How to Witchcraft: Setting up a Witch's Altar
A lot of times I get asked, "How do you start practicing witchcraft"? It's a great question, and a loaded one if you've been practicing for a while. The one place I always, always tell people to start with is setting up a home altar. It can be a beautiful, safe space to open up your heart, soul, and magick to. It's a great place to put all the shiny pretty rocks you find at the beach, or that feather that you saw walking home from work. It's a place to create magick. A place to let yourself truly be who you are. I know witches with Ru Paul candles on their altars, and witch's who simply have a bowl of rose water on a night stand. There's no rules on witch's altars, but we'll go over some suggestions and tips I've learned over the years as an independent witch, and within my coven:
In my opinion, one of the few necessities in having a magickal practice is having a dedicated space to your craft. Now this doesn't have to be some elaborate space filled with expensive items pointed at the cardinal points of the north south east and west (although by all means go for it!). But, I'd absolutely recommend having a very simple altar set up.
Having an altar or a dedicated space set up is a great way to create and connect with your practice. Especially as a beginner, getting into this practice can feel very overwhelming. But simply having and creating a dedicated space to your practice is an amazing way to start connecting with this new path. If you have a nightstand, a shelf, even a TV tray to start, those are all excellent surfaces to choose from.
A witch's altar is very personal to the individual witch or practitioner, as it is generally the space where they recharge and create their own magick in. An altar can be simple, or it can be complex. A witch can have many altar's in their own home for many different reasons. Depending on the path, some practitioners will have altars set up to different deities, different seasons, ancestors, pets, the list can go on and on. I remember when I first started practicing, I was terrified at the idea of setting up my home altar "incorrectly". Then I realized, the only way to do it wrong was to not honor myself, that's where my magick is after all!
A witch's home altar will hold sacred space. By creating a home altar, you are centralizing all of your magick in your home into one space. It's the place you feel safe, you feel comfortable in.
To begin, what do we put on our altars?
1) Altar Cloth
For starters, I enjoy using an altar cloth, some of my favorites are from amazon, this was my first one. Don't want to purchase anything just yet? The best advice I've gotten from my witchy Mentor, Taren S, is "use what you got". For your altar cloth you can use an old scarf, which I have definitely used before in the past and I have enjoyed very much so.
Witches like to burn things, so grab a few things that you can set on fire. Whether it's for meditation or candle magick, grab a few , chime candles from your local witchy shop (make sure you get a small candle holder for it as well). I also love going to the dollar store and getting those tall 3-day prayer candles. If you want to be bougie and have a nice bath a body work candle going, then go for it--it's your altar.
3) Incense and Smudge Stick
Incense is a given for any spiritualist--personally I enjoy the cone incense or the traditional stick incense, the "Indian Temple" one has been one of my favorite scent for years.. While they have some really beautiful holders for them, I find that most of the incense holders either don't burn right, or get the ash scattered everywhere (specifically the vertical standing ones). The free metal disc that comes with the cone incense has been the best for me so far as well as the horizontal holders for the incense sticks.. If you like smudge sticks, my favorite is traditional sage dipped in dragons blood, or Palo Santo.
4) Plants, Flowers and Herbs
I definitely am a little bit of a Green Witch, I love my houseplants and garden so with that said I love putting plants and fresh flowers and my Witchcraft Altars. It's pretty, it's alive (usually, haha), and full with fresh vibrant energy. Sometimes I will go to the grocery store or farmers market and buy some fresh flowers if I feel like I want special energy for my altar, but usually I'll find some from my garden, or outside when I go on spiritual walks. Pro Tip: Save the rose petals and let them dry out so you can save for a future spell or project like candle making.
4) Statues, Symbols, Trinkets
Are you working with deities yet? Probably not if you're a beginner, but if you are, if you have an image or little statue of them feel free to put it on your altar. Currently I have a Buddha and Ganesh trinket on my altar, they decorate my space nicely and have personal meaning to me. I'm often called out for being that aesthetic witch, so I simply like to make my altar feel pretty because it makes me feel good and inspires me. Do whatever speaks to you! You can put a picture of a loved one on there, or something that makes you feel inspired. Literally, the sky is the limit. Keep it simple for now, you will be changing out your altar seasonally anyways.
Crystals are great for your altar as well, I like to leave them there to charge on my altar depending on the moon cycle, and connect with them during meditations, and not gonna lie, I just like the vibe and aesthetic they add to my sacred space.. Currently my favorite for this Beltane season are Citrine, Amethyst, and Rose Quartz.
How to Use a Witch's Altar
Now you're ready to start working with your altar. I will be honest, this is going to feel VERY foreign and unfamiliar to you, potentially for quite some time. That's okay! It was for me too, I didn't quite "get" it, and it often was left abandoned and dusty until recent years where I've been able to truly cultivate and maintain my magickal practice.
So, how do you work with a Witch's Altar? If you are at this stage in your journey, I wouldn't overcomplicate it: I really just want you to get used to seeing it every day and interacting with it. Being the fire witch that I am, I'd recommend lighting a candle with intent, and sitting next to it for a few minutes. What does lighting a candle with intent mean? Just select an intention for yourself. You could say "I light this candle for inner peace", "to connect with my ancestors", "for self love". The possibilities are endless. I enjoy gazing into the candle, as it's calming and gives me a place to direct/slow my thoughts and energy.
Easy Ways to Set Up an Altar
(Find a place you feel safe and comfortable, and set up a table with a beautiful table cloth or altar cloth)
Place pictures of your ancestors with a vase of fresh flowers
Place four candles representing the four elements in their corresponding quarters, and one in the middle to represent spirit
Find a statue or picture representing the God or Goddess, or whichever deity you connect with, and surround it with herbs, candles, and oils of their preference
Create a center-piece honoring the season of the year you are currently in, changing it as the seasons go
Try to touch and connect with your altar everyday, just shut your eyes and place both hands on your altar, for just 30 seconds. Just be with it. Over time you create a bond with your altar and it actually harbors lots of energy that you can receive and feed into.
Learning how to work with your altar, and consistently working with it and connecting with it is a great, great start to your magickal practice into Witchcraft. Keep it simple, but keep it consistent. We'll get into the good stuff later!!
What are your must-haves for your altar? Let me know and share pictures! Tag me on Tik Tok or Insta when you create your sacred space @theseasonofanya until next time!