Home Altars come in all forms and have varied uses. They can be the focus of a ceremony or ritual, a place for daily reflection, or a place to give thanks to the energies we work with on a daily basis amongst many other uses.
Altars are tables or other surfaces used to hold your ritual tools, and/or used to perform rituals, spell casting, make offerings or for other magical purposes.
There is no right or wrong way to set up your altar. No set of rules exist on what you should house on it, or what tools you should have. Tools and set up of your personal alter will depend on your practice and lifestyle.
Altars can be a permanent fixture in your home, which is set up and used frequently; or it can be portable, even temporary. Its use, set up and look is completely up to you and your personal needs.
Keeping all the things you need for your practice in one convenient place is what makes altars a very attractive thing to have in your home or preferred work area.
Altars don’t have to be indoors, you can have an outdoor altar, or even multiple altars depending on what you use them for.
Your home altar can be as intricate or simple as you wish, and they are fairly easy to make. A small corner table, nightstand, or other small surfaces make great altars. If you are working outdoors, a tree stump or flat rock can do the trick just fine. Tight on space? The top of a dresser or chest can easily work as an altar. You can also have a portable or temporary altar, which is in a box and can act as both a container of your tools and a platform for your work. Portable altars are fantastic for those needing more privacy, as they can be easily put away when not in use.
If you have a permanent altar, it can be used and decorated year-round depending on the Wheel of the Year and celebrations of the different Sabbats and Esbats.
There are also several other uses for alters aside from ritual and magic work. Many people keep ancestor altars, which can be used to say thanks or offer remembrance to deceased family members. Nature altars can be great places to keep those little gifts you find from nature as you go about your daily life. Inspiration altars can work similar to how inspiration or dream boards work; a place to keep reminders of what you want to achieve or dream about accomplishing. Even children can have their own altars, where they keep their favorite and important things.
Your altar is as personal as your practice and spiritual path. Use it to hold the things you love, value, and are dear to your heart and soul.
Setting Up your Altar
So you’ve decided you want to keep an altar? Awesome! Below is a very basic guide of some items you may want to keep on it to give you a quick start on creating your own sacred space.
– Symbols of the Elements. Typically, these are aligned with the cardinal directions, they can take any form but here are some examples: Bowl of sand on the north to represent earth, Incense to the east to symbolize air, candle in the south to signify fire, and a bowl of water in the west.
– Candles. Candles are often used to represent deities or the 4 directions. You can use colors which represent these things, or something for the season. Make sure to keep a lighter or matches handily!
– Athame. This will depend on your practice. Many Pagans and Wiccans use ritual athames in their practice, and alter is the best place to keep it. Often used to cast your circle or to direct energy like a wand.
– Wand. Typically used to direct energy. If you use one, your altar is the best place to keep it.
– Cup/Chalice – Used during rituals for some traditions.
-Statues/Symbols – Statues or symbols of your preferred deities.
– Bell. Traditionally used to drive away evil spirits, create powerful vibrations, or bring harmony to your practice. Also used to begin or end rites in many traditions.
– Besom. Used to cleanse and sweep ceremonial areas both of dust and negative energies.
– Cauldron. Used to burn incense, candles, or offerings. Also used to represent the Goddess in many traditions. Additionally can be used to blend herbs, or as a scrying tool when filled with water.
– Divination Tools. Tarot cards, runes, pendulum, etc. Whichever method is your favorite!
– Book of Shadows/Grimoire. Your magical work guide and diary, keep it on your Altar or nearby!
– Pentacle. Many Pagan traditions use pentacles. Most often seen on altars on pieces of wood or tile. The pentacle typically includes the pentagram (5-pointed star) and symbols relevant to your particular tradition.
– Robes. Many Pagans perform ceremonies and ritual work in special robes or garments. In certain traditions, the robe colors indicate a particular level of training. In the most basic form, robes put you into a specific way of mind, from the everyday mundane to your ritual mindset.
– Staff. Many Pagans use a staff in ritual practice. Used to direct energy.
– Crystals. If you use them in your practice, keep them handy by having them on or near your altar.
– Offering bowls or containers. If you use your altar to provide offerings or gifts to your preferred deities, these are a must.
– Seasonal decorations. Decorate your Altar for the season or specific Sabbat or Esbat. This can include the colors of candles, flowers, etc.
– Incense. If you are an incense user, keeping your incense, matches, incense burners, etc on your altar is a must.
There are countless other things you can keep on or near your altar. The biggest thing to keep in mind is to keep anything you will be using in your ritual, magic work, etc on or near the altar. This will cut down on distractions trying to find something you forgot elsewhere and will keep your energy and mind on the task at hand.
Remember, your alter is a personal expression of you and your practice. The use, look, size, and the location is completely catered to your personal practice!
Hope this article has been helpful and informative!
Love and Light,