Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

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Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

Post by runewulf » Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:31 pm

Was cruising around the web and came across this article on witchvox Article and it made me think back and I don't think we've covered this topic here at the library in a direct way over the years. The article does have some good points, I would say "take a look and have a read for yourselves".

That said, she basically goes over a question that a lot of people ask, especially newbies... what makes an altar and altar and a shrine a shrine? Simple answer, if it's holding the tools and being used in ritual work, it's an altar, if it's being used for simple devotion, to enhance/create sacred space and/or is setup for long term, not just ritual/magick work, it's a shrine.

We should all know what an altar is. It's a table of some sort that we lay out tools on, say knife, pentacle, censer, chalice and whatever else, cast a circle around and use as a center or cornerstone in magick and/or ritual. But what is a shrine? A shrine is a table that we lay out magickal, spirital and/or personally/area signifigant items, maybe stones and flowers, statues, acorns, shells, leaves, branches, etc. We use this as many things, here are a few:
  • Something to make us stop and reflect when we see it
  • Something to focus on when we meditate
  • A center to create or enhance sacred space
  • A focus for changing the energy in an area
These are some of the uses for shrines. I feel, personally, we should all have at least a small shrine, maybe only a statue or other symbol we relate to (a interesting stone, chalice, mortar, etc) and candle or two. Something we might use in active meditations, but really something to make us stop and take a second to remember who and what we are/choose to be, by being pagans and/or magickal people. We should try to recall this and think on it regularly. Take a few moments to think about if we're living by our ideals in that current day and if not, to actively put forth the effort to do so.

Well, that's my two cents for the moment. What are all of your thoughts?

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Re: Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

Post by Mahala » Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:45 pm

That was one of the most confusing things I read when going through books... Eventually I figured the basics out.

Any ideas on limited-space shrines? I've set up an altar before for meditation because I have to keep everything mobile. (A 3' board supported by my bed frame on one end and a bow on the other with two candles and a glass goblet of water.) A small shrine that can easily be looked-over by those who aren't looking specifically for it. If my parents happened to see it, they'd make a big deal out of it... But I'd like something to center my room a bit.

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Re: Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

Post by Kystar » Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:04 pm

A decorative shelf was my first "shrine" when I was learning my path. I had a few items on it that looked like random knick-knacks and bric-a-brac unless you knew me.

I had it over my desk...where I wrote.

My shelf had something that represented my past, something that represented my future, something that represented those forces I saw as guardians...and something that represented me as a person. I also kept my incense burner there, a candle, and a lighter I snagged from my mom's cigarettes. The candle was a jar candle...decorative enough not to earn questions, but still a flame I could meditate to.

As I don't do "rituals" per say, I never got an altar, though the closest I got was a glass shelf (Part of a bookcase) with my tools sort of scattered about it artfully. That was later in life, though.
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Re: Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

Post by runewulf » Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:41 pm

Mahala wrote:Any ideas on limited-space shrines?
Like Kystar said, a single shelf has often done duty as a shrine, with some statues or stones or sometimes just my moral and pestle, along with some small candles. I've also used one of those small "corner tables" to set out something similar. I've even been known to put a small tray on a dresser holding a couple of candles, a small picture of freyja and odhin, or brighid and lugh ( depending on the time of year and my mood ) along with a few leaves or a branch, and used those as shrines. A shrine can be as elaborate or simple as you can imagine. The important thing is that it resonates to you on spiritual level. I've seen everything from the most simple to the extremely complex. The one thing I've noticed/experienced from the good ones has been an "energy" pattern to them that is balanced and "charged". This tells me they resonate to the creators of the shrines, and when possible, then energy of the place itself.

Any small space will do, as long as you'll see it, recognize it and put some time into recognizing/meditating/acknowledging it as a shrine. Remember that if you use organic components, i.e. leaves, flowers, branches, etc... you keep them up to date/tend them/etc. and that you keep a spiritual mindset when you do.


P.S. you can also tie wards or environmental workings to shrines quite easily. Think of the modern fascination with Fung Shui, lol.

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Rune
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Re: Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

Post by Kitsune » Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:06 pm

I have a shrine set up in my house. I have a few pictures up somewhere on this site. I have most of my precious stones on it, as well as my incense and my oil burner.

Personally, I love my shrine and it will be one of the first things set up in the new house. Wonderfully enough, it's going to be in my Office/Writing Room.

Personally, I don't have an alter... I don't actually use them in ritual. The closest I get to using tools during ritual is Candles, and those simply get set up in front of us, and then, only if we're inside for the ritual.
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Re: Is it an altar or a shrine? --- article

Post by runewulf » Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:30 pm

I understand that Kitsune... I have been practicing both Norse and Chaos magicks long enough that I don't tend towards formal altars often either... I feel that what connects you is what's most important... and a circle can be cast using only your aura and internal focus as well, and oft times better, for many than a ritual circle... Like so many things, it depend on the individual... Formal circles were important to me a very long time ago... now they are just one of those things that can sometimes make me comfortable ( depending on who's casting it ) and sometimes I find a waste... once one learns to form a circle from their aura, the rest is stagecraft for the subconscious and not needed at that point.

That said, there's a point and purpose for most everything and like so much in health spirituality and magick, it's what resonates and woks for the individual which is important.

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Rune
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