WTF! It’s Witchy Topic Friday and today we’re talking about the witch's altar. In this post you will learn more about the witch's altar from what it represents to the witch, to the tools often found on it, and how you can set up your own witchy space.
What is a witch's altar?
A witch's altar is a witch's most sacred space where her/his magickal workings such as rituals and spellwork are typically conducted and where their most precious magickal tools may reside. This entire space and all that is a part of it represents the witch's connection to the Divine, the earth, and their unique path and craft as a witch. Because of this, many witches are very intentional about cleansing their altar and tools regularly in order to maintain clean energy suitable for effective magick. Therefore, it is important to never touch or handle a witch's altar or magickal tools without first receiving their permission so as to avoid accidental energetic contamination.
Where do witches setup their altars?
We most often think of a witch's altar being on a table or some kind of surface or space indoors, but an altar can be anything and anywhere. Some witches use tree stump surfaces or large stones as outdoor altars or other outdoor spaces where they can connect with and be surrounded by nature while engaging in their magick. Others have a permanent space indoors where there altar remains in tact at all times, and yet some may only setup an altar when a ritual or spell is to be conducted and disassemble once its over. There are no right or wrong locations to setup your altar though some will beg to differ in terms of furniture materials and which direction your altar should face. Many of these guidelines come from the more structured path of Wicca and there is nothing wrong with them. However, there is also nothing wrong with doing things your own way whether because your resources are limited or you just have a personal preference for something else.
What is typically on a witch's altar?
There are some elements of an altar that are pretty standard for most witches. However, just like previously mentioned, your craft and path is unique to you so don't feel like less of a witch if your altar doesn't have things others may have or has things others don't. That being said, atop a witch's altar are magickal tools which often will consist of an altar cloth to protect the surface, an athame, and other symbolic items to represent the Goddess and God and the elements of nature such as statues, a salt dish with salt, a chalice of water, candles, and incense. Additionally, upon special events such as sabbats or full moons the altar decorations may vary. For example, while the primary elements previously listed are likely to still be present, an Imbolc altar may also have fresh flowers, a Brigid's cross, a candle ring, and sunflower seeds as decorations, whereas a Samhain altar may be decorated with small pumpkins, acorns, a cauldron, or even symbolic items of deceased loved ones. A moon altar will also vary depending on the phase of the moon, the energy that specific moon embodies, and your intentions when working with it. Although each event and intention has its own magickal correspondences, no one's altar will ever look exactly the same as anyone else's. You are free to express your connections with the Goddess and God, events, elements, and intentions in whichever ways feel most aligned with you and your craft.
How can I set up my witch's altar?
If you are new to witchcraft and are just setting up your altar for the first time, I recommend first identifying whether your altar will remain in tact at all times or if you will only be setting it up when you need to use it. Either one is fine and is often determined by whether or not you have the space for a permanent altar or not. If you do and wish for your altar to be in tact at all times, be sure it is a location that will be safely away from pets as some magickal tools such as herbs can be dangerous for animals, and isn't at risk of being interfered with such as by children or visitors. If you don't have the space or simply don't wish for your altar to be permanent, I recommend purchasing one of those large decorative storage boxes to keep your altar items inside of so they can be neatly and safely stored when not in use. Plus, when you do want to use it, you can easily transport it wherever it needs to go and use the top of the box as your altar surface.
Once you've identified the above, it's time to consider the items you will put on top of it. I recommend beginning with the basics of an altar cloth which you can buy here from Cerridwen's Grove, some type of representation of the Goddess and God which can be in the form of candles, statues, or even drawings you make yourself, a small salt dish and salt, a chalice with water, an incense burner and incense (whichever type of incense you prefer), at least one candle, and an athame. I suggest starting with simple and inexpensive items as your altar style is likely to evolve as you become more established with your unique craft. Hitting up the dollar store for starter items is perfectly ok but if you're really ready to go all in, Etsy is a great place to find unique witchy items, you can use Google to find shops local to you, or make a visit to Salem, Massachusetts for a truly witchy experience. My personal favorite shop there is Hex Old World Witchery.
Before you decide to do your research and find out the "proper" way to set up your altar, I highly recommend giving it an intuitive shot first. You can certainly follow a set of rules and guidelines but if the layout doesn't feel right to you, that defeats the entire purpose. The path of the witch is not one of conforming but of complete self-expression. You will end up doing yourself a disservice if you go into things trying to conform as your connection to yourself and intuition is your most valuable asset as a witch so why not begin tapping into your inner-power beginning with the setup of your magickal space? Have fun exploring, rearranging, and setting up your perfect witch's altar. Welcome to the path and blessed be.