It’s hard to scroll Instagram or Pinterest without stumbling upon decadent, glorious altars adorned with meticulous decor and witchy wares. In this article, we will be exploring what exactly an altar is and what it is used for.
What is an Altar?
By definition, an altar is a table or flat-topped block used as the focus for a religious ritual. It is a sacred place used to create and cast spells and where items used for these rituals are kept. A sort of spiritual workspace, so to speak. If it’s in your practice to call upon deities, then this is where you would place your offerings and gifts towards these deities or guides.
An altar is commonly a small table but can be any surface that you adorn with your tools and decorations. It can be indoors on any furniture that’s convenient for the practitioner or outdoors on a rock, stump, or other natural surfaces. Altars can be temporary or have a more permanent place inside and outside of the home. Traveling altars have gained popularity with those whose occupation causes them to travel a lot.
Is an Altar Necessary?
The short answer is no. Many spells do not require an altar. Having a dedicated space for magickal tools and rituals is not feasible for all practitioners. Any space, table, or outdoor setting can become a temporary workspace or “altar” while working spells and rituals. The bathtub could be considered an altar when decorated with crystals, herbs, and amulets during ritual baths. The altar can be a powerful tool but is only necessary if the ritual depends on it.
How to Utilize the Altar:
The altar’s use is determined by the spells being cast, or the deity prayed to. It can be set up portraying the masculine (left side) and feminine (right side) balance with the center as the space for spell use. For those that practice more with the four elements it is common to arrange the altar with representations of an element in each direction. North housing Earth. In the East is Air. South holds fire. The West receives water. An altar does not have to have any formal structure if that’s what the practitioner wishes. It can be a special point filled with tools and personal items.
Outdoor altars are ideal for working with volatile elements (read bonfire or playing in dirt), fairy and deity magick. The natural setting is a great place to leave offerings for these guides. It is not always possible to do rituals outside. Whether for privacy or availability reasons it is acceptable to work only indoors. This is especially true for spells that require the altar to remain undisturbed. For these spells it’s important to take into consideration the location of your altar. Pets and children also have a knack for touching shiny items such as crystals.
The Sabbats are a wonderful time to decorate the altar in natural pieces associated with each Sabbat. Refer to the Sabbat Series for suggestions on decorating your altar seasonally in accordance with the current holiday.
Tools Found On An Altar:
𖤐 Mortar and Pestle
𖤐 Book of Shadows
𖤐 Incense Burner
𖤐 Anything that speaks to your spirit!
An altar can be a practical tool or a very personal place of self-expression in your practice.