If you’re just starting your journey into witchcraft, one of the important first steps is creating an altar. But what do you need an altar for, and is there a “correct” way to arrange everything?
A lot of people think of altars like they think of a knick-knack shelf or display cabinet, especially when first starting out. At that point it tends to be all about aesthetics rather than function. Don’t feel bad if you’ve already done this, we all have 😉
Yes, it’s nice for your altar to look good, and it’s especially nice to have nice things for your craft. In some ways this can be important if your practice centers around deity reverence and/or ancestor worship. It can be likened to a Hindu shrine in that respect and used in a similar way.
I can’t stress this enough: your altar needs to reflect your craft, whatever that might be.
Think of your altar the way you think of your kitchen: It’s a place where you can keep tools and supplies for your craft, have some potions etc developing in jars, and be a comfortable space to work your magic. Have a look at the video above to see what I have on my altar and how I’m using it.
Your altar is supposed to be in constant use and therefore always changing. It’s not a static space where you display stuff and never touch it except to dust.
If you need motivation for this, try having a little vase which you constantly keep fresh flowers in, or regularly smudge your tarot deck and then put it in a crystal grid between uses. Light a candle and play a singing bowl to meditate. Keep your book of shadows there and make time to write in it. Leave an offering of libations in a little glass for your ancestors and then pour it into the garden after a couple of days. Charge some moon water…
The point of an altar is to use it.
If you haven’t come out to your family, there are lots of ways to disguise an altar.
A friend of mine used a side-board for her altar with nice candle holders, plain white candles, a glass bowl for her crystals, a vase for flowers and a locked wooden box for the witchy stuff.
That being said, there’s a lot of spiritual tools which are becoming mainstream now, such as smudge sticks and singing bowls. You can always say that you’ve joined a “meditation group” and need to practice at home.
A cauldron is very cool, but a little bit obvious unless you have an antique fireplace which you’re “decorating” in a theme. However, a cast-iron camping Dutch oven is less obvious and can be stored on your kitchen bench for “cooking” purposes. Resins, herbs, spices and oils can also be kept on a kitchen shelf in nice jars as a normal part of “cooking”.
One of the reasons why I practice hearth-witchery is because it gives me permission to make my whole home a magical working space. That way it doesn’t matter how much or how little room you have, whether everything is in the one spot, or if it hides in plain sight.
This is your domain, and you the mother-effing witch!