Altars – what’s yours like?

Samhain Altar 2013

Samhain Altar 2013

I have kept an altar for most of my practice, but I have also gone years where it is not possible.  So, right now I am once again in transition and probably won’t be keeping a big formal altar in the foreseeable future. It is not necessary to keep an altar but I personally find it enjoyable.  If you choose to keep an altar let your personal preferences and space guide you.

This was my big altar all done up with ancestors and the Beloved Dead for Samhain 2013.  As you can see, this is Sabbat altar included are family heirlooms (to honor the dead), tarot cards from the Wildwood Tarot (to honor the God and Goddess), and candles.  This altar was set up right before the Sabbat and slowly put away days after.  Keeping an altar can be a daily devotional practice or something you do for celebrations.  The purpose of this altar was to serve as the altar for my personal Samhain ritual.  Many of the photographs and items from this altar were taken to a group Samhain ritual and placed on their ritual altar for some time as well.  I usually also like to include flowers and “pretty” items on Sabbat altars.  These altars are typically changed out for the Sabbat and can be disassembled afterwards.

I also keep ancestral altars.  These are permeant altars where I keep a scared space to honor deity or my dead.  I use these at certain times: performing rituals of remembrance for the dead for example, or special days to honor a deity where I may not have a full ritual.  Additionally, these small altars can be places for daily devotionals and meditations.  They can be as big or small as you want – a few photographs on a shelf, an entire shelf, or even a whole dresser top.  Other things I sully keep on this altar is an incense holder, crystal skull, and a sugar skull shadowbox.  The pictures obviously represent those who have passed away the skulls represent both the ancient ancestors to which I owe my life, and my spiritual ancestors in this path and witchcraft.  Honoring both these “ancestors” is important to my practice but to keep life simple I only have one “spirit” altar.

Finally, I keep a personal altar for myself and a “working” space for doing spell crafts and making things.  My working space is generally in my kitchen or a private space depending on the kind of work.  My personal altar usually can be found in my bedroom.  These altars are specific sacred spaces in which I meditate or do spell work.  I can safely keep tools and items there to remind me my own divinity and the work I am doing.  These are my most important altars because they help put in mind to do work. On my working altar I generally keep a cauldron and some kind of candle holder.  On my personal altar I keep things sacred to me, my animal spirit guide figures, a few crystals, and a candle.  I use the personal altar for meditation and “inside” work.  The working altar is for “outside” work and making things.

How do you use altars?  I don’t have any rules for how I create mine, do you?

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About Pixie

I'm just your average 20-something trying to figure it out. I am also a theologian, yogi, witch, pagan, dirty hippie, activist (progressive politics), feminist, knitter, environmentalist, and friend. I've also been accused of being a hipster - I am not sure about that. I am sometimes happy to be Gen Y (go Harry Potter) and most of the time confused (seriously guys... ) by everyone else. My hobbies including knitting (and maybe crochet), quilting, recycling, cooking, writing, reading, and biking. I'm finishing up a masters in public policy and when I worked worked in political nonprofits as an activist.
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7 Responses to Altars – what’s yours like?

  1. ladyimbrium says:

    Sharing an apartment normally means that things as personal as altars get hidden in the back corners of bedrooms. Sharing an apartment with your witchy brother and his lovely witchy companion means that that stuff is all out there. My Work space (which includes the shrines to Ares and Aphrodite) as well as the Psychopomp/Reaper Altar are in my room since those are more personal. The house spirits are in the kitchen and our apartment’s favorite Trickster has a spot by the fireplace for… reasons.
    What all of that suggests is that we collectively have a love affair with altars and shrines and will, given half a chance, turn any flat space into one.

    • Pixie says:

      Haha true sharing space can cause issues if you don’t share space with those with an open mind. I tend to have altars in plain sight a lot – unless you are another witch or pagan you might not notice most of mine – unless you know, it’s all decked out for a sabbat. That being said, I guess the cauldron in the kitchen is kind of conspicuous even if it is just sitting on the counter!

  2. Dyslexic Witch says:

    I have a seasonal/deity altar and an ancestral altar, although it’s more of a shrine, since I differentiate between the two: altar being a place to work magik, and a shrine being to honor someone/thing. In that case, I’ve got my seasonal/deity altar and my working altar (stove), and, I think, 4 shrines, one to my ancestors, Hestia, Spirit Animals, and for our Handfasting.

    I’m into symbolism, each piece on the altar/shrine has a reason, a meaning. It has to be fitting to what the altar/shrine represents. Always always need to include my Spirit Animals and Messengers for the seasonal altar, despite having a shrine built to them altar.

    Good post, i enjoy a good altar piece. 🙂

  3. knixie.net says:

    My walls are that same color! I love such a pretty green, makes me feel alive. Your samhain altar is lovely, I only recently started decorating mine according to the wheel of the year. I posted pictures of my makeshift altar (a while back, on my blog) if you care to check it out 🙂

  4. Anonywitch says:

    Is that altar an old Singer sewing machine table? If so, awesome!

    This is also the topic I picked for the week, but I ended up writing about how I always have an altar. It’s a privilege I recognize, because I’ve either lived alone or with people who would tolerate it. I know that’s not the case for everybody, and I’m grateful to have been so lucky. But in terms of rules to create altars…mostly I abide by the “no one touches this stuff” rule, and that’s pretty much it. How the tools and items are arranged is something I do largely by intuition.

    • Pixie says:

      That’s an important rule! I remember when I first started I got caught up in what’s “supposed” to be on altars and how they are “supposed” to look. Now I just use my intuition and generally speaking, no one touches my altars. However, some I don’t mind like temporary altars or the kitchen space – I figure the house spirits won’t mind if I move it over to bake or etc. But the ones in the bedroom are much more personal, thus why they are so close to space that’s clearly “mine.”

  5. Really enjoyed reading this post! Altars & shrines have always played a large role in our own magickal/devotional work, but as probably most people find, the circumstances of life don’t always permit us to have these altars/shrines when and where we’d like to. We came to think that there are really two kinds of altar; the one’s we hold inside ourselves and those which we construct physically, the outer representations of the inner. We may not always be able to build the latter how and where we’d like to, but we can still always carry the former within us! Blessings….SRTB.

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