Natural health, beauty and fashion

How to Make a Nature Shrine

Welcome back to the tribe of the treasure hunters.

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Welcome back to the tribe of the treasure hunters.

You were probably quite the expert in our art when you were six – remember the thrill of finding an iridescent snail shell, an excitingly big stick, a weird leaf? Still aghast at the world’s gushing beauty, many of us instinctively hoarded this glorious treasure. It was peppered under pillows, stuck in pockets and tucked in strategic crevices in hedges, floorboards and tree trunks.

As the adult version of this practice, making a nature shrine allows us to wonder at simple, small things again. It keeps our eyes open to the bounty surrounding us.

The time you spend with an eye out for treasures is like an active meditation. Each season and landscape has an abundance of harvestable tidbits. You walk around quiet back alleys, eyes combing the wild flowers jutting through the sidewalk. With every new moon they will fade and change, the daffodil gives way to the tulips, who gather up their skirts and bow to Saint John’s wort. Your sense of the passing time sharpens by collecting these “ephemeral” items.

The alchemy of gardening does its trick, and as you work the land, the land works on you. Your findings will leave their imprint on your fingers, their fragrances follow you home. They leave a trail for the fairies to follow, bringing poetry in their wake.

When harvesting, follow our ancestors’ honorable harvesting rules:
– Ask permission before helping yourself.
– Make an offering. A song, a pinch of tobacco, a drop of water, a joke…
– Take only what you need, from an abundant source where the taking will leave no trace.

Make a shrine to fit your needs, to focus your intention in a specific direction. If you need spiritual, mental nourishment, make mandalas of sweetcorn, bright green peas and red lentils. Make rock piles with a stone from a different street every week, to ground yourself and spread out your area of action and influence. Reflect on protection and boundaries by gathering spiky chestnut bur, nutshells and vacated spider husks.

As you take, think of this element’s interaction with your own life. The feather from a bird that brightens your mornings with song. The bud that would have given you an apple, later in the season. The leaf that offered you its shade.

In the Book of Joy, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky reveals that our ability to cultivate joy is linked to three decisive factors. One one is the ability to reframe our situations more positively, and another is experiencing gratitude.

Making a nature shrine brings you back into the rhythm of reciprocity with your environment. You are lifted out of the narrow perspective of your individual life, its challenges and to-do lists, and find yourself back into the flow that connects you to everything.

Ideas for your shrine:

  • Stones
  • Feathers
  • Buds
  • Seashells
  • Coconut shells
  • Bones
  • Leaves
  • Berries
  • Fresh flowers
  • Grains
  • Acorns
  • Seeds
  • Dry flowers
  • Holly berries
  • Green twigs

 

Sample Altars

Tara’s Altar

Tara is going through a process of mourning and instability. These are flowers and elements from the past, connected to her work, reminiscent of what she is letting go as she gets ready to enter a new phase. Once that cycle is completed, she will burn everything.

Rebekah’s Altar

Rebekah has just moved to a new home, and decorated her altar with the garden’s treasures on a bed of cedar, a gesture of gratefulness for the abundance she has found there. Each feather calls one of the four directions. She was working with the archetype of the spider, and I gave her the seashell under the candle, shaped like a spider’s web.

My Altar

I collected seashells while walking on the beach, thinking about their journey tossed around by the wave, much like myself, unable to resist the call of the sea for too long. The rose petals were saved for me (the red roses have gone, which left space for white ones while I was away). The wheat and seeds were freshly cut when I returned home through the fields, a homage to Xeres, Greek goddess of the harvest.

A Final Word

Let this practice be a gateway to showering gratitude on the things that ensure your survival and well-being. To bring little tokens of joy and beauty into your home, and tune into the forests, riversides and fields. Now as always, they are our generous pharmacies, foodstores, libraries, music halls, healing centres and meditation chambers. They feed our bodies and souls with their love and music – and we can pour it back out at them.
Happy hunting!

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