Although there are lots of guides for building Altar, my approach is always an intuitive one. Trust your gut when making decisions around building your Altars, 99% of magic is intention and intuition.
How do you build an Altar?
The first step to building an Altar is to be present in your body. Do a brief grounding by meditating, dancing, sitting in nature, or doing yoga. Anything that gets you in your body and present is great! Next, purify. My favorite way is to literally take a shower or bath (which gets me both grounded and purified- a 2 in 1!) /other ways to purify include smoke clearing with dry plant matter. Look into your ancestral lineage to find the plants that have been traditionally used. Lavender, rosemary, mugwort, and many more are commonly used in European witchcraft and are plentiful, low impact, and sustainable. Make sure you're not using a plant that is endangered or sacred to another culture. My go-to combination is lavender and rose over a charcoal: calming, heart-centered and protective. Have a connection with another plant? Use it! Can't have smoke in your space? Get a hydrofoil of your favorite protective plant and mist it around yourself and your space to clear it. Have lots of allergies? Take an intentional shower (use salt to scrub your skin for a boost) to clear your energy!
What is the intention for your Altar? Here are a few of my favorites:
Manifesting a new job
Working with a specific Deity
Elemental magic (earth, air, fire, water)
Now that you've chosen an intention its time to collect objects that represent and support this energy. Working a love spell? Grab your rose quartz, roses, love candle, honey, Altar cloths, and anything else that represents love. I'd focus on self-love and inviting love into your life broadly, not trying to get someone to love you. Consent is key here, and we always want to work magic with everyone's permission and knowledge involved.
Here are a few of my favorite tools:
candles- choose a color that corresponds to your intention, or a plain white tea light
gems- choose whatever you feel drawn or supported by, or look up gems that support your intention
representative objects- dollar bill for a money spell, a business card for a biz growth spell, etc
flower essences- to support whatever intention you're working
Arrange the Altar using your intuition. I often write my intention out on a piece of paper, set a candle on top of it, and arrange the objects around the candle. Remember, like calls to like, which means creating a physical representation of your desire or spell brings it into the material world, allowing the intention to materialize on this plane,
Now that you've built your altar decide how long you're going to work this spell for. Generally I either make a one day Altar, or one that lasts a lunar cycle (28ish days). For example, when I take a ritual bath I always build a bath-side Altar that includes a candle, gemstone, flowers and an intention I focus on while bathing. When I'm done with the bath, the Altar comes down as well. Longer Altars can include working with a Deity, developing a daily practice or anything else that's more involved.
Interacting with your Altar is a lovely way to keep the energy going, or "feeding it". We often put foot on an Ancestral Altar to feed our departed bellowed. Fresh flowers, love notes, cups of tea, or anything else you feel like the Altar wants are great offerings. Dispose of them when their vitality seems to be gone in a respectful way: feed your favorite tree or plants, scatter ash from your incense in fertile soil, etc.
Some of my favorite ways to interact with an Altar include:
- lighting a candle and sitting with it every day
- journaling in front of it
- sitting quietly with the Altar and pulling Tarot cards every morning
- picking fresh flowers on my walks for the Altar
When you're ready to take your Altar down make sure you're just as mindful as when you set it up. Clear and organize the objects you used and store them respectfully. Journal about your altar, and practice building one often. You can also have multiple Altars going at the same time. Let me know about an Altar you're set up in the comments below!