Altars and Shrines - Household Self-Care

The Witch's Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit - Arin Murphy-Hiscock 2018

Altars and Shrines
Household Self-Care

Altars and shrines can both be useful tools in spiritual self-care. They serve to provide a place in the home where you can touch base with the Divine or nourish your spiritual state. There tends to be confusion between them, though. What’s the difference between the two?

♦ An altar is a work space or focus for worship.

♦ A shrine is a small collection of objects assembled to honor or enhance a focus.

Altars are often used for active worship of a deity. Whereas a shrine honors something or someone, an altar is an active—or interactive!—interface for religious worship or prayer.

Creating a Gratitude Shrine

This shrine provides a semipermanent place to express gratitude for the good things in your life. It also serves the purpose of reminding you to be grateful, reminding you of all the blessings you enjoy. This can be a key strategy in fighting the day-to-day tendency to be affected by the things that go wrong. Seeing your Gratitude Shrine should uplift you.

The supplies listed are suggestions. If other things call to you—shells, photos, animal figurines, origami animals—by all means, use them in constructing your Gratitude Shrine.

What You Need:

♦ Small cloth or tray

♦ Card with affirmation or inspirational quote on it

♦ Rose quartz stone

♦ Clear quartz stone

♦ Matches or lighter

♦ Votive candle (color of your choice) and candleholder

What to Do:

1. Choose a space that can be easily accessed and seen but not right in the middle of activity so that it doesn’t get torn apart while someone looks for their keys. Look for a flat, protected surface.

2. Lay down a small cloth or tray.

3. Arrange your objects pleasingly on it. Set the candle in the candleholder in a safe spot.

4. To use, center and ground, light the candle, and say something such as,

Great Universe,

Thank you for my many blessings.

I thank you for the food I eat,

The roof over my head,

The comforts I enjoy,

The family that supports me,

The friends who love me,

And the health I enjoy.

May I always be grateful for these blessings and all others.

5. You can also write things you’re grateful for on slips of paper and leave them at the gratitude shrine.

6. Every once in a while, put a small glass of water, wine, or other drink at the shrine as another way of showing appreciation.


♦ A small wall shelf can also be used for a gratitude shrine.

♦ Add a few drops of essential oil to the candle by burning it until there is a small pool of liquid wax, extinguishing the candle, adding the drops to the liquid wax, then relighting the candle.

Creating a Shadowbox Shrine

This shrine is constructed in a small wooden box that can be opened and closed. Ideally you can open it and stand it up on its small end. Depending on the size, it might be possible to travel with it. If the box is deep enough, you might even be able to place figurines on the base inside the box.

What You Need:

♦ Small items such as costume jewelry, dried flowers, silk flowers, scrapbook stickers, sequins, beads, shells, and so on

♦ Small pictures cut from magazines or printed out from the Internet

♦ Hinged wooden box from a craft store (shallow; not too deep)

♦ Acrylic paints and paintbrushes

♦ Glitter glue

♦ Glue

♦ Mod Podge sealer

♦ Foam brush

What to Do:

1. Consider what you want this shrine to be dedicated to. Happiness and joy? Peace and harmony? Collect small items that represent your theme with which to decorate the box shrine.

2. Set the wooden box in front of you so that the hinges are on the left. Unlatch it and open it like a book. Then tilt it toward you so that it stands up on the smaller end, the lid still open to the left like the cover of a book.

3. Plan out how you will paint the box. Paint it and allow it to dry. (Remember that you can paint the exterior of the box as well!)

4. While the paint dries, take some time to position your items in a pleasing arrangement that is meaningful to you. Remember that you can fill all the walls of the box, not just the bottom/back wall of the box shrine and the inner lid.

5. Transfer the arrangement to the box piece by piece, gluing them down. Decorate with glitter glue, if desired. When dry, apply Mod Podge with the foam brush to seal it all.

Creating an Altar to Yourself

You may be uncomfortable with the idea of worshipping yourself or not feel you’re worth worshipping. That should change! Everyone has a spark of the Divine inside them. That is worth honoring. You are worth honoring as a vessel of the Divine as well.

Collect things that you associate with yourself. Photos you love, jewelry, trinkets; things you may not use anymore but still love fall into this category. Items from your childhood are great to use as well, if they remind you of happy times. Favorite books? Favorite colors? Draw them all in to help assemble this self-care space to honor you.

Choose a place to set up your altar. A small wall shelf somewhere is a great idea, if you want to keep it small and simple. You can hang pictures or art on the wall above or around it. Decorate it however you like: add shells, drape scarves, add action figures… This is for you. Make sure there’s room for a candle. A votive in a glass candleholder taller than the candle is a good idea, to protect the things around it from the flame.

What You Need:

♦ Framed photo of yourself (size of your choice)

♦ Representations of your activities (job, hobbies, and so on)

♦ Representations of life events (such as rites of passage, medals, trophies, and so on)

♦ 2—3 of your favorite stones or crystals

♦ Candle (color of your choice) and candleholder

♦ Matches or lighter

What to Do:

1. Assemble your chosen items where you’ve chosen to set up your altar. Set the candle in the middle and arrange the other objects around them.

2. As you place them, take a moment to remember how proud or happy you felt at each life stage or achievement. Appreciate how hard you work at your job. Feel gratitude for your hobbies. As you build the altar to yourself, build the feeling of pride and love for yourself and the person you are.

3. When the altar is complete, center and ground. Light the candle. Look slowly and deliberately at the items you have collected and displayed.

4. Say:

I honor myself.

I honor my strength.

I honor my past that has led me here.

I honor my skills, my talents.

I honor my determination.

I honor my need for space and time to myself.

I honor my rights.

I honor my potential.

5. When you are done, you can extinguish the candle.

6. At least once a week, return to the altar and light the candle. Let your gaze travel over your collection that makes up the altar and be proud of who you are. Repeat the prayer above, if you like. Go to the altar when you feel worn out, are fighting low self-esteem, or doubting your awesomeness.


♦ This altar is by no means static. It’s a work in progress. Add to it as often as you like.