When setting up your Wicca/Pagan altar it doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate it really comes down to personal choice and how you want it to be. This is your personal sacred space so you need to have your altar the way you want it to be.
Space of course also comes into the design there is no point having a huge altar if you have limited space and find you are fall over things when trying to work, you also need to take into consideration where you want your altar to be, will it be part of the rest of the house so others see it? Would you prefer to be private? Are you keeping your altar up all the time or only occasionally? Do you like to have all your things around you or just a few?
As for me personally I like a reasonably large altar this works for me and I keep my altar up all the time and I change it for the different celebrations of the sabbats and esbats but that is my personal choice, my Wicca friends all differ some are like myself and keep their altar up all of the time and some only like their altar up when they are working for a pacific reason we are all different and this is why your altar is personal to you and how you want things to work.
Many Wicca’s and Pagan’s not only have an indoor altar many also have an outdoor one too but we will discuss the out door altar further on.
The first thing you will need is a flat stable surface in which to work on, we for sure do not want anything wobbly or unsafe! The top of a chest of drawers or a table, a shelf is ideal anything really that is secure and won’t tip, slide or move, even the floor is fine if your happy with that. Think about if you will be standing or sitting, kneeling when your using your altar you need to make sure you will be comfortable when working there.
Now for the shape of your altar well again this is down to personal choice, some people prefer a round surface as it is easy to move around and you can work all the way around a circular shape, others prefer rectangle or square as these shapes can be placed against a wall or fits neatly into a corner.
No matter what shape your altar is (square, round, rectangular, etc.) it is generally believed that each side of your altar should correspond with a cardinal direction (North, South, East, and West). Set up your altar to face whatever direction you feel most comfortable with.
The next thing to think about is would you like storage space either underneath your chosen table, chest of drawers etc.? I actually have storage space I like all of my Wiccan tools and essentials right to hand when I am working, there is nothing worse when your just starting to do your magickal working and getting ready you suddenly find you have forgotten something or can’t remember where you last laid a particular item down ~ very annoying! So over time I soon came to realise I needed some sort of storage near to my altar.
My altar consists of a chest of drawers with another small wooden unit on top so all of my tools and altar items sit on top of the unit and inside the chest of drawers all of my other essential items things I consider important to me are inside each drawer all neatly arranged and to hand and I know where everything is. On either side of my chest of drawers I also have on the right another wooden unit and on the left side I have a tall shelving unit so my altar is kind of in three!
All close together but perfect for how I want my altar. I actually convinced my husband to make me the tall shelving unit I wanted something slim because space was starting to become short so he managed to cut down a much wider shelving unit ~ it was actually a book case! And he added a back and then screwed them together so instead of a wider bookcase I had two much slimmer units and they work perfectly for what I want, I then sprayed them silver and I think they look rather elegant!
So hopefully by now you have made a start on your altar design where you want it to go, units used or adapted etc. and set up where you want them to be?
So the next thing you need to do is cleanse your altar, now there are many different ways you can do this some are very elaborate and I feel ‘over the top’ but again this is down to how you feel if you want to go with something that I consider ‘over the top’ then by all means do that as long as your comfortable and happy there is no right or wrong way.
For myself personally I don’t go ‘over the top’ I use normal water that I have left in a small bowl on my windowsill and allowed the moon light to cleanse the water, then I add this water to a soft cloth and wipe over the surface to remove any dust, I then use a sage smudge stick and move the smudge stick around my altar and tools and allow the smoke to cleanse everything. You can also sprinkle salt, invoke the elements or mentally clear any nasties from your space.
Next you will need an altar cloth again this doesn’t have to be fancy I have several different ones as I have a basic altar cloth I leave on my altar for everyday use and then different colours and designs for the different sabbats. Altar cloths not only make your altar personal and decorative but they also help with dripping candle wax or any other spills that can occur.
Now it is time to decorate your altar again there is a wide choice how to do this and again it is down to how you want things set up. To give you an idea to get you started the following are typical altar layouts but please decide yourself how you want your altar to be set up. You chose how many items you want on there, which items you need you may like your altar totally full with everything around you or you may prefer minimal items you choose.
A typical layout/set up 1
Left side of the altar
Asperger (used to sprinkle water)
Any other item that would be associated with the Goddess
Centre of the Altar:Censer or Incense Burner
Libation Dish (for offerings to the Deities)
Right Side of Altar (Items sacred to the God)
Matches and Cup for Used Matches
Plate of Cakes
Athame (Magickal Knife)
Boline (knife used to cut things)
Items that can be placed anywhereBook of Shadows
Pen of Arts (pen you use to write in rituals)
Candles for Magickal Purposes
Ornamental items like crystals and flowers for the particular occasion
A typical layout/set up 2
Left side Goddess
Goddess Candle (White or Silver)
Chalice of Wine
Bowl of Water
Asperger (used to sprinkle water)
Crystals or Stones
Libations Dish (for Cakes and Wine)
Right side God
God Candle (Gold or Yellow)
Censor with Incense
Bowl of Salt
Athame (Magickal Knife)
Boline (knife used to cut things)
Lighter or Matches
Pentacle, Bowl of Salt, Stones, Plants, Flowers, Green Candle.
Bowl of Water, Chalice with Wine, Blue Candle, Cauldron
Incense, Feather, Bell, Wand, Yellow Candle
Red Candle, Athame, Boline, Anointing Oil, Candle Snuffer
Remember these are only a small guide to get you started as you progress you will find other ways to dress your altar.
You may choose to have either an indoor altar or outdoors or like me both!
I like having an outdoor altar especially in the summer and I have mine in my back garden it is my sacred space and somewhere I enjoy going and being especially during the evening when it is quite outside, I love hearing the trees and the feel of the outside air when I am working. The same with the indoor altar it is down to personal choice how you have an out door altar.
For my out door altar I have all my herbs growing and essentials I use for my in door altar during the winter season, I also have a place where I can burn my candles outside too and I also have the advantage of a pond with a fountain so it is very relaxing during the summer months. It can be hard to keep candles lit especially if it is some what windy during the summer so I use tall glass containers and place my candles inside to protect from windy or breezy days ~ there are always ways around things!
Being out doors you also have the advantage of collecting anything from nature like leaves and flowers, twigs etc to use on your outdoor altar, you don’t have to have your altar in your garden you may be lucky to have a wooded area or field near where you live so you can go there for your sacred space, always remember once you have finished to clear away and leave things as you found them. I do actually have a wooded area near my home but I prefer my back garden, as it is more private and suitable for what I want.
The first five images are not pictures of my personal altars they are here to help you when designing your altar to give you some different ideas.
If you are the owner of any of these designs and do not wish for them to be used here on my blog please contact me and I will remove them or add your copyright for the image whichever you prefer..
My Altar pictures
This is a picture of my altar the extended bit I always fill my altar no matter how big I had it!! So I tend to go over on to another surface next to my altar. The other pictures are different layouts and different views