Do you need an altar? Why would you need an altar? What is an altar? So-and-so said I need one? What do I even put on an altar? What do you mean I need to dedicate my altar? What does that even mean? How do I-
Take a deep breath. Good? Okay, here’s the dirty truth of altars…
They’re completely optional and really only necessary if you decide to pursue paganism and/or Wicca in addition to witchcraft.
So why are altars pushed for so hard in the community? Well, many witches are practicing pagans or Wiccans. So for them, an altar is completely practical. But what about those that aren’t pagan or follow more mainstream religions or have no gods?
Well, that’s the cool part about witchcraft. If you want to make an altar, go for it. Make it in your dining room, in a sunny corner of your office, or your bedroom closet. Hell, there’s a shit ton of ideas on Pinterest for shoe box and mint tin altars.
So what’s the purpose of an altar?
For those who practice in accordance to the old religions or in correlation to deities, an altar is a sacred space to honor those deities and spirits. For many of the old religions, there are no longer any physical sacred spaces, like churches, for people to worship at, so many create small scared spaces for their own private practice. Cultures across teh world have kept shrines and altars in their homes for their gods; Ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Japanese families kept shrines to various gods in their houses and pertaining to their professions (i.e. gods devoted to harvest for farmers. and gods devoted to fair seas for fishermen).
So what about if you follow mainstream religions or have no religion?
For those following more monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc), there’s no rules against having a shrine to your god in your house is there? Many people have things already, like crucifixes, or holy texts. An altar in your house could just be a safe and honored space to store your holy texts or to meditate.
And for those of us who are not dedicated to a god or religion, well, an altar is just optional really.
Do I have an altar?
Not really. But I do have a space reserved just for my witchy needs in my office. I can push it back into the closet and out of sight if my in-laws decide to drop by unannounced (like they always do). I don’t consider it an altar or a sacred space, but I do consider it a reserved area.
Like, that area is only for witchy supplies and storing my cards and journals and incense (no crystals yet).
What tips do I have for little newbies to set up their own altar/sacred space/witchy corner?
Once again, as with all witchcraft, first make sure this space has the intention of being your corner, your altar, your sacred space. If you’re closeted and setting up in a shoe box or in the closet itself (lol cause you’re in the closet already, get it?), then reserve that space just for that. Meaning, your shoebox holds nothing but your witchcraft supplies, your deitiy dedication, your Book of Shadows/ Grimoire. Don’t use your space for anything but your craft and worship.
Now, I understand working and living in a small space so maybe some area has to be multipurpose. So maybe make your altar travel-sized or easily collapsible if it’s in the spare room so you can pull out the Murphy bed for guests staying the night, or make it easy to move if floor space is limited, like in a dorm room.
What are things I have on my sacred space?
For me personally, I have just a little space on the top of a steamer trunk/coffee table in my office. I use it to hold my incense, journal, and Tarot cards. I also use the space as a writing table to write here, do school work, and meditate. But the corner remains as only used for witchcraft. The rest of the tabletop I cleanse with smoke to create a space when I do large readings (or with a Lysol wipe if my cats have decided to walk all over it).
Now, I understand multipurpose, so when I do need to get into the trunk itself (I keep blankets in there for easy access), I store all my stuff in a basket and slide it into the closet.
All my herbs stay in a kitchen cabinet, because the last thing I want to explain to my mother-in-law is why I have black pepper and basil leaves just hanging out in my office. There’s just no way to explain that away, considering the kitchen is a good 4 doors down from the office.
What if I am practicing paganism/Wicca/religion?
Then start looking at Pinterest my friend! There are so many ideas and absolutely gorgeous pictures of other witch’s altars and how they dedicate their altars. There are so many ideas of how to fit an altar into a shoebox or how to dedicate to your deities or how to even just construct a space that fits with your preferred style, like minimalism or traditional (read: hoarder-style old timey) witchy.
There’s no wrong way to do an altar. Just so long as it works for you and you feel like it’s a space where you can meditate, grow and worship as needed.