photo by Mark Green

Because Paganism is a decentralized religious movement, Pa­gans often lack the resources to build temples and community centers, though a few do exist. An example of But public Pagan shrines need not be large or permanent. Mark Green, the founder of Atheopaganism (wordpress.atheo, creates temporary shrines from natu­ral materi­als:

“Sometimes when I’m in nature, I just like to build a little altar-y thing—an assemblage of found materials nestled, perhaps, in the hollow of a tree or on a flat stone: some spot that seems special. To me, they are offerings, kind of like love letters to nature; they say, I am connected to you, I was thinking about you, I love you.

“First find a ‘magic place’: a tree with a hollow, or a flat rock in the middle of a stream, or a place where the sun an­gles down through the trees and illuminates the ground—anywhere that strikes you as special.

“Collect materials and place them, making careful consider­ation of their arrangement. This can be a highly meditative process; it is likely that you will find yourself in the Ritual State simply by focusing on creating the ‘art’ of your installation.

“Finally, ‘consecrate’ your installation. Say or sing words to commend your artwork to that place, or to the world, or whatever is meaningful to you. Express your feelings un­til you know that the work is done.

“Be careful not to alter anything in a permanent way. These installations are moments in time, not monu­ments. So little is left of the wild places in our world that junking them up with durable human ‘handprints’ is not appropri­ate: make your installation something that will nat­u­rally fall back into disarray as wind, weather, decay and the movement of animals scatter its components.”

Natural materials can be arranged in geometric shapes, like the familiar quartered-circle to make a natural “medicine wheel.” Stacking stones is an ancient way of marking a holy place. Rocks can be balanced on top of each other in all kinds of interesting configurations to create temporary natural monuments. They can also be stacked to make an altar on which other natural ob­jects are placed.

Polytheist, Galina Krasskova began a “Public Shrine Pro­ject.” As she explains it, people can build temporary shrines, ideally with found objects, in public places. Krasskova describes it as a kind of “land art” that combines devotion and art, and “re­seeds” the mundane world. Here are the guidelines Krasskova lays out:

  • The shrine must be created outdoors.
  • It must be impermanent. You create it, pray or make offer­ings, and leave, knowing the shrine will be dis­bursed into nature or that people will take the objects left there.
  • You must use bio-degradable materials. Part of the pro­cess of crafting one of these shrines is doing so in a way that does not harm the environment in which it is crafted.
  • If you can, try to use found objects and materials as part of your shrine.

Eco-shrines can be placed in discrete locations, and even plotted with GPS coordinates, like geocaching. Or they may be placed in conspicuous locations, as a way to reclaim our public spaces from the desacralizing influence of modern urban/suburban plan­ning, a kind of guerrilla art that can be employed to re-en­chant our public spaces. Public parks or any other green space, even a highway median, can be re-enchanted in this way.

Updated 2019