Rose Ariadne's Chitchcraft Blog

Dear Friends,

In another “back-to-basics” moment, I started to think about all the times I’ve been asked about altars and how to properly set them up, both by novice witches and those who have been practicing for some time. The short answer to this is that there is no definitive right or wrong way to set up your altar. Your altar is the sacred space dedicated to your rituals and workings and above all else, it should be a place of peace and comfort for you. How to properly set up and arrange an altar varies greatly among different groups, covens and individuals. Even geographic location can have an effect on altar traditions.

Your altar is where you will perform many of your spells and rituals, and it is also a place used to honor your deities and the Sabbats. Many witches have altars that are permanent fixtures in their homes or in nature, while others have temporary altars or even portable altars that are easy to disassemble and put away due to space constraints or personal preference. Nearly any flat surface can be used as a base for your altar, including a table, box, chest or shelf. If you are in need of an altar that is easy to disassemble and put away, a box or chest makes an excellent choice as the items on your altar can be packed away and stored safely inside.

A table or shelf is a wise choice if you are intending to set up a permanent altar. Most witches choose to drape their altars with some sort of decorative cloth. Be creative! Your cloth can be a spare piece of fabric, tablecloth, blanket, a piece of cloth that you have dyed or decorated yourself or even a piece of clothing that has special meaning to you. Many witches choose to change the cloth used to drape their altars depending on the season, the type of magick or ritual being performed, or even their mood.

A basic altar consists of representations of the elements, the God and Goddess and a pentacle. Many witches also include a bowl of water, a bowl of salt, crystals, herbs, incense, runes, magickal tools such as an athame, wand, bell, and/or chalice, and their Book of Shadows. Altars are often decorated with seasonal offerings on Sabbats. The possibilities for what to include on your altar are truly endless. If you find that a particular item speaks to you in a powerful way and you wish to include on your altar, don’t worry about whether the item’s presence is right or wrong. In short, if it feels right to you then it is right.

Generally, after draping the altar with their chosen decorative cloth, most witches will first place their pentacle in the center of the altar as a kind of “pivot point” for the rest of the altar to gather around. A representation of the Goddess is usually placed to the left and may be in the form of a white candle, moonstone or statue. The representation of the God is typically placed at the opposite end of the table, to the right and directly across from the Goddess representation. A black candle, sunstone or statue are the most commonly used representations for the God.

The next step in setting up your altar is to choose and place your elemental representations. Earth is commonly represented by a brown or green candle, sand, soil, a plant, a rock or stone. Some common representations for Air include a yellow candle, a feather, cone/stick incense, or amber. The Fire element is often displayed by a red candle, oil burner, lantern, or carnelian–an inexpensive semi-precious stone ranging in color from a burnt orange to a reddish-brown. Water is symbolized most commonly by a blue candle, a bowl of water, a shell, or aquamarine. Many witches take a great deal of pleasure in using items they personally find in nature as elemental symbols.

Which direction your altar should face is also largely a matter of personal preference or group tradition. In the Northern hemisphere and alter will usually face the North, while in the Southern hemisphere the South is generally the preferred direction. I know witches who prefer their altars to face East, as well as those who choose to change which directions correspond to the elements based on their personal preference or location. For example, if you live in an area where a lake or stream is to the East, you may prefer to place your Water representation there instead of the traditional placement in the West.

The most important things to remember when setting up your altar is to have fun creating your it and organize it in a way that brings you peace, power and pleasure.

Brightest Blessings,

Rose Ariadne
Your Warm and Caring “Resident Witch In Charge”

Posted by Rose Comments 2


  1. Corliss says

    I wish to thank you for going back to basics…I’m learning so much that I have not been taught before…I been given spells and other things…Told what to do but not how to do it…Thank you again…Blessed Be

    July 23rd, 2009 | #
  2. Marie-Christine says

    I’m totally agree with you Corliss, it’s true that she’s our warm and caring resident witch in charge for all of us.

    July 24th, 2009 | #

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