An altar is defined as a table or place which serves as a center of worship or ritual. Over the centuries altars have been included in the home as a place of worship, a space for thanks, and a way to connect to the deva of the home. Having an altar or personal sacred space is becoming an essential part of the modern home. It is a connection between heaven and earth which allows quiet reflection, supplication, and meditation. There are different elements to an altar. Here we will explore how to create an altar with meaning and care for general purposes. Different cultures and religions have more specific details for altars. This article deals in generalities so you can begin your steps to creating your own altar.
Choosing a Space
Select a space which will allow you to find peace away from daily life. It does not matter how big or small your home is, there is always a place to practice reflection. If you share a home, create a place in your bedroom. It can be a shelf or a low lying table, even your bedside table can be used.
Work with the space. Feel which areas energetically are the most supportive. Steer clear of doorways, direct views of restrooms or other frequently visited home spaces. Avoiding walls with plumbing – flushing in particular.
Directions also can influence your space. Humans “navigate” to the North Star – it is how we find direction and feel oriented. Placing your alter on the north wall will provide grounding energy, help when you are looking for direction, and brings in new beginnings. It is also beneficial to those who often feel scattered or unbalanced. Placing your altar in the East honors how the day begins – with the rising of the sun. It embraces awakenings and enlightenment. A south facing altar helps you to deal with emotions and working through them. Westward altars help you to release, face duality and work with transformational energy.
A cloth can be used as a base for your altar. Different colors and fabrics can bring in different energies. Cotton cloth is very grounding, a very fine cloth will help connect you with Divine energy. Colors also affect the energy of your altar. Personally made cloth can also be used. A good friend hand-knitted lace for me with a rising phoenix as the motif. I always use this cloth when I am setting an altar for manifestation or to help me with a self-growth issue. Etsy has a wealth of beautifully made altar cloths if you want something special, but a simple cloth is will do.
If flowers are in your budget, they are a wonderful addition to your altar. Flowers should be fresh and the water should be changed daily. If you are using your altar for religious or spiritual practices, choose flowers which relate to the energy you are connecting with. Flower essences are also acceptable as is an image of flowers. Here are a few options –
Apple Blossom: Readily available in the spring, apple blossom blooms bring in the energy of new growth, healing, and a sense of renewed hope and faith.
Daffodils: Joy, hope, and trust are traits of the daffodil. They also can help you connect to the Faerie Realm. If you make an altar and are especially trying to connect to nature and the beings which reside there, this is an excellent flower to use in your altar. Another option for the Faery Realm, is the Iris.
Daisy: Opens your heart to more child-like innocence and connects you to your inner child. Joyous and warm-hearted energy.
Purple Cone Flower: Also known as echinacea, this flower on your altar will help those of you who are working on healing yourselves.
Lily: Lily connects to goddess energy, to Christ energy, and brings in calm and serenity to your personal space.
To learn more fauna and how its properties, please review Nature-Speak by Ted Andrews. It has wonderful references for all types of trees, bushes, and flowers which can be used on your altar.
Altars often have a symbolic representation of the energy you are wishing to invoke, connect with, and reflect upon. These symbols can be statues, a cross, a piece of jewelry, a tarot or oracle card, a rune or ogham, a photo from the internet, or a piece of nature. It does not matter how small or how large your symbol is, as long as it fits your goal for your altar and your budgetary needs.
Natural energy from Mother Earth can help the vibration and energy of your altar. Crystals should be chosen based by how they can help raise the vibration of your intentions and/or deepen your meditation practice. A sphere of the major crystal energy you are working with will spread the energy evenly through your altar area. Some favorite choices are –
Quartz: A very stable crystal with a clear vibrational core, clear quartz helps you manifesting your goal. Rose quartz brings in loving energy and smokey quartz helps draw out what is no longer needed or necessary.
Apophyllite: Meditating with apophyllite helps your ability to hear guidance from the highest levels and promotes inner vision. Connects you to the higher realms of consciousness and opens your third eye chakra.
Amethyst: A stone of wisdom and peace, meditation with amethyst brings in naturally tranquilizing energy. A large piece of amethyst in your personal sacred space will absorb any negativity in the room. It helps to open your third eye chakra and clarifies any spiritual visions you may receive.
Malachite: Breaks through blockages which are keeping you from growing and moving forward in your life. Connects you strongly to Mother Earth and nature. Hold malachite when you are meditating, eyes only partially closed. Follow the natural contours and shapes of this crystal will take you deeper into meditation and help you discover aspects of yourself and of your future.
Celestite: Meditating with celestite helps you to connect to the wisdom of the universal mind and creates a sanctuary for your soul. This beautiful blue crystal helps you to hear the guidance of your angels and guidance team with more clarity. Especially helpful to those who worry quite a bit.
Kunzite: The stone of loving thought is especially helpful and welcome when your life is going through a “growth period.” This crystal resonates with the heart chakra and higher heart chakra. Full of universal love, this crystal heals heartache, helps with self-love, and calms anxiety.
Learn about more crystals you can use on your altar in the Crystal Bible book series by Judy Hall.
Historically, incense has been used to cleanse energy, to invite in spirit, and to deepen your connection to spirit. By lighting incense before you begin your reflection or meditation, you alert your spiritual team you are ready to spend time connecting more fully to the energy of the universe, with them, and also your soul. It teaches your senses and body that it is time to be quiet, to be still.
Sweetgrass: Attracts positive energy and helps you to set positive intentions.
Pinon: A variety of pine tree, pinon incense has the essence of a pine forest in the American Southwest. Considered sacred trees to many Native people, it is a protective essence.
Frankincense: One of the gifts of the Three Wisemen, frankincense is one of the oldest resins used in a ceremony, going back five thousand years. Burning frankincense is purifying. It clears negativity while raising the vibration in any space. It is also protective and attracts good luck.
Sandalwood: This popular scent helps to deepen your spiritual practices while providing protection.
Copal: Like frankincense, copal is purifying. It also lifts your spirits and provides protection.
Palo Santo: Made from sacred wood, palo santo literally translates to holy wood. It can be traced back to the Inca Empire. Use it to cleanse and purify.
Osha Root: A member of the parsley family, Osha Root has been used by Native people for centuries. Osha Root helps to raise self-confidence and purifies the air.
See all of our incense and incense holders options here.
Placing an offering on an altar is an ancient practice. These can be items which help you manifest a goal, to connect you more fully to your spirituality, or to the energy you wish to connect more fully with. In some circumstances, incense is considered the offering, as are flowers. Offerings should be obtained honestly and ethically. An example is asking your neighbors if you can cut some of their lilacs instead of taking them without permission so your offering was obtained with honor. You do not need to leave an offering, but it is an option.
To learn more about herbs and other items to use as offerings, The Master Book of Herbalism has an excellent section on offerings.
Striking a chime at the start of meditation is an age-old practice. The tone at the start of your meditation practice clears energy and lets your energetic team know you are ready to begin. The chime should also be struck at the end of your meditation to provide clear closure.
Lighting a candle is another way to signal your energetic team you are ready to begin your meditation. If you have to worry about a flame starting a fire, flameless candles are a viable option.
Setting Up Your Altar
Make sure the space you have chosen for your altar is clean of debris, dust, and dirt. After you have cleansed the space, energetically clear it with white sage. Take a moment of reflection, silently communicating your goals with your altar, asking the space to please work with you to help you find center energetically, to connect to spirit, or whatever else is important to you. If you have chosen a cloth, place this first. Then set your symbol. From there work with the energy of your pieces to find the highest energy possible for your altar. I typically place my flowers after my symbol, and then my crystals. You can make a grid with your crystal choices as well. After you have found most satisfying layout energetically, take time to thank all of the different elements which have come together to create your altar. Burn some incense to help set your intention.
Maintaining the energy of your altar should be performed regularly. Smudge with sage or Palo Santo after you are done with your meditation. Keep the area free from dust and dirt. If you have live flowers, change the water daily and remove the dying aspects to keep the energy of your altar high and vibration. Be grateful and give thanks to the energies who come and work with you regularly during your time in reflection, meditation, and/or prayer.
Best wishes to all of you. Send us your altar images – we might feature them on our social media accounts.
This article was originally published in January 2019.