Many different religions and civilisations have created and dedicated a special place to the Gods and Spirits they revered, the Altar. The Altar was not only the center of religious/magical ceremonies that held special artefacts or ceremonial items and facilitated the ritualistic aspect of the ceremony as honouring God(s), but was also a focal point, a place where the priest/priestess/witch/Druid would open a door between our World and the Divine World in order for the group to commune with the Divine, bless any items and play an active role in their ceremony.
Originally meaning a ‘higher place’, altars were positioned on mountains, hills or even waterfalls. The location was carefully selected and usually chosen based on the belief that Gods and Spirits reside in higher places and is easier to communicate with them in such locations. In addition, Druid Groves or Magical Circles in nature will have an altar at their center where it is usually all magic is taking place.
The concept of the Altar also is associated with the famous Craft saying also attributed to Hermes Trismegistus “As above, so below”. The principle is that the Celestial world and our Physical world are interconnected and a magical mirror of each other. In addition, modern fractal theory has also introduced the concept of Worlds within Worlds, where each fractal is like a whole world in a smaller scale which is embedded inside a world. The concept of microcosms and macrocosms is a fascinating one and the more we start bringing this concept in our lives, the more we start feeling as part of a greater Whole.
Creating sacred space: We can all benefit from the concept of creating our own sacred space, a special altar that allows us to express ourselves and use it as a place for our magic. Of course it can be a moved one that we only prepare when we are casting spells and rituals, however it can also be a stable one, a special corner in our house dedicated to the Divine and all Spirits that take care of us. It can be as small as a shoe box or a drawer or as big and obvious as we like and feel comfortable. Traditionally, the location was chosen based on the intuition of individual or by seeking suggestions from Spirit. As a general principle, choose the place you like most in your house or garden and you feel connected with the Divine. Once the place is selected, cleanse the energies and make a claim to the Land and Spirit that this is your chosen corner to create an altar to be a special place that you can communicate with them and honour them. You can also cast a Magical Circle or a special ceremony to bless the land but I leave this up to you.
The Altar: This is the creative part. The Altar is not only something for the Divine but also a reflection of your own psyche. The suggestions on what to place on your altar are endless, yet the principle remains the same, choose items that you hold dear and are meaningful to you. This is your own personal space, like a blank canvas paint it and let it be a manifestation of your Soul. You may choose to place a cloth as the foundation of your altar, then select a representation of the Divine. It can either be a picture/portrait/statue of the God(s) or Spirit(s) you feel close to, a symbol or anything else you feel personal. A candle (or two if you follow a God/Goddess path) is placed to honour the Divine flame. You may place a cauldron or incense burner for offerings, a shell or a cup of water to honour the element of Water and your emotions, a vase with fresh flowers to honour the beauty and abundance in your life. The portrait of your child that you hold dear or the portrait of you as a child to honour the child within you. You can place your ritual items, a representation of your totem animal, a picture of butterflies that you always find amazing and sparks your creativity, you can keep a cup for libations, special items like keys, your favourite tarot card, feathers, charms, an image of a four leaves clover whatever you want to keep is your own choice. In addition, you may change the altar items in order to symbolise what you want to communicate to the Divine. For example, you may wish to add a red candle for passion in your life, a cup of fresh soil for stability, an pink quartz for love, or a representation of the four Elements. As said already the suggestions are limitless. Read more about the things you like and look into your own self for suggestions. From a psychoanalytic perspective take a picture of your altar, this is the picture of your soul- of course not to each entirety but shows in a profound and sometimes unconscious way what our own soul wants to communicate to us and the World. Let yourself amaze you!
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Using the Altar: The altar can be used for any small or big occasion. It can be used during a Full Moon or Sabbat ritual or for your everyday praying. It is a place to say thank you for giving offerings or a place to ask for petitions. It is a place to cast your spells or a place to just talk. Its uses are endless. Feel free to decorate or change your altar as it fits your needs. After all, the Altar is a working space, similar to a work desk it is the place that we work our Magic and express our Inner World. If you are looking for ways to empower your magic and rituals, the Altar will make a significant difference. The more you use it, the more meaning it has in your life and the more it can assist you. Remember to keep it clean and cleanse it magically periodically. Enjoy your own little piece of Heaven!