So, I decided to rearrange my altar because it was starting to look a little bare after I removed my Yule decorations. That’s when I started to think about altars and altar structures and I thought it may be a great topic for a post.
So, what is an altar exactly? Also, what’s on a traditional pagan altar? Finally, what place does a traditional altar have in a modern pagan life?
For a Wiccan an altar is a place (permanent or temporary) where one can honour the God and the Goddess, perform Sabbat and Esbat rituals, perform magic and other personal spiritual practices.
Here is a traditional altar set up scanned from Wicca for Beginners by Thea Sabin
From top left to top right there’s a statue to the Goddess, a statue to the God, a chalice, a Goddess candle, an incense censer, a wand, a bowl of water, a small knife, athame and, finally, a bowl of salt. Seems a bit complicated, eh? In the book, Sabin herself states that one can use as much or as little of these items as the practitioner feels they need. It is also important to keep in mind that if you are setting up an altar to a specific deity than the practitioner should use items that represent that particular deity. Altars are all about symbolism, representation, and the personality of the practitioner.
Now, as I’m sure you’re aware I’m not the most traditional Wiccan in the world– I’m what is called a Solitary Eclectic (more traditional Wiccans would say I’m not a Wiccan at all really)- and so my altar is a bit different. While I do have some traditional items such as a God and Goddess candle as well as an athame, a wand, incense holder as well as two statues of the Goddess; I also have quite a few faery statues because they are my totem creature as well as some of my divination tools such as my a clear quartz crystal ball, tarot cards, a set of runes, my wishbox and a spell necklace.
An altar is a sacred space and, therefore, it should be sacred to you–not anyone else. The things on your altar should make you feel magical and in touch with the Great Ones. I have a Betta fish and a plant on my altar so it connects to life and nature and I decorate it according to the seasons. Your altar needs to suit your purposes, I am not into large traditional rituals and so my altar is not set up for that. My altar is set up for my to light the candles, sit on the end of my bed and pray to the Goddess and the God– so that I may connect with them in my own way.
So, that’s my two cents on altars. I would love to see pictures of your altars, email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org