Altars are used worldwide by people of many different religions and traditions. They are found in temples, churches, natural places, and historical sites. They can also be found in homes and are becoming a popular way of growing one’s spirituality. Altars act as liminal space where the physical breaches the spiritual; where we can readily meet with Source Energy, the gods, our higher selves, angels, guides, and ancestors. By setting up an altar in your home, you are establishing sacred space – a safe, comfortable place to focus on your spiritual growth without anyone else telling you how to practice. No matter your religion or spiritual path, an altar provides a central location within your home for meditation, quiet contemplation, spell-working, ritual, prayer, divination, yoga, and more.
How to Set Up An Altar
Setting up an altar is not as complicated as it may sound. First, you’ll need to decide what piece of furniture you will use as your altar. Corner tables, end tables, and cabinets are a popular choice, but some choose a small wall shelf or even a corner of a kitchen counter or nightstand. It all depends on how much space you have in your home, the people with whom you share your home, and your personal preferences. A popular question asked is which direction the altar should face – north, south, east, or west? This really depends on your religious affiliation or spiritual path. In some of the Wiccan traditions, altars are suggested to face North, the direction of the element of earth. In some eastern religions, altars face east towards the rising sun. And still there are those who believe the direction of the altar doesn’t matter. The choice is ultimately up to you and your beliefs, as there is no right or wrong way.
Once you’ve decided what you are using as an altar, then you’ll decide what tools and sacred talismans to include on your altar. This is the fun part! Often these sacred items are related to nature and the elements. Some may choose a tool to represent each of the four elements, such as: a cauldron for earth, incense for air, candles for fire, an abalone shell for water. These are just a few examples. Other sacred items for your altar may include crystals, plants, statues, tarot cards, flowers, shells, books, and the list goes on. Keep in mind that candles are almost always a must, particularly if you’re doing any spiritual work at night. Candlelight creates an ambiance you will not achieve with false fluorescent lights or lamps. Incense is also helpful to set the mood, whether you are meditating, praying, or casting a spell. Incense is also used as an offering to deities and ancestors. Add an altar cloth to protect the altar-top plus bring in a certain energy to your space. A tapestry can be hung behind your altar to honor your deities or ancestors. There is no limit to what sacred tools and items you include on your altar. It is your sacred space, after all.
Now you have your altar and all your sacred tools ready. Don’t forget one of the most crucial steps in establishing your sacred space – cleansing and consecrating. It is important to cleanse your altar and your tools, because when you bring items into your home from other places, they can carry energies that you might not want in your sacred space. To cleanse your altar and tools, it is wise to use a sage bundle and perform a small smudging ritual.
How to Cleanse Your Sacred Space
You will need the following:
How to smudge your altar and tools:
Now that you’ve cleansed your space and tools, the last step is to perform a simple consecration (also called a blessing). This can be done by stating out loud, “I consecrate (bless) this altar and sacred space in the name of _______ (insert your god/ancestor/Universe/Source here). It is now cleansed of negative energy. May it be a place of spiritual growth and may it be for my highest good. So be it.”
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Welcome to our collective favourite season, witchy folk! Perhaps that’s a generalization, but the Autumnal vibes are an absolute mood in the spiritual community, and for so many reasons. This season we have two Sabbats to celebrate; the first of those is Mabon, otherwise known as the Autumn Equinox, and the hemispherical counterpart to Ostara, in which we celebrate the Spring Equinox.
Not only is Autumn the season of flavoured lattes and pumpkins, it is the season of the colours of the Earth – oranges and reds and browns, greens and glorious yellows. We have beautiful harvest vegetables and burgeoning berries; a veritable feast of offerings from our beautiful Mother Earth to celebrate.
For Mabon, we focus on the beginning of the end of the harvest season and the descent into wintery darkness. Spiritually, we are reaching the closing-down portion of the year – as the days get shorter and the evenings are longer, we assess the outcomes of our labour (physical, financial, emotional, spiritual) across the past twelve months. Summer is celebration, and Autumn is when we reap what we’ve sown. So, as we draw towards the end of this summertime haze and commence the darkening and hibernation periods, we’re beginning to wind down business and take stock of what we’ve achieved.
Seasonal altars are a great way to focus our attentions and intentions towards that for which we are grateful, and the things that we want to manifest in our lives. Not only does the season dictate our physical activities, it also directs our spiritual lives, and the altar is the witch’s way of centring that energy.
With so much to love and celebrate about Autumn, let’s take a look at some traditional (and not-so-traditional) items to feature on our altars during this time.