Welcome, Witches! In this post I aim to go over the basics of altar building. I will say now that this does not apply to Wicca as I am not a practitioner of that path and I do not consider myself qualified to speak to that. This post is to demonstrate how you can build an altar that aligns with your personal spiritual goals. Without further ado, let’s get started!
WHAT IS AN ALTAR?
First things first, let’s go over what an altar actually is. Holding root in Latin, ‘altārium’ means “high”. Altars of yore were typically constructed to be raised and folks could come worship, honor, and bestow offerings to their deities.
Current day altars are placed high and low, most often wherever the constructor deems right. Personally, my altar rests on a decent-sized square table, about as high as a coffee table stands, and holds various items of importance to my craft.
Altars aren’t limited to the indoors, either. Using what the natural world provides, like a stump or large rock for a surface, is appropriate to use as an altar. If it feels right – and you are respectful of Mother Nature – build your altar outside.
WHY DO I NEED AN ALTAR?
Let me preface this with recognizing that an altar isn’t for every practitioner. Like everything else, YOUR craft is YOURS. Don’t let anyone tell you you are doing something wrong if you choose not participate in a magickal activity – especially if it feels wrong to you.
Having said that, altars can help to centralize your focus when it comes to casting. They provide a place where you can meditate or practice gratitude. Altars furnish a space to hold precious magickal objects like goddess statues, Tarot cards, moon water, a goblet, your wand, Florida water, candles, etc.
At the end of the day, by demarcating out a space for you and your craft you know that no matter what there is a place in your home that is ultimately yours.
ALTAR BUILDING BASICS
The following is a list of easy-to-follow steps to build your very own altar. With a little guidance, I’m sure your first will be a success!
- WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?
Writing this as an Eclectic Witch myself, the goal for my working altar (as opposed to the one I create for Sabbats and ancestors) is to provide a space to hold my magickal tools and give me an area where I can focus my spellwork and rituals.
Perhaps yours will be the same as mine. If not, you may wish the goal of your altar to:
- pay tribute to a deity you work with
- honor your ancestors
- regard the season
- celebrate Sabbats
- pay respect to anything else you deem important
- WHERE WILL YOU PUT YOUR ALTAR?
Location, location, location! Altar real estate is important. You can use your goal as guidance for where you will place your altar. If your goal is for ritual and spellwork, remember that you need to have enough space to perform. If your goal is a Sabbat altar, you won’t need as much space as a ritual altar, but you will most likely want to see it every day.
If you aren’t the only person in your home, pay mind to how others feel and what their beliefs are. They may not be of the same faith or perhaps they would be offended by an altar put in a shared space. These are all things to consider before you begin to build.
- CLEANSE, CLEANSE, CLEANSE
You’ve got your goal and your spot picked out for your altar. Now it’s time to physically clean and then spiritually cleanse the space. Use appropriate cleaning solutions to spiff up the area, followed by your choice of cleansing methods – sound, smoke, visualization, etc.
When we cleanse, we leave an energetic vacuum behind. You want to make sure that you fill this vacuum with your specific intention. When we leave that vacuum open, it can fall prey to nasty wandering negative energies. Be diligent in your preparation.
- WHAT WILL YOU PUT ON YOUR ALTAR?
Here’s where you get to be creative. The items and tools you choose for your altar should speak to your intuition. However, if your altar’s goal is specific to a religion, then by all means, follow the rules pertinent to the belief system.
Some ideas of things you may wish to add to your altar include:
-Herbs and flowers
-Items collected from Mother Nature
-Altar cloth to protect the surface and/or correspond with color magick
There is no limit to what you can use. You may wish to keep a minimalist altar or slowly build and add to it to create a large shrine. Remember, it’s YOURS so build it to your liking.
- ORGANIZE IT
This is the step where you decide where all of your chosen items will live on your altar. Take your time, try out different positions, and take a step back and see if you like how it looks. Sometimes it takes longer then the first round of placement before you’re happy with it.
- PUT IT TO USE
The final step is to interact with your altar. This ties directly into your goal. If it is an ancestor altar, start with presenting food offerings that they enjoyed while still alive. If your altar is for spellwork and rituals, start performing a couple.
If you find yourself hesitant to interact with your new altar, just take it slow. A simple ritual like lighting a candle is an easy way to get started. From there, aim for five minutes of being present at your altar every day. With time, it will come easier.
Now that you’ve got an idea of how to go about building an altar for yourself, have at it! Good luck and Bright Blessings!