An altar by definition is a table used as the focus for a religious ritual. I began consciously keeping one in my teens after reading a handful of books on Buddhism. I say consciously because I feel like we all have altars set about our houses whether intentional or not. The fireplace mantel and the window ledge over the sink are two popular spots people set up altars. You might arrange your favorite plants, candles, crystals, feathers, little deities, etc., and even if you aren’t lighting incense and chanting prayers, you are collecting the things that you hold dear in a neat arrangement for admiration and pleasure. But I digress. Today I am discussing consciously putting an altar together.
Traditionally, an altar was a place to worship and pray to the Gods. Christian, Hindu, Buddhist…almost every religion used the altar as a part of its practice. For witches, an altar is usually essential to the practice, and it doesn’t have to be a part of a formal religion either. My personal altar isn’t set up according to any particular rule or suggestions. I arrange my space based on how I feel and what is currently going on in my life.
When I was young, I set up a Zen Buddhist altar as that was my main focus of study at the time. It was clean and simple with a Buddha statue in the center. I would burn incense and meditate. In my twenties my altar was a chaotic mess with a Hindu influence. Butter lamps, little Ganesh and Hanuman deities, rice offerings, malas, and crystals. In my early thirties I set up a traditional witches altar with candles, athame, chalice, salt in a dish…I followed the instructions from a book. Although I love all of the different expressions of self reflected in my altar over the years, the past five or so years, my altar has been more of a focal point for my manifestation work. Since Fox was born I have had to relocate to the bathroom and because of the small space it has become miniature size. The only constant is change, they say.
My altar for this year is very simple. It will morph as the seasons roll on and things are pulled off or added. Right now I am using sari cloth from India to cover the base (which is actually the top of my vintage jewelry box). They are squares of silk from a skirt that I had for years and years. When it finally started to wear through, I couldn’t bring myself to toss it, so I cut up the colorful squares and kept them. This is the year of the fire chicken/rooster in Chinese astrology, so I went with red and gold colors. And keeping in theme with The Year Of The Rooster I added a vintage rooster and chicken miniature made in Japan that my mother gave to me. This is to remind me of the qualities of the rooster and how it may be influencing my year.
A red candle (again, red is for the fire chicken) as I always keep a candle on the altar for working spells; and the Goddess card is from an oracle deck I am currently working with. I am drawing a new card each month and using it during that time to connect with the attributes represented by each Goddess. The deck is the Ancient Feminine Wisdom deck by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark. The art alone is worth having this deck to work with!
Next to that card you will notice a round card from the Motherpeace Tarot deck. This deck was gifted to me from a friend and I immediately connected to it and love working with it! I draw from this deck quarterly and also use this deck for readings throughout the year. This is the deck I use as my main divination tool.
Lastly, I have a few stones I was drawn to this season. The flat stone I brought home with me from Lake Erie in September. A week after my heart surgery we were free to drive back to Missouri. Before we left Cleveland my husband drove us to the lake so that I could take our baby son to the water. This was very important to me and felt like closure. That walk from the car to the beach was tremendously challenging, but it was symbolic of everything I had overcome. The stone is flat and has waves in it; waves no doubt formed over an incredibly long time. The stone represents patience and flexibility to me. Two things I must hold to tightly this year as I continue to heal.
Sitting atop the lake stone is a smokey citrine. Citrine is a wonderful tool for transmuting negative energy and that is exactly why it has earned a place at the altar this winter. I tend to change up the location of the crystals in my home from season to season, so something different will most likely replace this crystal come Spring.
I would love to know what types of things you keep at the altar and how you use them in your magical practice. Please, let me know in the comments below.
~ Blessed Be ~