Creating An Altar
What Is An Altar And Why Witches Need One
An altar is a sacred space/area in the home set aside specifically to honour your craft. It is a place to honour the God and Goddess, changing seasons and to perform some of your spellcraft. Ideally your altar should be permanent and not need to be constantly taken down or moved around. Obviously for some people this is not always possible for example if you have concern over other people from outside the family seeing your altar, you live with others who do not know or do not accept your path. If this is so possibly consider having your altar in the bedroom rather than a more used room such as the living room. When I was young and living at home my altar was in my bedroom for years as there was no space in the rest of the home which could be permanent, now later in life i have them all through my home and my office is a permanent dedicated sacred space. It can be a small table, a shelf, top of a low cabinet or book shelf, choose a place your feel most guided to.
If you truly cannot have a full time altar then set about making a travel/put up altar. You could decorate or source a gorgeous wooden box that you keep your supplies in and have a altar cloth/mat or small table you can bring out when you want to work magically.
Things to think about when choosing an area for your altar:
- Are you concerned about other people seeing your altar? If so take this into consideration when choosing your space.
- This area is sacred to you and your path so will there be problems with people touching items on your altar?
- Is it somewhere you will see every day? This is important as it is a place to connect with the God, Goddess and your path
- Do you intend to cast all your spell there? If so you will need enough room for extra items such as mortor and pestle, oils etc
- Are you creating an altar for a specific reason, a fertility altar, prosperity altar? In which case this would change where you place it, for example a dedicated fertility altar would be best in the bedroom.
Having a permanent altar gives a practicing witch a space to call her own, where magick resides and where she can connect with the God and Goddess. It gives a focus to spell energy when charms are charging or candles which need to burn down are placed on it and it is an area dedicated to the changing wheel of the year. Over time you may find you have more than one altar to specific God/Goddesses, for specific needs or ongoing workings.
If your altar is a travel altar then it can be harder to connect daily especially if you are not alone enough to set it up very reguarly. Something i have recommended a lot over the years is buy some standard looking candles, the ones everyone has in their home. Be crafty though and choose your colours to represent the God/Goddess or Sabbat, most people can also get away with having gemstones these days as they are very main stream so again pick one or two carfeully. Sit them on the shelf so they look like standard home decorations and light them reguarly in the evening 'to relax' but in your mind you know you have them as a magical reminder and dedication. That way you can still connect in between finding time alone to put up your main altar.
Your altar should be cleansed regularly with either incense, a smudge stick, gemstone essence spray or salt water.
What Do Your Actually Need On Your Altar?
I have so many people email me about the fact they think they cannot practice wicca/paganism/witchcraft or ritual because they can’t afford the list of 30 things a book says they need!! There are some things which of course are necessary on an altar but most are inexpensive and over time you will find you gather many treasures you find and think ‘that would look great on my altar’. Below is a list of things you really need from the start:
- Candles (you can choose colours to honour the God and Goddess generally or specific colours matching the sabbat)
- A representation of both the God and Goddess (this can be a statue, art card, something you have made, printed from online etc)
- Something to represent each element (eg earth – gemstone, fire – candle, air – a fairy, butterfly or incense, water – shell, water in a vase of flower)
- Altar Bowl
- A selection of altar oils, incenses, herb mixes, gemstones and candles for spell work. Again you dont need them all, i have created emergency spell craft on the go before with nothing but a white tea light. It takes more practice and a lot more energy as you are not layering with the vibrations of herbs, essential oils, earth etc but can be done. Budget should not stop anyone practicing their craft! Grow your witch cabinet slowly if funds are tight!
Items you will need but can take your time to gather if you don’t already have them and their substitutes:
- Athame (i do know people that have used a blunt dinner knife without problem!)
- Wand (you can use your finger!)
- Pentagram (you can draw one, you can draw one in the air with a finger, you can make one out of flowers, herbs or twigs!)
Personal items chosen by you such as:
- Candles holders
- Post cards
- Spring/Well or Blessed Waters
- Twigs and Woods
- Nuts, Seeds, Acorns
- Dried Forages Herbs or Flowers you have collected
- Fallen Feathers, naturally shed whiskers or furr from a brush of pets (my personal path does not involve working with anything from animals that area dead naturally or otherwise however this is personal choice)
You can use absolutely use anything on your altar as long as it means something to you spiritually, emotionally or magickally. Your imagination is your only limitation.
How To Set Up Your Altar
This is a very personal thing and books which tell you to place this in the north and that in the south cause far more harm than good in my opinion causing people stress when it is not possible. Find a time when you are alone in the house, put on some of your favourite relaxing music (enya is a favourite of mine) and lay out all your altar items. Try and let your mind drift away from the everyday mundane and instead go with any instincts and guidance you feel. Start by placing your God and Goddess representations on your altar and see where they guide your from there.
Using Your Altar
Now your altar is set up its time to dedicate it to the God and Goddess. This is a simple but very meaningful thing to do and show the Goddess/God of your intent to follow their path. It worth saying here you may be working with just a God or just a Goddess!
Depending on the height of your altar stand, sit on a chair or sit on the floor in front of your altar. Light your altar candles and sit for a few moments with your eyes closed speaking silently or aloud your wishes for your path, your interest and dedication to the path you have chosen and how you are open to guidance and love.
Now open your eyes and say something like this aloud (you can personalise it, get creative!):
This Space Is Now Sacred
I Dedicate It To My God and Goddess
It Will Become A Place I Shall Cherish
As I Walk The God & Goddess Path
Spend some time at your altar now, familiarising yourself with its energy, listening to any feelings, guidance or intuitive feeling.