Sunday, March 20, 2022

Building A Safe and Effective Outdoor Shrine

No one's happier than a Pagan or Polytheist with yard space. I know I certainly was when I bought my first home. I was already marking out where I would place my temple's shrines and altars, in the rather vast space that had enough room for dozens if I chose. But once you begin a permanent structure of this importance on your property, you may find that it takes a little more work and preparation than initially thought. For this post, I will primarily use my outside shrine of Athena Pandemos as an example, which is pictured above. Feel free to scroll and refer back to it at your own will.

The first step is, of course, rather obvious; finding a suitable or preferred location. For me, my terrain is flat and, in most places, easy to lightly modify with gardening and digging tools. But generally speaking, you want to try and pick a spot that is as independent of outside influences as possible. For example, don't build next to the main road or near a sewer or trash container. The reason for this is because your shrine stands a conceivable chance of being involved in an accident or a desecration. Someone could go off the road and run over it, or contaminants that will create miasma may filter in. My Athena shrine is in my fenced in backyard, among the natural trees and foliage. The only religious structure I have ever built close to my main road is my Boundary Marker because of its function, and I am actually looking at moving it up to my door or steps. Luckily, nothing has happened to it.

Second, you must first place a structure for the shrine's statue to stand upon, and also choose the proper tools and elements by which to firmly install it. Storms will come and bring strong winds along with them. My Athena statue stands upon a Greek Ionic column. Now the other important thing to consider is the material that the column and statue are made out of. Do not use cheap alabaster columns that you can find at craft stores. They will quickly rot in the face of the elements. Even if you paint them, it doesn't matter. They are just not designed to stand up to weather. My column was purchased from a designer that specifically equipped it with weather resistant materials. It is a hard, very durable plastic, but not a cheap one. Its looks, weight and design makes it cost around $150.00. But consider the investment. You will never have to replace it. If you can't afford one, there are other options I will get to a bit later. Your statue, likewise, should also be able to resist the outside weather. There are Greek and Pagan suppliers who make them, and can be found easily online at affordable prices.

The column's base rests in the ground, inside a small hole dug specifically for it to fit in. For a hole this shallow, however, simply putting the dirt back on top will not be enough to hold it against strain unless it is placed within an enclosed area where wind will have a difficult time directly hitting it. For the completion of the base, fill the hole with quick drying cement, which can be purchased extremely cheaply at hardware stores. The kind I have used successfully is called Quikrete. Pack it down, wait for it to dry, and cover it up with the excess soil. As an extra anchor, I also placed a concrete block on the ground on either side of the column, so that if a strong force does begin to push against the base, it will have a harder time uprooting it to the point that it would harm the statue.

Third, place the statue on top of the column with a base sealant. I use E6000 to glue the top of the column and the bottom of the statue together. An abundant amount will greatly secure it against mishaps. You don't want to just stand the statue and leave it without an anchor. Especially if it's a large, expensive one like mine. You want to make sure it cannot be easily toppled, which brings me to the last section of this outline.

You'll notice the nice garden gate that encircles my Athena shrine. That's not just there for decoration. It serves two vital purposes. The first is to close and section off the shrine as sacred. The second is to protect it from overheard dangers, as there are trees directly above it. We don't normally think about it, but a falling branch or even a sturdy twig can destroy or damage the statue or column. But in the case of mine, the falling tree would impact with the iron gate and be unlikely to penetrate. The gate may need replacing depending on the strength of the object, but the shrine will be saved. A strong garden gate of this kind will run you at least $200.00. However, depending on the size of your statue and its location, you may not need it. If you look at the picture and take notice to the altar that is used for sacrifice to Athena, you'll see that it is simply made from straightly stacked concrete blocks. These blocks can also be used in like manner to build a pedestal for the statue, saving you cost on the column, and their immense weight will be enough to keep them in place by themselves. Although you should take note that I do not know if glues such as E6000 will bind to concrete. However, I am sure there are sealants that will. Ask the people at your hardware store. Once you have built the stone column and placed the statue on it, use much smaller blocks or stones, or some other very hardened material, to construct a small shelter around the statue. You must also make sure that said structure won't collapse or fall away. Of course, if you build the shrine away from any direct dangers, you don't need a cover at all. My Artemis shrine looks to the open sky and does not have an overhead for that reason. The protective barriers only need to be in place if there are exterior dangers possible.

The shrine should now spend time being cultivated by you, the builder and devotee. There's more to a place of worship than just stone and iron. It's sacred to the God it represents. They can even spiritually visit it. It is a holy place for their holy presence, and a center for your supplication for their bliss, blessings and wisdom in your life. Therefore, make it welcoming and devoted to the God. My Artemis shrine will have a fresh pine tree in its precinct this year, dedicated to Her as the Goddess of forests and Her immortality, as pines do not lose their green. The more you love and grow the shrine, the more, I think, you'll be surprised at how the God shows their presence there. After I had built my Athena shrine, an owl took up residence somewhere in the nearby trees and sometimes hoots at night (an owl is Athena's sacred animal).

When you get down to the bottom line, a shrine is really a place where you show a God or Gods how much you love them. It is one of their homes, one of their sacred areas, and one of their universal places for you to welcome them.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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