Who, what, when, where, and why you need an altar
Who needs an altar?
You! Just like in any devotional, spiritual, or magical practice, you need a sacred space where you can honor and connect with Source. Think of it as an arena where your intentional work can play out, expand, become. A place where your sacred tools can live. A place for devotion, ritual, or practice; a place where you can set your intentions, leaving them undisturbed, so they may manifest in the physical form. The word altar comes from the Latin altare, which means “high”. Our ancient ancestors believed that their Gods lived “high” in the sky, clouds, and atop mountains and altars were designed to help us connect to these lofty places.
The most beautiful thing about creating your own sacred altar is that YOU choose what goes on it! It’s a personal space where you get to decide what gets honored, just like your practice. Take a look at this gorgeous compilation of sacred altar photos from around the world.
What should you place on your altar?
As with any ritual work, the first order of business should be clearing and raising appropriate energy for sacred work. Set an intention: “This space is consecrated, amplified, and clear, and so it is.” Prepare your space for the best outcome by incorporating these essential elements:
- Stones (for clearing, protection, and intention – I like to begin with four stones centered around a clear quartz generator)
- Candle (intention based)
- Herbs for smudging
- Representations of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water)*
- Perfumes or Essential Oils (intention based)
- A lighter for your candles and herbs
*Keep in mind that your stones represent Earth, your perfume or oils and your sacred shell represent Water, and your smudge represents Fire and Air, so additional elemental representations are optional.
For raising energy, I like to start with quartz points at the four corners of my altar. I use smoky quartz and black tourmaline to keep the altar guarded and safe. I also keep salt under my altar to purify the energies around it; Himalayan salt is amazing for this. Then, clearing. My smudging herbs live in an abalone shell, and the shell represents the element of water. (Learn simple smudging, here.) You can keep a vessel of fresh water and even fresh flowers on your altar to bring life to your sacred arrangement.
Select more stones to add intention. Grid with them if you like. I offer gridding sets with all the necessary tools, created to aid you in amplifying your work. (Watch here, for more on gridding.) You want at least one candle, which represents the element of fire, as well as color magic and intention. Burning your candle or smudge also represents air – fire needs air, and you can blow out your flame when finished working with it. Your stones can represent earth, or you may want to add another piece for this. Your feather is used in your smudging ritual – for a simple smudging practice, watch here. The perfumes and essential oils are for anointing your body, candles, stones, and for use in aromatherapy. Remember – smell is one of the most powerful senses in magical work!
When, where, and why?
Start now! If you have all your metaphysical tools around you, and no designated space for them, honor them with an altar. There is no time like the present. You can create this space as a display/home for your tools, or it can be so much more. Your altar can be intention based, seasonal, or dedicated to specific work you are doing. View my ritual/intention based kits for more ideas. Refreshing your altar each season honors the directions and elements, and helps you embrace new energy and change.
You can create several altars in your home; you don’t have to stop at just one! Here are some favorite altar themes:
- Clearing altar – at your front door. Check the baggage at the door! This is for keeping your home clear and uplifted, creating protection, and transmuting negative energies.
- Love altar – in your bedroom/personal space. What do you seek? This could be an attraction altar to bring love, or a love and intimacy altar to enhance your current relationship.
- Creativity/abundance/manifestation altar – at your desk, workspace, cash drawer, etc. What do you need more of at work? Inspiration, creativity, focus, drive? What are you working to manifest? Build your altar to invite and receive it.
- Safety/protection altar – in your car. We all need protection when on the road. Sometimes during the day our cars are the only place we get a moment to ourselves!
- Ritual altar – in your home/yard/kitchen. Are you a moon ritualist? A seasonal goddess lover? Keeper of the Old Ways? Use this space in your rituals to increase the power of your work.
- Sleep/relaxation – at your bedside, or somewhere you relax. If you have trouble winding down or sleeping, a sleep altar can do wonders for you. Without rejuvenation, we cannot sustain ourselves or give to others.
For additional layers of energy, consider incorporating Feng Shui principles into your practice and follow the Bagua Map when deciding where to set up your altars within a single room or within a larger space!
There are as many choices for altar tools as there are intentions in the world, and there are as many intentions in the world as there are beings. I encourage you to do your research and listen to your intuition. What you seek is seeking you. Your tools will come forward when you create the space for them to do so, and they will speak and teach when you honor them well. So it is.