Behold! Whether you’re a witch who needs a cool space to do your spell work, a mystic with an overflowing collection of crystals and tarot cards, or just a spiritual bb craving a place to meditate, I have one word for you: altar. Given that many of us are still spending lots of time at home these days, it makes sense to want an area, however small, that's all yours. An altar is exactly that and more. It's a sacred space where you can place all your favorite meaningful, spiritual, and mystical items for display in all their spellbinding glory.
Spiritual mentor Nikki Novo describes altars as a 3D version of a vision board that “serve as a visual representation of some of our spiritual beliefs, commitments, and intentions.” More than just aesthetically pleasing, though, altars are a space you can come back to for healing, inspiration, meditation, spiritual rituals, or spell work. “Having a daily practice with my altar gives me something to regularly lean into with full trust, even when life is in flux,” says Aarona Leá Pichinson, a ritual wellness teacher and founder of The Moon Deck. “It reconnects me to my spirit, settles me into my body and heart, and restores my mind.”
In other words, altars are magick, and you need one, like now. Keep reading to learn what to put on your altar, where to set it up, and rituals to practice in your new special space.
Where to set up your altar
Deciding where to set up your altar is an intuitive process. Pichinson advises selecting a space in your home that feels the best. The more the space makes you feel present, spiritually connected, and joyful, the better. Novo suggests a table, a windowsill, an area outside in a garden, or any nook in your home. Ideally, it should be a space where you can comfortably and quietly sit.
Valería Ruelas, aka The Mexican Witch and author of Cosmopolitan’s Love Potions, sets up her altar in a space is her bedroom where she has the privacy to do her spells, rituals, and tarot readings. Your altar's size doesn’t matter—it can be teeny-tiny or take up a whole room. The magic is in actually using your altar.
What to put on your altar
The beauty of altars is that they are a form of creative expression, so you can make yours as minimal or as extra as your heart desires—whatever feels right for you. “My greatest advice is to tune into your intuition and most alive intentions right now,” Pichinson says. “Then, create it from this place.”
If you’re a pen to paper kind of mystic, Novo suggests writing out your spiritual intentions, such as what you’re trying to call into your life, the energy you’re trying to embody, or ancestors you’d like support from. If you're writing an intention, try something like: “I am attracting more love and prosperity into my life” or “I am cultivating the feeling of safety and peace in my body." “Once you have those answers, start gathering items that have the vibe of what you just wrote out,” she says.
So, really, what things should you place on your altar? Novo recommends anything that helps you cultivate the energy you want to embody or reminds you to connect with your spiritual side. For example:
Photos of your ancestors
Written prayers, spells, or rituals
Pictures or objects that remind you of what you’re manifesting
A meditation cushion
Tarot and oracle cards
But again, you can place anything special and meaningful to you on your altar, even if it's not traditionally considered magickal or spiritually significant. Novo, for example, keeps seashells on her altar to remind her to stay in flow.
Protecting your altar
Whatever you include on your altar, Ruelas says that something for protection, such as a white and red candle, is a must. “These two colors fight off negativity,” she explains. Other protective elements include "a decorative jar or a small glass bottle of black salt, and a piece of pyrite [crystal] and a piece of tourmalated quartz.” Ruelas recommends lighting your candle at least once a day while you meditate to strengthen your altar's protection powers. If you're fire-safety conscious (as all good witches should be), it’s fine if you extinguish the candle when you're done—just don't blow it out. Snuff it instead.
Rituals to practice at your altar
Everyone’s spiritual routine is different, and there is no right or wrong way to use your altar. The key is making it a consistent practice. “Daily work at the altar leads to effective manifesting and self-improvement,” Ruelas says. “Over time, the energy of your spells and meditations adds up and your altar grows in power and good energy.”
Pichinson suggests practicing meditation, journaling, contemplation, intention-setting, candle-gazing, pulling oracle cards, reading, chanting, praying, and connecting with your intuition. “Altars are like mini temples, so you’re more likely to feel your intuition here,” Novo says, adding that visualization can also be supercharged when practiced at an altar.
For Ruelas, altar-friendly rituals include working with crystals and pulling tarot cards. “Hold the crystals near your heart or lay down for your meditation and place them on the forehead in between the eyebrows and on the chest,” she says. “To connect to spirit guides and calm your mind with answers, use your tarot cards as often as you want and keep them on the altar.”
Regularly giving your altar some TLC is also a magick ritual in and of itself, Novo says. This can mean dusting and organizing it every week or so, swapping wilted flowers for fresh ones, and adding new offerings or items that reflect your current intentions. As Pichinson puts it, your altar is a symbol for self-care. If your altar is dusty and unkept, it’s usually a sign that it’s time to reconnect with yourself. The more you shower your altar with love, the more magical it becomes.
For altar inspo:
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