My altars change on a regular basis. Almost weekly my SO and I head out to our local Salvation Army and peruse the shelves for new additions to our individual practices and home. Honestly, I recommend checking out thrift stores before you buy anything full price off the internet or from other shops. However, I’m a huge supporter of local business, and if you’re lucky enough to have a witchy shop within a reasonable distance that would be preferable.
It’s common for beginner witches to start with Wicca, and this leaves them with the idea that their altar must be set up following those guidelines. Sometimes people people feel stuck or think that they just don’t connect with that aspect of witchcraft. Nobody needs one to be a witch.
I was years into my practice before I got the knack for altar creation, and it’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of my path. In the beginning, I was just going through the motions, unsure why I was doing certain things and curious as to the purpose of the trinkets arranged on the corner of my dorm room desk. Eventually, I gave up all together.
But then I came across the idea of a magickal workbench, a space to express my witchiness, where I could work on my craft and be more hands on. Soon my work bench spanned a writing desk, a long white table, an end table, and my makeup battlestation. Obviously, I needed to scale it down a bit. Now I just use a small desk in my studio as an altar, and I’ve come to find that I prefer to only use it for my witchy business.
An altar is a micro version of the universe. When you change, add, or remove things from your altar you are making changes in the universe. I view the top my altar as the conscious and under it the subconscious, but there are numerous ways to interpret your altar. It reflects the energies you want to cultivate within your life. My current altar was made with the intention of bringing wealth and prosperity to me. A day after completing the new set up my boss offered me a side job cleaning the office which added an extra $200 a month to my paycheck.
Some Ideas to Elevate Your Altar Crafting:
- Play with height.
- This can create interesting contrast to the layout, and will allow you to bring attention to certain objects.
- You can also use height to denote certain ideas: heaven/ earth, conscious/unconscious, divine/mundane, etc.
- Make your own devotional candles.
- I made a Leslie Nope candle and always keep it near by so I can imbibe her essence. Just having her on my altar helps me manifest her energy.
- Use tarot cards
- I use tarot cards because they are perfect for representing archetypal energies. If I want to be more creative and connect with the divine feminine I use the Empress or when I want to gain a deep understanding of my inner self I pick the Hermit.
- The pip cards work just as well as the major arcana. They represent the day to day aspects of our lives instead of cosmic energy, archetypes, and big picture stuff.
- Using personal mementos
- The written word
- Words are powerful. My altar has sticky notes in various places with words of importance, notes, and quotes.
- You can include poems, speeches, letters, etc.
- Often, people will decorate according to sabbats, but you can also incorporate other themes like the seasons, specific colors, the duality of male and female (this is my favorite), a specific animal, etc.
- Interesting thrift store finds
- You can find the coolest things at a second hand shop. I’ve snagged offering dishes, a cauldron, several glass containers for various purposes, and several figurines.
- Having a central focus item
- Creating separate sections on your altar
Unconventional Altar Options:
- Mini tin altars
- Shoebox altars
- Digital altars
- You can also create websites dedicated to deities or ideas that others can use. A great example is this website dedicated to Frigg where visitors can “light a candle” in gratitude, praise, or for a request.
- Make an entire room your altar space
- Shadow boxes
- Kitchen altars
- Mine’s a spice cabinet.
- Bathroom altars
- Bedroom altars
- Outdoor altars!
- Not really unconventional, but still uncommon enough to warrant a mention. While walking my cat, he found an old stump which I cleaned and now use when working outside. It’s great for working with landvaettir.
- Special gardens can also work as altars.
- Collage altars
- You can create collages for your altars, and any time you want to change something make a new one. This is good for people in the broom closet or low on funds.