Ritual/Altar/Shrines/Rites 101

The aim here is to help out the newcomers to understand the basics. This is not intended for those that already know.

Gaulish Druidism, Gaulish Polytheism

This write-up is to help one understand the very basics of rituals, rites, altars, and shrines. This will provide an underlying idea to show how simple this all is to truly understand. This is not connected to any religion, traditions, or culture. For each of these things I am writing about, one could go in-depth and make a whole book, but that defeats the purpose here. The purpose here is simplicity.


Definition of Ritual –Ritual is a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

There are many types of rituals, which can get a little intimidating and confusing for someone new. Do not let that be a burden for you. It just takes time to familiarize oneself with the art of ritual. The more you research it, the more likely you will not do it. Please do not get caught up in all that. The act of Ritual lies within you, not in a book. It is an art form that should be honed, just like anything else. Done with skill and the basic layouts can bring meaning and many wonders to the individual’s life. Ritual is diverse. While it is often done outdoors, some choose to do rituals indoors. It can be solo or in a group gathering.

A songwriter can bring awareness to the listeners connecting them to things unnoticed. The same is with ritual, as it has no powers on its own. The powers come from the effects it has on those that take part in them. Ritual helps the individual focus, consciousness, intuition, and intentions. It helps to remind us of the bigger picture of the universe and that we are just a small part of it all. We use rituals to get closer to the gods and the natural world, to give thanks, & bring more awareness of the Sacred. 

A ritual is a Symbolic act.

Below is a list of the basics behind what individuals see when someone is doing a ritual. This is a stripped-down version with no flash or anything fancy. This is the foundation at the core.

  • Opening
  • Make a Sacred Space.
  • The lighting of Fire and Candles, along with incense, one can use a diffuser as well.
  • An invocation of the recipient.
  • An offering to the recipient.
  • Closing

Now the above can also be very simple to very complex. One could dress up everything and make it a massive Ritual that lasts hours. Alternatively, one can keep things minimal and have a ritual that lasts only minutes. What matters most is one intention.

Behind the Ritual
The more complex and meaningful the ritual, the more elaborate each of these elements becomes, in general.

  • Main Focus – The goal
  • The place  – where the ritual is located
  • Items/Gear – What is required to complete the ceremony, including food.
  • Roles/Actions – What must be done by those involved in the ceremony
  • Atmosphere –What it looks like at the ceremony, The lighting to the colors, music, singing, or drums. Silence is a sensation and in respectful silence.


A formal or ceremonial act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious or other solemn use. These would be important moments in one’s life. Rites apply to religious practices. While rituals can be applied to religious practices, they can also be applied to cultural and traditional practices. One could say a Rite is a title term, and Ritual is a descriptive term.

  • Funeral
  • Marriage
  • Fertility
  • Coming of age
  • Birth
  • Initiation
  • There are many different kinds

A ritual is the performing of a task in such a way that elevates it for the participants involved.
A rite consists of a ritual, or several rituals, that mark an important milestone in a participant’s life.


The Definition of an altar is a table or flat-topped block used as the focus for a ritual, especially for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity. Religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc. How should my altar be arranged? What should go on my altar? Well, that all depends on the Custom/Tradition you are in.

I would say the most basic would be.

  • An idol of the God/desses
  • Bowl
  • Cup
  • Candle
  • Incense
  • Knife
  • Cloth

Now I know when you look at different folk’s altars, you see all kinds of amazing things, and they look lovely. Remember that it takes a long time to gather items that resonate with you and represent your views. Now when it comes to starting, I would say focus on your connection to your Gods/desses, and in time they will show you the ways. Remember, altars are for sacred work.


What is a Shrine? Let us not confuse them with altars, as a shrine is a separate thing in itself, as I see folks confuse the two very often. First, the definition of a shrine in the Oxford Dictionary is a place regarded as holy because of its associations with a divinity or a sacred person or relic marked by a building or other construction. 

Different kinds of Shrines

  • God/desses
  • Ancestors
  • Places
  • Nature
  • There are many

Example of an ancestor shrine 
A consecrated space one decorates with images and items your ancestors found joyful in this life (Offerings). Candles to light when you give a prayer. Each item you place there becomes sacred. Daily Devotion is paid. 

An altar is a ceremonial instrument that holds other instruments and allows you to guide and anchor the energy of your work. It is a sacred workspace.
A shrine is where we worship a give devotion to a god/dess, spirits, nature, and ancestors.

All this is the simple forms, and within one’s religion, they have their own names with varying definitions. One would need to research said religion or culture to get closer to the above ideas.

All these things are Sacred and should be treated as such. I am not claiming any ultimate authority on any of this. Just sharing stripped-down knowledge for those that are new to these things. Ultimately, walk and talk with the god/desses, ancestors, and nature and build your relationship. In time you will get to understand the above as you voyage deeper into your religion and customs.

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