I spent the weekend building a home shrine. All this time and I’ve never really had one, at least not intentionally. There are plenty of sacred spaces in the house, don’t get me wrong. I have special tabletops and shelves that tend to accumulate meaningful objects, and I have a working altar in my bedroom. Our coven’s altar is erected fresh every time we have circle. I also maintain an altar to Freya, so it’s not that I’m necessarily lacking in sacred space.
But I wanted something that actually does something for the household, even when I’m not actively working magic or in worship. I want to come home from work, light the hearth (so to speak), and know that good things are coming our way. This season is all about beginnings, growth, and setting down new roots and I’ve been looking to rebuild my personal practice. My coven, Foxfire, is self-sufficient enough now that everyone has their own projects and curiosities to pursue without me or my working partner having to step in nearly as frequently. Part of it is that I’ve also relaxed a bit. When you’re first starting a group—at least, if you’re a type A person like me, and especially if it’s a traditional group—it’s easy to feel like you have to control every little thing or else something’s going to blow up in your face. I don’t feel that way anymore.
One of the first steps to building a solitary practice, according to many practitioners and introductory books, is to construct an altar or shrine at home. You may collect elemental symbols, deity representations, or other objects sacred to your personal tradition. It becomes a focal point, and eventually just spending time their can trigger the mental shift required for magic.
It’s a lot of fun going through this process all over again as an old hand, and way more challenging than I thought it would be. The thing is, I didn’t want a lot of holdover from my previously stagnant practice. At some point, clutter just stops being meaningful. The altar I’d had wasn’t flowing the way it should be, and some of the things I’d been carrying around for decades just didn’t carry much meaning anymore beyond the nostalgia.
So I cleared and cleaned the table I wanted to use, which sits in the main room of our covenstead. I dug out a piece of green cloth, one that’s been in my fabric stash for years but I’ve never used for anything. I knew I wanted lots of green and gold, because I was stuck on the idea that part of the home shrine’s job would be to foster wealth, health, and happiness. I made a brand new pillar candle out of palm wax, dyed in layers of green and yellow. I also wanted to use a candle that one of my initiates had given me for Yule, because it reminds me of our relationship, which is one of the most important to me. A censer for incense, too, because that’s an important magical trigger for me. I also added a print of a fox from Wolfsisters Creations, which I picked up at PantheaCon. Fox is our coven symbol, but also a significant personal symbol, and he needed to be part of any home shrine a might build.
I hesitated before adding deity statues. On the one hand, this is a Wiccan household, and the gods of the Wica are central to my personal practice. On the other hand, no statue adequately expresses this, and mine in particular have been carted around for so long that they definitely don’t match up with things in my head, years later. I’ve included them for now, because they do make me feel at home. That may change. I also added one of the altar-sized prints from Laura Tempest Zakroff, made from a recycled hunk of very pointy wood. This image hits me viscerally in a way that the statues don’t.
In the middle, surrounded by the candles, I set a piece of tourmalinated quartz. I’ve actually never used crystals or stones in my magical practice, but I’ve always collected and loved them. Crystals always felt a little too New Agey, so this is very much an experiment. My friend Ari said something to me in February about imagining the tourmaline in the quartz functioning as little roads jutting out in all directions and carrying the energy of the spell along with it. I really dug that image, especially for prosperity and money magic. So if using crystals makes me New Agey, then I guess I’m New Agey. I find that I’m caring less and less about labels these days, anyway.
This morning I lit the candles for the first time, set a fresh bouquet of flowers, and otherwise said hello to the spirits of this household. Things already feel fresher and more open, so I’m really looking forward to maintaining this space over time. I’ve set out an offering bowl, which I intend to keep full of clean water and whatever treats I wrangle as the months pass.
Do you keep a home shrine? Is it separate from your working altar the way mine is? How has it impacted your Craft practice?