Altering the views on Altars
The most basic ritual tool in any religious or spiritual practice is your altar. It is where any work with the Gods or spirits will be done. It is your spiritual home. Your altar is your connection to the Gods and spirits of your path. They can be complex or they can be simple. You can have them up permanently or you can use them only when you need them. You can have them outside or inside or you can make one on the fly at locations for specific rituals. There are as many ways and styles of altars as there are people who build them.
The purpose of the altar is to be tool in your spiritual, magical, and or religious work. An altar is simply a working surface. It is the place where you hold rituals and place offerings for the spirits or Gods that you work with. If you do spell work it is the surface on which all your tools and ingredients for your spell.
Many people believe that you need to follow strict requirements for altar set ups like being in the north, what tools you must have on them, and positioning of those tools and items. The fact is that unless you belong to a specific path like Traditional Wicca which has specific altar requirements no one can tell you how to build your altar and what you can and can’t have on them. It is your altar, your sacred place to connect with the Gods and spirits that you work with.
There are many different types of altars and many different ways to work with them. The type of altar that you build will depend on your path and the Gods and spirits that you work with. Each altar has its own uses and practices. Some are more devotional and some are more for active working. There is no right or wrong way to work with your altar surface.
The most common altars in magical and spiritual work are working altars:
The above photo shows a working altar near the end of the working. At the start this altar would have had the needles, herbs, and the fabric outline of the Poppet. Working altars are just that- a space for performing magical and spiritual works. They contain all the materials that you need for any spell or working. They can be used for one time or be used continuously it depends on the working involved.
Other working altars would be spell type specific altars like a money altar. These altars are altars designed for specific type of spell working. On a money altar you would perform any spells and workings dealing specifically with money (new job, raise, getting debts, sales etc) basically anything related to finances. Another working altar could be a healing altar where only workings based on healing would occur.
Aside from working altars devotional altars are fairly common;
A devotional altar is an altar that is dedicated to a specific spirit or God. Only items related to that particular God, Spirit, or being are placed on that surface. They commonly involve statues or images of the being, candles, incenses holders, and bowls or glasses for offerings. Devotional altars are places where you can honor a specific spirit through prayers and offerings. You can ask them for help, thank them for being in your life, or just honor them. These altars are typically only used for prayer work and offerings. However if a spell or working calls upon them you may include the completed poppet,charm,etc on their altar to add their energy to the spell.
One of the most common types of devotional altars is that of an ancestor altar:
Ancestor altars are common place in many different pagan religions and traditions. An ancestor altar is used to honor and venerate our beloved dead. Ancestor altars are a place for us to remember and honor those who have come before us. Most often they include pictures, a candles, and an offering bowl or plate.
Many people have permanent altars in their home. In some witchcraft traditions the altar may look something like this:
On that altar they have all the tools they need for any sabbat or esbat as well as any impromptu ritual they may feel like performing. Permanent altars like the one above often provide a sense of security and satisfaction. To many it is a physical symbol and reminder of the path they have chosen to take in this life.
Its common to find that people practice or have influences from multiple pagan paths. Often they will have separate permanent altars for the different paths that they practice. For example someone may have a religious witchcraft altar set up for Sabbat work and practices while they may also have an Asatru or Kemetic altar set up. They work in and honor both sets of beliefs and Gods but keep the altars separate as they are separate paths and are kept separate out of respect.
There are many other forms of altars from outdoor altars to travel altars and even pocket altars. Altars are very powerful and very personal tools. Let the spirits you work with guide you on building your altars. You will know what is right for you and you alone.