Creating Sacred Space: How to Set Up Your Own Altar.

Psst… in case you haven’t seen: I’m co-hosting a very special self-love urban retreat in London with Ebonie Allard next month. Get all of the details and book your place.

“To repeat the definition of magic I like best: it is the study of the ways in which natural forces, energies and gods can be compelled or induced to help us. Calling it the technology of the sacred highlights magic’s study of ways to focus such energies. This technology may attract the attention of busy gods through sacred geometry, as the ancient Romans did when they constructed temples filled with geometric symbols; it may provide a road map to higher consciousness, as the Kabbalah does; it may harness the vital forces of herbs, roots and rocks, as folk magic does; or it may pull down power through ritual, as Wicca does. Or it may be as simple as focusing one’s attention to notice what’s happening. The salesman who believes that making all five lights on the way to work bodes well for the day may not think he believes in magic, but he does.” - Christine Wicker

Punk rock personal development is all about being your most authentic self, getting completely clear on what you want, staying scrappy, and DIY-ing a life you love. So it might turn some people off that I'm talking about magic. Perhaps it feels too "woo-woo" and not practical enough. But this year I'm getting really raw and being totally honest, so it only seems right to let you into this mystical part of my life. And to me, magic is totally punk rock.

Whether your higher power looks like ancient gods, the energetic flow of the universe, or faith in your own journey, you can practice magic.

For me, magic ritualizes my intention and commitment to my desires. It taps into internal and external forces to help guide my journey.

And it seems like many of us are waking up to this power and getting back in touch with these ancient practices. Which is why so many of us now have altars in our bedrooms, our kitchens, even hidden in our closets. This sacred space is somewhere we can come to meditate, perform rituals, honour our deepest beliefs, or just sit and be. And my altar is something I get a lot of questions about.

I'm not an expert and creating this space for yourself is a completely personal act but today I want to share a peek at what I keep on my altar, what I do there, and my advice for creating your own - no matter how little space you have.

 

WHAT MY ALTAR LOOKS LIKE TODAY.

WHAT MY ALTAR LOOKS LIKE TODAY.

What's on My Altar

My altar is a constantly evolving space. I add to it, move things, and take things away according to my current intentions and practices. Every few months I like to take everything off, cleanse the space, and completely refresh it.

Right now the Words are Wands spell that I performed on New Year's Day is right in the centre of my altar (adorned with my Oh La La SHE Guide-ess card from a reading with my friend Lisa). There are lots of crystals, namely amethyst, selenite, and garnet. 

One corner of my altar is currently dedicated to Oh La La and the second chakra work I'm currently focusing on: a disco ball, bottles of glitter, flowers that I refresh every week, a beautiful orgonite, and a red candle.

A video tour of my altar.

There's also my deck of Wild Unknown tarot cards, a vintage teacup that I use as a cauldron, a piece of silver cloth, a Surrender card from Lou's workshop, the fool card (which came up as very important to my journey this year in my 2016 Tarotscope), pieces of sage and palo santo on a vintage saucer, a black candle for some upcoming shadow work I'll be doing with the next full moon, and my copy of A Course in Miracles, which I am studying every day.

In short, every item on my altar is something I find meaningful. Each piece helps me bring magic and ritual to my spiritual practice.

Heather's altar set up with her daily tarot reading.

Heather's altar set up with her daily tarot reading.

Why Have an Altar & What to Do There

For me, having an altar is about creating a sacred space to perform rituals, meditate, do my daily practice, and honour my journey. It infuses extra meaning into each of these activities and by creating physical space for them, I feel like I create mental, emotional, and energetic space for them as well.

Creating an altar can also help to anchor your daily practice. Whenever you walk past it you'll feel that call and commitment to do the work you're showing up every day to do.

What you do at your altar is completely up to you. You might want to read a spiritual book, meditate, perform a spell, chant, try a new ritual, light a candle and just breathe, write in your journal, visualize your perfect day, or smudge yourself with sage. Listen to your intuition. Do what feels good.

Try to make it a space that is only about you and your connection to yourself and your spirituality. I make mine a phone and computer free zone.

Lisa's candy tin altar helps her to create sacred space wherever she travels to.

Lisa's candy tin altar helps her to create sacred space wherever she travels to.

Where to Put It

The biggest objection I hear to creating their own altar is that people don't think they have enough space for it - which I can completely understand. My altar is actually in our kitchen, on a chest that we store extra blankets, champagne flutes, and odds and ends in. In some ways, this isn't ideal. It means that my altar isn't completely private. But it works for me.

For some people, it's really important that no one else touches (or maybe even sees their altar) - they don't want them influencing the energy of this space. This is less important for me as I feel like I'm naturally picking up the energy of anyone who enters my home anyway. That being said, even if your altar is out in the open you can still set boundaries and ask people not to touch it as much as possible. Generally my husband doesn't touch or move any of the objects on it but if he really needs to get into the chest, I can always rearrange, smudge, and clear the space to my heart's content afterwards.

Ultimately, this is going to come down to you and your beliefs, priorities, and personal situation. 

But perhaps space is at such a premium in your home that you aren't even sure where you could squeeze an altar in. We were having this conversation in Girl Gang HQ and there were lots of great suggestions for how to create a sacred space when there's no extra room: you could hang a mobile-style altar from your ceiling, use a small box that can be put away when you're not using it (here's one in a mason jar), or erect a shelf on your wall for your altar. Lisa created a portable altar out of a candy tin (I'm currently making one of my own, so I'll share that process with you soon). 

If you think that someone in your home will make fun of your altar, don't share it with them. Use one of these ideas to create a sacred space that can be completely private if that best suits your needs. Don't try to follow any specific rules about where to put it, just figure out what feels good for you and works within the constraints of your personal situation.

Ebonie's bookshelf altar has a definite punk rock vibe.

Ebonie's bookshelf altar has a definite punk rock vibe.

What to Put On It

It's important to not get caught up on what to put on your altar or it's easy to get trapped into making this a very consumerist exercise, rather than a spiritual one. In fact, if you are creating an altar for the first time, I'd challenge you to arrange one using only items you already have. You can always collect new pieces over time but you don't want to get stuck thinking that you need anything new in order to build one. Remember, your altar is about creating a sacred space for yourself and for your rituals and your daily practice, so make that your first priority rather than just focusing on the things that are on your altar.

Your altar can contain absolutely anything you want and each item you choose will be personal to you, but here are some ideas to jump start your imagination:

  • Tarot cards. Pick one for the day, the week, or the month and put it on your altar to remind you of its message.
  • Crystals that carry the energy of what you currently want more of in your life
  • Candles. I often choose them based on their colour symbolism or I'll carve words into them (like my core desired feelings).
  • Statues of any deities you pay tribute to, or whose myths represent qualities you want to embody.
  • A list of your current desires and intentions
  • Offerings to the gods that you honour - whether this is food, flowers, alcohol, spices, or anything else that will show them your devotion and gratitude
  • A plant to represent all of the good things you want to have grow in your life - you could even write them down and tuck them into the soil for added magic
  • Any talismans or pendants that you want to infuse with the energy of your altar
  • Totems representing the four elements (a feather, a bowl of water, a vial of dirt, and a candle, for example)
  • A vessel of water - this is said to bring more flow to your life
  • Coins or other symbols of prosperity and abundance
  • Essentials oils for anointing candles and yourself
  • Totems that represent your biggest dreams
  • Your vision board and photographs that evoke your ideal life

The possibilities are really endless here and the purpose is to collect items that are beautiful, sacred, or meaningful to you.

 

Emily and Samantha's altars look very different from each others but you can tell they both hold a lot of meaning.

Emily and Samantha's altars look very different from each others but you can tell they both hold a lot of meaning.

Suggestions for Extra Magic 

  • Whenever you decide to fully refresh your altar (perhaps you'll want to do this once a year, every season, or with each moon cycle), you can cleanse the space by filling a bowl with water, putting a few drops of your favourite essential oils and perhaps even some rose petals into the water. Use this water to clean your altar and as you do, imagine yourself infusing the space with all of the energy you want your altar to evoke.
  • I don't follow any specific rules for configuring the items on my altar and different lineages will have different traditions about what the different directions/spaces on your altar symbolize. Often the left side of an altar will represent things you wish to let go of and the right side is dedicated to those you are working to attract. We're punk rock around here, so set your own rules. Perhaps you want to dedicate one corner to each of the four elements. Or maybe you want to divide it based on different areas of your life. Or you can eschew this kind of structure all together and follow your intuition for placing your objects on your altar. The options are endless.
  • Make a habit of sitting at your altar every day, even if you aren't doing anything in particular while you're there.
  • When any offerings or living elements on your altar are no longer in use, offer them back to the earth by putting them outside in your garden (if it's safe to do so).

Remember that this space is just for you. It can be and mean anything that you want it to. It can change and evolve over time so don't put to much pressure on yourself to make it look like a photo you've seen on Pinterest.

If you have your altar, I'd love to hear about what's on it and what it means to you. And if you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them. Feel free to leave a comment here or join the discussion in Girl Gang HQ.

Sending you lovebeams across cyberspace.