An altar space is one of the best ways to create a place of spiritual focus in your life. You can use one to direct your spiritual activities (spells, healing, intention work, and so on), do divination and readings, meditate, or worship. In fact, anything you want to do that requires a steady, calm focus and a reminder of your spiritual goals is best preformed in a comfortable altar space that has your energy built into it. Perhaps you have one already or you are considering how to create one. Making your altar is a very creative experience and an act of magic itself, since in building your place of spiritual focus you are spiritually focusing your energy into it. In any case, it is worth putting some thought into.
It doesn’t have to be inside. A lot of people prefer to do their spiritual work in a place outside that reminds them of the elements or brings them peace. However, having a small place set aside in your home to remind you of your spiritual activities (if you are able, considering space, children, and pets) can bring a calming energy even when you are not able to go outside or travel to your favorite destination. Building my own altar has been a several year long project and as I grow spiritually my altar grows and changes to reflect that. So here’s how to create your own altar space.
Consider what you’ll be using the altar for.
What are you going to be doing at this space? Will you be reading cards? Scrying? Dowsing? Grinding some herbs? Casting spells? Focusing and meditating? First, determine what kind of work you’ll be doing here. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a place of calm contemplation. It can also be a portal into your creative energy–as complex as you need it to be. What you intend to do in this space determines how you’ll want to create it and what things you’ll want to be a part of it. After you’ve considered what kinds of activities you will be focusing on in your space, you can decide what tools you’ll need.
Pick a place in your home that won’t be disturbed and that you can keep relatively private. You don’t want kids, pets, and visitors to be knocking things around or removing objects from your altar, and you also want this to be a place of reprieve, so put it somewhere quiet and calm that you can escape to. Busy areas and crowded rooms aren’t the best places for an altar. After you’ve picked the relative area, find a table or flat surface that you can lay your tools on. Preferably, this is a space that is only used for this purpose, but a dresser top or cleared shelf from a bookshelf will work too. I don’t like to place my altar in such a way that it intermingles with my daily life (on my dresser or desk, for instance) but understandably these can be the best options for some. If you are in a situation that requires you to pack up your tools when not in use, try to store them respectfully and find a calm quiet place to lay them out when you are ready to do your spiritual work. Find what works for you. This is all about creating a place of focus.
If you feel so inclined, take some time to find a cloth or textile that means something to you. Sarongs, silk scarves, tapestries, and altar cloths work great for this purpose. I connect with color strongly so if you are drawn to a certain color (or chakra) you can pick a fabric of that color. Remember that color has its own spiritual significance: red for passion and creativity, green for healing work, blue or purple for psychic awareness, and so on. Black and purple are pretty common but whatever color puts you in the right space is all that matters.
The altar cloth sets the mood and unifies the entire space. It’s the common thread that runs underneath all your tools and sacred objects. For me, it’s part of the art and the creative project that is the altar. Do remember that fabric is flammable and if you will be working with candles, incense, and other burning objects take extra care to be sure all fires are contained in fire-safe burners, water is on hand, and that you are present at all times. Do not leave fire unattended.
There are many tools to choose from depending on what you’ll be using your altar for. I think of altars as containing two essential things–tools we work with (cards, candles, cauldron) and objects that are sacred to us, things that create the space. You can have one or just both. This is your space so whatever best matches your intention is what you should have.
Common tools you’ll find on in an altar space:
- Incense burner
- Sage for smudging and cleansing
- Divination tools like pendulums, tarot cards, oracle cards, scrying mirrors or bowls, etc.
- Bowl of salt for cleansing
- Bowl of herbs such as lavender, rose petals, etc.
- Small cauldron for ritual, burning, or incense
- Mortar and pestle for herb work
- Singing bowls
- Ritual or spell tools (herbs, oils, colored candles, string, etc.)
- Offering plate or bowl
- Crystals (clusters of amethyst, selenite towers, salt rocks and such are great)
If you are Wiccan, your altar might contain tools of the elements: athame, wand, chalice, and pentacle. These items are as much to honor the elements as they are tools, so if they feel right to you to include them, do so.
Setting the sacred altar space
These are objects that we don’t use as tools but that have personal significance to us. This can be anything from a photograph to a beautiful trinket we bought overseas to leaves and seashells. Whatever it is, it should have meaning to you and put you in your highest spiritual awareness. Try not to include items that remind you of your general life or that create a sort of dissonance in a space like this–anime figurines, busy posters, miscellaneous junk, office supplies, and other such items are usually not appropriate for an altar. Try to keep your altar filled with items that put you in a spiritual space, rather than distract you from it.
Sacred objects you might find on an altar:
- Statues honoring your deities
- Animal totems
- Photographs of people or animals who are important to you
- Paintings or art
- Wall hangings
- Shells, leaves, pine cones, bones, sand
- Written chants, poems, or sayings
- Items created by you
- Stones and crystals
Remember what your original intention is. Bring clean, calm energy to this space and cleanse frequently. If you do psychic work such as scrying you’ll want the area to be protected and consecrated so take the time to do that. If you are drawn to certain scents, colors, or visuals include those in your altar space. Singing bowls, bells, and meditation music are also great ways to set the tone.
The best part about having an altar is that it can be entirely made up of objects found or made by you. In fact, the more you create, the more your own energy goes into it. You can certainly buy any of these items and indeed a lot of stores carry all sorts of things to create an altar space, but part of the fun is finding what is meaningful to you personally. Your altar is as individual as you are and it should reflect that. It can contain as many or as few things as you like. It’s whatever you want or need it to be! Remember what you’ll be using it for.