Your First Pagan Altar: Basic Layout and Ideas

Your Personal Space

The first thing you need is a personal space. It is essential to be able to practice your spells without anyone bothering you, and also to have a place where you can safely store your Witches tools, books and supplies. Ideally, you should have a space apart from your everyday world, such as an attic, basement, a corner of your bedroom, or even a space outside. The important thing here is that you can have privacy and silence to meditate and focus on your goals.
In this lesson, you will learn:

How to Setup a Witch Altar

Your Altar

Setting a Pagan Altar
Setting up a Pagan Altar

When casting spells, we use the word altar (not alter) to talk about our work table. Actually, it could be any flat surface and even just a mat on the floor. Your altar will be the focal point of your spells or rituals and it is where most ritual actions and Magical works will be performed.

Setting up a basic altar is quite simple. Usually it’s just a table where you will place the tools you are about to use and any symbols depicting your beliefs.

Rule #1 of your Pagan Altar

Anything goes! The most important thing is that you feel free to decorate, explore, re-arrange, and above all, have fun when creating your altar, which is a never-ending process. Your altar is unique to you and nobody else should be telling you what is right or wrong about it.

Witchy Tip: Before adding any new item to your altar, learn about its meaning. Ask yourself why you like it and how you can use it.

Basic Wiccan Altar for Beginners
Basic Wiccan Altar for Beginners

Rule #2 of your Pagan Altar

Don’t clutter it! Remember that this is actually a workspace and you’ll need room for ingredients, tools, and more. Empty it when you’re not using it. Avoid cluttering your altar by finding a nice place for your tools. Store them in a drawer, box, or shelf when you are not using them.

Read also: What to Put on an Ancestor Altar?

How to Decorate your Altar

Altar Cloth

No matter what kind of altar you are creating, it is advisable to cover its surface with a piece of cloth that will act both as an ornament and as protection from liquids, scratching, and wax drippings. Go shopping for an altar cloth or make your own. If you see any that you like with symbols, be sure to ask about their meanings.

"To be altarless is to be voiceless"

Some Witches like to change their altar cloth according to the type of ritual they are doing, or following the Wheel of the Year, having a different one for each season and each Pagan holiday. If you’re on a budget, simply use any piece of cloth that you have at home.

Compare altar cloths on Amazon

Or make a DIY altar cloth! Find ideas at the Spells8 Forum: Altar Cloth Suggestions

Religious Symbols

If you are an Eclectic practitioner and feel connected to Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or any other spiritual traditions, you can add images or figures that symbolize your beliefs and remind you of who you are. If you are devoted to a specific deity, you could add a statue or drawing of them on your altar. For example, statues of the Wiccan Deities.

Some Pagans like to place a figure or drawing of their spirit animal and keep it as company and protection for their altar. If you’re Wiccan, add a pentacle in the center, or keep reading to learn how to set up a Wiccan altar. Set your altar however you prefer but especially in a way that feels comfortable to you.

Compare pagan figurines and statues on Amazon

Candles & Candle Holders

If you plan to work with Candle Magic – and you probably will after Lesson 7 – you’ll need at least one candle holder. Take your time when looking for one. Make sure that it’s sturdy enough to withstand the heat of the candle and that it won’t fall over if you accidentally bump into your altar. I encourage you to work with biodegradable, eco-friendly tools. Materials such as ceramics, glass and metal are ideal.

Compare candles on Amazon

Can’t wait to work with candles? Jump to Lesson 7 and learn everything about Candle Spells

Incense Burners

An incense burner will come in handy whether you are casting a spell, meditating, or simply using aromatherapy for relaxation. Incense burners come in many shapes and styles. Check out also some incense holders. Alternatively, you could use your cauldron to burn herbs in it.

Compare incense burners on Amazon

Creating a Wiccan Altar

In Wicca and Nature spirituality, the building blocks of your altar can be the four traditional Elements, which you can align using the four cardinal points.

Here’s a basic altar layout example:

  • A bowl of sand, dirt or a plant on the North end of your altar to represent the Element Earth,
  • A stick of incense in the East can symbolize the Element Air,
  • A candle or some charcoal in the South for Fire,
  • A glass or bowl with Water will be facing West.
The WIccan Altar Setup
The Elemental Wiccan Altar Setup

Witchy Lifehack: The bowl of water will come handy should you need to quickly extinguish anything. Always practice Candle Safety

You can light the incense and candle before a meditation, during a devotional, a prayer, to start your day or before going to bed. Just make sure you don’t leave candles burning unattended. If you’re going somewhere else, simply blow it out or snuff it off with a candle-snuffer.

Easy Wiccan Altar
Variation of the Wiccan Altar

Some Wiccans prefer to simply use four candles to represent the four directions, and a candle or figure for the Goddess and one for the God. You could use candles in different colors to easily distinguish them. For example:

  • North = Green candle (Earth) 🌱
  • East = Yellow candle (Air) 💨
  • South = Red candle (Fire) 🔥
  • West = Blue candle (Water) 💧

You can always just use white candles if you don’t have colored ones. Light all of them at the same time before your rituals, always being careful not to burn anything on your altar. Make sure there’s nothing above your candles, such as a cupboard or shelf.

Combine these ideas in any way that you like. Being an Eclectic Wiccan is all about trial and error. There are no set rules.

Find more ideas on Altar Placement at the Spells8 Forum

Altar Blessing Ritual

Here’s a guided ritual to bless your altar at home, whether you’re a Wiccan or not.

It was inspired by an altar blessing chant by Geri B. Davis and the Magician Tarot card, using the basic tools of the Craft.

Watch the video and print the prayer and ritual.

▶️ Watch: Altar Blessing »

An Altar for Everyone

Not everyone can have a fixed altar in a central place of their homes, especially if you live in a shared space with someone who might be offended or annoyed by it. 

In the event that the other members of the house don’t want to see your altar, you can keep it hidden by putting together a portable altar which you will assemble at the time of casting a spell, and then fold it back and put it away. Your portable altar could be a folding table or two easels with a board on top, and a nice wooden box with your tools inside.

Portable altar
A nice portable altar

On the other hand, if you live on your own or with people who accept your beliefs, you can have a permanent altar, for example a small table, dedicated solely to fulfill that function. To others, it may seem a strange exhibition of objects, but for us, not only does it have ritual importance, but it also reminds us of our spiritual path. ✨

Still in the Broom closet? Read these Forum topics:

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Your First Pagan Altar: Basic Layout and Ideas

Now what?

Next: Spellcasting Tools: What do I Really Need to get Started?

📓 In this lesson, you will learn the following, and more:

✦ The Baby Witch’s Toolkit (What you really need)
✦ Beginner’s Shopping List
✦ Traditional Tools: Athame, Boline, Cauldron
✦ Book of Shadows
✦ Compass
✦ Magic Wand

Or Browse All Lessons in this free course.

Ready to Cast a Spell? Try the Perfect Spell for Tonight’s Moon or search the Library of Spells

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