A Shrine of One’s Own . . .If You Have the Space
When I first started studying in the ADF Druidry Dedicants’ Program over a decade ago (. . . sigh), the wording of the program was a little different at the time because it was the second draft. I was studying with my grove, Grove of the Other Gods and our senior druid was authorized to proctor the class with my cycle and she was able to bestow certification of class completion. I need to caveat here as I need to caveat everything when I talk about ADF: My grove was and is a chartered grove, we follow the few rules that we are required to follow. We use the liturgical ADF ritual outline. But I can just about guarantee that our take on 80% of ADF and how we do our rituals besides following the outline is going to be radically different from the rest of ADF. That said, we’re also one of the largest groves in the US so it resonates with a lot of people from our tristate area at least. My grove is not very “high Episcopagan”, there’s not a lot of ritual robes, swords or thee’ing and thou’ing. If that’s your bag, rock out! There’s room for everyone at the Occultists, Witches and Pagans table in my opinion. Despite being raised Catholic, it’s not something that really stuck for me personally but a lot of people find that level of ceremony very moving.
With all of that said, a primary goal for my grove was to take each module of the Dedicant program and make it very personal and meaningful to each dedicant with a healthy dash of critical thinking skills thrown in for good measure.
The shrine module is a very good module in the program, but not everyone has the freedom to build the shrine they would like to have due to roommates, housemates, spouses, extended family, living in a socially conservative town where you may not want the post officer to see your large altar/shrine and other typical real world snafus of that nature.
The second major snafu is one that many witches and occultists will have lots of personal experience with: a shortage of money to build the full scale stone circle in your backyard/red velvet inner sanctum/whatever you were hoping to build. You could always build an Altoids tin shrine, there are lots of pretty pictures of them on Pinterest for you to feel inspired by and that could be hidden from others.
Eventually, if you live with people who don’t mind your shrine and maybe even view it as artistic, you will have enough money, time, space and energy to build a decently sized shrine as we did in our home (this entry is from when we first built it. It is now covered in gods, candles, offering bowls and incense dust with components threatening to gush out of the drawers and scrying mirrors and Ouija board cascading out from under the altar) but while your (eventual) home altar will be workable and beautiful in its own right, it is probably not what you would have in mind if money and space were no object.
Building a Tiny Astral Home Away From Home
Esthetic and real world concerns aside, when you build an internal shrine inside yourself and you maintain it, you are building a tiny safe haven for yourself on the astral plane. Kabbala, Gnosticism and Hermetics all have some version of this. If you don’t have a lot of experience or a mentor, this is a good way to get your feet wet in working with the astral world. Obviously, any time you do magic, there’s an element of risk involved. Use your common sense and critical thinking skills here, don’t juggle hedgehogs or chainsaws. If you don’t feel ready to do this, then you should not do it.
Your astral home is a good place to do magical work and to work with spirits and gods you already have a good working relationship with. Treat your astral shrine as you would treat your actual home: you likely wouldn’t invite a bunch of random strangers into your house, you wouldn’t give an acquaintance who doesn’t live with you a spare key to your house to come and go as s/he pleases, you would have a general set of rules about how you expect people to act in your home. Same rules apply to your spiritual shrine.
If you would like a formal script to build an internal ADF style shrine, you can use this one if that resonates better with you. Just do all the offerings in your mind instead of physically.
If you would like to do a more free form astral home, here is what I did to build mine:
1. Take some deep breaths until you feel grounded and centered in yourself. If it would make you feel more protected and you are not Wiccan, put down a salt circle around you and four white candles (one to one of your sides, one to the other side, one to your front and one to your back). If you are Wiccan, you can always cast a circle according to your tradition’s ritual outline.
1. Imagine yourself in a cave. You are holding a torch. You see a set of stairs leading down. Follow the stairs and walk until you see an exit from the cave.
2. When you step outside the cave, what do you see? An ocean, a valley, mountains? Walk until you see a clearing. Wait until you see an omen that it’s okay to construct your shrine there.
3. Construct your shrine however you see fit, furnish it however you see fit, landscape however you see fit. Make sure it’s something you can remember easily, especially if you aren’t a visual thinker. The more consistent you can keep your structure, the better a foothold it is for you.
4. When you are done spending time in your shrine, follow the path back to the cave and take the stairs back up. If you had cast a circle, open it back up. Resume normal life.
5. Visit your shrine regularly. Make sure it’s kept the way you want it to be kept. Entertain visitors you’ve pre-vetted. Eat food there, read there, do whatever you like to do in your physical life. The more time you spend in your shrine, the more of a hearthstone it can be for your astral work.