Sacred Spaces: How to Make an Altar in Your Home
What is an Altar?
An altar is a designated sacred space for worship, meditation, prayer, or practicing gratitude in your own living space. An altar holds space for objects related to your belief system; these are often spiritual or religious objects. Many forms of altars exist in almost every culture and religion to date, varying from entire rooms dedicated to ritual and prayer to a cross hung on the wall under which household residents pray.
The most important part of an altar is that it's authentic to you. That means nobody can tell you what you have to place at your altar. Each of us has a unique set of beliefs and observances, and an altar is there to provide you with the space to form a connection with whomever and whatever you feel the need to connect. If you identify as a witch, you might want to set up a magic altar or witch altar for spell casting and your book of shadows. For those who don't subscribe to a specific religion, setting up a meditation altar, gratitude altar, or crystal altar might work better for you.
Benefits of a Spiritual Altar
One of the most important benefits of an altar is that this is a space for you and only you. It is a representation of your connection to something beyond the physical. The more connected you feel with your sacred space, the more beneficial its elements will be for you.
Altars and their associated practices aid in creating peace and clarity of mind. When you come to an altar to pray, meditate, or practice gratitude or breathwork (pranayam), it triggers your parasympathetic nervous system. This nervous system is responsible for calming the mind, lowering your blood pressure, and relieving your body and mind of stress. In turn, this blesses your mind-body with positive energy and creates a space you can retreat to, disengaging from the noise of life to find stillness.
If you have a religious practice or worship deities, you will find that creating an altar can help you develop a deeper connection with them. An altar provides you with a quiet space to develop rituals and a safe space to pray or worship your god(s) and goddess(es).
The majority of people who use their altar daily find that their creative inspiration and intuition become heightened. If you're a writer experiencing writer's block or an artist lacking motivation, setting up an altar space for meditation or gratitude may benefit you.
Where to Place Your Altar
When setting up your altar, the direction of the altar in your house is up to you and your spiritual observances. Many Eastern belief systems face the east during spiritual practices as the east meets the rising sun. Some Wiccan belief systems encourage facing North, the direction that represents the Earth element. Other religions such as Judaism face towards Jerusalem, and Muslims face the direction of Mecca. If you don't observe this in your spiritual practice, you can face the altar in whichever direction feels best to you.
How to Set Up an Altar
The first thing you need when setting up an altar is a place to put everything. Small tables, empty desks, corner tables, or even benches are commonplace. Any smooth, steady surface will do, though. Just make sure it's up high if pets or kids will be around the space and that it's not a commonly used surface like a kitchen table or counter. You'll want to get into the habit of leaving your items just-so. Moving them "out of the way" isn't ideal for the energy you're hoping to create.
The placement of the altar should be a neutral-energy or positive-energy space. If you hate your job and your home office feels like a place of stress and contempt, this is not the place for your altar. Ideally, you want a space to close off to others when needed and an area where you can truly relax.
Next, you want to cleanse the space of any negative energy. You can do this by using bells or chimes, incense or sage, practicing feng shui, or by visualizing golden light flowing through your spiritual altar area. With the many kinds of altars, there are just as many methods for cleansing your altar space. Make it personal to you.
Spiritual Altar Ideas and Decor
Now, the fun part begins: It's time to set up the altar! On top of your altar, place items that have significance or are sacred to you. There are no technical rules besides making sure everything you place on your altar has positive energy and brings you closer towards your Higher Self.
Some altar decor ideas may include crystals, tarot or oracle cards, flowers, full-moon cleansed water, incense, photos of gurus or ancestors, sacred texts, a book of shadows, mala beads or a rosary, deity statues, spirit guides or animal figures, and so on. It is entirely up to you.
Please keep in mind when adding things to your altar that our spaces often reflect what is going on inside us. A cluttered or dusty altar might indicate there is turmoil or stress in your life. Regularly clean and organize your altar, placing things symmetrically and with an order to help balance the energy.
What Do I Do with My Altar?
Many people use their altars to set intentions, meditate and manifest, do spell work, practice yoga, or even journal in front of. Place a mat or meditation cushion in front of your altar where you can sit or kneel and develop a ritual that best suits you. Use all of the sacred objects to encourage you to connect to your Higher Self or a deity that you worship. Find connection here: The only thing that is required of you is to find authenticity. Creating an altar should be a fun and enjoyable experience!