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Sacred Space

January 3, 2008

I’m interested in setting up a sacred space in my home – a kind of mini-altar I guess, where I can pray in a dedicated spot.

I’m looking for ideas for something small, yet meaningful.

For those of you who have altars/sacred space at home, what kind of set up do you have?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2008 3:21 pm

    Well since I’m a Buddapalian my altar is low, actually an upturned basket at the moment (you try finding an altar table of appropriate height for one sitting on a zafu/zabuton!). It sits beside a book case where my prayer books and bibles and other various worship stuff are stored.

    I have a large tray set on it (which is candle safe) to contain wax, I burn lots of candles while doing prayer and meditation. Other stuff on the altar changes with my moods. Bits from nature, a palm sized labyrinth, an icon for meditation, an olive wood dove from Jerusalem, etc.

    A home altar should be a personal space. What helps YOU create an atmosphere for prayer? What does your spiritual practice look like, how will the altar be used? OK, now what will help that practice?

    If you are sitting meditation on a traditional zafu and zabuton you will probably want something quite different than if you are gathering for family prayer. Be creative, play, and don’t be afraid to change things as you go!

    -Tandaina

  2. Julie+ permalink
    January 3, 2008 4:30 pm

    I agree with Tandaina — your prayer space needs to fit your spirituality. What tools for prayer work best for you? Do you prefer to sit or kneel as you pray? Do you like candles, prayer beads, prayer books? Do icons or incense work for you? Does music help you center?

    All that being said, what was most important for me when I first put a prayer space together at home was that it had to be a place and use items that wouldn’t cause me to totally freak if someone sat there or moved something. I figured if I had to spend all of my time defending my sacred space (especially with 3 rambunctious kids), pretty soon it would be more war zone than prayer place.

    So, with that limitation, my altar became a shelf over my desk at home with a cross, a candle, and prayer book and prayer beads handy. Is it perfect? No. Can I settle in and feel I’m surrounded by the Holy? Yup.

    Have fun! 🙂

  3. January 3, 2008 6:05 pm

    Ask and ye shall receive.

  4. January 3, 2008 10:50 pm

    We have several sacred spaces. One is in our dining room and is a natural spot, as it’s a granite-topped counter in a corner. We have a statue of the Virgin of Montserrat as well as a few items that are special to us, and we light candles.

    I have my own place on my dresser, with icons and pictures, as well as a couple of statues. My husband has his own little spot too. I sit on my side of the bed and pray when I can get some peace and quiet. Good luck and enjoy your project. 🙂

  5. January 4, 2008 7:30 am

    Mine is a wooden toy box. I have about 50 candles on it, a small double icon (Madonna and Child on one side, grown-up Jesus on the other) I got at Westminster Abbey, my photo of the Guido Reni painting I blogged about, and a 8-inch cross I got at St. Martin’s in the Field. Oh, and my Anglican rosary.

    I can only pray in the dark (Don’t know what that says about me!), so that’s why I have all the candles. With my fading eyesight, I need ’em to be able to read Morning Prayer. 😉

  6. January 4, 2008 1:55 pm

    In one corner of my study, which I can see from my computer, I have a simple Mexican wood cross on the wall, a hanging votive, and a bunch of other votives. I light them when I need to. The other holy space is on top of a crate on which I have a few small objects. Mostly, though, it’s the votives up on the wall. I read the DOL in my rocking chair and sometimes one of the cats joins me.

  7. January 4, 2008 4:21 pm

    Mine has a bunch of stuff — some icons – Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene (the Lentz one), Mary and Elizabeth by a friend (I will send you a pix), a carving of the HIndu Kali, some jar candles (my favorite is the get more money one) – Jesus bleeding heart, Guadelupe, shells from the Oregon coast, my last supper pen with the elements that float up and down the table as your write, whatever else strikes my fancy. Have fun most of all.

  8. January 5, 2008 9:26 pm

    I have a few spots. Because I spend so much time at my desk at home, at least these days before the start of school, I have icons and a candle on my desk. Lentz icons of Joseph (with baby Jesus and two doces) and Mary, Protectress of the Oppressed, a Black Mary, also with baby Jesus but in a different pose (so sue me, I have two baby Jesuses on the desk but I like having both Joseph and Mary, and the Joseph picture is very tender), plus above the desk is a printout of a copy of St. Michael (see a post of seven or eight months ago I wrote called “sometimes you just need a militant archangel”) and also a picture of my grandnephew and a card my brother sent me with a beautiful painting of jars on it, and nearby a picture of Alyosha, the cat of three cats ago who died in Berkeley, and who in the photo is sitting in the garden and looks like a little Japanese Zen monk. Also a red ceramic cross above the desk — roommate from my third year in divinity school gave it to me, it broke, I glued it back. It matches the votive candle holder which is red and was in a movie my friend Beth made called “The Blinking Madonna.” And a little postcard of stained glass windows (modern ones, the old ones blew out in one of the wars) from the abbey church at Conques. It’s a big desk. I don’t always light the votive candle but I sometimes do when I am writing, not just when I pray, and also when someone has asked me to pray for them.

    But I have other spaces. Icon near the bed, big image of Guadalupe in the open space where the living room flows into the dining room — image given to me by a Latino friend from out West.

    I keep wanting to make a corner floor type of space, because actually I like praying on the floor. Taizé and Zen influences ;-). I do have a sitting cushion, but I want to get a real Zen cushion (zafu) since this is more an extra-seat-in-the-living-room kind of cushion. But it’s large and reasonably comfortable and it was cheap.

    In the entryway to the house I have a reproduction of a Mary of Magdala medieval illumination – it’s very small but a friend of mine used it for her ordination invitation, which I thought was a great idea, honoring the first witness to the Resurrection and “Apostle to the Apostles.”

    I agree with others: do what works for you — and what will work in a household with children. If you can at work and if it’s permitted, you can put up an image or keep an object around — it’s good for focus and reminder and in the times (rare I know) when you are able to take two minutes (or thirty seconds) in that setting to read a Psalm or say “yo Godde, it’s Eileen, anything you want to tell me?”

  9. January 9, 2008 3:49 pm

    How about when you’re sitting on the bog?
    It’s private – about the right size.
    Mind you I’m not so sure about the incense – Poo-eee!

  10. episcopalifem permalink*
    January 9, 2008 3:55 pm

    Tsk, Tsk, Tsk.

    I could get haemorroids doing that…but why would a pain in the ass like you care about a further pain in my ass?

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