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Setting Up
The Wiccan Altar

When setting up your Wicca/Pagan altar it doesnít have to be fancy or elaborate it really comes down to personal choice and how you want it to be. This is your personal sacred space so you need to have your altar the way you want it to be. Space of course also comes into the design there is no point having a huge altar if you have limited space and find you are fall over things when trying to work, you also need to take into consideration where you want your altar to be, will it be part of the rest of the house so others see it? Would you prefer to be private? Are you keeping your altar up all the time or only occasionally? Do you like to have all your things around you or just a few?

As for me personally I like a reasonably large altar this works for me and I keep my altar up all the time and I change it for the different celebrations of the sabbats and esbats but that is my personal choice, my Wicca friends all differ some are like myself and keep their altar up all of the time and some only like their altar up when they are working for a pacific reason we are all different and this is why your altar is personal to you and how you want things to work. Many Wiccaís and Paganís not only have an indoor altar many also have an outdoor one too but we will discuss the out door altar further on.

Indoor Altar

The first thing you will need is a flat stable surface in which to work on, we for sure do not want anything wobbly or unsafe! The top of a chest of drawers or a table, a shelf is ideal anything really that is secure and wonít tip, slide or move, even the floor is fine if your happy with that. Think about if you will be standing or sitting, kneeling when your using your altar you need to make sure you will be comfortable when working there. Now for the shape of your altar well again this is down to personal choice, some people prefer a round surface as it is easy to move around and you can work all the way around a circular shape, others prefer rectangle or square as these shapes can be placed against a wall or fits neatly into a corner. No matter what shape your altar is (square, round, rectangular, etc.) it is generally believed that each side of your altar should correspond with a cardinal direction (North, South, East, and West). Set up your altar to face whatever direction you feel most comfortable with. The next thing to think about is would you like storage space either underneath your chosen table, chest of drawers etc.? I actually have storage space I like all of my Wiccan tools and essentials right to hand when I am working, there is nothing worse when your just starting to do your magickal working and getting ready you suddenly find you have forgotten something or canít remember where you last laid a particular item down ~ very annoying! So over time I soon came to realise I needed some sort of storage near to my altar. My altar consists of a chest of drawers with another small wooden unit on top so all of my tools and altar items sit on top of the unit and inside the chest of drawers all of my other essential items things I consider important to me are inside each drawer all neatly arranged and to hand and I know where everything is. On either side of my chest of drawers I also have on the right another wooden unit and on the left side I have a tall shelving unit so my altar is kind of in three!

All close together but perfect for how I want my altar. I actually convinced my husband to make me the tall shelving unit I wanted something slim because space was starting to become short so he managed to cut down a much wider shelving unit ~ it was actually a book case! And he added a back and then screwed them together so instead of a wider bookcase I had two much slimmer units and they work perfectly for what I want, I then sprayed them silver and I think they look rather elegant! So hopefully by now you have made a start on your altar design where you want it to go, units used or adapted etc. and set up where you want them to be? So the next thing you need to do is cleanse your altar, now there are many different ways you can do this some are very elaborate and I feel Ďover the topí but again this is down to how you feel if you want to go with something that I consider Ďover the topí then by all means do that as long as your comfortable and happy there is no right or wrong way. For myself personally I donít go Ďover the topí I use normal water that I have left in a small bowl on my windowsill and allowed the moon light to cleanse the water, then I add this water to a soft cloth and wipe over the surface to remove any dust, I then use a sage smudge stick and move the smudge stick around my altar and tools and allow the smoke to cleanse everything. You can also sprinkle salt, invoke the elements or mentally clear any nasties from your space. Next you will need an altar cloth again this doesnít have to be fancy I have several different ones as I have a basic altar cloth I leave on my altar for everyday use and then different colours and designs for the different sabbats. Altar cloths not only make your altar personal and decorative but they also help with dripping candle wax or any other spills that can occur. Now it is time to decorate your altar again there is a wide choice how to do this and again it is down to how you want things set up. To give you an idea to get you started the following are typical altar layouts but please decide yourself how you want your altar to be set up. You chose how many items you want on there, which items you need you may like your altar totally full with everything around you or you may prefer minimal items you choose.

Outdoor Altar

I like having an outdoor altar especially in the summer and I have mine in my back garden it is my sacred space and somewhere I enjoy going and being especially during the evening when it is quite outside, I love hearing the trees and the feel of the outside air when I am working. The same with the indoor altar it is down to personal choice how you have an out door altar. For my out door altar I have all my herbs growing and essentials I use for my in door altar during the winter season, I also have a place where I can burn my candles outside too and I also have the advantage of a pond with a fountain so it is very relaxing during the summer months. It can be hard to keep candles lit especially if it is some what windy during the summer so I use tall glass containers and place my candles inside to protect from windy or breezy days ~ there are always ways around things!

Being out doors you also have the advantage of collecting anything from nature like leaves and flowers, twigs etc to use on your outdoor altar, you donít have to have your altar in your garden you may be lucky to have a wooded area or field near where you live so you can go there for your sacred space, always remember once you have finished to clear away and leave things as you found them. I do actually have a wooded area near my home but I prefer my back garden, as it is more private and suitable for what I want. The first five images are not pictures of my personal altars they are here to help you when designing your altar to give you some different ideas. If you are the owner of any of these designs and do not wish for them to be used here on my blog please contact me and I will remove them or add your copyright for the image whichever you prefer..
Wiccan Altar Tool Placement Wiccan tools should be placed on an altar in a specific area that corresponds with a specific element. The tools shouldn't just be placed on an altar willy-nilly, even for the solitary practitioner. While there aren't any Wiccan ritual police out there to bust you for infractions on tool placement, there are several accepted ways to place tools on your altar. Wiccan Altar Tool Placement Guidelines he following is a list of the basic ritual tools, their relationship with an element and where they should be placed on the altar. The elements represent spirits and are called the Guardians of the Watchtowers. Some Wiccans believe that individual tools may be represented by more than one element. Candles are related to fire and the spirit. The spirit is center and fire is south. The chalice or cup is related to water and should be placed in the west. Deity images or sigils are related to spirit and should be placed in the center. Pentacle and pentagram are related to earth. They should be placed in the north. The wand is related to fire and air. Fire is to the south and air is to the east. Water should be placed to the west. Salt is related to earth and is placed to the north. Athame is related to air and fire. Air is to the east and fire is to the south. God or Goddess Altar Tool Layout If you want to simplify the placement of your tools, you mayalso use the God/Goddess placement method. To do this, simply place the tools that are related to the God on theright and the Goddess on the left. Tools that are masculine symbols are the Athame, sword, want and incenseburner. Tools that are feminine, forexample, are the bell, broom, cauldron and cup. Description of Your Wiccan Altar Tools your own heart is your best guide to what you need on your altar Athame The ritual knife, or athame, is one of the prime Wicca altar tools. (It is pronounced AH-tha-may or ah-THAW-may.) Traditionally black-handled, the athame lives in the East, the direction that represents mind, thought, and choice. An athame doesn't have to be metal. You can find ones made out of wood or carved stone, if you prefer. It's not used as a physical knife, anyway, but a symbolic one. Athames hold yang [god] energy. Athames are used to direct energy, typically in casting ritual Circles and recalling them. They may also be used to cut energetic ties. Ordinarily, an athame is not used to cut anything on the physical plane. Bell Bells are like the Voice of the Goddess. When you ring one, it brings the Divine's attention to you. And your attention to the Divine! A bell with a lovely tone will call beautiful, healing energy to you. Bells can also be used to clear energy. At the end of a ritual is a good time for this, but if unwanted energy crops up during a ritual, you can use the bell to disperse it. Candles - Direction Candles One candle for each of the directions, colour-coded, are often used on a Wiccan altar. One would go in each appropriate direction . . . For North: black, green, or brown For East: yellow or white For South: red or orange For West: blue or aqua For Centre, where you aren't using God and Goddess candles: white, silver, or gold. Candles are used to invoke and hold the Powers of each direction. Candles - God and Goddess Candles Often large candles, such as pillar candles, are used to represent the God and the Goddess. These are usually set on either side of the Pentacle, or somewhere in the centre of the altar. Other options are having just one large candle for the Great Goddess, or three - white, red, and black - for the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Where they go is up to you. Somewhere they won't drip onto delicate items or catch things on fire is always good. These candles invoke the Energies of the Divine. Chalice The Wiccan chalice is one of the most important altar tools. It signifies the Mother Goddess. As such, it is a "yin" altar tool. Some people like very fancy bejeweled cups for their altar chalice, but this is not necessary. A cup or wine-type glass of any material will do, or even a bowl. Something that holds water and, ideally, is round or curvy is good. Silver is always nice for Goddess tools - a silver chalice is a perfect Wiccan chalice. The altar chalice is placed in the West, the direction of Water and the yinnest of the yin. The Wiccan chalice is used for ceremonial drink, offering libations to the Divine, or holding the salt-water solution. Deities Images or representations of any gods and goddesses who are special to you are always welcome on an altar. Though of course we could not respectfully consider them "altar tools." They are more than reminders of Divinity. Statues of the gods and goddesses can actually hold the vibrations of the Divine. So your altar becomes a living temple - a place where the Divine dwells. Libation Dish A small dish, bowl, or cup can go in the centre, ready to receive offerings for the gods and goddesses. (See below.) You can also use your altar chalice or cauldron for this purpose. Later, pour or bury the offerings in the Earth, or into living water (rivers, lakes, etc) to carry them to the Divine. Offerings When you would honour the Divine with a gift of thanks or prayer, you can bring them to the Altar as an offering. Often flowers are kept on the altar as an offering. Anything that is beautiful or special to you, or symbolic of the purpose for the offering, can be offered. It is probably not necessary to point out that offerings should not be anything that could harm anything (but just in case, I'll point it out anyway). For one thing, since the Divine lives in all things, anything you harm is an injury to the Divine. And pragmatically, you'll be giving the offerings to the Earth later. Offerings are one of the most overlooked practices in Wicca today, yet one of increasing spiritual power and importance. Pentacle The Pentacle, a 5-point star within a circle, usually is placed in the centre of the altar. The pentacle is one of the most important altar tools, offering protection and power in magickal work. Salt Water A small bowl of water with salt dissolved in it, for cleansing. This would be appropriate in the centre. Alternatively, the altar chalice may be used to hold the salt water. Water and salt are both purifying agents, not only in the physical realm but the energetic as well. Salt water also represents the energies of earth and water united, the ocean womb which gave birth to all life on the planet. So while this may seem an insignificant addition to your altar tools, it holds great power. Scent or Feather Some representation of air, commonly something scented like incense, essential oils, or smudges, or else a flying bird's feather goes in the East, to represent Air. Sacred scents are used to cleanse an area energetically, call in certain powers, or help witches shift consciousness. Feathers can also be used to cleanse energy fields, and to fan incense or smudge smoke. Stones or Crystals For the Earth element, in the North, stones and sometimes crystals are used. These bring in Earth energy, which helps with grounding (except perhaps for quartz crystals). Gem stones also carry certain energies which can be invoked by having them on your altar. (Another option is to have elements of nature such as plants or animals represent Earth.) WITCH TIP: If you choose to use antler, bones, feathers, or other animal parts, be sure to read the precautions at Preparing Your Wiccan Ritual Tools before using them or placing them near your altar! Wand The wand is like a portable, handy version of a broom. There is a theory that originally one instrument performed all the purposes served by the two today. A wand can be made of any natural material. Wood is traditional. Since all woods have unique Powers, you may like to choose the wood to suit your particular needs. Wands can be used for divination and channeling magickal energy. They can be used to cast and recall circles, in place of the athame. The magickal wand goes in the South, for the power of will, magick, and transformation. It also represents yang, or god, energy. Other Altar Tools There are additional wiccan tools which may be kept near the altar, or on it, or elsewhere, at the witch's discretion. Broom A broom is not necessarily classified among altar tools, but it is indispensable for energetically cleansing sacred space. While handy to keep nearby, brooms are usually too unwieldy to put atop an altar. Cauldron Traditionally cast iron, a cauldron is like a 3-legged rounded cooking pot. You can get them in sizes from huge to tiny. Cauldrons are handy items for burning things, like incense and herbs. This is one of the reasons it is one of the most common altar tools. Put an incense charcoal in the bottom, and sprinkle the herbs and powders onto it for very pagan incense. (Caution is required when burning anything, of course. Cast iron on legs, if made properly, will keep the heat from the surface it's standing on, but check to make sure. Also be aware of anything flammable nearby or above the cauldron - particularly sleeves and hair!) Cauldrons can also be used to hold "witches' brews," that is, magickal spells in liquid form. These range from simple salt-water purifications to complex spells. Working Knife A knife you use to cut things, draw lines in the Earth or runes on candles, and other functions. Traditionally the working knife is white-handled. This knife usually distinct from the Athame, which is a symbolic knife only and not used for other purposes by most witches. Not all witches count the working knife as one of their altar tools, but just a functional implement. Sword Some people like to use a sword for casting in groups. (The difficulty may be emotional safety in addition to physical safety. The symbolic hostility inherent in swords is more than many sensitive people can cope with, especially in as intimate a situation as ritual.) Often awkward around an altar, swords may be kept near or under it to be held in the magickal aura. In the past, swords were the athame of the nobility, but this custom is obviously ridiculous from a spiritual standpoint. Blue blood does not equal spiritual nobility! Unlike knives, however, swords have no practical use other than as weapons. This link with violence makes swords unadvisable as altar tools for most people. Other Ritual Items Altar Cloth An altar cloth is optional, but useful. By choosing one with an appropriate colour or design, you set the stage for the energy of your altar. It's also handing on a pragmatic level. It keeps dripping wax from marring your altar top. And since dripping candles are a hazard common to all witches, you may want to choose a cloth that isn't too hard to remove wax from. Or so expensive you'll cry if it gets ruined. Anything You Want Charged With Magickal Energy. When you want to charge something with magickal force, you can put it on your altar for a time. A full cycle of the Moon is a standard time frame. This could be spells, new altar tools, crystals, deities, or symbols of something you would like to have more of in your life . . . whatever would benefit from being infused with spiritual power. Book of Shadows If you have a Book of Shadows it should be kept on your altar, preferably. It is one of your most important altar tools. If your altar is not private enough, or you can't keep it there for another reason, then keeping it under your altar is best. If you have other books that you use for reference for spells or rituals, it may be handy to keep nearby. It's better to remain within the cast circle than to leave it to look up something. Spells and Spell Casting Materials Spells which don't belong elsewhere are usually kept on the altar, and materials for future spells kept within the energy field. They may be stored under the altar or nearby. Song Books If you have a collection of song books with chants you like to sing, it's useful keep it close to hand. Tokens Of Helpers Your altar is also an appropriate place for symbols of and offerings to any guides or special beings who help you.