How to set up an altar in your home.

How to set up an altar in your home.

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A question I get often is, “What is an altar, and how do I set one up?”

So I thought I would cover this topic in today’s post and answer a few important questions about altars and how to create your own.

What is an altar?

To me, an altar is a physical space dedicated to magical work. However, there are many definitions of what an altar should be and look like. Some witches have a main altar for their everyday magic, and have separate ones for ongoing work.
Some altars are hand-carved out of wood and embedded with stones, crafted by artisans for this specific purpose. And some altars are repurposed Ikea coffee tables or thrift store finds, shelves, countertops, or even small trays or plates.
Altars can sometimes be set up to honor departed loved ones and ancestors (I have a separate one for this purpose), altar to specific deities you work with, display spiritual items such as crystal grids, etc.

Where to set up an altar?

Where to set up your altar depends on different things:

  • The space you have for it: do you live in a tiny city apartment, or do you have a dedicated room for magic and spiritual practice?
  • The specific energy of your magical work. If you’re doing a healthy eating ritual, you might want to put your altar in the kitchen. If you’re attracting a romantic partner, the bedroom would be a great space for it.
  • Safety precautions: when setting up your altar, make sure to take into consideration whether your pets can access it, potential gushes of wind, curtains, flammable items, etc. Enough witches have burned already. There’s no need for more of that to happen, especially now, when it can be easily avoided.
  • How open you are with your spiritual practice: do you want housemates or visitors to see your altar? Do you live in a home or country where you can openly practice magic without facing repercussions? If you practice secretly, you can still set up a mini-altar that you can dismantle easily once you are done (this one, made out of an Altoids tin, is a good example). 

As I mentioned earlier, your altar can be a dedicated table, or the top of a dresser, or a counter, or a shelf (just be careful with bookshelves because the flame from candles can make the shelf above get very hot). My current altar is the top of a curb-find cabinet that we use to store our shoes in. Some witches may feel this is profane, but the good thing about spirituality is that you make your own rules. Considering that one of the first rituals I made on that altar was highly successful, I don’t think that the Universe and any other entities helping me minded.

What do you put on your altar?

Beginner witches tend to believe you need to have specific items on your altar, such as God and Goddess statues, candles, items to represent the elements, etc. This is because information based on Wicca, which is a religion. Wiccan altars require specific items.

My altar basics include plants, crystals, incense, and other items specific to the spell or ritual I’m doing (here’s a recent picture of it). I like using small wooden trays that I’ve painted myself with colors that magically correspond to specific things (green for money, pink for love, orange for creativity, etc). 

The truth is, you can have whatever you want on your altar! And you can always switch things up: some witches change their altars throughout the seasons, and according to the pagan holidays. Just let your intuition guide you, and keep adding more items as you evolve through your spiritual path!

Here’s what I recommend having on your altar:

  • Items that represent who you are: I like having rosary beads that belonged to my late grandmother on my altar, because they represent my ancestry and my heritage, as well as my Catholic spiritual background. You can choose to have your favorite tarot card, a plant, a quote that speaks to you, or anything else that infuses your ritual space with the energy of you!
  • Items that represent what you work with. For instance, if your favorite element is water, then something that represents it, such as a glass of water, a seashell, some sand.
  • Items specific to what you’re working on, aside from your ritual tools (candles, crystals, herbs, etc). For instance, if you’re doing a money spell, have some coins and bills on your altar, and maybe even a debit or credit card!

The bottom line is, when it comes to altars, is let your intuition guide you, make your own rules, be creative and have fun! 

I would love to know what you have on your altar! Please share a picture of it on Instagram and tag @theempresswithin so I can see it!

Much love and namasté,


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