If you consider yourself to be a witch or follow any other related practices, but don’t really know where to start to truly feel like a witch, setting up your altar can help you on your way.
Altars are common in many religions, practices and belief systems, they’re hugely diverse in what they can be and how they can manifest themselves. Setting up an altar in your home or practice space can be very helpful to make you feel more like a witch, especially if you’re a solo practitioner, as in all things I recommend finding what works best for you and following an intuitive path, but as this is a part of my series on the basics, I’ll lay out some ideas.
First, sit down and meditate a bit on what your practice means to you, what Path you want to follow, and what you hope to achieve or get out of your witchcraft. Do you worship deities? Are you a Christian or Buddhist as well? Having a clear understanding of your own Path in your head can be helpful going forward. Although, if you’re stuck and you just don’t know, remember that you don’t need an altar to be a witch, you can change your mind at any time, and there’s nothing wrong with getting generic ideas off the internet to get you started until you do start to feel what’s right for you. We all have to begin somewhere!
Once you have an idea of the purpose behind your altar the next important step will be to consider whether you want it set up permanently. Do you have a bench or corner of your home you want to have set up all the time to remind you of your practice? Or do you travel to a place in the forest or by the shore and would rather something portable that you can set up and tear down and take with you? Do you keep your witchcraft private and want a trunk where you can keep your tools, use as an altar then put it back away when you’re done?
The physical altar itself can be anything from a coffee table to a fallen log, but keep in mind that layering magick is an important principle in witchcraft, so always consider what the type of wood or rock, what it’s treated with and how it’s placed, created and cared for can impact the fundamental properties of your altar.
Next you’ll have an altar cloth, if desired, consider colours, fabrics and designs and images and how they can influence and impact your magick when choosing one, or go without! Which, of course, is perfectly acceptable as well.
Then comes the set up of the items you want on your altar. Idols and representations of your chosen deities, will be important if you follow them. For me, I follow two approaches, I have a basic altar that is all-purpose, and I also use my altar as a spellcasting table which is customised for the magick, spell or ritual I’m performing.
On my all-purpose altar, I will use a coffee table or bureau if inside, or grassy space, sand, shore, fallen tree or large rock if outside. I will lay a white lace, purple or green cloth as those colours all ‘speak’ to me. You’ll find a white and a black candle (or a silver and a gold one) to represent the moon and sun, male and female, as well as power.
I don’t follow any larger belief system, but sometimes I will use items of power and inspiration on the altar such as stones, feathers or flowers.
When I use an all-purpose altar it’s usually for meditation or prayer, and for that I normally do a cakes and cups ritual, so I will have a goblet on the altar (also representative of womanhood) and a knife for cutting cake which also represents the masculine, as well as a board or cutting surface. I might also have an apple to respect the feminine divine and a small burning bowl, such as a trinket box or oyster shell, to burn spells, incense or candles.
Lastly, as the elements are important to me and I use them regularly in my magick I may have a stone or gem to represent the four watchtowers and salt to cast a circle.
These are my thoughts and how I make my altar, hopefully it will give you some ideas of the basics for your own Wiccan altar.