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?