Creating an altar serves two purposes. Firstly it serves as a work area where you can conduct your rituals and casting Spells. Individual Spells will need specific ingredients and tools but in general an altar should always contain certain essentials. These include a large candle, incense sticks or sage, a small container to hold salt, a small dish or bowl to hold water.
Secondly an altar acts as a place where you can display attractive items of natural beauty. In this way your altar becomes a beautiful focus for your thoughts and consequent actions.
It is place where you can meditate and contemplate and connect with the divine. Your altar will help you focus your awareness and strengthen your spiritual connections.
Creating your altar and taking time to adorn it provides you with a sacred space. A space you can connect with and tune into your intuition and inner thoughts. Taking time out from a busy and hectic life is an essential requirement for spiritual health. Spending a few minutes before your altar each day can help you focus your thoughts and nourish your soul.
Where to create your altar
This can be either indoors or outdoors, or ideally both. It can be a temporary or permanent.
A permanent indoor one can be a table anywhere in your home, where it can remain undisturbed. A corner of any room, a basement, a conservatory, a spare bedroom or even a garden shed or out house can house your permanent altar. If you share your home with others and space is limited you may find it difficult to keep it in a permanent state.
If this is the case you could use a small wooden foldaway table in your bedroom. Ideally the table should be made from natural materials such as wood, marble or stone. Plastic or manmade materials are not suited to magical workings.
The table can be any shape as circular, oblong and square work well. Some witches prefer a circular altar as this lends itself to the concept of working in circles. It can be big or small. If possible the table should be positioned so that you are able to walk around it and not pushed against a wall.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden you can set up a permanent outdoor altar using a large flat stone, marble slab or treated wooden table.
You can set up a temporary one anywhere within nature. In a forest, at a lakeside or on a beach are all ideal locations where you can find large stones, tree stumps, or flat rocks to act as a temporary and impromptu altar.
Consecrating your altar
To transform an ordinary kitchen table, hallway table or garden table into an altar you will need to purify and rid negative energies from it. This is simply achieved by a consecration ritual that can be used to bless all your tools along with the altar itself.
You will need a lit candle, an incense stick or a sage smudge stick, a small container of salt, a small dish or bowl of water.
Take a pinch of salt and dip your hand in the water. In an anti clockwise circular motion flick (known as Asperging) the salted water around the altar nine times and then chant:Rid this space of negative energy
Next from the flame of the candle light the incense or smudge stick. In a clockwise direction circle the herbal smoke over the altar and chant:Consecrate, purify and blessed be!
What to put on your altar
You can decorate it in any away that you like. You don’t need ornate and expensive cloths, statues, athames, chalices or magic wands – although you can if you want to.
All you really need are representatives of the elements – fire, air, earth and water. These can easily be represented by a candle, incense sticks or sage, a small container of salt, a small dish of water. Or the five pointed Witches Star known as a pentacle achieves the same purpose in just one item. Each point of the star is associated with the elements of fire, air, earth, water and spirit.
Your altar can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. You can adorn your altar with beautiful cloths, statues of deities, flowers, seashells, crystals and candles or leave it plain and simple. As a guideline try to ensure that everything you choose to use is made from natural material and is beautiful and representative of you, your life and your beliefs.
The very act of deciding what to place on your altar should be a very positive and empowering experience. In selecting fitting items and symbols think about what's most important to you.
You can use a cloth upon your altar. Colour will obviously be a chief consideration in selecting an altar cloth. White can be used at all times but other colours may need some special thought. Bright red, for example should be limited to rituals, Spells and Sabbat celebrations that predominantly feature the element of fire. A shimmering silver cloth would be ideal during a full moon Esbat and a purple coloured cloth would be great to help you increase your psychic abilities.
The material that your altar cloth is made from should be a natural material and not manmade.
If you are talented and creative you could hand make your own altar cloth and embroider, appliqué or paint beautiful designs of a symbolic nature onto it.
Crystals and Gemstones have been used for healing and magical purposes for thousands of years. They have the ability to soak up and hold onto energies.
This makes them the perfect tools for healing and magical workings and to be placed upon your altar. They are also gorgeous to look at!
Use as many as want to on your altar but the following can be very useful.
Amber, for example, is connected with the element of fire and the direction south and is renowned for its magical properties. When placed on an altar it is said to increase the effectiveness of Magic.
Jet is an excellent absorber of negative energy and when placed upon an altar can help to rid negativity. It is used to increase psychic awareness, protection and luck with money.
Aventurine is connected with the element of earth and the direction north and can be used in rituals and Spell work associated with opportunity, luck and abundance (particularly financial).
Amethyst is connected with the element of water and the direction west and can be used to help you connect psychically.
Clear Quartz is connected with all of the elements of fire, air, earth and water and all the directions of south, east, north and west. Magical purposes for use in rituals and Spell work associated with Clear Quartz are for manifestation. It increases the power of anything that it is placed near to, and thus is also helpful in recharging other stones, increasing the potency of herbs and enhancing all spell work. It amplifies all other magic workings.
Choosing one, two or three Tarot cards to be placed upon your altar to be symbolic of your magical workings is a good idea. A combination of the Star and Lovers Tarot cards can be placed upon your altar when you want to cast a love spell for example. As the Star Tarot card is positive card promising optimism and hope, wishes coming true and unexpected gifts. The Lovers card symbolises a deep love or a powerful drawing together of two people.
Using the Tarot cards of The World, The Sun and The Chariot in a wealth spell is also useful as the World Tarot card signifies abundance and manifestation. The Sun is the most optimistic and positive Tarot card and The Chariot is representative of overcoming obstacles and reaching accomplishment.
You could also purposefully select a specific Tarot card to represent you. For example you could choose The Magician card if you are conducting a Spell or perhaps the High Priestess card if you are seeking to increase your psychic abilities. The Hierophant card would be a perfect choice for meditation purposes.
Or you could shuffle your Tarot cards and select a card randomly to act as a representative of your feelings, thoughts and emotions.
In a similar way to placing Tarot cards upon your altar you can choose to place some Runes upon it. Since ancient times, Runes have been used for divination and Magic and acted as an ancient alphabet. Runic symbols can be carved or scorched upon any natural material including wood, stone or even crystals. The Rune symbol Fehu is associated with income, luck and financial abundance and is ideal to attract wealth or money and perfect to place upon your altar.
Berkano is another Rune that you could place on your altar to enhance general fertility, newness and creativity. Or use Sowilo which is the Rune that represents success, victory and vibrant health.
You can choose to use music while meditating, carrying out rituals or Spell casting at your altar. Some Witches insist on complete silence whereas others find music enhances their rituals. Traditional sacred music from different cultures such as Celtic folk music, Gregorian chants, choral music or Eastern bells and chimes can act as a musical accompaniment to your magical workings.
Certain types of musical instruments are associated with the elements and can add emphasis to any Spell work or ritual. Drums are associated with the element of earth for example and rhythmic drum beating music can help with magical purposes such as career and finances.
The element of air is connected with wooden wind instruments such as flutes and chimes or bells and can help with magical workings involving ideas and inspirations.
The fire element is associated with brass wind instruments such as horns and trumpets and can help with spells requiring motivation and confidence.
And finally the element of water is associated with string musical instruments such as pianos, harps and violins. This musical connection can assist with magical working relating to love and emotions.
Candles are perhaps one of the best spiritual tools as you cannot fail to be entranced by the illuminating flickering flame, the mystical lessening of the wax, the intense heat and the faint plumes of smoke rising into the ether.
Alongside your permanent altar candle, from which you light
other candles and incense, you can use any number of candles to adorn
Choices of colour of candles will depend very much on your magical intentions. Purple, for example is often used to enhance psychic abilities, whereas green candles can be used to attract wealth and money and pink for love attraction.
Also placing a red candle at the south point of your altar, a blue candle to the west, a yellow candle to the east and a green candle to the north is representative of the elements of fire, water, air and earth.
Selecting perfumed candles or using fragrant oils to anoint unscented candles is always an option as different fragrances from flowers and herbs add to and enhance many magical workings.
Candles made form wax are also the perfect material for carving symbols, names or magical intentions onto.
Incense and oils
The sense of smell is probably the most evocative, primitive and receptive of all our senses. Using aromas upon an altar and in Spell work and spiritual rituals has a long history and can help concentrate your focus. Additionally herb, spice and flower aromas can dispel negative energies and can send strong messages out to the Universe.
By using fragrant oils, incense sticks, smudge sticks or just igniting dried herbs upon your altar can add to your magical intentions. Sage for example is renowned as a strong dispeller of negative energy, whereas the aroma from Jasmine is known to attract love attentions. Rosemary is known as a strong protector and healer and can be used in almost all rituals and spell work.
Herbs, plants, flowers and trees
Plants, herbs, flowers and trees can certainly enhance the look of your altar but also can add greatly to your magical intentions. The magical and healing properties of individual plants, flowers and trees can support magical workings and can be integral in specific Spells. You can use individual blooms or bunches of flowers, dried or fresh herbs and plants and small branches of trees or tree barks.
Place some Thyme on your altar when you need to boost your courage and confidence or when facing challenging situations. Or use a bloom of Honeysuckle to attract money and wealth into your home. A Rose is very much associated with love and attraction and should be placed on your altar for any love magic. An Oak branch or twig is good to attract fertility and general good health and a branch from the Willow tree is said to help one deal better with bereavement.
Anything that you come across in nature and you think is beautiful can be placed upon your altar.
Beautiful pebbles and sea shells collected from a beach can also find a place on your altar. As can bird feathers, leaves, pine cones and small stones found at a forest or lakeside.
If it looks good and feels right to you then you can include any item of your choosing that nature has placed on your path. Just take a moment to thank your god/goddess for the precious gift and place upon your altar.
You can choose to place any symbol of any deities you hold dear. Statues of gods and goddesses that are special to you or symbols such as the Triple Goddess symbol or an image of the Green Man can be placed upon your altar. A gold candle can represent the god and a silver candle can represent the goddess.
Gathering and crafting altar tools
With a little imagination and some creative flair you can easily gather together natural items to use, adapt or fashion into altar tools. A scallop sea shell for example makes a fantastic ‘dish’ to hold blessed water and an apt representative of the element of water. A hand carved wooden bowl made from driftwood makes a fantastic salt holder.
You can make your own Runes by collecting small flat pebbles and painting the symbols onto them. Or you can scorch or carve the Runic symbols onto ‘slices’ of a wood branch.
A wand can be found by just walking through a forest or you can find large stones to engrave a pentacle symbol onto. Or try your hand at making a traditional Witches Broom from a bundle of birch twigs or a bundle of wild thyme, a staff of ash or oak, and a heavy cord binding.
Making your own candles, incense and blessed and infused water are also great ways of using nature to your advantage.
Traditional Witches altar tools
You can place traditional altar tools such as the Pentacle, Athame, Chalice, Cauldron, Wand, Censer and Bell upon your altar.
The pentacle is the most recognisable Witches symbol and is sometimes referred to as the Witches Star.
To Witches the symbol of the pentagram within a circle represents the elements of air, fire, earth and water. The fifth element is that of Spirit and can be seen as the full representation of the four tangible elements working in harmony. A pentacle placed on an altar can be made from any material but is usually metal, wood or even stone, and is circular in shape inscribed with a pentagram.
Cherishing your altar
It isn’t enough just to decorate your altar just once and leave it. Look after it, keep it and all items placed upon it clean and dust free. Add a few drops of lavender oil to a dusting cloth and wipe clean your altar and its items at least once a week and additionally just before conducting Spell casting or rituals.
Following the Wheel of the Year and observing the Sabbats and Esbats will instinctively turn your attentions to the changes in seasons, energies and natures gifts.
Your Yule altar might look very different to your Summer Solstice altar for example. You could place a small log, pine cones, holly bunches and candles in festive colours of green and red to celebrate the Yule Winter Solstice. For the Midsummer Sabbat you could gather bright yellow flowers, gold candles and golden coloured crystals such as Amber and Citrine to adorn your altar.
Finally remember your altar is just that – yours. Do what you will and harm nothing to create it and you will enjoy it for years to come!
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