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Wicca Basics: Creating a Shrine

Updated on August 31, 2016
WiccanSage profile image

A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

What is a Shrine?

A small shrine 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.

What's the difference between an altar and a shrine? Read about it here.

My Hecate Shrine

My portable Hecate shrine-- it's in a wooden cigar box so I can put it away or tote it along whenever I want.
My portable Hecate shrine-- it's in a wooden cigar box so I can put it away or tote it along whenever I want.

Shrine Examples of Various Religions and Cultures

A Chinese shrine to the ancestors.
A Chinese shrine to the ancestors. | Source
Hindu household shrine in India.
Hindu household shrine in India. | Source
Eastern Orthodox Christian home shrine.
Eastern Orthodox Christian home shrine. | Source
Home shrine to Egyptian deities.
Home shrine to Egyptian deities. | Source
Shrine to Santisima Muerte of Mexico, a Pagan death Goddess/Catholic Saint synchretic deity.
Shrine to Santisima Muerte of Mexico, a Pagan death Goddess/Catholic Saint synchretic deity. | Source
Household shrine to Odin.
Household shrine to Odin. | Source
Shrine to the Virgin.
Shrine to the Virgin. | Source

Find a Place

The first step to creating your shrine is finding the perfect place. For a permanent small shrine, this place must meet certain criteria:

  • Someplace you have easy access to visit when you please
  • Someplace you can have privacy
  • Someplace you can get comfortable for meditations and such
  • Someplace out of the way of prying eyes or people who might touch/disrespect your shrine
  • Someplace 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.

What to Put On It

None of the following suggestions are mandatory, but things to consider:

Representations of deities/object 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 Ancestors

We set up in our dining room from mid-Oct to early Nov. All who come over for Samhain are welcome to add their own photos/objects/names of their dead.
We set up in our dining room from mid-Oct to early Nov. All who come over for Samhain are welcome to add their own photos/objects/names of their dead. | Source
Dia De Los Muertos Shrine outside a mission in San Francisco
Dia De Los Muertos Shrine outside a mission in San Francisco | Source
An ancestor shrine in Japan.
An ancestor shrine in Japan. | Source

Beautiful Horned God Satue

Seated Goddess Statue Stone Finish
Seated Goddess Statue Stone Finish

Seated on his thrown, what a great representation of the Horned One for a shrine.

 

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 3 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.

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    • karthikkash profile image

      Karthik Kashyap 3 years ago from India

      Thanks for putting this up. For Hindus in fact, an altar is always present in a shrine as well as a temple. Of course, in most houses, we either have a separate room, which is a shrine. If we don't have much space, we just create a small altar (a small shelf in the kitchen) and make the same altar as shrine. Of course, the biggest shrines for us are the temples.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      That's interesting! I've seen some beautiful Hindu household shrines in doing research. It seems much more common to set aside an entire room than you will find in Western religions, which usually just have a corner or a furniture top set aside for a shrine or altar. Some Wiccans keep up permanent altars that double as a shrine, but some are unable to because it's impractical (space-wise, or because of living arrangements). For the latter, it's always nice to have a little shrine stashed somewhere. Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      MysticMoonlight 3 years ago

      Wonderful Hub and great insight and advice. I really enjoyed the pictures of the different shrines, love seeing how other people honor and celebrate that which is important to them.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Vicki L Hodges 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I must admit I don't know much about Wiccan. Your article is very informative, and the shrines are quite beautiful.

    • WiccanSage profile image
      Author

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks MysticMoonlight, I appreciate your comment. I do love to look at shrines as well, I had a lot of fun searching for those images.

    • WiccanSage profile image
      Author

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you Victoria Lynn, I appreciate the comment! Wicca is a minority religion, so most people don't know much about it. But like a variety of religions, shrines are quite useful in our practice.

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