An altar is a pretty dandy thing to have. Though a lot of my spell casting is done rather casually and usually in my teeny tiny kitchen, I do more serious work at my altar. I could do more serious work in my kitchen and I’m sure the results would be the same, but the altar gives me that sense of focus, the drive and I’m sure the extra hit of energy I surely need.
So what makes an altar? There are a hundred different answers to this, as everyone has their own way of doing things, but specifically it is a sacred place to work, to honour your deities, to keep your magical tools. Some don’t work at an altar, just have it as a focal point and that’s ok. It’s yours. Do what you will. I’ll be talking about the more practical points of the altar though.
So what should be on your altar? For a working one, you need items to represent the 5 elements, air, water, fire, earth and spirit. It is completely up to you to decide what you want to have on the altar to represent these, I have a shell for water, candle for fire, pebble for earth and feather for air.
Next I have two taper candles, I only light them when working, and they serve as a sort of focus for me, like a little indication that this is a sacred time.
I haven’t found a statue/ornament of my patron goddess Brigid that calls to me yet, so I have a lovely card depicting her. If you haven’t got a god/dess you’d like represented on your altar yet, or don’t believe in any deities, that’s fine.
Seasonal decor can be wonderful, it draws the mind to the passing of the wheel, to connect with what is happening in nature. You can decorate your altar to fit in with the sabbats and festivals, or just for the seasons. Bring flowers and other found treasures (pinecones, acorns, shells etc) in and place them on your altar. An altar should not be a stagnant thing. Do remember that if you take something from nature, thank it, and perhaps leave an offering to the wildlife.
Tools. If you use athames, chalices, wands etc, an altar is an appropriate place to keep them, as well as tarot cards, pendulums and runes. The altar is a dedicated magical place in your home, so it makes sense.
Anything else you thing appropriate can go on your altar. During Samhain I keep photos of loved ones that have passed, at Imbolc, there are always snowdrops.
You can really use anything as an altar, a chest of drawers, a computer console table, even a shelf. If you can’t find the room, try a portable altar. Keep your items in a small box and set it up when you need it. I have an old metal chest that I use, it’s sturdy and fits its purpose, plus it has the right feel.
Make your altar yours, dedicate it to your deities, your ancestors or your path. With all things in witchcraft it is a personal thing. Enjoy it.
The Basic Witch