We all need our own personal space to do focused work.
The student has their library for study and research, while the employee has their cubicle. Meanwhile, the chef has their kitchen replete with cooking equipment, spices, and ingredients. The mobile writer has their laptop and a blank page into which to spill their thoughts and ideas.
In like manner, the witch has their altar for meditation, practicing rituals, and storing their tools. It's where all the magick happens. And whether you're a day-old or a seasoned witch, having your own sacred space at home (or wherever you do your practice) will help you have productive rituals.
Keep reading to know what an altar is, where to set it up, and what tools to have on your special corner.
First Off: What Is an Altar?
In our previous post, we talked about what a witch is and how to become one. Now let's find out what an altar is.
In witchcraft, Wicca, or Pagan traditions, an altar is a workbench for you and your craft, says Wiccan witch Luna Clarke. It's a space where you cast your spells, practice your magick, and perform your rituals.
Think of your altar as the focal point of your witch practice: it's where you set your intentions, hear from and connect with your deity, and work with the energy you're working with and channeling.
[My altar] reconnects me to my spirit, settles me into my body and heart, and restores my mind. Aarona Lea Pichinson, ritual wellness teacher and Moon Deck founder
At the same, it's where you display all mystical items that are useful and meaningful to your practice. Besides its enabling role, your altar serves as a visual reminder of your intentions, commitments, and beliefs.
It's a sacred space you regularly come to when you need inspiration, healing, peace, comfort, and meditation during life's turbulent times. You can even create an altar dedicated to your departed loved ones in time for the Samhain celebration. (READ: Celebrate Samhain with These Time-Honoured Rituals)
Witches (or Pagans in general) are not the only ones that use altars for practicing their faith. Several churches across all religions, denominations, churches, and temples have their own altars set up according to their own beliefs and traditions.
It's because in religious traditions, altars are seen as the space where the physical world meets the spiritual world, according to writer Kendra Syrdal. And people from all faiths use it to commune with and receive information from their gods, ancestors, and other spirit beings.
Do I Really Need an Altar?
While an altar is useful in channeling energies and intentions, setting up one isn't mandatory at all. In fact, many witches don't have an altar!
It's a choice only you should make. You can opt not to use one if it doesn't work for you.
Do set up an altar if you think it will enhance your magick work, or if you feel that having your own sacred space will help you easily get in the zone when performing your rituals. To create or not to create an altar is entirely up to you.
There is no right or wrong way to make an altar either. Yours can be:
- A small or big altar
- Simple or elaborate
- Permanent or temporary
- A small corner in your house or an entire room
The right altar is the one that calms, energizes, and allows you to conveniently do your witchcraft. No matter how it looks, it should always be exactly what you need!
Where Do I Set Up My Altar?
Anywhere is a good place for an altar. Ideally, it should be a private and quiet place since you’ll be doing meditation and contemplation at this space.
Choose a space that makes you feel at ease, present, and most connected to your spirit. It can be any space, like:
- A table
- A windowsill
- A space outside your garden
- Any quiet corner in your home (where you can sit comfortably)
A practical rule of thumb? Set up your altar in your bedroom. It's convenient and gives you the privacy required to do your rituals. And out of all the rooms in your house, your bedroom is where you feel safest and most recharged.
And you can place your tools on any surface. It could be your desk, bookshelf, dresser, cabinet, or a nightstand.
If you travel often and you want to take your altar with you wherever you go, a portable/travel altar is your best bet. This allows you to worship outdoors or anywhere you want.
Another benefit of a carry-on altar is you can safely store your magickal tools when not in use and out of people's sight in case you want to keep your religious practice private (or you're not comfortable with sharing them with your housemates).
To do this, simply get a container (big enough to hold all your items) and store all your tools inside. Bring them out as needed. When practicing outdoors, set up your travel altar on a large stone, a log, a tree stump, or on a small folding table. Or simply lay out everything on the ground.
Again, the choice including where you set up your altar is wholly personal. Listen to your intuition! After all, magick lies not in the location or the setup but in the energy and intention you pour into your craft.
What About the Direction of My Altar?
Your altar can face any of the 4 directions (each representing a different element):
- North (Earth)
- South (Fire)
- East (Air)
- West (Water)
Many Wiccan witches set up their altars to face North since Wicca is a nature-based pagan religion. While this is the most common orientation, it's not an absolute requirement. You may create your sacred space facing any direction that feels right for you.
You may also orient your altar towards the East where the sun rises or the West where the sun sets. There's really no hard and fast rule when it comes to the alignment of altars.
Just remember: Always trust your gut!
Now, What Do I Put on My Altar?
You can be as creative as you want when creating your altar.
Do you want it to be simple or minimalist? Or complete with everything that's symbolic of your faith? The choice is yours. Follow your intuition and express your desires through your creativity.
Niki Novo, a spiritual mentor, suggests writing out your intentions first. What do you want to attract into your life? What energy are you trying to embody? Or would you like to invoke the guidance of your ancestors or a particular deity?
If it's an intention (e.g. joy, peace, love, or prosperity), write something like:
- I'm attracting more peace and joy into my life.
- I'm directing more love, care, and compassion to myself.
- I'm driving away stress and negativity from this space.
Once you're clear with your intention, gather the items that represent what you wrote or items that generate the vibe of your intention.
Healing crystals are the go-to tools for channeling desirable energies in your life. For starters, below are some crystal ideas (and the benefits they offer) you can place on your altar:
- Rose quartz - Love, peace, and compassion
- Amethyst - Intuition, calmness, sobriety, and self-control
- Clear quartz - Mental clarity, increased awareness, and sharper memory
- Onyx and pyrite - Protection against negative energies
- Selenite - Mental clarity, increased concentration, and anti-anxiety
- Tiger eye - Courage, strength, confidence, and good luck
- Moonstone - Intuition, enhanced psychic abilities, and smooth transitions to new beginnings
- Jade - Peace, purity, and emotional stability
- Obsidian - Protection against attacks of the enemy and deep psychic cleansing
- Hematite - Increased energy, vigor, and vitality
- Aquamarine - Purity of thoughts, calmness, and resolution of past traumas
- Green aventurine - Abundance, prosperity, and good luck
You can also use aromatic plants and flowers on your altar. Certain botanicals help manifest your intentions and cleanse energy in your space, such as:
- White sage - Enhanced intuition and mindfulness, anti-stress and anti-anxiety
- Sweetgrass - Aura cleansing, protection against negative energies, and stimulation of love, peace, and harmony
- Lavender - Relieving stress, balancing the chakras, and soothing emotions
- Cedar - Guarding the physical and spiritual bodies, promoting peaceful thoughts, and grounding oneself to earthly energies
- Mugwort - Enhanced psychic abilities and opening the subconscious mind
- Palo santo - Clearing negative energies and relieving stress, pain, and anxiety
- Copal - Purifying energies, raising vibrations, and attracting love
- Frankincense - Stimulating tranquility and deepening spiritual experiences
- Myrrh - Enhancing spiritual awareness before and during rituals
- Dragon's blood - For healing, increased contemplation, and setting a calm ambiance
- Benzoin - Clearing negative energies and reducing anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and weariness
Other items you can place on your altar that allow you to connect with your spiritual side include:
- Statues, small figures, or drawings of your deity (or anything symbolic of them)
- A pendulum
- Divination tools like tarot cards, oracle cards, crystal balls, and crystal skulls
- Written spells, prayers, or rituals
- Photos of your ancestors
- Images or objects that remind you of what you're manifesting
- Natural items like sticks, stones, shells, and sand
- A meditation cushion
- Anything else that amplifies your intention, makes you feel powerful, and helps you focus your energy during your ritual
You can place virtually anything on your altar. As long as an item is meaningful to your practice, even if it's not considered magickal or traditionally significant by other witches, it always has a place in your sacred space.
What Rituals Can I Practice Using My Altar?
Spiritual routines differ between person to person. This depends on your goals, desires, intentions, and even your experience.
Aarona Lea Pichinson, a ritual wellness teacher and founder of the Moon Deck, suggests the following rituals to perform with your altar:
- Intention setting
- Candle gazing
- Card reading
- Connecting with your intuition
The key thing to remember is that there's no right or wrong way to use your altar. What matters is you practice your craft consistently. Working with your altar regularly increases its power and positive energy, making it more effective in manifesting.
Plus, the more you practice your rituals and your altar, the better you become in your craft.
Tips in Maintaining and Protecting Your Altar
So you've already set up your own private space for witch work. Now how can you protect its energy and make sure it does what it's set out to do? Here are some tips:
1. Cleanse your altar regularly. You'll add more and more items to your altar as you expand your practice and learn new rituals. Every time you do so, make sure to perform an energy cleanse on your altar.
The objects you bring into your sacred space have previously been exposed to outside energies and this may not always be good energies. By cleansing with aromatic plants, you're protecting your altar from energies that may make it impure.
2. Consecrate your space. You'll need to say a prayer of blessing once you've finished setting up your altar to dedicate it for its sacred purpose.
You can do this by saying a short blessing like, I dedicate/consecrate this space in the name of (insert your deity/ancestor/spirit guide here). May this be a space of spiritual growth. Blessed be. Another way to bless your altar is to meditate and set your intention to it.
3. Light some candles for protection. Valerea Ruelas (also known as the Mexican Witch), author of Cosmopolitan's Love Potions, says that lighting a white and red candle is necessary to ward off negative energies from your altar. Light your candles at least once a day when meditating to cover your altar with protection. don't forget to snuff them out once you're done.
You can also place a piece of pyrite or tourmalinated quartz and a small bottle of black salt to keep out unwanted energies from defiling your space.
Go Forth and Set Up Your Own Altar!
Thrilled to start with your witchcraft but unsure which tools to get? Our Altar in a Box is the easiest, most convenient, and most affordable way to get started with witchcraft!
This exquisite little set is packed full of healing crystals, candles, herbs, and potions”a perfect starter pack for beginner witches. Use it at home, outdoors, or anywhere you want to take your magickal ritual.
Clarke, L. (2022, February 4). Basic Altar Setup: How To Set Up Your First Witch Altar. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.wiccangathering.com/gb/basic-altar-setup-how-to-set-up-your-first-witch-altar/
Estrada, J., & Estrada, J. (2021, November 1). How to Make Your Very Own Altar at Home. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a36302874/how-to-make-an-altar/
Garis, M. G. (2021, March 15). How To Make a Home Altar That Honors Whatever Energetically Empowers You. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.wellandgood.com/how-to-make-altar-home-design/
Here's Everything You Need To Know About Setting Up Your Witch Altar For Spells, Meditation, And More. (2021, April 13). Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://thoughtcatalog.com/kendra-syrdal/2018/08/heres-everything-you-need-to-know-about-setting-up-your-altar-for-spells-meditation-and-more/
History.com Editors. (2018a, August 21). Wicca. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.history.com/topics/religion/wicca History.com Editors. (2018b, August 21). Wicca. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.history.com/topics/religion/wicca