Witchtober Day 29 – Altar

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What do you think of when you think of a Witch’s altar? A large and ancient stone deep in the forest? A table in a cottage, strewen with herbs, books and candles? A place of dark and terrifying sacrifices? It depends, I suppose, on what your pre-existing concept of a Witch is.

For me and my partner, as for many modern Witches, our altar is a cabinet in our living room. Part ornamental display, part working space, part nature table, the exact arrangements of items on it change with the seasons but generally include a candle, some living plants, and items from places significant to us like the Norfolk coast. It is here, if not outdoors, that we greet the day and the night, draw divination readings, do spellwork and the like.

Cunningham (1988) writes that an altar may be as simple as “an area of ground, a cardboard box covered with cloth, two cinder blocks with a board lying on top, a coffee table, an old sawed-off tree stump in the wild, or a large flat rock”. Likewise, Druid Michael J. Dangler (2003) writes that his first altar was “simply put, three bowls and a stick”.

While it is wonderful to have the space to create a permanent home altar, and it does act as the spiritual centre of the home, I know that not all Witches have the space, the money, or the safety to do so. You may need an altar-in-a-box that can be quickly packed away, or simply create an altar outside with sticks and stones found on the path. Don’t let the images over on #witchesofinstagram fool you – while having a picture-perfect altar can be lovely, it is not a requirement for practicing Witchcraft.

Some traditions of Witchcraft are quite prescriptive of how an altar should be set up, what direction it needs to face, what toold go on it and similar rules, but for the solitary or Hedge Witch, it is more important that your altar is set up in a way that makes sense and is pleasing to you. That may be lots of ornate statues of deities, a single simple candle, or a nature table of pine cones, stones, shells and leaves found on walks in the land.

Simple or complex, permanent or temporary, at the heart of the home, the bottom of the garden or the corner of a bedroom bookcase, an altar represents a focus for Witchcraft and a daily reminder of the path.

References:

Cunningham, Scott (1988), Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Llewellyn.

Dangler, Michael J. (2003), “Three bowls and a stick, or: Creating a home shrine on a budget”, Chronarchy.com: http://www.chronarchy.com/mjournal/altar/3bowlsandastick.html

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