Personal altars are warm sacred spaces that you create as a dedication to celebrating your SELF and all the fortunate things in your life. I ventured down the cancer path and beat it. That's a pretty huge achievement that I can sometimes water down, when I really shouldn't. My personal altar gives me a space where I can reflect on what it felt like being so close to death and be grateful for having my health now.
But an altar serves as much more than a space for personal reflection. You can work with it to study your crystals, to focus your intentions on positivity and affirmations, journey, and so much more.
I mean, arguably, this is your makeup table where you get ready every morning (in all fairness!), but by carving out a specific space meant solely for mindfulness and gratitude, we help encourage ourselves to live more proactively - and to focus on our health, well-being, and where we want to go in life. Altars can help bring us clarity because they remind us to live slowly and to take time for ourselves. And even though there are a ton of ways you can make your own altar, I wanted to offer a great starting point to get your wheels churning. So here's my quick guide:
HOW TO SET UP
YOUR PERSONAL ALTAR
The best thing about altars is that no two are the same - they are completely unique to the individual creating them. And that's what makes it special. That's what makes it hold your power. It is a place meant only for you, and it can house some of your most cherished items, bringing a smile to your face every time you lay your eyes on it. You can create themed altars, changing them up as often as you like, or you can have something more permanent. It is great to meditate in front of and can even be portable to move around your home with you. A personal altar is meant to help encourage you to take time out of your day to focus on yourself; to slow down and give thanks for all the blessings in your life. We act like tomorrow is promised. It's not.
CENTRAL FOCUS ITEM
When your altar is active, it helps to have a central focus item. This item acts as the theme to whatever your altar is set up to help you with. Altars should never be cluttered, so you'll want to keep them tidy, dust-free, and set up with essential items. You may want to write an affirmation on a piece of paper, use a framed photo of you and loved ones, a chunky crystal or a sacred memorable item. There is no wrong choice, just be sure there is a specific item at the helm. I love using tarot cards because the cards themselves are "themed" and have a specific energy about them. You can use one tarot card, or a combination for a more rounded energy. Go with your gut.
Candles are great to use for your light source because they bring an energy to your altar when your altar is active. By lighting your candle every time you approach it to meditate, muse, or focus, you are waking up your altar and putting your intentions into an active state. You are activating your Sacred Time. When you extinguish the candle, you close the altar. You can leave a candle glowing throughout the day (just be firesafe) or you can only have it licking specifically when you are in front of it. The candle will give you the warm energy needed for a positive altar, and can even help you focus by watching its flame. You can even choose specific candle colours to further help and support your central focus item.
The other items you choose for your altar should support your central focus item. This can include crystals, an item to represent animal energy, affirmations you've written, pictures, or any other energy you feel connected to. I like to use items to call on my spiritual team so I feel connected to them during my sacred time. I believe it is important to work on these relationships to keep them healthy.
Including animal energy, like adding a shed antler to your altar, is a good way to call on the Animal Kingdom, or to summon a particular animal spirit. A feather, hide, pelt, tooth or claw are also good items. If you have a familiar, or a special connection to particular animal (maybe you live on a horse ranch, rescue wild birds, or were raised on a cattle farm), you can use an item that represents that animal. If you ever don't have an ethically sourced item to used, you can always use a photograph of a particular animal to invite its energy to your space.
Plant energy is a great way to connect with and summon earth energy, or the Devic Kingdom (fairies, salamanders, devas, etc). It can also help to ground you, making plants a good addition to your altar if your working on grounding meditation. If you use fresh flowers - a great addition - just be sure to replace them when they die/wilt.
Crystals are another great addition because they carry specific properties, such as love, courage and personal development, and can help connect you to the Angelic Realm.
Photos, journals, trinkets and heirlooms are all good items to include as well. I encourage you to use items that resonate with you and your energetic team. Do include any other items you feel drawn to, just being mindful not to clutter your space up too much. Handwritten affirmations, neatly folded and sealed are also great to include as they're infused with your energy. Just be sure to burn them when you're finished. You want to keep their magic in tact and unreleased, not opened and scattered somewhere.
While incense can also be your light source, I like to use incense for a very specific reason: I spend time at my altar for the length of time it takes my incense to burn out. The smell of it always puts me into a relaxed state, training me that this is my sacred time. I am focused, relaxed, and in a state where I am ready to receive guidance from my energetic team.
Dried herbs for smoke cleansing (like lavender, mugwort, peppermint, etc), are other good items to include on your altar. Think of them as natural timers without the buzzer. Burn them in a fire safe dish.
OTHER IMPORTANT FACETS:
Choose a location for your altar, determining whether you'd like it to be private and hidden, or if you don't mind having it in a space that other people can see. I used to have one on top of my white brick mantel above my fireplace, open for every guest to see. I also lived alone and didn't have children. I've also had one that I tucked under my bed and pulled out when I wanted to meditate or perform something magical. Currently, I have a special cupboard that houses all my magical items when I'm not using them. When I activate my altar, I pull out some appropriate items to dress it, and then put them away when I'm finished.
Some people like to include a luxurious piece of silk or cloth to lay everything down on. Just be mindful of what else you are putting on your altar because it would be terrible if your candle dripped wax on nana's lace doily. But you might choose to lay a cloth down for that exact purpose - maybe you don't want to get ash on your antique table! Totally allowed. And of course, don't forget to be firesafe, never leaving your candles unattended. I'm so bad for this... I have candles lit all the time, so they are always surrounded by firesafe dishes.
Including your journal or diary on the altar is another good idea as it is infused with your power.
There are so many items you can place on your altar, just remember there is no right or wrong items to include. What matters is using important items that mean something to you. You can theme or dedicate your space to help in choosing your altar's items, and experiment as you go. I find it helps to honour your personal beliefs by using items that represent buddha, jesus, the gods and goddesses, stars - whatever resonates with you. What type of altar have you built and had success with?