’t usually expecting to end up participating in a five hour ritual. Would you want to be involved in a five hour ritual if you weren’t familiar with the people involved or a ritual that you weren’t familiar with? One of the worst rituals I ever went to as a guest ended up being a five hour ritual. Keep it short.

Having feast after ritual? Make sure to inquire into your guests dietary needs. If the person has a dietary need that you can’t meet, let them know that they should bring something that they can eat. Don’t wait until the meal itself to realize that you don’t have anything other than celery stalks for someone who is vegan.

There’s this idea in the Pagan community that you have to have perfect love and perfect trust for everyone in your ritual. (I see this a lot at public Pagan events). This comes from the line in the Wiccan Rede, which most Neo-Pagans misquote. The line is “Bide ye Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust”. This has nothing to do with loving and trusting everyone perfectly in a Circle; this is about the laws of the Wicca and really doesn’t have anything to do with non-Wiccan circles. This is a fallacy that is dangerous. If you have a guest, treat them like a guest. This is obviously someone you trust to a certain extent, since you’ve invited them to a religious ritual. This might even be a longtime friend that you do love and trust. Most of the time though, this is not the case. This is someone that you just met and they expressed interest in what you’re doing, or it’s a friend of a friend. Don’t hand someone your house keys just because you’re inviting them to your ritual. The gods are not asking us to be stupid.

Having a guest to ritual can be both fun and educational. It can help people understand a very important part of your life, or help them in being able to be a part of something different than what they usually do. But keep in mind that this is a guest and don’t expect them to understand everything. Think about how you would feel if you were going to a strange ritual and treat a guest accordingly. It’s easy enough to have a bad experience just because you don’t understand what’s going on around you. Sometimes the little explanations make the most difference.