An altar helps to set your focus for rituals, ceremonies and magickal workings. This space should be alive and bursting with energy. In other words, don't use it just for decoration or to display decorative items. Items that are used in each ritual and items that provide you focus as well as inspiration should be maintained on your altar.
This is your work space and it should be large enough for you to conduct your spiritual work upon. So you don't want to overwhelm your space with unnecessary statues, knickknacks and unused objects. Lastly, the altar should be geared toward your personal beliefs. This is a spiritual altar and you'll want to honor your beliefs and the divine energy that are present in you space. If your beliefs are aligned with Celtic practices, give your altar a Celtic feeling. If you work with specific Gods or Goddesses, a statue of the appropriate pantheon you align with is a good thing to maintain in your space.
Sacred Cloth: An altar cloth is also called for. You can use more than one cloth in varying colors and patterns, depending on the work at hand. But consider the use of the cloth before you cover the altar. If you are going to be mixing herbs, or creating spiritual objects such as handmade candles, smudge sticks or spiritual tools, then you want the cloth to be inexpensive and practical. If however, you are conducting a ritual to celebrate a holiday, then you might use a more formal cloth. Anything from crushed velvet to black satin or Victorian lace. The cloth should reflect your personality, your beliefs and one that you feel comfortable with using. A male witch for instance, may not want to use Victorian lace when casting spells for compassion, healing or love. Rather he might use something that strikes an essence of romance in his heart such as red silk. Whatever you chose to use, the cloth should be large enough to cover the entire altar and fit the work at hand.
What Should Be On Your Altar: These are items that should be included on your altar:
- Candles: A Ceremonial Candle. This is a general purpose candle used to begin and set the focus of your energy and protection. A Ritual Candle(s). These are candles that you may want to use within your ritual workings.
- A set of bowls to hold any ingredients that might be used in your workings. Personally, I have a set of four ceramic colored bowls. Each one represents one of the four elements. Such as blue for water, white for air and so on.
- A mixing bowl or cauldron to combine your working ingredients in.
- A ritual plate or serving plate. I use a flat brass candle holder as a serving dish for offerings. Sometimes these are cakes or cookies that I will share with others who are present. Sometimes it holds a small seedling that I will plant in honor of the Great Spirits. A serving plate has a wide range of uses and often comes in handy.
- A ritual cup or goblet. Whether you share wine or grape juice as part of your workings, a decorative cup adds to the essence of your altar.
- A place for your Grimoire or Book of Shadows. Whether you're referring to your book for reference, or to record your experiences. There should be a place for your book. Personally I rarely have room on the altar itself for my Grimoire. But I did find a very sturdy and decorative adjustable podium to hold my book for rituals and workings.
What Can Be On Your Altar There are many items that you may want to add to your altar based on the workings you're doing. If it's a ceremony for a Sabbat or a ritual for magick work, additional items might be needed to connect or cast your energy. This is just a small list of a few examples:
- Magickal Tools:
- Inspirational Statues. If you feel connected to salamanders, then a small ceramic salamander can decorate your space. I incense with your workings, you'll need to add an incense holder. But you might also add a decorative feather for smudging.
- Crystals are also helpful energy conductors.
Types of Altars An altar can be a permanent table you use in a special room designated for spiritual work. It can be a table you put up and take down after use. You can also find portable altars in various forms and shapes. From briefcase type carrying cases where you can store your altar items, so simple tables you set up and collapse to put away out of sight. There are many sites online that offer altar tables, but don't rule out some enterprising shopping at your local stores.
Preparing Your Space: Before you begin any ritual or ceremony, you should clear and cleanse the area where the work is to be done. This is especially true when you're first consecrating your sacred space. You should re-cleanse this area each time you begin a ritual or use of this space.These later efforts will all be affected by how you first set the intent and use of energy in this space for the first time. You might also like to review the Blessing A New Altar ritual in the Grimoire section for an idea of how you can set the intent of your new altar space.
Closing Your Space: Once your work is complete, you must close the energy around your altar. If you created a circle, around your space, closing the circle should incorporate the altar as well. This will ensure the energy used for your workings has properly been shut down. Leaving an open gate is not only disrespectful to the forces that assisted you, but also dangerous for you and your home. Closing your space is a simple task. Thank the guides, teachers, God/Goddess that you called or who came into the circle to offer assistance during your work. Imagine the energy around the circle lowering around you, toning down and fading so to speak. Finally, clear the space with a blessing and ask the energies to close the gate to the spiritual realm.