Setting Up Your Altar

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You will need a large, flat surface for your altar; a table or a cupboard will do – you can use the
drawers for storage and cover it with a cloth. It does not really matter what shape the surface is –
circles and squares are both sacred shapes and easy to divide into quadrants for the four elements,
Earth, Air, Fire and Water, that are central to traditional magic and play a part even in informal rituals.
A round altar, the shape of the sacred circle, works especially well.
If you do not have a suitable piece of furniture, a piece of uncut stone or unpolished wood, such as
hazel, ash, rowan or oak supported on stones or bricks will do. Ensure that it is high enough, so that
you are not constantly stooping.
In good weather, if you have a sheltered private place in your garden or back yard, you can adapt a
tree stump or tall, flat rock as your work space. But perhaps the best altars of all are those impromptu
ones you make – such as the top of a standing stone with a circle of your favourite crystals, or a rock
on the beach with a circle of seaweed and shells to mark the directions.
The altar need not be large but you will need to have room to move all the way round it. Many rituals
demand that you move in a circle with the altar in the centre, although some place the altar in the
North of the circle and you stand to the South, facing North.
The central position of the altar/circle represents the realm of Spirit, or Akasha. Akasha is the name
given to the fifth element formed by the combination of the four ancient elements of Earth, Fire, Air
and Water that were considered in classical times to be the components of all life and matter. It is
greater than the other four.
In formal magic, artefacts and lighted candles are kept on an altar but this is not vital. It is quite
possible, even if you are using a communal room in an apartment or house, to leave your altar partly
prepared, although items such as salt and water are best added immediately before a ritual so they will
be fresh. A garden altar can be set with an outdoor candle or torch and stone figurines, perhaps shaded
by bushes.
Keep pot pound or living plants on your indoor altar when it is not in use to keep the energies fresh
and moving. If it feels stagnant, sprinkle an infusion of lemon or peppermint widdershins, to remove
negativity that has come in from the activities of the day, and then deosil, to charge it with power.
You can also cleanse it with incense, creating a protective circle of pine or myrrh, again widdershins
and then deosil.
Each night, or whenever you have time, you can explore your inner psychic powers at your altar. For
example, you can gaze into a candle or scry into a bowl of water on the surface of which you have
dripped coloured inks. Try holding the different crystals that you place on your altar and allow
impressions to pass through your fingertips, manifest as images, sounds or feelings. This psychic art is
called psychometry and is one that will emerge spontaneously.
You may, however, have a more specific aim in mind. For example, to improve your finances, place a
pot of basil herbs, surrounded by golden coloured coins and light a green or golden prosperity candle
while visualising golden coins showering upon you. If you have a friend who is sick, and wish to send
healing thoughts to them, place a photograph of them on the altar, and surround it with pink flowers,
pink rose quartz crystals and a circle of tiny pink candles. Send your message of healing or visualised
golden light, then blow out the candles deosil, sending the energies to where they are needed.
When you are not carrying out formal magick, keep on the altar any crystals that are of personal
significance to you (see page 153). You might wish to have a clear crystal quartz for pure energy, a
blue lapis lazuli flecked with gold for wisdom, a purple amethyst and rose quartz for healing and
harmony, or a gleaming, golden-brown tiger’s eye for grounding. You can also keep different herbs
there according to your current focus.

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