How to create your personal altar

Sometimes, you just need a little space.

Sometimes, you need a little room to breathe. To think. To reflect. Having your own little space to take a little space for yourself, can be a total game changer for your personal well-being.

Personal altars are a great tool for the modern witch. They're a great tool for the modern woman. They're a small space with only your most cherished items. These little relics of your choice act as a reminder to put yourself first, to breathe, and to stay in line with your inner magic.

But an altar serves as much more than a space for personal reflection. You can work with it to study your crystals; to practice tarot, palm reading, crystal reading or reiki; to focus your intentions on positivity and affirmations; to journey or meditate - to read - and so much more.

They don't need to be ostentatious. In fact they don't even need to be very big. I have seen many minimalist altars that were absolutely swoon-worthy. My personal altar is a small, floating IKEA BESTÅ unit. I mean, how much more current and modern does it get?

I want to share my personal altar, and some key elements that make altars divinely indulgent. Here is an easy and thorough guide to creating your own. 


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 them 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 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.

KEY ELEMENTS IN BUILDING YOUR ALTAR

- central focus item
- fire/light source
- scent
- spirit/animal guide support
- inspirational imagery


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 crystals because they each have their own energy that envelops your spirit. They completely influence the energy of the altar (which you will notice immediately when you build yours - altars have very strong, soothing, energy). If you want to know what crystals would be good choices to use, visit our Crystal Directory to search our comprehensive list, or check out our jam-packed e-book, STONES: An Essential Guide.

I also 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. You can even do a spread, like this.

The other elements in your altar, like your light/fire source, spirit guide support items, or inspirational imagery can also play double duty as your central focus item.

LIGHT/FIRE SOURCE

The light (or fire) source to your altar is very important. It serves as the activation ritual that tells your spirit and your body that you are making space for yourself. 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, and simultaneously close that focused, active, "me-time" that you gave yourself. 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. Personally, I like extinguishing my light source. I feel it symbolizes closing down my altar - but always do what feels comfortable to you. Sometimes, I write for hours with my altar active, since it sits in my personal office.

The light source will give you the warm energy needed for a positive altar, and can even help you focus by watching it. You can even choose specific candle, herb or incense colours to further help and support your central focus item.


Great light/fire source items:

- candles
- incense
- herbs/woods for igniting and burning (smoke cleansing)
- a cheery lamp


SCENT & AROMATHERAPY

Using a scent that you LOVE is so so important when it comes to building your personal altar. Using our sense of smell is an ultra speedy way to tell the body, "Hey, we're chillin' now." Aromatherapy can trigger the mind to help it adjust quickly. If you smell the same scent each night before going to sleep, you can actually fall asleep more quickly because your body recognizes that scent as sleep time. The same can happen for your personal altar.

I like switching up my scents with the season. Spring is often floral, summer is fresh, autumn is spicy (it's obviously a chai, pumpkin spice, clove mix of goodness) and winter is something deep and warm. You will be blown away how much you are soothed just by smelled


Great aromatherapy items:

- scented candles
- fragrant incense
- flower arrangements
- a room or meditation spray
- smoke cleansing herbs or woods


SPIRIT GUIDE SUPPORT

Summoning your personal spiritual team to be present with you when you are at your personal altar is a great way to enhance the relationship you have with them. Everyone's guides are different; maybe you want to call on a family member who has passed (a photo or amulet of theirs works well); maybe you want to call on the energy of a specific animal that acts as one of your personal totems or one that you have been seeing frequently (a photo, tarot card, pelt, tooth or other gift from the animal works well); maybe you want to call on a guide that you met in one of your meditations, journeys, yoga practices, or other unique experience.

One of my oldest guides is a woman who often presents herself as a body of water in my mind's eye. Sometimes she is sailing, but sometimes she is the ocean. Or lake. Or stream. I will often keep photos of beautiful waterscapes near my altar. This helps summon my guide once I activate my altar through a light source.

Working with your personal guides helps strengthen your bond to them, but it also helps with healing, and can even help you process answers you are seeking. They are always exceptionally wise.


Great spirit guide support items:

- photos
- animal gifts such as antlers, hide/pelt, claw, feather or tooth
- tarot cards
- trinkets from deceased family members
- crystals


INSPIRATIONAL IMAGERY

This is your personal glorified mood board. It is a collection of images that inspire you or bring you joy. They can be photos, quotes, aspirations - you name it. They can be simple, too. I've seen altars with one photograph and they were absolutely stunning.

When you are in a focused state at your personal altar, I find giving your actual eye something to look at helps your mind come up with some brilliant solutions. Many people close their eyes, and that's super great, too, but if you're altar is meant for healing, creativity, giving you a sense of purpose, or giving you those lightning bolt inspirational moments, I really suggest having inspirational imagery to help get you there.

In my experience, this helps me communicate most effectively with my spiritual team as well. It's surprising how some thing you look at everyday can sometimes look very different.

My altar never feels complete without fresh flowers. I need a good pink bouquet with tons of greenery like eucalyptus, olive branches - jumbo peonies, roses, ranunculas - you name it. I need that included.


OTHER IMPORTANT FACETS:


LOCATION

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 small office in my house - with a door - and I keep my altar behind my desk on a sort of floating credenza. When I activate my altar, I light incense or herbs, and spend a few quiet moments in front of it before putting on some tunes and getting some writing/work in. 

PRACTICAL PROTECTION

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 fire-safe, never leaving your candles, herbs or incense unattended. I'm so bad for this... I have candles lit all the time, so they are always surrounded by firesafe dishes.

MUSIC

Personally, I really like music floating through the air around my altar. My altar is in my office, so this makes sense for me. Some people are very distracted by this. I find it helps me get in the zone, and keep me in the zone. I have playlists for different vibes and I think it's totally great.

JOURNAL/DIARY

Including your journal or diary on the altar is another good idea as it is infused with your power. You can even journal - specifically - when you are at your altar!


There are so many items you can place on your altar, just remember there is no right or wrong items to include. Play around with your altar - you'll know when there is too much there, or not enough. You'll know when you have a core item that always needs to be there. 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.

What items have you used on your altar? Anything different from my list?
Let me know in the comments below.