For millennia, women have made their homes the center of their spiritual lives. As the keepers of the home in many cultures, women had a special place in the family’s spiritual life. In some ancient cultures, sacred spaces were set up near the ovens and statues of goddesses were placed in grain bins. Every house had its domestic altars that brought the Divine into the everyday lives of those who dwelled inside. In many societies, however, over time the center of religious life moved out of the home into separate buildings, women became less important as the keepers of sacred places, and fewer homes had places set aside as sacred within them.
Now, women are no longer bound to their homes; we have work and lives outside our front doors. For many women, religious life is centered on churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other organizations and institutions. We may even spend time in these places daily and be ministers or rabbis or other leaders. But, still, something is lost when that connection between the Divine and the everyday tasks we do for ourselves and our families is severed, when we eat bread without thinking of the wonder of the sunrise that brought the light to the grain to make it grow so that we may eat.
No matter what religion we may be a member of or what spiritual practices we may do, we can still make sacred spaces in our homes. Some people call these spaces “altars,” but for some that name may not work because, to them, it means a place that is away from everyday life. If that is true for you, you can call it whatever you like. The sacred spaces we mean are simply places that you see and touch everyday that remind you that life is more than toil and worry and simply getting through all the items on your list for the day. It is a place that brings to your mind what you truly love about life and what is meaningful for you. It whispers in your ear that even the smallest acts that you do today, how well you love others right now, and enjoying your life everyday are all sacred and essential to the grand plan for the universe.
This all sounds very nice, but how do you go about it? The answer is really quite complicated. However works for you. That’s about it. You can set up your sacred places wherever you like with whatever feels right to you and you can keep them the same or change them whenever you want. Here are some ideas:
You can have as many as you like wherever you like. Bedrooms, studies, and other more private places can be good if you have small people in your home who like to rearrange things and carry them off or if you frequently have visitors and you do not want to be constantly explaining your sacred space to others. You could have one specifically for children in a more public place for them to play with. Kitchens are always symbolic places of nourishment, love, and family, and thus an excellent spot. Tables, bookshelves, or nooks are all good places for sacred spaces.
Your sacred space can include just about anything. Some of ours include special mementoes of our past, such as a pine cone from a family homestead. You can put in symbols of what you would like to have for the future, say a small diploma if you are working towards a degree. Many people like putting representations of each element, though different cultures have varying ideas of the elements. Earth, air, fire, water and sometimes spirit are common. Some of us like to bring in pieces of nature – a leaf or a stone – especially if we live in climates that make spending a lot of time outside difficult. Many people always have a candle or two, sometimes in colors that mean something to them. For some people, their sacred spaces aren’t complete without some representation of Divinity.
You can set up your sacred space to be as formal or informal as you like. You can make it an artistic creation with very specific colors, shapes, and arrangements.
You may keep your sacred space just as it is for a very long time or you can change it frequently. Some of us like to recreate ours at least once each season, adding things that remind us of that season and special holidays in it. The most enjoyable thing about your sacred space is that it reflects who you are, be enjoyable for you to create and experience, and brings the sacred into your everyday life.