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

What’s a Grimoire?

The Book of Shadows (BOS, for short) are the notes Pagans/ Witches/ Wiccans have made along their journey of life and learning.

A Grimoire is a book of magic, spells and techniques.

People don’t always know there is a difference. It’s a pretty slight difference. The Book of Shadows would be less scientific and contain personal thoughts. However, both would have the facts and information about techniques for magic and spells.

Being a Solitary Witch (or Wiccan)

Black Hat Society

The solitary Witch, Wiccan or Pagan is alone by choice. There are many reasons for making this choice to be a Witch or Wiccan on your own. There are also lots of ways solitary Witches can share notes, talk and get new ideas from other Witches, when they want to.

Solitary Witches tend to be eclectic, they have their own vision and ideals for the path they follow. They don’t fit in with a standard coven based faith and beliefs. This is one reason they choose to strike out on their own and do things as they feel right to themselves rather than the larger group.

Some solitary Witches also like the privacy of keeping their spirituality personal. Once you start keeping a journal of your beliefs, your ideas, your thoughts and experiences, you may find yourself not wanting to share all of it. Some of our thoughts are too personal. If you share your Book of Shadows you begin to edit it while you write, instead of just writing from your heart knowing everything you write is just for your eyes only.

Of course, some solitary Witches just don’t like joining groups and prefer working alone.

How to be a Solitary Witch

Explore other paths, beliefs and ideas. I’ve read about Sea Witches, Garden Witches, Christian Witches, Druids, and so many others. I continue to read, research and explore. Look at other cultures and other religions too. Don’t close your mind; you might miss something great while you’re so sure you’re right.

Enjoy and appreciate nature, wildlife, wildflowers, gardens, trees and think green. Wicca is a religion about nature and Witches celebrate nature and the natural world. Find your love for it and celebrate what we have.

Keep a journal (Book of Shadows). Write about your discoveries, explorations and research. Most of all, write about your feelings, everything you’re thinking about – both positive and negative. Don’t be intimidated and think you aren’t ready for a real Book of Shadows. Any journal you keep is a Book of Shadows – there isn’t a rule that says you have to write about Witchcraft and Wicca alone or in any certain way.

Build an altar. It can be very private, small and personal or you can go forth and build something right on your front lawn. A garden is a great place to have an altar, an easy place to bring the four elements into. Earth, water, air and fire are routine in a garden, at various times. You can create an indoor alter and have it right on your desk or kitchen counter if that is your best space. Some feathers for air, some rocks for earth, salt for water and a candle to light for fire – that’s all you need for a start. Add personal touches as you grow into it.

Begin paying attention to the Wiccan/ Witch holidays and events. Honour them in your own way. Read more about what each of them means and their history. Pick a favourite, one that has extra meaning to you and make a real event out of it.

Become more aware of the Wiccan Reade, the three-fold law and the concept of harms none.They are all connected, saying the same basic idea in different ways. The idea is simple on the surface. As you consider it from more aspects it begins to get complicated. For instance, is it harmful to work against the free will of another, even if you are helping them? (This is why I don’t get into any spells. It’s a personal choice).

Don’t Set Yourself in Stone

Being a solitary Witch gives you endless options to explore. While coven Witches have to maintain a set of core beliefs to be part of the group, a solitary Witch can always be learning and trying new ideas, looking into fresh concepts and reinventing his/ her path. As a solitary Witch you can always do what feels right to you, without getting the approval from anyone else.

This does not mean there are no guidelines at all.

Being a solitary Witch does not mean you are free to reinterpret the Wiccan Reade. Harm none is pretty clear.

Don’t Buy Like a Witch Tourist

Don’t fall into the idea that you have to buy books, jewellery, tools, special clothes or anything else.

Look for what you want and often enough you will find it, at no cost or very minimal cost.

You can find Pagan books at thrift stores, second-hand book stores and the library. You an also find a lot of information online. Contact the authors of any books you find valuable, some will write back a real reply and even recommend fresh resources to you.

You don’t need to start buying tools, jeweled pentacles or custom clothing until you really know what you want and what will have real meaning to you. Don’t buy anything just because you think you should have it. That’s acting like a Witch tourist, someone who just wants to look like they fit in. Be true to yourself and only buy or collect the things you want for your own personal choice and your own needs.

 

How to Find and Join a Coven of Witches

It’s not hard to find and join a coven if you are sincere and understand the basics of Wicca/ Witchcraft. Some covens will be a tough sell, some won’t want new members (especially new Witches or solitary Witches) and some will just be close minded to anyone who doesn’t fit exactly with their beliefs.

There may be an initiation required before anyone new can participate or join. I didn’t find this the first time I found a coven in my community. They had open meetings every Friday right in town. Not everyone will find this easy acceptance, especially if you live in a small town, rural area. (Less people means there are fewer people to form groups).

It’s all about making contact at first.

A local Pagan, occult or metaphysical store can tell you about covens in your area and give you someone to contact. Or, look online for anyone in your area, anyone who seems to have the same path of belief as yourself and anyone who is already a member of any kind of group based in your state/ province.

Attend events! If there are local Witches they probably meet up for casual social events, especially around the Pagan holidays. Look for people selling Pagan, esoteric or occult tools, books and handmade items at Farmer’s Markets, flea markets and street sales in your town. Ask for business cards, or any kind of contact information they can give you.

Talk to artists who work with natural materials: wood, iron, hemp, etc. Those who make Celtic knots, dragons and pentacles are good to ask about local Witches, including their own circle of friends.

Coffee shops are another good way to find out about local Witches. Look for a coffee shop which supports the local community by putting up notices for events, small businesses and offers local art for sale. The coffee shops make and keep contacts in the area. The owners/ managers may have people you can talk to.

You don’t need to appear an expert, but you don’t want to look clueless either.

If the local Pagans get to know you, see that you aren’t just curious but actually involved, you will be invited to join the group for a ritual.

When you are invited to watch on the sidelines or actually take part in the circle (group) be prepared. Know the ritual basics. Don’t make a rookie mistake – like not understanding which direction widdershins is.

Ask questions, before the gathering. What are you expected to bring? What does everyone wear, or not wear?

Witch and Wiccan Online Communities

 

Geomancy

Collegium Geomanticum

It’s not feng shui, and it doesn’t have anything to do with ley lines or dowsing. It’s been called earth astrology, a Western equivalent of the I Ching, and the forgotten oracle of the Western world. It was one of the most popular systems of divination in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and stands at the center of traditions of magic, philosophy, and initiation deeply relevant to today. What is it? Geomancy.

Geomancy is a traditional art of divination that uses the sixteen geomantic figures – patterns of single and double dots – to explore the mysteries of past, present and future. As a branch of the Hermetic tradition, an ancient Western system of spiritual transformation and magical philosophy and practice, it relies on the fundamental Hermetic law, the unity of the macrocosm (the universe around us) and the microcosm (the universe within us) to open up hidden potentials for knowledge, wisdom, and power and, in the words of the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, “perform the miracles of the One Thing.”

Reading this description makes it seem really complicated and mystical. It’s not that complex. It’s divination using stones. At least that’s what it used to be. People do have a way of taking something simple and making it a huge complicated knot they can make some money out of.

Mid Atlantic Geomancers Geomancers are spiritual ecologists.

Geomancy

A system of divination that employs the scattering of pebbles, grains of sand, or seeds on the earth and then the interpretation of their shape and position.

This is a better description. Much simpler and closer to the basic idea.

The Geomancy Group An association of practising geomancers and other like-minded folk over the UK.

Astrological Geomancy by Anthony Louis
Ancient Astronomy and Geomancy in Kyoto, Japan
Geomance
Earth Mysteries

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.

How to Start Your Own Coven

You may start a coven when there isn’t anything else local and yet there are many local Pagans. Or, you might start a new coven when it branches away from an established coven.

Starting a coven of your own is not something you should take on by yourself. Don’t try starting a coven of one, that’s not a coven, it’s a solitary. Also, you will need help, other view points, sources of knowledge and experience too.

Narrow down a focus for your group. This is very important if you are in an area where there are already Pagan groups (covens, circles or casual groups). If there isn’t an existing group for Pagans you still need to start with a focus, a statement of purpose. It’s not so easy to be completely open, in spite of good intentions it doesn’t work so well in practice.

Decide how the coven will be run and managed. How many members will the group be limited to? How will requests to join be handled in the future? Should everyone be initiated and what will the initiation be? Will there be rank (including a High Priestess) or will it be casual? Will the group meet once a week or once a month? Will the group have extra gatherings to honour the Pagan holidays? Will the group raise money for causes? There are endless small and large things to decide and talk about.

Choose a leader. Even if the group is casual someone will need to start rituals, open and close circles and so on.

Choose a place and time to meet. Consider available transportation: bus, parking for cars? If you meet in a public place get permission from the owner/ manager, don’t assume it will be ok. If you meet at someone’s home who brings the goodies, if there are goodies being brought?

 

What to Write About in Your Book of Shadows

This is not a full and complete list. For one thing, your Book of Shadows should be individual to you. For another thing, these are just ideas, like a writing prompt.

  • Magic rules and principles.
  • Your goals and what you wish to achieve.
  • Dreams and other forms of divination you try.
  • Drawings, doodles – any kind of illustration.
  • Poetry or a few words and phrases that came to mind.
  • Rituals and ceremonies you try yourself or attend with others.
  • Spells, prayers or incantations.
  • Anything you feel inspired by and clip out of a magazine or bring home to paste into your Book.
  • Herbal facts, lore and your own experiences with herbs and other plants.
  • Research you have done and are still working on.
  • New ideas and fresh thoughts.
  • Notes about any classes or courses you take.
  • Your fears and concerns, anything you aren’t sure about or second guessing.
  • Closing thoughts as you finish writing each time.
  • Draw a diagram of your altar and draw another when you add more or change positions of the objects on it.
  • Make note of any tools you are given or buy for yourself
  • Write about recipes you’ve made.
  • Music and dances.