Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Amulet boxes, talismans, personal and portable shrines

My interest in objects that might assist us in contemplation, reflection and meditation has led me to create a number of different beaten, formed and assembled metal items including: meditation bowls; incense burners; and personal shrines.

Barry Smith © Personal shrine - to the moon
I think my interest in personal and portable shrines, amulet boxes and talismans began a few years ago when our friends Boris and Richard showed us an amulet box they had purchased - which still had the sacred and secret objects still in the box - still wrapped and preserved in their sacredness. On a recent visit B&R shared more insights into this area of Tibetan personal portable shrines and amulet boxes (gau).

Barry Smith © Sacred content of a small simple Tibetan gau 
Barry Smith © Aged, worn, simple and sacred gau
Barry Smith © Carved portable bone shrine with sacred words and symbols  - front
Barry Smith © Carved portable shrine with sacred words and symbols  - back
In our visit to NYC a household shrine and a portable shrine (below) were part of the exhibition in the Rubin Museum of Art which is dedicated to the art of the Himalayas including Tibet.

Barry Smith – Tibetan amulet box (gau) - Rubin Museum 
Recently I have been fascinated Stregata's work on amulets and talismans; Gaby's small portable shrine; and Mairedodd's talismans. And Mairedodd (MJ) gave us the gift of such a beautiful talismanic piece.  MJ's gift has many layers: the sacred tablet, the words stamped into the metal behind the tablet and words stamped onto the fabric. The piece has other symbols of spirit and enlightenment including the bell and the double ended crystal. And of course it has been personally crafted and energised by the giver.

Barry Smith © MJ's talisman gift - now above our work space
What I love about the portable personal shrines is that the owner can take them on journeys with them  - whether it be for pleasure, duty or business. Wherever they find themselves they can set up, and in some case open the shrine, and they have a small place of contemplation, reflection, mediation or prayer with them. They can create a sacred place wherever they are - in a room, a park, the woods, on a mountain trail, on the shores of the ocean etc. The portable shrine is a gateway to the inner self, a connection to hearth and kin and the spirit realm. The shrine can contain secret and sacred objects and messages (of spirit, love, peace, giving, enlightment) that are important to the owner and maybe have been given as wishes, prayers and protections for the owner. In themselves these portable personal shrines are unique personal and powerful.

Barry Smith © Wrapped contents of a portable shrine
So where is all this heading? I have been inspired by what has been shared with me and what I have seen to have a go at creating a small portable personal shrine.


  1. Barry, your Personal Shrine to the moon is absolutely exquisite!! Even in the image it is working as a meditation piece, since I've been sitting here, contemplating it's beauty for some time. It really is stunning!

  2. i am so interested to see how this moves through you in your work... the pieces from your friends' collection are beautiful... love the carving on the back of the one - see the mani mantra? - and i am so very pleased that you found the gift to be so meaningful...

  3. Look forward to seeing the outcome of the inspiration, Barry. I've made talismans for myself and medicine bundles to carry with me - maybe bundles are a kind of pagan portable shrine. It seems even more of a blessing when they come as sacred gifts from others. Love Maire's piece.

    I was just photographing some of my inspiration in the afternoon light of the studio yesterday, your copper leaf was beautiful next to one of my spiral stones. What a great contrast in textures and colors....

    Happy creating! I'm getting a whole day in the studio today, I'll be taking shrine inspiration in there with me, thanks.

  4. ~"to the moon"

    i am over the moon seeing this piece...the embossed metal you used is a eloquent delicate touch ...sigh...beautiful shrine...did you emboss the metal or find it this way...

    this post is filled with many wonderful bits that behold powerful yet peaceful thoughts and energy...

    personal shrines and portable ones i couldn't agree more...a be able to have them with you where ever you may go...a focal point to make you silence your mind...or seek solitude...or find comfort in your day to day...

    i love that you ventured into creating your own portable shrine...heres to stepping out of our box and trying our hand at something new each well and much love light and blessings~

  5. Great post... and thanks for the fascinating links.

  6. I've often said I am nothing but the accumulation of everything I've seen and been inspired by.... I see you are as well! It will be a wonderful new adventure that I'm sure will only lead to more inspiration for the rest of us to contemplate.

  7. Love the Shrine to the Moon. I've been fascinated with the ideas of personal shrines and particularly talismans and amulets ever since I was a child (can probably blame the books I read!) I believe the urge to make a sacred, special object is a deep human urge, having watched my children from when they were quite small, instinctively make special 'things,' that seem to have no practical purpose, out of all sorts of things like sticks and coloured string and beads and whatever else they can find. I think my wooden hangers are leaning towards this too, especially the Talesingr ones. An attempt to find something sacred in our rather secular and rational world.

  8. wonderful to see each and every image. the tibetan language, the letters look like art themselves, dancing figures. your artful shrines and bowls are wonderful, i have always enjoyed seeing them.

    perhaps part of what is powerful about a personal shrine is that it holds the presence of prayer or meditation or stillness which then inspires one to enter that state swiftly again and again.

  9. I am so inspired by your personal shrine! And I think it wonderful how all this creative energy is shared, regardless of how far away we are in person. Thank you for being a part of my journey!

  10. RMD, VA, B, JM, SZQ,MIA, TL & S/R - it is amazing in this blog community of ours just how the circle of inspiration goes round. R & B - the moon shrine is both beautiful and has its own power - it is in a new home - many people wanted it but one person now has it as a place of peace and meditation. MD - Boris did point out the various aspects of the piece - and I found the simplicity of the carving and wording on the back as powerful as the beauty on the front. B - the moon shrine detail comes from the old silver-plated tray I made the backplate from. SZQ - as you say always looking and thinking, seeking , collecting and creating.MIA - it is amazing how we can impart such energy and sacredness to the simplest and every day things - therefore they become part of our own personal little shrines. TL - I like you thought of how the personal shrines swiftly take you to a certain place or state. S/R -I often reflect on the fact that though we have never met many of the people who are part of what I think of as a blogging community, we do seem to become part of each others journeys - sometimes in small and short ways but for other a bit more connected and maybe a bit longer. I'm glad that I am part of your journey. Go well. B

  11. This is so exciting B! I think talismans and shrines have such a magical quality that is universally appealing. Your piece has such a spiritual and sacred quality...really lovely!

  12. i'm interested in these, especially the bone one (oh, lovely) but i think your own is the one that is probably the most important.

  13. CM & V- thanks for your comments. CM - things are sacred in themselves but we do give them sacred energy when we set them aside in special ways like talismans. V - I think the truth of it is that the object we embrue with sacredness ourselves are most likely to have the greatest meaning and importance. Go well. B


Comments are welcomed - it is good to connect with fellow travellers.