How To Create A Sacred Altar For Meditation, Magic & Ritual

how to create a sacred altar
Photo by Sarah Brown - Unsplash

A few years ago, I found myself wondering how to create a sacred altar. I was meditating every morning, journaling, practicing a lot more yoga, and becoming increasingly interested in the divine feminine, witches’ work, and magic.

I had a beautiful morning ritual that would ground and center me for the day ahead. And I loved it (still do). But I wanted the space around me to reflect the beauty and magic that I was conjuring and feeling on the inside.

And that’s how I found my way to creating a sacred altar.

So, what exactly is a sacred altar?

A sacred altar is a physical space that has been used since the beginning of time for meditation, spell work, and worship.

Wondering how to make a spiritual altar?

Making a spiritual altar doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated. Your altar can be as simple or as extravagant as you choose. The most important thing is it’s a true representation of you and your unique soul and spirit.

An altar is a sacred space for you to reconnect with yourself throughout the day. Some use their altar as a focus for their personal practice while meditating, casting spells, or doing yoga. Some use it to invoke a certain feeling, channel energy, or commune with a source or a divine deity. Others will use their altar during new moon or full moon rituals to let go of anything that needs releasing, to set new intentions, and to celebrate. Creating an altar for meditation and mindfulness practices is also common.

It’s completely up to you, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The most important thing to remember is it should feel authentic and beautiful to you.

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Here’s how to create a sacred altar

how to set up a spiritual altar

1. Setting up an altar in your home: Choose a location

The first thing to do when creating a spiritual altar is to choose a location for it.

Some popular locations include a coffee or side tabletop, a bedside table, a window ledge, a shelf, inside a draw or cupboard.

Some people like to use large pieces of wood to create the base of their sacred altar, which can often be quite pricey. But getting inventive can be just as effective. You could use an old shoebox or woven basket, a glass jar or tin, or even a storage crate.

Your altar can be as small or as grand as you like. Some people choose to devote an entire room to their sacred altar, while others house their altar in a small box which they keep at the back of their cupboard. This is a great option for anyone who lives with other people and wants to keep their altar private.

And for those of you who travel often, creating an altar in a small, movable container is a great idea.

How to set up a spiritual altar: think about what feels right for you.

If you enjoy doing your practice with lots of natural light, consider placing your altar near a window. Or, if you love practicing outdoors, then perhaps there’s somewhere you can keep your altar outdoors—as long as it’s protected from the elements and offers privacy.

Deciding on a direction

Many people—including witches—like to position their altar to allow them to face north while practicing. Others choose to set their altars up facing east or west to weave in the sun’s rising or setting. While some choose to create and position their sacred altar based on which one of the four elements they resonate with most.

  • North = Earth
  • East = Air
  • South = Fire
  • West = Water

You might choose to ignore the positioning of your altar altogether. This is completely up to you, and very much a personal choice.

2. Select sacred objects for your altar

how to create a sacred altar

All the objects I’ve outlined below are just ideas for you to pick and choose from as you wish. There are no must-haves or must-dos.

You might already have some of these items around your house to include in your altar, and you might want to purchase one or two things that you feel really connected to. But there’s zero need to drop a load of cash! Make do with what you have, or get your thrift on and see what you can rustle together.

When purchasing objects, the most important thing is to be selective in where and who you’re buying from. Try and buy objects that have been made sustainably, with love and harmony, because this energy will seep into your altar.

And remember building a spiritual altar you love and feel connected to takes time. You don’t need to complete it in one day. Over time, you will likely add to it, collecting various objects from your travels and playing around with them to see what feels most powerful for you.

A Scarf or Cloth

A simple piece of fabric, cloth, or a scarf is often used to create a homemade sacred altar base. This is a great way to cover an old table or uninspiring surface and begin transforming it into something magical.

If you don’t have an old scarf or piece of fabric to use, head to a thrift store or an inexpensive fabric store and pick out a color or print that you feel called to.

An Athame

An athame is used in many Wiccan and Pagan traditions and is simply a knife or blade used during rituals and ceremonies. It can be used for spells, energy work, cutting plants and herbs, and much more. If you don’t have one, you could upcycle an old kitchen knife or use a slightly different tool.

A writer might place a pen on her altar to symbolize her craft. An artist might choose an old paintbrush. You’re free to use any implement you like and personalize and embellish it to your own taste.

A Cauldron or Chalice

creating a spiritual altar

A mini-cauldron can be used for spell work and is also the perfect place to burn incense, herbs, or even scraps of paper during a ritual.

A chalice does a similar job and is often a type of vase or bowl filled with herbs, flowers, or water, which is why many people will choose one or the other for their altar.

I love this Triple Goddess Moon offering copper bowl and this heart-shaped rose quartz crystal bowl.

Candles

Wondering how to set up a meditation altar? A singular candle is all you need to infuse the sacred into your practice.

Different colored and scented candles will often be used for various rituals and spells. Some women like to use a particular candle on the new moon and a different one at full moon. But the best thing to do when choosing candles is to go for the ones you’re drawn to.

You’ve probably got quite a few candles lying around your house already. But if not, opt for candles that fit into the space you’re working with. Tea light candles are a great option for smaller spaces, or you might even want to have a go at making your own candles!

I now only buy candles (mostly from Etsy) made with soy wax or make my own because they’re much better for your own health and the planet. But this again is a personal choice.

Incense

Incense is most commonly used before beginning any kind of ritual or practice as a way to cleanse the space and purify the air around you. Sage and palo santo are favored for cleansing, purifying, and clearing negative energy or spirits. I also have an Abalone shell for smudging.

You might also want to burn an incense of your choice during your whole practice. While living in Bali, every time I attended a group meditation or yoga practice, our teacher would begin by lighting some incense. This would burn on an altar throughout our class together and helped create a sacred, ritualized space.

Essential Oils

Pouring a couple of drops of essential oil into a diffuser is another way to purify your space before beginning your practice. And it’s also less messy than incense.

I also love essential oils to rub into my skin, evoke or channel a feeling, or add to a chalice of water as an offering or a blessing.

A Wand

A traditional wand was always made out of wood, but this is your altar, so I invite you to pick a wand that feels most magical to you.

You could use a fallen branch as a wand—just make sure it has dried out and is hard enough to avoid breaking. Alternatively, you might opt for something more modern, like a selenite wand.

And if a wand doesn’t feel right to you, feel free to skip it. Remember, your mission is to create a sacred altar that aligns and vibrates with you.

Minerals, Crystals & Rocks

how to create a sacred altar

All minerals, crystals, and rocks possess different properties. They can be used for various rituals and spells or to simply invoke a particular energy or feeling.

Apart from in new-age shops, these can also be found naturally in different parts of the earth—you just need to know where to look.

If you’re new to crystals, instead of getting overwhelmed by all the different types and meanings, I recommend going for one you instinctively feel drawn to. Trust that whichever one your heart picks is the one you need.

And if you’re someone who has a lot of crystals—and not enough space to display them all on your altar—find another box or basket that you can keep underneath or near your altar. Store all your extra crystals and other objects in there.

Plants & Flowers

There’s something special about having a living plant in your altar space. Plants literally breathe oxygen into your space and new life into your practice. They symbolize health, vitality, and grounding.

If you’ve chosen to create a sacred altar on a window ledge or somewhere with lots of natural light flowing through, then this is perfect for a plant to live and grow. If not, you could always take a few cuttings from a plant or grab some fresh flowers, pop them into some water instead; and replenish them as often as needed.

Dried Herbs & Spices

The best herbs and spices have been grown and picked organically. So if you know how to forage, you might wander around your local area and see what you can find. Or, if you enjoy gardening (and you’re lucky enough to have one), you could plant a few of your own.

A wide variety of herbs and spices are used in spells and rituals and often have ancient healing properties that can be used to soothe and heal diseases.

You can find small vials and jars to store and organize all your dried herbs, flower petals, and plants, ready for when you need them.

Jewelry

You probably own pieces of jewelry that you were drawn to because of the powerful feeling they conjure when you look at them and wear them. Rings, pendant or crystal necklaces, rosary beads, talismans, ornate brooches, earrings, and bracelets.

If you have a piece of jewelry you love that makes you feel a certain way that you want to feel more of, then placing it on your altar can work wonders.

I always keep my eye open for new pieces of jewelry that speak to me when traveling, wandering through market stalls, and perusing in boutiques off the beaten track.

Drawings & Crafts

While working with Christine Arylo, I learned how to create a vision altar, a piece of art filled with my heart and soul desires for the year. And this is something I love to place on my altar.

Seeing your art every day can help bring your intentions and wishes to life and is a beautiful way to decorate your sacred space in a very personal way.

If you don’t have any drawings or art of your own, then you can always include a piece of someone else’s art that speaks to you. Sometimes, I like writing out a quote or one of my own affirmations and placing it somewhere on my altar.

If this all feels a little overwhelming, I’d recommend you create a sacred altar by selecting no more than five objects. An altar is more about the quality and intention of your objects rather than the quantity of them.

Other objects you might want to include in your altar:

  • Objects symbolizing all four elements (earth, air, fire & water)
  • Photos
  • Statues or figurines of deities (Goddesses, angels, fairies, etc.)
  • A pentagram tile
  • Tarot cards or an oracle deck
  • Handwritten notes or mantras
  • A mirror (this is great for creating light & abundance)
  • Money
  • Anything else that is significant to you

3. How to create a sacred altar: Make it personal to you

how to create a sacred altar

You’ll find many lists on the internet and in books that give you all the meanings of different crystals, herbs, candles, and tarot cards. But I often find so many different meanings for one item, which can leave you feeling confused about what an object represents to you.

And when you’re confused or have too many meanings for something, it will often dilute all of those properties or create a pull in the energy you’re channeling.

By all means, check out the various meaning on the web, but what I’m saying is don’t rely completely on them. Instead, look to your own life and find your own personal symbols that mean something to you.

Here’s an example. If one of your intentions is to attract more money into your life and feel more abundant, then think about what feels most abundant to you.

Maybe there’s an object in your home that creates this feeling for you. It could be a piece of jewelry, a crystal, or some kind of trinket box. Or maybe a handwritten check for $1 million or a $100 bill will do the job. You might want to include a photo of a physical item like your dream home, car, or even a designer handbag you love.

This is how to create a sacred altar that is totally personal to you. It’s all about your intention. This is how you make a wildly magical altar.

4. Time to assemble your altar

Once again, there are absolutely no rules when it comes to setting up a spiritual altar and combining all your elements.

Go crazy, have fun with it, and just play. Move things around, experiment, and see what you like. You won’t know until you try different layouts out.

You’ll know you’ve created your dream sacred altar when it:

  • Makes you feel the way you want to feel
  • Makes you want to spend time at it
  • Reminds you of your soul desires and intentions
  • Helps you direct and channel your energy

If you need some inspiration for how to create a spiritual altar, I recommend checking out Instagram and Pinterest. They are both full of stunning altar inspo that will get you super excited to make yours!

5. Practice

The more consistently you show up each day, sit in your sacred space, and work with your altar, the more you will receive from it.

But you have to show up and do your practice. And hopefully, now that you’ve created such a beautiful space for yourself, you’ll want to spend as much time as you possibly can here.

Even if you can only devote five minutes to meditating, reflecting, journaling, or some gentle yoga, that’s so much better than nothing.

And remember, this is a practice. So don’t be hard on yourself or wonder why you haven’t manifested everything you want from your altar in the first week, or month, or even a year.

The truth is, it doesn’t work this way. You’ll often find your way to things or receive opportunities that are slightly different from what you asked for, but they’re what you need at that time. And just like meditation, the benefits will often be gradual and unnoticeable at first.

So I urge you to keep going. Melt and deepen into your practice, and see where it takes you.

I usually light the candles on my altar first thing in the morning before I meditate, leave them burning the whole day (except when I go out) then blow them out before I sleep. This gives me a gentle reminder throughout the day to return to myself, to return to peace and stillness.

6. Cleanse your sacred space regularly

how to set up a meditation altar

Your sacred altar is essentially your temple. When it’s clean and organized, it functions at its best. But when it’s left to gather dust and negative energy, this will affect the intentions, rituals, and spells you’re creating. So don’t create your sacred altar, then forget about it for the rest of time! Give it regular love and attention. Like a plant, it needs tending to and nourishing.

Some people will clean the whole room before setting up their altar, use salt water to scrub the walls, and purify every part. Others will regularly burn sage or palo santo (like I mentioned above) to cleanse the energy and remove any negative spirits.

Do what feels right for you, and whatever helps your altar space feel like a sacred temple.

7. And finally: have gratitude

When it comes to any kind of ritual, spell work, or intention setting, many of us constantly focus on what we can receive.

But we forget gratitude, which is actually one of the most important parts of inviting more of whatever you want into your life. Because when you focus on everything you already have and all that you’re thankful for, that helps create more of an abundance feeling.

So don’t forget to regularly give thanks as you sit at your altar. You might do this at the end of each ritual or once a week, whatever feels right to you.

This is a wonderful way to show your appreciation to the divine and create a beautiful flow of energy and partnership between you.

And that’s how to create a sacred altar of your own.

A few things to remember:

  • Create a sacred altar that is personal to you
  • Trust your intuition, and always do what feels right to you
  • Have fun with it
  • Remember that your altar will always be evolving with you.

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