Quest Cycles Applying the Hero Quest to the crises in our lives Linda S. Griggs

Hero Quest Shrines

As I've continued on my quests,
I've explored different aspects of the Hero Quest cycle through my shrines.
Here are some samples. Click on each one for a larger image and explanation.


Hero Quest Cycle

Hero Quest Art

Hero Quest Readings

Hero Quest Workshops

Hero Quest Store

Bio and contact


  • dakinis
  • gift of healer
    Gift of the Healer
  • HQ horse
    Spirit Guides
  • HQ tarot
    Hero Quest Tarot

  • HQ cross
    Hero Quest Cross
  • Cauldron
  • chicken guide
    Underworld Guides
  • sacred heart
    Sacred Heart
  • soulskin
  • Resurrection



Dance of the Wrathful Dakinis

“The anaconda almost got me, but I’m a child of God and protected.”

Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You

This shrine celebrates the intensity that helped me transform my breast cancer from a debilitating crisis into a life-enhancing Hero Quest. That intensity comes from doing as Caroline Casey suggests: “If something is a problem, make it BIGGER.”

When she says that, Casey has in mind the “Wrathful Dakinis” (like the fierce figure on top of this shrine) -  Tantric Buddhist dancers who laugh and dance as they feast on negative events.

The idea is to face the crisis head on and metaphorically do the “dance of life” to invoke and reinforce the universe’s curative powers. In so doing, Casey says, we learn how to survive the prescribed stages of a crisis, allowing creative transformation to unfold:

• Front - Disruption and shock (my response to my diagnosis)
• Inside left - Numbness, not knowing (as if turned to stone by Medusa)
• Inside right - Surge of power/real self coming to the surface

The outcome of all this is acceptance of new self/situation: the "boon" that always comes as the final stage of a Hero Quest.


gift of healergift of healer


Gift of the Wounded Healer: Transformation (#21)

This shrine celebrates the transformation my Hero Quest brought me: from living too much in my head (figure on the left) to embracing a more passionate life through my creativity (Frida Kahlo figure on right).

The curious 4-legged creature at the back of the shrine represents Chiron, the wounded healer centaur, who acts as a shaman (linocut on back) to heal wounds.

The stone ball in the middle represents the balance Chiron has taught me how to strike between my head and my creativity (also echoed in the black and white stones on top). My shrine making requires both my head (to figure out the issue) and my creativity (to ilustrate that issue).

HQ spirit guidesHQ spirit guides


Hero Quest Spirit Guides (#80)


This shrine uses animal figures and my photos of the Southwest to illustrate the advice and encouragement Spirit Guides offer as we make our Hero Quest descent into the Underworld.



As Jamie Sams says in Medicine Cards:

Horse says: "Ride on my back and know the power of entering the Darkness
and finding the light."

Buffalo says,"Is it time to make peace with some inner conflict
so that I may walk in balance again?"

Antelope says, "Take courage and leap. The time is now. The power is you. . . .
The fear of the unknown subsides once action begins."


HQ TarotHQ Tarot

Hero Quest Tarot (#87)

This shrine pairs my photos of the Southwest with cards from the Deviant Moon Tarot deck, by Patrick Valenza, to illustrate the steps in the Hero Quest.

On the front, the hero gets the call to adventure - a call that takes him out of the material world of work (represented by the King, eight and two of Coins) and hastens his descent into the mysterious Underworld. The ultimate purpose of his answering the call is to be reborn (represented by the Queen of Wands holding a baby - echoed by the embryonic figure in the photo) into his authentic self.

Inside, on the left, the hero encounters demons (represented by the menacing figure in the top photo and the two conflicted Swords cards beneath it) as he wanders in the Underworld (represented by the Death card and the skeletal bones on the bottom). On the right, while in the Underworld, he also encounters helpful and unhelpful entities, as well as good and bad projections of himself (represented by the photos of stone figures and the five and seven of Cups). In the end, as he transforms into his authentic self, he learns to call back and embrace all parts of himself (represented by the Lovers card on the far right).


Hero Quest Cross

This piece superimposes the stages of the Hero Quest onto the Cross - as a way to understand (and ultimately celebrate) my breast cancer journey in that larger, more meaningful context.

The stages of the quest are represented by icons of various saints whose images remind me of each stage.

My Call to Adventure is at the top, followed by my gathering of Spirit Guides on the right arm of the cross. My descent into the Underworld to battle demons and then reconnect with the Divine is at the bottom, and finally my return with the boon is on the left arm.

The configuration in the middle of the cross (linocut and torso milagro with stone on the right breast) represents me embracing my Hero Quest.




In the Cauldron of the Goddess

This shrine depicts the process of transformation we undergo as a result of the Underworld descent/ascent we make during a Hero Quest. The stages of that transformation are illustrated by animal figures and my photos of the Southwest.

That process is described by Jean Shinoda Bolen in Crossing to Avalon:

“The image of [the Grail] existed in pre-Christian Celtic and Druidic myths as the Cauldron of the Goddess through which rebirth, inspiration, and plenty would come. . . .

Only after we’ve made it out, do we know how it has changed us, what we have shed and left behind, and what we gave birth to, found, or recovered there.

Like any other labyrinthine process, it takes as long as it takes.”

As you can see from the animal figures, whenever we get too set in our ways (donkey on top) it's time to make a descent into the cauldron. While we're in the cauldron (baby rhino) we may get turned around and look/act completely different from the way we used to be. When we ascend out of the cauldron, we are reborn different. We will never be exactly the way we used to be.

chicken frontchicken inside


Underworld Guide

In Africa, the hen is known as a guide to the Underworld, which is why it is often ritually sacrificed to call up spirits.

This shrine celebrates the spirit that guided my husband and me safely through my breast cancer Hero Quest journey – a journey that took us to and from the Underworld.

On top, the red hen represents my diagnosis, which just appeared one day in the midst of our otherwise quite staid and predictable life. The large woman holding the chicken is me “wearing” my breast cancer – it’ll never not be a part of me.

Inside, the images show how it felt to go on our Underworld journey, not knowing if we’d ever return, or how changed we might be if we did return. Ultimately, of course, we did return from the Underworld - with new understandings of ourselves and each other and a new “weight”(represented by the chicken rock at the bottom) that adds depth to us both.

sacred heart


Sacred Heart

The first time I saw a so-called “sacred heart” displayed in a Catholic church, I was appalled. The flames, the blood dripping down from what’s obviously a terrible wound – it was grotesque. I couldn’t understand how it came to be revered as a holy symbol.

After my Hero Quest with breast cancer, however, I’ve come to revere the sacred heart in a different way.

One of the challenges I share with other survivors is to constructively express (rather than stuff down) uncomfortable emotions – emotions like those symbolized by the passion and pain depicted in the sacred heart.

The left panel of this shrine shows what those powerful emotions feel like when they are expressed. The right panel shows us the choices we have regarding the circumstances that precipitate those strong emotions: we can continue to live/die as martyrs to them; or we can bless them, thank them for the growth they have brought us, and then move on.




This shrine arises out of a folktale about a seal maiden who loses her sealskin and is forced to leave the sea and live on land as a woman. The longer the maiden is away from the sea, the more dried out and depressed she becomes. Finally, barely alive after seven years, she finds her sealskin again, slips into it, and returns to her real life in the sea.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés (Women Who Run with the Wolves) sees this as a tale of modern woman losing her “soulskin”:

Eventually every woman away from her soul-home tires.
Then she seeks her skin again
in order to revive her sense of self and soul,
in order to restore her deep-eyed and oceanic knowing.

My Hero Quest woke me up to the loss of my soulskin; I believe that true healing comes only from finding and exuberantly wearing it again.





Resurrection: Phoenix Rising

"In the middle of the white ashes and glowing coals . . . there appeared something pale and glittering. . . . There was a flash of sunlight glinting on brilliant plumage. And from the ruins of the pyre stepped forth a magnificent bird.”

Edward Ormondroyd,
David and the Phoenix

When I got my Call to Adventure (in the form of a breast cancer diagnosis in 1993), I felt – like the frazzled bird figure in the center and the tree behind it – like I’d been struck by lightning.

But in the nearly 20 years since then, I feel more and more like the mythical golden phoenix (on top) who is reborn from its own funeral pyre. I feel like I’ve been resurrected, glowing and strong – like the grasses on the back – from the ashes of who I was before my diagnosis.

This shrine celebrates the rebirth/resurrection that always, always comes with the Hero Quests in our lives.

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