How to Create a Wiccan Shrine

The idea of the Wiccan shrine/ altar is to give yourself a real, physical connection to your spirituality and beliefs. Something you can reach out and touch, see, hear, taste and even smell. A Wiccan altar should appeal to your senses, be something you enjoy and give you a feeling of being connected to the Earth, nature, any deities you choose, and life itself.

A Wiccan shrine is commonly known as an altar. The origin of the word shrine was ‘a case for holy papers’. The Wiccan altar we create isn’t usually a case containing papers. It’s more likely a Wiccan, Witch or Pagan would keep any papers and notes in their Book of Shadows. Probably a good idea to keep your papers away from your altar in case of mess from the elements: fire, water, air and earth. None of those are especially good for paper, even air will turn it yellow over time.

One important thing to consider when you create an altar is that you are going public with it. Unless you live a hermit-like existence, someone is going to see your altar at some point in time. If you are secretive (and there are all kinds of reasons for keeping your beliefs a secret) you will want to keep your altar inconspicuous. This isn’t hard to do, with a little imagination and ingenuity. No, you don’t have to hide it in a drawer or closet. Just use common every day things which are typically in most homes but place them together. You will be the only one who knows this is your Wiccan altar.

A Base for your Altar

Your altar can be a collection of things but find a way to group them or collect them together. There are traditional ways like drawing a circle around them, using a pentacle, etc. But, there’s no reason you can’t get creative.

Place everything on a tray – like a vintage wooden tray or something made of an old metal like tin. Watch for something in thrift shops and antique stores.

Embroider (or draw using permanent marker) a pentacle on a handkerchief and use it under everything, as a liner. The bonus about using something made of fabric is how easy it is to wash it and reuse it.

If you can, build a terrarium which can include so many elements and generate oxygen too. Put the terrarium in a safe place with the altar cloth under it. No doubt you can think up other great ideas which can create an altar, incorporating some or all of the elements, the centrepiece and a base.

The Centrepiece for your Altar

Yes, there should be a centrepiece. This is something personal to you which connects you to the altar on a real level. Place it in the centre of the other objects. When you do add the objects for each element to your altar find the right directions to place them in north, west, south and east.

If you include deities in your Wiccan beliefs you might choose something which gives you a connection to your deity as the centre of your altar.

Add the Elements to your Altar

These are just possibilities for your altar. Each person should find a way to bring each element to your altar in a way that has real, personal meaning to themselves. The idea of the altar is to give yourself a real, physical connection to your spirituality and beliefs. You just can’t do that if you copy ideas from someone else just because you read it in a book. Take these ideas and use them in your own individual way. (If an idea really suits you – do it!)

Fire

  • candles (make sure they won’t tip over -short and squat candles are a good plan)
  • matches (unlit) because they bring the possibility of fire without the smell or danger.
  • steel tools – they’ve been through a lot of fire
  • a little bit of ash from a fire
  • cinnamon sticks or hot peppers

Air

  • a paper fan, decorate it yourself
  • a fancy (clear glass) jar with ‘nothing’ in it
  • a bell because sound is carried on the air
  • leaves which have been blown from trees
  • a balloon, inflated or deflated

Water

  • a tiny container of water.
  • a fish – a living goldfish or a wooden toy fish
  • a snowglobe – any time of year
  • a shell picked up from a beach
  • an umbrella or rain hat

Earth

  • a tiny sample of dirt from outside your own home.
  • fresh fruit – eat it then add fresh fruit again
  • a growing plant – it can even be seasonal, like a poinsettia at Christmas time.
  • garden tools, like a small trowel or garden gloves
  • a rock or pebble you found somewhere outdoors

Bless Your Altar

Once you have pulled everything together for your altar give it a first time use with a blessing – like a statement of purpose.

Sprinkle salt over everything (go easy on any living things, like plants) then speak aloud your blessing. The blessing can be something you wrote yourself or something you found from an outside source. (Even something you have re-written or paraphrased for your personal use). The blessing is your way of making this altar something different, something important to you, outside of the everyday stuff which may be upon it.

The salt is only there to purify or refresh the altar. It’s traditional and a good idea for the first time you use the altar, but not so essential that you can’t skip it if you have to. Remember, the real purpose of the altar is to connect you to the beliefs you hold. The keyword there being you. Anything you read it a book is just a guideline. Anything you actually choose to do should be for and about you and your feelings, beliefs, ideals.

Now that you Have your Altar…

Now that you have your altar what do you do with it?

Keep it refreshed, tidy and don’t let it get dusty. (Unless you really want to add dust bunnies as an element to your altar).

Use your altar in your rituals, create a ritual for your altar or use your altar as part of your rituals.

If you keep and/ or use Wiccan tools like an athame, wand, chalice, pentacle you wear, and so on you can keep them on or near your Wiccan altar. It’s practical in it’s way – you will know where everything is. Also, it keeps everything in tune, balanced and they can lend and store energy from each other. Your altar is such a personal thing it will imprint something of yourself and your spirituality on the things you keep on or near it.

Bless your altar and use it as a focus for your beliefs, your spirituality and a focal point as you learn more about Wiccan and Paganism. As you learn and grow and develop your beliefs you will change how you feel and think about various aspects of Wicca. Your altar is like a grounded place which you can come back to no matter how far and wide you explore and discover.

 

Other Ideas and Methods for Creating an Altar

Who is the Goddess?

I fixed the formatting but the capitalization is not mine. Some things are well meant but not well written in the practical sense. I found this on Facebook and wanted to keep it around for myself. I think the Crone should be about more than death and endings though, too much focus on that and not enough on wisdom and experience.

And the Child asked the Maiden: Who is the #goddess?

The Maiden turned and replied: the Goddess is Pure. She is the first burst of Life. She is untouched by Man. She is One who finds Joy in everything. She is a Sister. She is a Child. She is One who is Servant to None for She has no Consort and no Child. She is the Huntress. She is Innocence. She is Growth.

But the Child was unsatisfied. And the Child asked the Mother: Who is the Goddess?

The Mother turned and replied: The Goddess is She who nurtures us. She keeps us safe. She guides us. She is the One to whom we can turn. She is the mother with the child at the breast. She is the pregnant woman. She is the One who has the earth as her body, the full moon as her symbol. She is the One on whom we depend for life. She sustains us. She is Life.

Still the child was unsatisfied. And the Child asked the Crone: Who is the Goddess?

The Crone turned and replied: She is Death and Rebirth. She is the Wisdom Collected over many Lives. She is All that has Happened. She is All that will Happen. She is One who has come to the end of the Cycle. She is Feared by the Young. She is the welcome Aid to those in Pain, to those who suffer. She is the One to whom All turn when They no longer wish for the Life She has given Them. She is Destruction in preparation for the New.

Still the Child was unsatisfied. The Child looked around but there was no one else to ask. Finally the Child shouted: GODDESS! GODDESS, WHO ARE YOU?

The Goddess replied: I am the maiden. I am the mother. I am the Crone. I am Diana. I am Isis. I am Kali. I am Birth. I am Life. I am Death. I am Creation. I Sustain. I am the Destroyer. I am one Goddess. I am Thousands of Separate Goddesses. I am in Everything. I am Everywhere. I am Eternal. I am in Everyone. I am whoever You want me to be. I am in You.

And the Child was satisfied.

Where the Wild Things Are: The Limits of Labels

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, June, 22, 2004.

A label is very limiting. When you label yourself a Wiccan, a Witch or even the more roomy Pagan, you are limiting yourself to certain acceptable/ acknowledged areas of belief.

I have never liked this aspect of being a Witch, Pagan, etc. There are times when I think I’m tired of being what others see as a Witch. I never quite fit in and my beliefs are definitely subject to change without notice.

But, there is no great alternative. When someone asks if you are Pagan or when you want to tell someone about your beliefs what do you say? It’s much easier to give them the known than to go into great and exacting detail about the unknown and all various details.

So, each time we call ourselves Wiccan, we limit ourselves. People take each other at face value too easily. They want to categorize everyone all neat and tidy. Perhaps it’s an organization fetish. But I think it’s something else, more selfish and primitive. When you can categorize someone you feel safe, think you know where they stand and what to expect from them.

Anyway, to myself I don’t call myself Pagan. But for others I allow them to go on believing I am. The drawback to that is that each time I say I’m Pagan I am reinforcing the idea that I actually am Pagan for myself as well as those around me. What you say will come true, one way or another. Words spoken can not be unspoken. Much like ghosts. I feel ghosts are remnants of emotions and words past. Lingering in the atmosphere, unable to dissipate once they have been created.

– Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

— Buddha