Creating a Shrine for Your Gods and Goddesses
Having a shrine as a focus for devotional work is an ancient Practice which can be traced to most of the civilisations of Antiquity.
Before we go any further, it is important to first make a Distinction between an 'altar' and 'shrine' as they are often Confused with each other:
The dictionary says:
Altar - a raised structure or place on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned in worship. It can also be an enclosed table on which items are consecrated, or which acts as the centre for worship.
Shrine - A place in which devotion is paid to a saint or a Deity; or a niche containing a religious image; or a place/object which is considered holy due to its associations.
In Pagan ritual the altar is set up for coven or solitary ceremonies and on it all the working tools necessary for the ritual will be kept, such as salt&water, candles, wands, athames etc. Tools are placed on the altar in a manner that they can easily be reached during ceremonies.
A shrine is quite different, but may seem to have some things in common. You may have a permanent shrine to a Deity you work with often, or you may create a shrine for a predetermined time period to be the focus for a devotional work, some people also create shrines to represent a particular season, planet or for their ancestors.
Shrines can be huge and complex, or they can be as simple as a small picture of a Deity with some flowers. Shrines can be made by groups or by individuals and are often personal to the people involved as there is no one right or wrong way!
When creating a shrine to a Goddess or God you want to honour you should first start by looking at what the purpose of the shrine will be. Will you be performing daily devotional work there, if not how often will you be using the shrine as a focus for devotion? What form will the devotional work take - examples include quiet meditation, singing, chanting or performing longer structured rituals. It is best that you consider this aspect first as it will help you when you need to decide what to place on the shrine and where to create it.
Next we need to consider the practical. How much space can you devote to the shrine? Where should you erect it? Will the space that you create it in be private enough? (If you are for instance going to be performing chanting and dancing the local park is probably not the best place!) Indoors or outdoors? Is there a particular direction associated with the Deity that you are creating the shrine for?
Once you have decided on a place for the shrine, you need to decide what you will use to place your objects of devotion on. This could be a small table, shelf or box, if you are working indoors, or you may find a flat rock or tree trunk that is suitable outdoors. You may want to cover a table or shelf with a cloth of a suitable color. The colour will be determined by the Deity you are creating the shrine for, so for instance you might choose green for Demeter, or Blue or Silver for the Stellar Goddess Nuit. Next you decide what to place on the shrine.
Whereas altars do not need to have statues of deities on them, shrines to Deities often contain a statue or image of the Deity. If you do not have a statue or picture of the Goddess or God that you are creating the shrine to, you may want to consider finding symbols associated with the Deity for your shrine. So for instance, if you were creating a shrine to Athena, you may want to place an image of an owl (one of her symbols) on the altar, or for Aphrodite a seashell. In Wicca, some people choose to use a pine cone or pieces of antler for the Horned God and flowers, a Hagstone or a seashell for the Goddess. Images of the Gods played an im portant role in antiquity, for instance, the Egyptians believed that the Deity would manifest in the statue when you invoked it.
The altar is usually placed in the North (The place of Mystery) or in some traditions in the East (The place of the Rising Sun and the place of New Beginnings and sometimes in the Center (The place of Spirit). However, when you are creating a shrine you may want to consider a direction that is associated with the Deity, for a solar God or Goddess it would be appropriate to have the altar face East, for a deity associated with water it might be appropriate to have the shrine facing West (direction of the element of Water) or for an Earth Goddess such as Gaia, you may have it facing North (direction of the Element of Earth).
Next you will want to decide what offerings you are going to make to the Goddess or God. Will this be some flowers? White lilies are often appropriate for Lunar deities, if the shrine is being created for a longer period of time you may even decide to grow some flowers in a pot, this can be an act of devotion in itself as you nurture the plant by watering it and ensuring it gets enough sunlight. A friend of mine grows potted sunflowers for her work with the Irish Solar God, Lugh.
Incense has also long been considered a sacred and appropriate offering, again doing some research on the Deity you are creating the shrine for, will help you discover ingredients for incense or other offerings that is sacred to the Goddess you are working with. Incense can also enhance work that you are doing at your shrine, such as meditations.
If you prefer you can burn essentials oils associated with the Deity on an oil burner instead. Burning candles is also highly appropriate, again it will help as a focus for your work and you can use a large candle that you relight every time you perform a working, or you can use smaller colored and even scented candles for shorter workings.
Once you have created your shrine, remember that it is a devotional focus for that Deity and that you should treat it as such. This means that you should keep it dust free(after all, you wouldn't want the Goddess of Love to be standing around in dust and incense ash for weeks would you? and also remember to keep flowers fresh!
In conclusion, when creating shrines to the Gods and Goddesses you work with, your imagination and creativity are the only limitations.
Learning as much as you can about the Deity before creating the shrine will help you find appropriate objects to create the shrine with and also help you to understand them better, which in turn will lead to better devotional workings. When developing a link with a Goddess or God, remember the old saying - "Enflame yourself with prayer and invoke often!"