This article is by Lara Atwood – it was originally published on Sakro Sawel here and is republished on this website with permission.
A shrine is a place set aside for spiritual reverence, worship, and communion. It could be your own, or shared with others. It can be indoors or outdoors, and range from something very simple in someone’s own home or garden, to something more elaborate and on a larger scale like you would find in a temple or church.
Someone could have just one shrine, or as many as they like – in any combination of the variations outlined below.
Essentially, whatever the scale, and wherever the location, a shrine can fulfill the same purpose and follow the same principles. This guide is for creating a shrine in accordance with the principles of the ancient Religion of the Sun. It was put together with advice and spiritual knowledge from my husband Mark.
- The Purpose of a Shrine
- The Essential Elements of a Shrine
- How to Set out a Shrine and the Objects to Use
- What Do the Elements of the Shrine Represent/Mean?
- Shrine Variations
- How to Use a Shrine
The Purpose of a Shrine
A shrine acts to direct our attention towards the spiritual. They are usually decorated with spiritual symbols and objects. These serve as representations of spiritual forces and principles, and allow our minds to focus on these spiritual forces in order to commune with them. Spiritual forces and Beings are generally unseen in daily life, and so by using objects that we can see, it can help us to center our attention on them. For example, throughout history and still today, people across the world find it useful to see an image of Odin, Jesus, Krishna etc. when addressing prayers to them.
However, some people can confuse the object with the actual Being or force being represented, and treat the object as though it and the force or Being were one and the same. But the mystery of the spiritual is much deeper than this, as these forces are present whether the object exists or not – the object merely acting as a kind of gateway or prop for our minds to communicate with forces that are within us and surround us.
The Essential Elements of a Shrine
The essential elements of a shrine bring together representations of the key aspects of creation and divinity.
These essential elements are three in number, and have been depicted as a Trinity in many ancient teachings. They are:
1. The Spiritual Sun/Son, usually symbolized by the sun
2. The Spiritual Mother and divine feminine energy in creation
3. The Spiritual Father and divine masculine energy in creation
How to Set out a Shrine and the Objects to Use
1. Altar. The first item is an altar, which the objects of the shrine are placed upon. Ideally this altar would have four sides of equal length, and its height be equal to the length of its side, so that it is cubic in shape, and be made of natural materials. If you aren’t able to find anything cubic in shape, it’s fine to just make sure that the surface of the altar is square in shape, rather than rectangular if possible. It could be a table, a shelf, a large stone/rock, a piece of wood etc.
2. Altar direction. Ideally, when standing in front of the altar, you should be facing as close to due East as possible – the direction of the rising sun on the equinoxes. If East is not practical, North is the next best direction, and anything in between in a North-Easterly direction. Even better is to have it so that the light of the dawning sun rises behind the shrine, so that you are facing and can see the sun while standing at the shrine.
3. White cloth. The altar should then be covered with a white cloth. This white cloth would ideally be made of white linen, although it can be any white fabric (ideally a natural fiber, like cotton or silk).
4. The Spiritual Sun/Son. In the center of the altar, a representation of the Spiritual Son is placed. The Spiritual Son is best represented with a symbol of the sun, and additionally with the flame of a candle. The symbol of the sun can be from any culture. Another nice way to represent the Son is using a monstrance, which looks very much like the sun. These can be very expensive, so you could try and make your own as in the photo above (which combines an antique horse brass with a brass candlestick). In front of this symbol, the candle is placed. Ideally either the candle or candle holder would be a golden yellow color like the sun, but if you don’t have a yellow one, then white is the best default color to use. As an optional addition, a statue or image of the Spiritual Son can be placed together with the symbol of the sun and candle. The statue or image of the Son can be from any culture or religion descended from the religion of the sun or in new age art. The main thing is to choose the image carefully so that the Spiritual Son is portrayed in a dignified, modest, non-warlike way – as a divine looking man.
5. The Spiritual Mother. To the left of the symbol of the Spiritual Son (if you are facing the altar), a symbol of the Spiritual Mother is placed. The Mother can be represented by anything that is symbolic of the divine feminine found in any culture or religion descended from the religion of the sun or in new age art – and can be a statue or picture. There may be a particular statue or image of the Spiritual Mother you would like to use. The main thing is to choose this image carefully so that the feminine is portrayed divinely, beautifully, modestly, and with dignity. Any items listed in the section on creating a shrine dedicated to the Spiritual Mother can also be used here, on the left side of the altar – including flowers, a pink candle, and a bowl/cauldron/chalice of water.
6. The Spiritual Father. To the right of the symbol of the Spiritual Son (if you are facing the altar), a symbol of the Spiritual Father is placed. The Father can be represented by anything that is symbolic of the divine masculine found in any culture or religion descended from the religion of the sun or in new age art – and can be a statue or picture. Again, there may be a particular statue or image of the Spiritual Father you would like to use. The main thing is to choose this image carefully so that the masculine is portrayed divinely, modestly, in a non-violent/warlike way, and with an air of wisdom. Any items listed in the section on creating a shrine dedicated to the Spiritual Father can also be used here, on the right side of the altar – including evergreens, a blue candle, and a pine cone.
What Do the Elements of the Shrine Represent/Mean?
The Trinity has been symbolized as Father, Mother, and Son in many ancient teachings. Here are a few examples of the Trinity that could be used on the shrine, although there are many others:
Ancient Egyptian – Father: Osiris, Mother: Isis, Son: Horus
Early/Gnostic Christian – Father: Joseph, Mother: Mary, Son: Jesus
Druidism – Father: Celu, Mother: Ceriadwen, Son: Hu Gadarn
Norse – Father: Odin, Mother: Frigg, Son: Baldur
Vedic – Father: Indra, Mother: Adita, Son: Surya/Agni/Vishnu
Vedic/Hindu – Father: Vishnu, Mother: Lakshmi, Son: Brahma
Hindu – Father: Shiva, Mother: Shakti/Durga/Kali/Parvati, Son: Krishna/Vishnu/Rama
Greek – Father: Zeus (Dias), Mother: Athena/Gaia, Son: Apollo
Slavic – Father: Rod/Svarog, Mother: Lada, Son: Svarog/Dazhbog
Note that because these deities are so old, they have been interpreted and used differently over time, so this is a general guide only.
The Trinity is an expression of the three fundamental forces that give rise to all creation. They are found manifest as the three types of energy in the universe: that of positive, negative, and neutral, or masculine, feminine, and neuter, which are expressed at a sub-atomic level as protons, electrons, and neutrons. In nature these forces form the basis of reproduction and the family unit in almost all life. These forces are also related to our consciousness. The higher parts of our Being follow the same pattern found throughout nature and the cosmos, and so each of us have our own personal Spiritual Father and Mother, who give birth to the Spiritual Son/Sun (also known as the Christ) within us.2
The Spiritual Father
One of the most ancient of deities is the Spiritual Father. To the ancient Proto-Indo-Europeans he was called Dyḗus Ptḗr, “the Shining Sky Father,” and was the highest and most revered divinity – the father of gods. He became Dyaus Pitar in the Vedas, Zeus (Dias) in Greece, Jupiter in Rome, Dievas to the Baltic peoples etc. His name is related to the original word for god, which the English words deity and divine are derived from, and also is the root of the word father itself in many languages.4 In ancient Egypt he was called Atum and Amun; the Guanche word for heaven is Atuman and their word for the sun is Amen5, which is very similar to the name of the supreme Egyptian sun and father god Amun. The Proto-Indo-European Dyḗus Ptḗr was also associated with the sun – both to the Proto-Indo-Europeans and ancient Egyptians, the sun was seen as his eye.6 Jesus referred to him as the Heavenly Father.
The Father is both a cosmic and personal force. He is the masculine energy of the creator, and a higher aspect of our inner Being.7
The Spiritual Mother
The Spiritual Mother is the feminine half of God/the creator, with the other half being the Spiritual Father. She is usually depicted as the consort of the Spiritual Father, and while he is often referred to as the Heavenly Father, she is usually referred to as the Earthly Mother. For example, Dyaus Pitar in the Vedas was accompanied by the goddess Pṛthivī of the earth.9
Many ancient teachings depict creation as being brought forth by the dual action of both masculine and feminine energies, just as the union of male and female brings forth all life. The ancient Chinese called them yang and yin, in the Upanishads of the Hindus they are Purusha/Prana and Prakriti/Rayi, and the ancient Egyptians called them Shu and Tefnut.10
The Spiritual Mother has been deified in many different forms – as Durga to the Hindus, Ceriadwen to the Druids, Isis to the ancient Egyptians, Athena to the Greeks, and as many, many other goddesses. Orthodox Christianity censored Jesus’s teachings on the Mother, and excluded the divine feminine from the Trinity, replacing her with the Holy Spirit. Texts that included Jesus’s teachings on the Mother were excluded from the Bible. In them Jesus says that he has both a Heavenly Father and Earthly Mother.11
The Mother is both a cosmic and personal force. She is the feminine energy of the creator, and a higher aspect of our inner Being.12
The Spiritual Sun/Son
The Spiritual Sun or Son has been portrayed by numerous figures such as Horus (Egyptian), Baldur (Germanic), Lugh (British), Hun Hunaphu (Mayan), and Jesus. Each of these figures are recorded as going through very similar life events and sharing similar characteristics (although deities associated with the Spiritual Father like Odin (Norse/Germanic) and Osiris (Egyptian) also are recorded as going through similar life events). They also each experienced their major life events at the solstices and equinoxes. For example, the birth of most of these figures has been celebrated at the winter solstice, and their death and resurrection at the spring equinox. The events of their lives follow the path of the sun throughout the year and symbolize the path to return to source, which is found mirrored in the heavens.
The Spiritual Sun is both a cosmic force – the light of the sun, born from the union of the Spiritual Father and Mother at the dawning of creation – and also a higher part of each person’s Being that incarnates at a particular stage on the path to return to source.14
The altar represents the human body, and the Earth. The four sides of the altar represent the four cardinal directions and the four elements that Earth and our physical bodies are comprised of. The Earth/the body is the foundation upon which the spiritual within is built, which is why representations of spiritual forces are placed upon the altar. By placing representation of the divine upon the altar, the spiritual is placed over matter, so that it dominates and illuminates it. The body fit for the incarnation of the spiritual within however, is a body that has been prepared and transformed spiritually, so that its energies have been purified and transmuted from a lunar to solar type.
The White Cloth
The white linen cloth draped over the altar represents purity. White linen was used by some ancient peoples on their altars, and Jesus and the disciples wore white linen in their mystic rituals15. White is the color of purity, unity, and completion. It is the color of the sun as seen from outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Daughter of the Sun
The ancient Proto-Indo Europeans had a name for the daughter of Dyḗus Ptḗr. She was called Sawélyosyo Dhugətē ́r meaning “the daughter of the sun.” She was represented ceremonially in different places that were influenced by the Religion of the Sun as priestesses dressed in white who tended the temple shrine with its sacred flame.17
In Ireland these priestesses were called the Inghean au dagha or “the daughters of fire,” which the Christians adapted to “the Brides of Christ”. In the Canary Islands the Guanche called their priestesses the Harmagadas, in Rome they were the Vestal Virgins, and to the Inca they were the Virgins of the Sun.18
The daughter of the sun is consciousness, which Jesus refers to as “the drop of light” from our own inner Being that we carry within19, and which is reunited with the higher parts of its Being on the path of the spiritual sun. These parts are the Trinity of Spiritual Sun/Son, Spiritual Mother, and Spiritual Father.20 Consciousness is not symbolized on the altar, as we bring our own consciousness to the shrine by being present and conscious in the moment.
In addition to, or instead of the shrine layout described above, you can also have shrines dedicated to each aspect of the Trinity. So for example, you could have a shrine dedicated just to the Spiritual Mother, and/or a shrine solely to the Spiritual Father, and/or just to the Spiritual Son/Sun.
The cloth can remain the same and so can the altar, but it doesn’t need to be square and the items upon the altar vary.
Dedicated to the Spiritual Mother
For a shrine to the Spiritual Mother, the items upon the altar could be as follows.
1. A statue or image of the Spiritual Mother, as has been described above.
2. A candle, which is always best to have present upon a shrine, as fire is living and divine, and why fire has held such an important place in ritual and religion. For the Spiritual Mother, it would be nice to use a pink candle or candle holder so as to cast a beautiful rose light upon the shrine, as she is often depicted as dressed in the color pink as it is related to the colors of the Earth, the body, femininity, and feminine love. If you don’t have a pink candle or candle holder, then white is the best default color to use.
3. Once these basic items are in place, the shrine can be decorated with other items related to the Spiritual Mother, such as:
- A bowl, cauldron or chalice, which is then filled with water (representing the womb of creation). The bowl etc. can be made of any natural material that is in “evolution”, such as copper, gold, brass, crystal, granite, or wood (not iron, or lead). In addition to or instead of, a decorative egg could also be used (as in traditional celebrations of Easter/Ostara).
- Living or freshly cut flowers (representing feminine beauty and harmony).
- It’s nice also to burn incense related to the feminine, such as floral scents like rose, lotus, lavender, gardenia, etc.
- As an option, instead of or in addition to a white altar cloth, a pink one could be used.
Dedicated to the Spiritual Mother in Her Warrior Aspect
Another variation of a shrine to the Spiritual Mother is to dedicate it to her in her warrior aspect – in this aspect she is represented in her role as the destroyer of our egos. This aspect of the Spiritual Mother has most famously been portrayed by the Hindu goddesses Durga and Kali, although it has also been symbolized by the goddess Sekhmet in Egypt, Athena in Greece, and Inanna in Sumeria, as well as in many other cultures.
Here are the steps to create a shrine to the Spiritual Mother in her warrior aspect:
1. When standing at this shrine one can face any direction (including South and West, and any direction in between). All other shrines should be created so that one is facing East, North, or any direction between East and North. This shrine is different because the direction of the setting sun (West) and the Southerly passage of the sun (during the dark half of the year) is connected to the principle of descent on the path of the spiritual sun, in which someone needs to descend into darkness in order to extract knowledge (just as the Norse deity Odin does).
2. The image or statue used of the Spiritual Mother should be connected to her role as the destroyer of evil and the egos.
3. The remaining items on the shrine, and the layout, can be the same as they are for the shrine dedicated to the Spiritual Mother.
Dedicated to the Spiritual Father
For a shrine to the Spiritual Father, the items upon the altar could be as follows.
1. A statue or image of the Spiritual Father, as has been described above.
2. A candle. For the Spiritual Father it would be nice to use a blue candle or candle holder so as to cast a beautiful blue light upon the shrine, as he is often depicted as dressed in the color blue as it is related to the colors of the sky and heavens, masculinity, truth, and purity. If you don’t have a blue candle or candle holder, then white is the best default color to use.
3. Once these basic items are in place, the shrine can be decorated with other items related to the Spiritual Father, such as:
- Living or freshly cut pine (representing the evergreen, and thus eternal spirit).
- Pine cones (representing the pineal gland/third eye, and also the seed of life that enters the womb/egg of creation).
- It’s nice also to burn incense related to the masculine, such as woody scents like cedar, pine, cypress, agarwood, etc.
- As an option, instead of or in addition to a white altar cloth, a blue one could be used.
Dedicated to the Spiritual Son/Sun
For a shrine to the Spiritual Son, the items upon the altar could be as follows.
1. The monstrance or sun symbol used on the main shrine, could also be used for this one. Additionally, a statue or image of the Spiritual Son from any culture or religion descended from the religion of the sun can be used, such as Krishna, Lugh, Baldur, Svarog/Dazhbog, Apollo, Hu, Jesus or Horus.
2. A candle. For the Spiritual Son it would be nice to use a golden yellow candle or candle holder so as to cast a beautiful golden light upon the shrine like that of the sun. The yellow represents the color of the sun’s light as seen from Earth, which represents the role of the Son as the force that bridges Earth and heaven, the human and the divine. If you don’t have a yellow candle or candle holder, then white is the best default color to use.
3. Once these basic items are in place, the shrine can be decorated with other items related to the Spiritual Son, such as:
- Living or freshly cut flowers that look like the sun, such as sunflowers, marigold, or calendula.
- It’s nice also to burn incense related to the Son, such as frankincense and myrrh.
- As an option, instead of or in addition to a white altar cloth, a yellow or golden one could be used.
How to Use a Shrine
There are a number of different ways a shrine can be used.
It’s important to note that a shrine for the Religion of the Sun is never used in a sacrificial way, in which the death or blood of anything is used or required.
1. It can be set up in a room that’s used for spiritual practices, and the candles and incense lit during a spiritual exercise to help bring a sense of the divine, and even divine help into the room to assist with the exercise.
2. As a place to pray or ask for divine guidance and help whenever there is a need.
3. If it’s set up in a fairly prominent place at home, tending the shrine can be used as a way to bring about a remembrance of the spiritual in the activities of daily life.
4. It can be used as part of the sacred space where the solstice or equinox is celebrated, whether celebrating alone, with family, or with a group of people. It could be set up in a room at home, in a garden, at a dedicated location like a temple or stone circle, or even set up temporarily at an ancient site for an event.
5. It can also simply be a beautiful feature of your home, or garden.
Following are a few excerpts, from the text the Kolbrin, on the use and purpose of a shrine. They outline some of the pitfalls people and traditions have fallen into when using shrines and altars.
The Last Forest Teachings (of Elidor)21
True worship is the purification and elevation of the soulspirit, no more, all that purifies and elevates is worship. The purpose of worship is to arouse the soulspirit to wakefulness, it is the companionable unity of those serving a common cause. It is an act of mutual experience. It is not the servile humiliation of a slave before his master, but the linking of spirit with spirit.
These are the only sacrifices to bring: Bodily lusts and passions, evil thoughts, lies, deceit, slander and all forms of wickedness. To offer the blood of harmless creatures is easy and cowardly, and an insult to He who created them. These are the offering to dedicate to His service: Diligent study of the Good Books, wisdom, courage, moral purity and steadfastness, together with all things serving the purpose of good.
If a man seeks to enter My presence by prayer and says, “God grant me this or give me that,” the thing will be neither granted nor given, unless it be for his spiritual good or benefit another. I am not huxter bargaining blessing in exchange for worship, nothing man can give can add to what I have. Also men do Me little honour when they fail to recognise that I am above concern for mere bodies which decay and fall apart when the enlivening spirit leaves them. Yet man is but man, know that I am a God of understanding and compassion. If man cries out to Me, in genuine stress and suffering, he will not go unrelieved and uncomforted. Yet understand that suffering and sorrow are the lot of man, that he may become Mangod. There is also the Great Law to which man must conform; there are the intricacies of enidvadew to be unwoven and the challenging paths of destiny and fate to be followed. Too often the price to be paid for things done or not done is pain and suffering, sorrow and distress, but where would be the benefit to the debtor were I to wipe out such debts? Yet will I see that never, by even a single grain, will they exceed that which is absolutely necessary and just.
…There is nothing on Earth that man can give God which could add to God’s glory or increase what He has. The only acceptable sacrifice man can offer is service to the will of God, and God’s will is that man should spiritualise himself and improve the Earth. To offer goods or money as a sacrifice is an insult to God, it is shirking the needful effort, evading the necessary duty and obligation; it is the easy way and not acceptable.
The text called “The Voice of God” from the Kolbrin23
I do not deny you your rituals and ceremonials, worship Me if you will as you will, but bear in mind that this cannot substitute for your obligations. Ritual and worship cannot be an adjustment or payment for the things you have failed to do, or be an apology for your own shortcomings. Neither do they compensate for iniquities against your fellowmen. If you attach importance to ritual and ceremonial let it be in a proper proportion, and never let them dull your conscience against deeds of wickedness, of usury and injustice. Never let your duty and obligations be neglected because you worship Me diligently, following a formalized ritual and ceremonial. Let this not become an excuse for failing to share your bread with the hungry or for neglecting the needs of the destitute or weak. I am not deceived. A life dedicated to Me is not one preoccupied with worship, that is more the life of a coward trembling before the unknown.
…They who devote their lives to My service must do more than love and worship Me, for such service entails the elevation of mankind, the spreading of good and the combating of evil. They must not only fight against the ungodly, but also overcome the wickedness welling up in their own thoughts
…The ultimate in goodness is to actively combat all the root causes of evil. Those who are my true followers live a life of service and goodness. They live in harmony with their neighbors, harm none and do not shirk the burdens and obligations of earthly existence.
…I know too well the deceit to which men are prone. The adulterer and fornicator preach chastity for others, while the liar declares the virtues of Truth. The thief preaches honesty and the lewd-minded professes modesty. Men say one thing and mean another, while all too often the half or slanted truth replaces the real thing. Men may deceive themselves and other men, but I am not deceived. Now I say, let men first cleanse their own souls and eradicate hypocrisy before presuming to approach Me. Men may well cry out, “Why does God remain mute, why has He deserted Me?” Do they think their deeds are hidden or that I cannot read the secrets of their hearts?
Worship by men of iniquity is mere mockery. How rare the sincere and genuine heart! Were men indeed deserted by their God, they would have none to blame but themselves. Do men think their lack of kindness and consideration for others, their insincerity and inconsistency are truly hidden from Me? I am the All Knowing One. I see too little love of goodness in the hearts of men and too much fear for the consequences of their deeds.
Real and sincere worship is to obey My laws and to shoulder the responsibilities of men, to steadfastly conform to My plan and to live in neighbourly harmony. He who devotes his life to Me also devotes it to his own welfare. He who serves Me well likewise serves himself. This is the Law of Laws. For the whole purpose of life is not the service of God but the development of the soul of man. He who worships Me with empty ritual and vain ceremonial but neglects the wellbeing of his own soul, does not serve Me well, for he thwarts My purpose. I have endowed the creature made in My likeness with a religious instinct, for this springs from its everlasting spirit, as fire generates heat; therefore, to worship is not unnatural. But blind worship lacks the vitalising element, it defeats its own end, for in true worship man should reach out beyond himself to discover his own soul. Then, having done so, he should develop it until the soul aspires to godhood itself.
Wishing you much connection with the spiritual at your shrine.
By Lara Atwood
This article is by Lara Atwood – it was originally published on Sakro Sawel here and is republished on this website with permission.
public domain image found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_001.png
By ಶ್ರೀ ಶಿಲ್ಪಿ ಸಿದ್ದನ್ತಿ ಸಿದ್ದಲಿಂಗ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ (1885 – 1952) – ಜಗನ್ಮೋಹನ್ ಅರಮನೆ, ಮೈಸೂರ್ (Jagmohan Palace, Mysore), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36642862
public domain image found here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sunna.JPG
public domain image found here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Virgin_of_the_Sun_Wellcome_L0042050.jpg