Altars are places of power and intention.
Your personal altar is a place where you can be reminded of who you truly are. We are eternal spiritual beings living a physical existence! Creating an altar creates a physical anchor for all of the energies of creation, a sacred space to ground these spiritual energies into our physical lives. Creating your own personal altar can be an expression of your unique essence and can be a joyful and creative practice, as it is a representation of YOU!
For me personally, altar magick is one of my favorite forms of creative expression and magick and many of the surfaces in my home have become altars! For those just getting started in magick, healing, and spirituality, one of the common questions I hear is “How do I create an altar?”
So in this article, I’ve shared some guidelines and simple steps for creating your personal altar, but the most important key is that your altar is pleasing to you.
Although there are many ways to set up an altar, many different types or purposes of altars, and many spiritual traditions that utilize altars as their central point of focus for worship and ceremony, a personal altar is just that, personal!
Step 1 : Find a Base for your Altar and Collect Your Sacred Items
Find a space and base for your altar. Generally, an altar is placed in the north, with you facing north in front of it, but this definitely isn’t a hard and fast rule. If your space permits, you can place your altar in north, but this isn’t always practical.
For the base, you can use any flat surface such as beautiful wooden table, shelf, cabinet, stool, or even a simple coffee table. I’ve even used my suitcase covered with a lovely scarf as an altar on a recent trip!
Once you’ve found a base for the altar, next you’ll need a foundation to build upon with an altar cloth. You can use a beautiful tapestry, tablecloth, sari, length of fabric, or even a vintage scarf or doily.
Then collect the items that will inhabit your altar.
Each of these items should please you, bring you joy, or feel resonant or relevant to you. In order to have a complete altar, it’s essential to have at least one item that represents each of the 5 elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit.
- Earth: Crystal specimens, minerals, rocks, wood, plants with soil, herbs, salt, pentacle
- Water: Seashells, water feature, fountain, bowl, cup, pitcher of water, chalice, cauldron
- Air: Incense, censer, smudging supplies (sage, palo santo, etc.), fragrant flowers, essential oils, feathers or smudge fan
- Fire: Candles, sacred ash, burned herbs, lamp, oil lamp, lantern, fiery stones (such as carnelian, fire opal, red jasper, tiger’s eye)
- Spirit: Ancestors, angels, archangels, deities or spiritual Masters that you feel connected with, items that represent your higher self, gifts received from meditation or astral travel journeys, images or items that represent your spirit guides, teachers, or lineage holders
- Personal mementos
- Animal spirits: leather, claw, bone, feather, horn, etc.
- Elemental beings: dragon, unicorn, mermaid, faerie, etc.
- Instruments: bell, chime, rattle
- Offerings for deities, ancestors, or elemental beings: water, food items, herbs, etc.
- Nature: pine cones, leaves, branches
- Wisdom: your personal grimoire, journal, notebook
- Tools: healing tools, ritual tools, etc.
Step 2 – Cleanse & Prepare Your Space and Items
Once you have your base to build your altar on, it’s important to create sacred space by cleansing the area and the items both physically and energetically.
Clean the table top with a damp cloth and vacuum or sweep the general area you are working in. To energetically cleanse the area, smudge with sage smoke as well as smudging the individual items you will be placing on the altar.
You can then use your own methods, rituals and tools to cleanse, prepare, and center yourself and create sacred space, such as the gridding, sealing and temples handed down in Sacred Geometry classes from the Modern Mystery School.
Step 3 – Place Your Items on the Altar with Intention
In general, you can follow the directions of the elements with Earth in the North, Air in the East, Fire in the South, and Water in the West, but again this is not a rule and isn’t always practical. You can also place an item on the left side that represents the Feminine or Goddess and something on the right that represents the Masculine or the God.
Some people like perfect symmetry, while others prefer to have a more organic feeling. You may choose to build up your items around a central figure or feature such as a statue or flower arrangement.
You may have to rearrange the items a few times to find the balance that feels good to you. Make sure that every item you use has a purpose and place each item with intention and care. As this is a personal altar, the most important thing is that it symbolizes you and your unique energy!
Step 4 – Activate Your Altar
Once you’ve found a balance and placement that pleases you, you’ll need to “activate” the altar and make it come alive! If you have candles or incense, light them. If you have a fountain or water feature, make sure it’s filled with water and turn it on.
If there are specific beings, deities, or angels you’ve invited to be present in your sacred space, connect with them and call them in.
Play your favorite relaxing music and spend some time in ritual, prayer, and meditation to fully activate and anchor your energy the energy you’ve built.
Step 5 – Maintain Your Altar and Keep it Alive and Flowing
Now that your altar is set and activated, you’ll need to keep it tidy and maintain it to keep the energy vibrant and flowing. Altar magick is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor.
Make sure that you keep your flower arrangements fresh and plants watered. Keep the incense holders clean and free of ash and replace burned out candles. Refresh the water in your water feature. Dust the surfaces and keep them clean.
After some time, you may feel the energy has shifted and so you may want to rearrange or replace some items.
In order to keep your altar alive, connect to it everyday and make it part of your everyday spiritual practice. It can be a wonderful place to meditate and do your daily practice.
Following these simple steps, you’ll have your personal altar up in no time!
Modern Mystery School Guide, Healer, Teacher
Vanessa Nova is Co-Founder and CEO of Activate Austin. With 10 years in the lineage of King Salomon, Vanessa offers Life Activation, Initiation, and a variety of healing modalities and classes to support your empowerment and growth. She specializes in women’s wellness and divine feminine empowerment and enjoys working with leaders & entrepreneurs.