A sacred altar in your home can serve as a space for you to carry out your spiritual practices, for example meditation and prayer. It can become a special space where you can go to get a spiritual connection and to feel connected when feeling lost. By dedicating space in your home to your spiritual practice, you ensure that your spiritual practices and your connection to the creator, your guides, your angels and your ancestors is made a priority. In addition, you are establishing a safe, comfortable place to focus on your spiritual growth without anyone else telling you how to practice. No matter your religion or spiritual path, an altar provides a central location within your home for meditation, quiet contemplation, ritual, ceremony, prayer, divination, yoga, and more.
Picking A Space
To create an altar you need to make room and clear some space for the altar in your home. You can have this altar anywhere. Follow your intuition on where you should locate it. Some trial and error will occur in the beginning. Clear a dedicated area of your home such as a room, a corner, a table, the shelf of a bookcase or a window sill that will be solely used for this spiritual purpose. This is important because you are committing to allocating a space for Spirit. Some people do not recommend that you have an altar in your bedroom. I believe that you can have the altar in any space you are guided to. If your altar is not meant to be in a certain space, you will receive guidance on moving it once you start working with it.
Choosing Items for your Altar
Choosing items for your altar should be done with great care and consideration. Choose items that you connect with. If you are a Christian you can have images, artefacts or statues of Jesus, Mother Mary, Virgin Mary or some angles for example. If you are into Yoruba spirituality you can have artefacts that represent the different Orishas such as Shango, Oshun, Yemoja and Oya. And if you are into Kemetic spirituality you could include artefacts that represent Horus, Sekhmet, Auset or Ra. The items you choose will depend on the energy you want to invoke. In addition, you can change the items on your altar if you feel like you have lost connection with them after a while. Your altar is uniquely you so only place items that resonate with you.
The most basic symbolism for an altar are the four elements – combined with Spirit. The elements are fire, water, air and earth. Spirit is the fifth element and is the life force that animates all that is living.
- Earth: For this, you should include something straight from nature. You can have one or more of the following items: Crystals, flowers, shells, tree cuttings, soil, leaves, roots, branches, dried herbs, stones, or an image or artwork of something symbolising nature. This element is associated with nature, feeling ‘grounded’, security and material well-being and carries feminine energy.
- Air: Burn some incense or sage to bring this element onto your altar. You may also use natural incense, white sage, feathers or images or artwork of birds, the cloud and the sky. Air represents knowledge and the power of the mind. It is also a symbol of courage and is related to masculine energy.
- Fire: This can be achieved through lighting candles or having images or artwork of the sun. The colours you choose for the candles will depend on what kind of energy you what to bring to the altar. Candles come in many colors, each having a specific attribute. It might be best to use white or natural colors in the beginning. Fire represents creative energy, inspiration, strong will and sexuality. It is traditionally associated with Yang energy.
- Water: This is self-explanatory. Place a glass of water. Make sure it’s in a glass not plastic container. Sea shells, water fountains and images or artwork of the ocean, fish, or seaweed can also be used. This element signifies emotions, intuition, healing and reflecting, and it is associated with Yin energy.
Arranging your Altar
Your altar doesn’t have to please anyone but you, so make sure that you are choosing how to set up your altar based on what you like. Place everything with intention. Intend for each item to represent the spiritual realm and to invoke specific energies. Intend for the altar itself to be a powerful, sacred place for you. When placing the items intend what each item represents to you or the energy you wish to bring. For example, when placing a statue of one of the deities you can ask that the energy of that deity protects the space and guides you through your spiritual practice. Or invoke the energy that the specific deity is associated with.
It’s also a good idea to place the objects so the elements correspond with their directions, or in a circle with spirit in the centre. The four directions would be: Fire – South; lower right corner; Water -West; upper left corner; Air – East; upper right corner; and Earth – North; in the lower left corner with spirit.
It’s important to keep your altar clean. It’s not there to hold used cups, your keys or spare pieces of paper. Don’t allow dust to cover it. Dedicating that space solely to spirit is a powerful tool to keep you reminded to keep your spirit clean too. If you are neglecting your altar, ask yourself if you are neglecting your spiritual life and practices.
Working with your altar
- Take some time each day to sit at your altar, putting your attention on God/Spirit/the Creator, through your heart, your prayers, gratitude, meditation and intentions. When you sit you can burn incense and play music to assist you in going inward to connect to your intuition and to your higher self. When you are quiet and focused, you begin to open to the messages and healing energies that God has for you.
- Enter into prayer mindfully. Light your candle, and send your prayers to the Universe in your mind, in your heart, and in your words. Pray gratefully with an earnest heart, opening to the love and gifts available to you. Visualize your prayers as not only heard, but already answered.
- Each morning, light a candle on your altar. This is energetically symbolic of your connection and communication with God. Thank the universe for another day and ask your angels, your guides, your ancestors to guide and protect you throughout the rest of the day.
- Grab your crystals and sit in front of your altar. Take 5 to 10 minutes to meditate, pray or recite your mantras or affirmations. This simply practice begins your day with a dedication to something larger than yourself.
Altars are used, recognised and take many forms in different spiritual practices eg Christianity, Bhuddism and Hinduism. Since I stopped going to church and practising Christianity, having an altar in my home has been a way for me to dedicate a space and time for my own spiritual practice. Its the space where I place my vision board, my gratitude list, my full moon and new moon intentions and my prayers. It has greatly assisted my in my spiritual growth, my meditation practice, communicating with my guides and my connection to God.