Your altar is part of the space between the worlds, the place to focus energy which will enable Goddess to manifest in your home, a place where you strengthen you relationship to Her, and where you do magical works. It is apart from the mundane, every day life of your household. Even if you must use your dining room table or an old coffee table, or a bookcase, the top of a an old trunk, visualize it as sacred space. In a perfect world we would all have a permanent altar that could be set up as magical space all the time, but that may not be possible for you. Don’t let that deter you, or think you can’t do magic because of that. If you live alone or with people that are respectful of your beliefs and can do as you like in your home, wonderful, if not then do the best you can. There was a time when I was living with my mother, and sharing a room with my brother, neither very accepting of my faith. I still managed to have a small sacred space next to the TV, in the room we shared, all disguised as mere “decorations”. However, it is not even necessary to have an altar to do magic, it is entirely possible with some practice to do all your rituals entirely through visualization with no tools, no circle, and no altar at all.
There are certain considerations that you must take into account when deciding where to place your altar. If possible it should be in a space where it can remain undisturbed. If you leave your altar set up all the time, and you do not live alone, you must let everyone know that the items on your altar are sacred objects and should not be touched. Ideally, no one should handle your ritual tools except you. It is also possible to have an altar “box”. A place where you store all your altar items, and can upon opening can be your “shrine”. You can buy a simple wooden box and decorate it to infuse with the energy of your own creative fire.
Your altar can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. For the sake of simplicity and ease of creation, let’s work with objects you probably have around the house already. There are many ways to compose your sacred space, this one in particular is an Elemental altar. For that, you will need something to represent the 5 Elements of Creation – Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. A small cup or bowl of water, or a seashell can represent the element of Water. For Air, you can have incense or a feather. Fire is best represented by a candle, and for Earth, you can select your favorite gemstone, or simply a small dish with salt. And finally, for Spirit, if you happen to have a Pentacle or an Ankh, beautiful, if not, a small vial with olive oil is perfect, and can be used to anoint yourself and for self blessing.
In some traditions, the altar is placed facing North, in others, facing East. If that is possible, great, if not, do what you can. My main altar is in my bedroom, right next to my bed, and the only place I could have it set up permanently is facing Northwest. Is it any less effective? Absolutely not! My motto is “do the best you can with what you have, and remember, YOU are the magic, YOU are the tool”.
How you place the items on your altar is entirely up to you. Traditionally, the placement is according to the directions corresponding to each element, but again, if you would like to set up your altar in a way that is more aesthetic, that’s perfectly fine. Below is a diagram of how to place the elements on your altar.
South – Fire – Candle
West – Water – Bowl of water or seashell
North – Earth – Gemstone or bowl of salt
Center – Spirit – Pentacle, Ankh, or Oil
This is as basic as it gets. If this is all you can manage to gather to create your first altar, is perfectly fine, and it’s a great start to your development of a daily devotional practice to establish a deeper relationship with Goddess. As your practice grows, you might want to start adding other elements to your altar. You could find a suitable representation of the Goddess, such as a statue or a framed painting, or even a nature symbol that you resonate with. On either side, you could have pillar or taper candles, if possible, a black one to the left, and a white one to the right. Those Altar candles are meant to direct energy. Energy enters on the left and exits on the right. Black draws energy and is receptive like the the left hand and White reflects energy and is projective like the right hand, functioning like a transmitter sending out energy from the altar. Black altar candles represent the Deep Essence of the Sacred Feminine, and White, of the Sacred Masculine. Together they promote the harmony of the sacred inner marriage.
I also keep fresh flowers on my altar, as a an offering to Isis, and as a symbol of my love and devotion to Her. At any given time, there are several gemstones on my altar as well, the ones I am currently working with, on a grid or not, depending on their specific purposes. My pendulum and Tarot cards are always on my altar, constantly recharging from the energy contained in it. Another thing I love to do is to re-arrange my altar once a month, and use colors, flowers, and other items that correspond to that particular month, to enhance the magical vibration and energy of my sacred space. Below it’s an example of what my altar looks like at the moment. It’ll be reconsecrated and rededicated in the next New Moon to reflect the energies of the work that I have recently begun, as well as the vibration of November. You will notice that I do not follow the cardinal placement, but instead, I arrange my altar in a way that is visually appealing and pleasant. I am after all a Libra with a whole lot of Libra in my chart, so aesthetics is very important to me!
As you see, your altar is not an ecstatic space, it is ever changing, not only with the items that you add, and how you re-arrange it, but also with the energy you gather in it, through daily devotion, meditation, magical work, and simply the quiet moments you spend communing with Goddess. In time, your sacred space will become the focal point of your home, the place where your divine essence radiates to and from, and the more you tend to it, the stronger it becomes. Most importantly, as you tend to your physical altar, so should you tend to your astral one, and with that, you will carry your temple everywhere, all the time. But that’s the subject of our next post 🙂
In sum, you should not let lack of “fancy” ritual items deter you from creating your own altar right now. Even the most basic, simple household items can be the beginning of a beautiful sacred space.
Love and Bright Goddess Blessings
Queen Mother Isis Selene