If you are new to the practice in general, you may be wondering where to start. One of the first things you should do before starting any rituals is to set up an altar.
Since the beginning of time, man has created altars to celebrate divinity and perform their own rituals. For the archaic civilizations, they were mere piles of stone. For the Egyptians, massive blocks of baked clay. The Romans had altars in the house to celebrate the Lares and Penates, the protective spirits of the house and family.
For Christians, the altar assumes a preponderant role in celebrations and is often decorated majestically.
Even today, Greenlandic shamanic communities create large altars in spring to celebrate the return of fire and light.
In several books, you will find written that an altar is a sacred place for performing rites to thank the Gods. They are also where the different symbols and tools necessary to practice magic are placed, including the cup, the athame, the boline, the cauldron, the censer, and the pentacle.
The altar is, therefore, a place of connection with the Divine and therefore a profoundly sacred space. During the rituals, the altar catalyzes the energies we put into circulation, and through the symbols it hosts, it plays an active role in fostering the connection with the whole.
Thoughts on altars
As I celebrate, my altar of the Elements supports me and gives me strength.
The altar is not an extravagant ornament.
It is a place of power that, as you practice and connect to it, will become an entity in its own right, with its own spirit.
My altar is a safe refuge for me, before which I gather in the evening to celebrate the beauty and give thanks for the gifts that have been offered to me during the day.
It is not the representation of a distant God. It is a welcoming home to return to. My altar makes me feel supported, guided, inspired.
Do I need an altar to be a witch?
I would like to clarify that there is no need for an altar to “do” magic. Magic is experienced every day, walking down the street, admiring the colors around us, the smile of a child or the wise gaze of an ancient soul.
Working with Magic means connecting with the Divine and acting in accordance with it, directing our energies in a certain direction. Of course, the altar is a place of power and therefore facilitates concentration and connection, but it is not a necessary and sufficient condition. Magic is all around us. We are the Magic.
Each one of us has an altar
An altar can be seen as a station that can be either fixed or mobile, where you can place all the useful tools for your practice and your personal magical journey. Each altar is different, they can be simple or elaborate, it is entirely up to the witch to create a suitable altar depending on herself and the type of Magic she wishes to invoke.
The altars of the Witches are sacred and special spaces that symbolize the deepest self and spirituality. It’s a representation of hopes and desires, it’s a place to set your intentions, celebrate and practice.
Altars are also focal points for practice: they are a space to send energy and intentions to any divinity, Being, or energy with which they are working and channeling. Some Witches choose to have an entire room dedicated to their Altar, others have a smaller and more modest space. The choice is entirely up to the Witch who creates the Altar.
Wiccans and pagans are certainly not the only religions or spiritual beings who use altars in their faith. Altars exist in all religions in churches, temples, and in homes across the world.
How to set up the right altar for your practice: some foundations?
An altar has the purpose, thanks to the tools it contains, to assist the Witch as she channels power and energy to make everything she desires manifest in physical reality.
To start setting up an altar it is necessary to determine on what type of surface (coffee table, wardrobe, bedside table, etc.) you would like to use or where you would like it to be.
Recall that the four directions North, South, East, and West, each represent a different element:
- North: Earth
- South: Fire
- East: Air
- West: Water
Once you have decided where to place the altar, the fun part comes; you get to choose which talismans, candles, and other magical objects to put on the altar.
Since many offshoots of witchcraft have a belief based on the elements of Nature, many Witches incorporate natural elements into their altar.
- EARTH: herbs, plants, earth, sand, shells and seeds
- FIRE: candles
- AIR: incense
- WATER: water, such as moon water
Other useful items can be tarot cards, books, runes, statues, or totems. Many witches choose to have crystals on their altars.
Crystals, charged by the Sun and the Moon, attract and hold different energies that can manifest and provide healing properties.
Make sure to put things on your altar that will attract and manifest things that you desire from your life. This will help empower any magic you do with your altar and can help you simply feel better and closer to your goals.
I have my altar ready for my purposes, now what?
Once the altar is ready, it will be necessary to clean up the space around it. It is important to clean the altar itself too because when we carry objects and crystals that have previously been elsewhere, they can bring other energies with them into our sacred space.
By purifying with sage and performing a small purification ritual, we will make sure that your instruments and the altar are free from external energies and ready for your practice.