Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 7, 2014

Integration or Separation?

Due to various things–including time constraints–I’ve been more laconic of late than would be my more familiar want. Oh well…

A short while back, my Thracian colleague wrote on shrine rooms vs. temples, and used the language of “integrated shrines” in the process of doing so.

A “temple,” and the very word “sacred,” implies a degree of separation and distinctiveness to a given thing or area–it is, quite literally, “set apart” from the “mundane” spaces or things around it. That’s why you only use the offering bowl for offerings for the gods, and not for sweet-and-sour sauce when you have Chinese.

And yet, with integrated shrines, one’s spaces are not-as-definitively-set-apart; it’s not to say that there isn’t some separation (e.g. laundry or junk mail never gets set on a shrine space on top of your dresser!), but there is closer proximity between things, due to all sorts of concerns that may be in play.

Over the last few days, I’ve been out of my room, where all of my shrines (and almost all of my stuff, except the things in the storage unit) are located where I’m currently living. I like separation of spaces, and like to leave the bedroom for sleeping, if possible; and yet, I find myself doing most of my devotional activities in there, and also a great deal of my work and leisure activities, too. While this has the “advantage” that I’m constantly being watched by a huge number of gods, it also means that parts of my life that I’d prefer not bleed over into my spiritual life (for reasons both reasonable and good as well as negative and which need some work done on them) all gets mixed together.

While having the luxury and privilege to be able to not do everything in my one room over the last few days, though, it feels as though something is missing…the rest of this house, capacious as it is, has almost nothing sacred about it (even though I’m aware that there must be house-spirits, even though it’s a new home, and possibly ancestors and land spirits present as well), and that’s not something which can be changed at present, because I don’t have control over what goes on in the rest of the house (and barely do in my room, to be honest). It’s nice to be able to “get away” from the visual reminders of the deities’ presence on some occasions, simply because a break is needed and some things don’t really need to be done with their supervision at all times…and yet, at the same time, I’m never away from them (and usually have their tokens on my person, if nothing else).

So, I’m going back and forth on this, especially as a think about and plan for the future. I want to get a two-bedroom apartment so that the second bedroom will be a shrine-room–yes, there will be books in it, but it is not a library/office, nor an auxiliary guest room (guests will stay on the hide-a-bed in the front room if/when they visit me!)–which will mean that it belongs pretty much only to the gods and divine beings, and will only really be used for things having to do with them; I know I’ll use it in the morning and at night, at very least, and likely at other times during the day when I’m home as well. But, will that mean that the gods are not as much a part of my life as they would have otherwise been, and as they have been in my living circumstances now, and for the last seven years?

No. I think I’ll have to have some other shrines around the house as well…

A high priority is put on “integration” generally speaking within modern paganism, not only of “the sacred” or “the divine” (and those particular usages kind of make me throw up a little, for reasons I’ve discussed on many other occasions, including their monistic implications and the fact that those implications have so monopolized the realm of religion and spirituality for modern people that they are assumed and expected rather than challenged, which they need to be) into our everyday lives, but also in the sense discussed in psychological circles, of having an integrated personality, of being integrated into the realities of our lives, of being an integral part of our communities, etc. Sure, those are all good things. But, is what makes sacredness sacred–quite literally–that it is separate rather than integrated?

Anyway, just some stray thoughts…longer than I expected, but still relatively short by my standards and tendencies over the last few years. 😉


  1. I have a separate room dedicated to honoring/worship of the Gods. I agree with items only being used for daily/weekly practice. I don’t have any shrines out side of said room since I made this room a sacred space/time.

  2. Part of me has always liked the idea of a shrine-room, but I think for me, it ends up being better to have the gods’ presence (in the form of shrines) situated in my everyday living space, so that They are always in the forefront of my mind, and everywhere I look. It emphasizes the fact that They *are* my life, rather than just something set aside for special occasions. However, I do have a separate, smaller space for ritual work (which used to be the oracular adyton), which then also satisfies the wish for a sacred space devoted only to that. But I think this is one of those things where the right solution will be different for everyone, depending on a variety of factors.

    One could always have the “working” shrines in a separate room, and just devotional areas set up throughout the house where there are images and symbols, but not necessarily where you leave offerings and do ritual.

  3. I’m with Dver on this–the devotional statue I keep in the living room helps keep me in awareness of the Deities. It’s a plain image of the Virgin Mary with Child Jesus, but I sense the house spirits share Her image to reside in. Even having a small candle or flowers next to it seems shocking to family and friends coming in. The changing offerings are tacit proof, if you will, that devotion is happening. Especially without being within a church, or requiring a particular holiday: “You do this because…you want to?”

    The “working” shrine stays in my room; the privacy helps me do divination, writing, and whatever else I intuit would be needed by Them.

  4. I like what’s been said about devotional areas vs working shrines and the right solution being different for everyone depending on different factors.

    In my last place I had a shrine room, combination art studio/altar room, and balcony garden – all connected to each other. Here I’ve just got my ancestor shrine and the gardens on the grounds. My next place might present many more opportunities if I end up where I think I may end up next, we’ll see…

    In any case, more important for me than a shrine room or even a temple is gardens. As long as I have a garden the connection is strong and open. A bit of a dark sky site is a plus too but not essential and alas I love the city.

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