This post is the beginning of a series (two per month) on Pagan and polytheist internet practices. I plan to cover the pros and cons of blogging and social media and their effects on religious practices and communities. I hope to go into depth on the positive, constructive uses of these tools, as well as how they are helping a new generation of Pagans and polytheist navigate their religious landscape. Whether you like it or not, the internet is a vital part of being alive (at least in the US) for many people.
E-shrines are websites, blogs, or accounts on social media sites that act as a way to give honor to a god. The most common form of this (that I’ve seen) is posting of pictures and poetry for the gods or spirits the shrine is for. Some shrines also focus on ideas for devotional practices, and a few post weekly or daily ideas. They can be incredibly helpful resources.
Ideally, an e-shrine should be ‘drama free’. This is because it needs to be treated as a sacred space (shrine, remember?). However, one person’s perception of drama may be different from another’s. Simply discussing problematic behavior within a community (especially as it relates to a god or spirit the shrine is for, or issues that god cares about) can be seen as drama-mongering, when often such discussions are critical, necessary, and educational. For the purposes of this blog, drama means lying, slander, rumor-mongering, and personal attacks. We can attack problematic behavior without attacking people. Complaining about someone you hate is likely better saved for private discussions, not in a space that is supposed to be sacred.
And most e-shrines I have seen do great with this. Even shrines that are ‘just pictures’ can give insight to the spirits they are for. I am biased, but this shrine to one of my spirits and gods (created by a friend) is remarkably on point and portrays both the aesthetic of the spirit, his humor, and his symbols (though it is not educational, quite). I visit Aedicula Antinoi regularly, and it is a great resource and constantly stirs my thoughts.
E-shrines can be a useful way for someone to explore devotion to a god or spirit. What symbols call to them, what prayers, what images fill their mind with thoughts of the spirit? And then, once the shrine is created and running, there is a place where one can go and remember, “Oh, yeah, that symbol is connected to this god!” right when you need it.
That said, an e-shrine isn’t the only thing you should be doing (in my opinion). It can be incredibly useful if you don’t have a physical space or need to have a physical shrine, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing work and devotion in other ways. That could be writing privately, exercising, performing rituals, honoring holy days, praying, learning constantly, or even improving yourself in a way that god or spirit urges. (He Who Fell is a shrine to a spirit associated with relationships and creating change in our relationships, striving for the best in us and our partners, and very much a love deity, so evaluating our relationships, keeping them up or letting them go if necessary is part of the work that god oversees.)
We must remember the internet is a tool (though some people worship or work with the internet as a spirit itself too!). As a polytheist, I never want to become consumed with just one god or spirit. There are many that I must give honor and love to. Hundreds, in fact! That also means that the internet is one tool among many for honoring and interacting with the gods and spirits. It also has the effect of shifting our mind and way of thinking, which can be utilized to great effect if we attempt it. (Unfortunately, due to the internet-heavy nature of our culture, it may be difficult to utilize this resource unless we cut ourselves entirely off – which is very, very useful, in my experience.)
E-shrines are one of the great things to come from internet Paganism and polytheism. Whether they are a blend between the personal and religious or strictly for one god with little outside commentary, they can help us by reminding us of the gods and establishing a space online for that god to dwell. I want to utilize all resources to honor my gods and spirits, and the net is no exception. When they are educational, they can be wonderfully helpful to new devotees or seekers.
No matter if you’re a big name or not, we are all capable of honoring our gods and spirits and giving them devotion. It is easy to set up a blog or Twitter account or such, and through such means we can give a new type of voice to the gods.
Here is a good list of various e-shrines around Tumblr.
[My computer is up and running again! That means more consistent posts again. Sorry for the delay.]