Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a shrine and an altar?  In a previous White Oak Grove discussion, we talked about the differences, and saw a few contrasting examples for different paths and purposes.


Any structure or place consecrated or devoted to some saint, holy person, or deity, as an altar, chapel, church, or temple. It can also be a smaller receptacle for sacred relics; a reliquary.

A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon, spirit, guide, or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines can be found in many settings, including as churches, temples, cemeteries, roadsides, or in the home. A single structure may contain many small shrines dedicated to different purposes.



An elevated place or structure, as a mound or platform, at which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc.

Altars are the workspaces of a shrine or sacred space. Upon them rest the tools to be used for whatever sacred rites are being conducted, this could be as simple as a bowl of water, or as elaborated as the ingredients to do your work demand.



Shrine & Altar Layout

The main purpose of a shrine or altar is to have a place where you can focus the intent of your spiritual work.

The single most important thing to remember about the layout of your shrine or altar is that it has to feel right to you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about the space, perhaps with the exception of if you are in communication with the god, goddess, or spirit being honored. However even in that situation, it comes down to how you feel they like it best.

Small shrines are easily placed around your house using decorative elements.



A Few Common Basic Elements

  • Earth – Stones, Sand, Soil, Wood,
  • Air – Feathers, Bird Wings, Butterflies, Incense, Reed Diffuser,
  • Fire – Candles, Lava Rock, Obsidian, Charred Wood,
  • Water – Water, Fountain, Shells, Oils,
  • Ancestors – Photographs, Cultural tokens, Heirlooms
  • Gods & Goddesses, Spirit Animals – Symbols of Stations, Statues, Images
  • Offerings – Incense, Votives, Candles, Foods, or whatever feels appropriate.


Do you have a shire or altar in your home?  What do you keep on it?  Leave a comment below and share your story!



Thank you for joining us for this discussion.  The material presented is originally from Shrines & Altars, a White Oak Grove CUUPS discussion with Kristen Kirk.  ©2017 Kristen Kirk