Creating Personal Shrines

Shrines serve as a way of deep journaling using images and symbols rather than words.

raven3Personal shrines are a way to acknowledge and affirm the sacred in our lives. Shrines hold the power to make us forget our everyday cares and to help center us. This power exists because shrines emerge from the deepest part of those who build them.

As we mindfully collect the materials and images to make a shrine, as we paint and glue, insights arise. Assembling a shrine is an act of love. It can also be a prayer. Because they are an expression of the spirit, shrines both move us and serve as bridges that connect us to mysteries greater than ourselves.


croneCreate a shrine for a part of yourself you wish to honor.
 I began creating Crone Wisdom Shrine as a visual reminder that in the process of growing older, I am growing wiser and more intuitive. I can draw on that wisdom whenever I need it. This shrine serves as a way to show respect.

Qualities you might want to incorporate as the theme of an honoring shrine are love, peace, tolerance, joy or creativity. Make a shrine that centers on an aspect of yourself that you like or on something you consider to be a strong point. As you pass by the shrine during the day, stop to feel gratitude for these gifts you have been given.



shrineBuilding a shrine can be a way to remember people who have influenced you greatly and who are no longer physically present in your life.
 By collecting pictures and reminders of our loved one and arranging them in one special place, we create a memorial in a way that words alone can’t accomplish. Taking the time to make a shrine, not only helps us grow through our grief, it can also help us to heal the unfinished hurts we carry as a result of that lost relationship. When we pass such a shrine, we are reminded that although the person is no longer physically present in our lives, the love endures.

Shrines that are spontaneously born from tragedy such as the Columbine High School shooting or the death of a public figure are both beautiful and inspiring. Part of the profound influence that they have on us is that they emerge collectively. If you are making a memory shrine, consider sharing the process with others who are grieving the same loss you are.


kobePeople visit shrines for healing. Making a shrine can be healing as well.
 When Barb Kobe, a Minnesota doll maker, began creating a doll from embellished felt, memories began to surface. She started making tiny dolls within the larger doll. These symbolized the pieces of herself that she had given away throughout her life. The doll became a shrine to self-love and becoming conscious. She named her shrine The Saint. Read Barb’s thoughts on doll shrines.

Consider constructing a healing shrine for your inner child. Create a shrine to heal low self esteem, anger, sadness, jealousy, shame and stuckness. If you live with chronic illness or pain, you might want to focus on creating a healing shrine for your physical challenge. Collect healing symbols and images that speak to your emotional, physical or spiritual distress. What inspires you? What builds your courage? What comforts you and makes you feel whole?


Make a shrine that symbolizes something positive you would like to attract into your personal world or the world at large. Gather images and symbols of success, prosperity, tolerance, love, peace or whatever you sense is missing. Pay attention to why you choose some symbols over others and to what the symbols you use mean to you.

As you work on your attraction shrine, feel the old barriers of unworthiness and fear dissolving. Allow your shrine to become a visible signal to the Universe that you are ready to let go of limiting thinking and are open to embracing positive change.


vision1Many personal shrines begin as boxes. Because they have an inside and an outside just as we do, they are the perfect medium for expressing thoughts, feelings and experiences we normally keep hidden from the world.

vision2Giving visible form to these secrets, not only frees us from carrying them inside, it enables us to examine them, work with them and see them in a new light.

Shrine of the Star Woman took shape as a way to work with a powerful dream I had several years ago. It wasn’t a dream I could put into words, even though I had repeatedly tried to write it and tell it. Made from a cardboard school supply box and the glass beads floral arrangers use, this shrine expresses the knowing that the Goddess is very much a part of all living things.


raven2raven1Creating a shrine can be an act of exploration. 
A two dollar handmade box I found at Goodwill and a raven head I’d made from Model Magic over a year ago served as the starting point for Mystery Shrine. As I looked at the two of them, I thought of how difficult it is for me to accept that both creativity and destruction are a natural and necessary part of life.

I knew ravens symbolize both birth and death, so I began reading to learn more. As I read, I learned that the raven is a negative sign in cultures that focus on war. Peaceful cultures view Raven as a trickster, a wise fool. How we see Raven is a mirror of ourselves. Obviously, this shrine is a work in progress. It needs a mirror.

Allow synchronicity to drop objects and images for your shrine into your life. Ask them what story they want you to tell for them. Ask them what wisdom they have to impart to you.

Let your shrine be a work in progress. As new pieces of the story come to you, add them to the shrine. Construct your personal shrine so that it can change as your understanding does. Remove and add images and objects. Rearrange them. Allow your shrine to grow and change as you do.

Resources for Creating Personal Shrines:

Web Sites

Spontaneous Shrines : A Modern Response to Disaster by Sylvia Grider
This scholarly paper by a folklorist explains how spontaneous shrines come to be, how material is arranged, and how to best document them. She covers cyber shrines as well.

The Art of Building Shrines
This site discusses building shrines in the wild. It is both informative and thought provoking.

Theology of Shrines
This article focuses on Marian shrines from the Middle Ages until the present.


murilloMaking Shadow Boxes and Shrines by Kathy Cano-Murillo
This is a solid technique book that will get your creative juices flowing. Cano-Murillo, is a wildly talented and wild artist. To get more of a sense of what she’s all about, visit her site

Living Shrines: Home Altars of New Mexico by Marie Romero Cash
Published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, this book is filled with beautiful photographs. It focuses on folk art of Northern New Mexico.

necessityBeautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars by Kay Turner, Ph.D.

Turner, a folklorist, has photographed the altars of women who practice a number of spiritual traditions and has interviewed their creators.

Altars and Icons: Sacred Spaces in Everyday Life by Jean McMann.
Covering 40 personal shrines, this book runs the gamut from Elvis shrines to Christian shrines. How-to instructions are covered.