An altar is space dedicated to your practice, like a workbench. Some people have several altars for several purposes e.g family altars or altars dedicated to a particular deity. They are usually a table or flat surface. Most importantly they are sacred and personal to you. A dedicated place where you can do what is needed. They are observed across many religions.
There are some traditional tools witches have on their altars such as:
- An Athame-a ceremonial double edged blade representing the nature of magic used to direct your energy.
- A Boline- unlike the athame this knife is used as a practical tool, a knife used for working, cutting herbs, engraving candles etc
- A Wand- serves the same purpose as the athame
- A Besome- a Broom it can be homemade, the besome is used to sweep the place clean of negative energy. Miniature ones can be used for the altar itself.
- A Cauldron- a fireproof bowl used for burning herbs and incense and transformative magic. It represents the womb (you can read more about the cauldron here)
- A Chalice- a cup it can be used ceremonially to represent water, to leave water for your ancestors or to drink from yourself.
- A Pentagram–it could be on a cloth or made of something solid. The pentegram represents our connectedness to the elements and all things complete within the circle. It is there as a power point to bless and consecrate other things it is also a powerful symbol of protection.
These objects are usually blessed and given purpose this can be done in a variety of ways such as sprinkling with salt water, passing through smoke or bathed in moonlight before speaking their purpose to them. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.
The elements are honoured in representation; either by these tools (in fact most objects can be attributed to one element or several) or extra items such as bowls of earth or salt, incense, feathers, candles, and bowls/cups of water.
Somewhere upon the Altar are placed two candles one to represent the Goddess and the other her consort. Other candles can of course be added but traditionally these two remain the same and are not used for other purposes than lighting other candles.
Now, some sources go into great detail about the importance of the positioning of these tools, having the right materials and the words spoken to them. Yes there are directions that correspond to each element therefore item.
However, what is important is how you feel about them and the work you are to do. Do not get bogged down in the details. Your power comes from you. You are made up of all the elements. You don’t need all of these things to perform spellcraft. They are symbolic. Your intention, your will and honest purpose is what is important here. What is a wand but a stick you have given attention to? They are powerful because you make them so. As is so with all things.
Other additions might be specific to a particular deity or purpose and offerings to give thanks. I enjoy dressing mine to fit with the festivals of the year making a ritual of that in itself. I use flowers, crystals, colour and natural objects. It also a place to practice divination and keep any divination tools of you have.
To sum up, an altar is a place of power because you make it so. It can serve you in focusing your energy for spellwork as well as enhance your daily practices.
A final word here, not everyone has the privilege of being able to leave their altar dressed at all times. In my early days I packed mine away each time I had finished what I was working. The same may be true for outside spaces, unless they are on your property you probably won’t want to leave your treasured possessions. It is in these circumstances you may choose to really strip down what you need.
I hope you’ve found this post informative. I love the diversity of witches altars. Is there anything particularly special on yours? Hit me up in the comments below.
Peace out witches!