Making an Altar? 5 Ideas to Provide Inspiration
altars are a personal staple of my magical practice. they definitely aren’t required to practice magic or be a witch, but i love having a designated space to work with an intention over a longer period of time.
i have a semi-permanent altar on the top of my bookshelf in our dining area that is just dedicated to beautiful gifts from the earth such as a deer skull i found and a bouquet that has dried. there’s a lot of queen of pentacles and empress vibes with this one and i enjoy feeling the presence of the natural world.
the other altar i have is in my kitchen and here’s my huge secret from instagram—it’s on the top of a shoe rack from target! for this altar, i like to change it up entirely every few weeks as i work with different energies or intentions.
altars don’t have to be a perfect, instagram-worthy interior design feat—just to reiterate my favorite altar is on top of a shoe rack! instead, there is abundant variety between altars from large, sprawling, and bountiful, to more minimalistic or even mobile(!) altars! while the variety can be a little overwhelming at first, i hope we can open this up into opportunity knowing that the most important component of an altar is simply intention. regardless of where you put it or how large it is, every time you pass by it and even just in the process of creating it, you’ll be reminded of this intention. plus, you may have working elements on your altar such as a magic candle, sigils, and more.
funny enough, we had a discussion at craft night about what really constitutes an altar and arrived at the meme-worthy, mind-blowing revelation that even a single candle can be an altar! it is the intention that matters!
to help you get started in working on your own altar, or maybe just finding some additional inspiration for your altars presently, here are some ideas based on how i get inspired for my altars!
GET INSPIRED BY YOUR CARDS
i’m crazy in love with my first and only oracle deck, the hollow valley deck of symbols by erin alise borzak, not just for the messages it gives me, but the incredible amount of inspiration it has provided me for altar items. i’ve recently been pulling the cards antler, comb, and honeybee frequently and, in my desire to work with their messages, they’ve inspired so objects to place on my altar including an hourglass, comb, and something related to honey (i recently had honey calcite pop up on my feed and i immediately thought of this card!).
looking to your cards can be an excellent way to really work with integrated intentions! you can draw a card for the month and if you are desiring to really embody that energy, look for the symbolism in the card and see if there’s an object you have or could easily obtain that would suit your altar.
for example, you could use a pomegranate to bring in energy of the empress or something i’ve considered doing when i pull the five of cups, is placing those full chalices that the figure in the card is ignoring onto my altar and replenishing them every day to mimic the perspective shift necessary to see opportunity.
based on the different decks you use, there can be abundant symbolism to draw from them and you can even create new associations with this energy! i personally love trying to embody the cards and seeing how i feel when i imagine myself in those forms and mindsets, and adding something physical to my altar is a create way to really enhance that for me!
color correspondences are a classic element of magic and is incredibly versatile as well! you can choose candles to prepare based on the correspondences, you can make yourself an altar (!!) by wearing particular colors, and wear or place crystals and gemstones on your altar based on color as well.
color magic in many ways permeates our daily lives through how marketing and branding play off of these natural color associations. aside from using these correspondences to create your altar, see how they are used in your daily life and draw your own associations from them that you can use!
otherwise, thought co. has a great list of different color correspondences.
plus, if you are super interested in using color magic, i highly recommend following IrisEyris! She has a book out called Color, Form, and Magic and also has an oracle deck, The Prism Oracle, that utilizes color magic!
working with numbers can be a wonderful factor to integrate into making your altar as well! like color, it can act as a correspondence to match and enhance your intention and other elements that you want to work with.
for example, if there’s a tarot card that you particularly want to work with such as the nine of pentacles, you could use nine small votive candles that are dressed to align with your intention around this card. if you are are wanting to work with a tarot card in the double digits, you can simplify the number to work with its numerology. say you want to work with death, which is the 13th card in the major arcana, you could utilize 4 as the simplified number you’re working with!
otherwise, numbers themselves hold potent meaning and you can use it as a man element in your spell work and altars! for example, in the work i’ve been doing recently around money, i’ve placed three cinnamon sticks on my altar to attract abundance as cinnamon is an herb that brings in warmth and abundance, and three is the number of harmony, abundance, and is connected to the empress in the tarot.
one - self, independence, energy of the individual, associated with the sun and the magician. can be utilized with work focused on defining yourself, identity, advocating for yourself, setting out on your own, and individuation.
two - balance, polarity, duality and polarity between “self” and “we”, collaboration, partnership, relationships. related to the moon and the high priestess. can be used for intentions related to promoting harmony, love, enhancing partnerships, and inspiring mutually beneficial collaboration.
three - creativity, communication, abundance, action, will, the trinity, collaborative and supported expansion. associated with the empress. can be used for intentions around communication, inspiration, action, and abundance.
four - foundation, balance, solidity, home base, stability. associated with the emperor. four is the number to utilize for things like boundary setting, finding stability in your life, promoting your health, and helping sustain and nurture projects and ideas.
five - friction, change, agitation, creativity, true growth, need for a shift, taking risks. associated with the hierophant. five can be utilized for removing or destroying parts of your life that you no longer wish to carry with you or bringing in the necessary change for projects, parts of your life, etc.
six - family, community, harmony, partnership, there are similar elements of harmony and balance of the three, but this is amplified and evolved. associated with the venus, sixth house, and the lovers. this is an excellent number to utilize for long-lasting partnerships, harmony, unity, and artistry.
seven - higher knowledge, spirituality, intuition, higher expression, connection to our guides. associated with the chariot and neptune. this is perfect for enhancing your intuition and seeking guidance from your guides, ancestors, and angels.
eight - power, wealth, strength, maturity, wisdom, mastery of self, transformation, discipline, patience. associated with the card strength. this is the number for working with mastering your skills, your wisdom, maturity, and transmuting your shadows to find your strength. this is perfect for developing discipline and beginning the path of transforming habits and finding greater wisdom.
nine - transformation, completion, self-awareness, rebirth, growth. related to the hermit. this can be used as a number of amplification, of integrating lessons to find true growth, and for moving through difficult times or shadow work.
working with the energies and movements of planets can really enhance or provide inspiration for your altar! each planet cards its own symbolism and some correspond to a day of the week! so not only could you select objects that correspond to its energy and color, but you could start working with it on the day of the week its associated with. if you want to get really precise, there are also particular minutes and hours that correspond to each planet. this can be useful for working with planets in general, or if you know you’re undergoing particular transits that you’d like to align yourself with. if you want to know more about this practice, i have a guide for journaling with astrological transits available on our patreon for just a few bucks a month!
you’ll see how all of these elements can really come together and layer upon one another! say you are seeking a little extra energy in your life around a project. you could create an altar that utilizes the colors of inspiration such as orange and yellow, dress three candles for this intention, and then light them and meditate on this intention on a wednesday—the day associated with mercury! or, you could just take one of these elements and work with it, it’s all up to you!
USE A PENDULUM
this is actually one of my tried and true methods of creating an altar. this is particularly because, number one, pendulums aren’t very expensive and can even be made from found materials. number two, i personally have a hard time figuring out what i need, particularly in times of distress, and like having something that i can defer to to help bring me what i need.
a pendulum is simply a weighted object that hangs from something like a string that can swing back and forth. i find it is important to bond with your pendulum and, like any person in your life, treat it kindly when you want it to help you out.
how to use your pendulum
when it’s suspended—first ask, “can you please show me what a yes looks like?” and “can you please show me what a no looks like?” you can also ask it to show you either what uncertain, maybe, or rephrase looks like. once you know how your pendulum is going to communicate, i would ask, “do you mind if i ask you some questions?” i even tend to be specific when making an altar and talk to it first.
i’ll tell my pendulum basically, “hey looking to make an altar that’s around the intention of ____, do you mind helping me with that?” you can also decide whether you want to access the wisdom of your ancestors or spirit guides through your pendulum. otherwise, you can even explicitly state that you do not want these entities to be involved in the communication process.
from there, based on that intention, i will just go through all of my objects and touch them, silently asking if it would be useful for my intention. if my pendulum says “yes,” i add it to my collection to go on my altar. if it says “no,” it stays on the shelf.
after the fact, i always thank my pendulum and ask it if it would like to be left on the altar that it has helped create. otherwise, i find a spot to place it that it has indicated they would like to be set down.
after you’ve arranged the objects on your altar to your liking, when you’ve used a pendulum to select them it’s incredibly useful to look and see what objects have been selected. as you do this a few times, you’ll see patterns and the significance in different objects based on different intentions or times in your life. for example, my pendulum doesn’t really select that many crystals. so i was quite surprised when one altar i was constructing was almost entirely crystals! when i refreshed myself on the meaning of each of them, it was clear that they were selected because i needed healing around my grief and my heart chakra.
this technique works for many magical preparations such as making a magical candle, selecting tinctures, finding medicines that work, etc. and i find that using a pendulum can really help you break away from potential overwhelm!
i hope that if you were curious about creating an altar of your own that this can help provide guidance! if you already work with altars, hopefully this provided some helpful resources or new ideas!
there are certainly other kinds of “recipes” and instructions for making altars for specific purposes that you can check out as well! my interest was simply in providing the tools to make your own altar based on what you are interested in!
Otherwise, I hope you have a magical time making your altar!