Personal Shrines

The power of the shrine, or at the very least its significance, reaches across cultures and beliefs.

Indeed, even individuals who do not adhere to any form of spiritual practice, and who firmly believe they are atheists, will readily admit to a sense of awe and mystery in the presence of a shrine. Many who explore such devices (for lack of a better term) are drawn to them, and moved by them, in spite of their lack of a specific religious practice.

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Some theorize that our attraction to religious icons and shrines is deeply rooted in ancestral memory that permeates every cell of our bodies. Others yet simply point to our innate curiosity toward the human spirit, and the spirit at large, as the source of our interest in shrines and places of worship.

In the presence of a shrine, it is nearly impossible to remain silent within. Universal questions arise, as if they had been dormant for centuries. These are questions without answers. They return us to a depth of being that momentarily makes all worries and challenges fade away. We float. We recognize that there is more to the world than we can understand. Instead of being overwhelming and frustrating, this suddenly appears beautiful; bountiful.

A personal shrine is designed from the heart. It often reflects a person’s highest values and aspirations. It creates a personal spiritual space, even for those who feel they have no religion. It holds a place of honor; one that brings its owner back to a higher personal truth the moment it catches the eye. It can also be a place of honor to remember loved ones.

I made this shrine years ago for Roderick, my husband. It was my first design. It stands about 11 inches high and is made of cardboard covered with stylish scrapbook paper. I offered it to him on his birthday. The scroll I placed in the bottom contains a poem about inner strength. Inside, I built an easel. This is a place of honor for a meaningful object that represented a specific life dream for Roderick. The easel could hold a photograph also. The point is that the contents are always furnished with visual cues of great significance.

The space above the door is the resting place for a small gem, nestled in fabric. One practice consists in whispering a wish in the gem, one that focuses on all good things for the owner of the shrine. He or she need not know the wish; only that it is there, as a lingering token of kindness. The symbolism does all the work.

This, then, will be the inspiration for things to come at my workbench. Shrines can be personal, or represent themes. For instance: nature, world peace, art, time, playfulness… Some will be tall while others will be long. Some may have doors and others drawers. Some may include figurines and objects. I’ll see what takes shape as inspiration flows.

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