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I am a big believer in the power of an altar to help anchor and focus attention, intention, prayer and appreciation. I often recommend them as tools for clients as well creating them for my own use.
Altars are sacred spaces that we create within ordinary space. They are a way to connect tangibly with your spirituality, both as portal and sanctuary. They can be used for prayer, meditation, ritual or as a way to connect to or assimilate beauty, the sacred, an aspect of yourself or the world, or an intention or goal.
I have had an altar placed centrally in my home for over 25 years. I had to train my family not to set things on it. Now no one touches Mom's altar (mostly….) Its content changes often. It's often a celebration of the season, reminding me to be present to the lessons and beauty of the current time in nature. Sometimes it's a simple bouquet of flowers or a single candle. In these, the space is as much a part of it as the physical elements.
My altar has also focused on memorials to loved ones, invoking specific prayers, focusing specific intentions, protection, or building the energies of hope, strength, power, joy, etc. Occasionally it's a tableau that makes me smile (e.g. stuffed animals doing silly things). Right now it contains a couple of feathers found on a recent hike with family, a beautiful gift from my brother and sister-in-law and a plant in a pewter bowl acquired on a trip I took some years ago with my husband. I didn't intentionally create it with a specific theme or purpose in mind, but when I stop to think about it, it celebrates love of family and the natural world.
I also create an altar any time I do a ritual. These are usually more elaborate and include an altar cloth and directional symbols.
Altars work very well as energetic tools for people who are strongly visual. For appropriate clients, I've recommended them for a wide variety of things, including:
Basically, anything goes. It's your dedicated creative space, liberating and empowering, which is part of its value. Your altar can be
I'd say the only strong recommendations I have are:
The sky's the limit, but to get you started, here are some ideas for things you might want to put on your altars:
Flowers, candles, sacred objects, stones, crystals, statues, figurines, herbs, incense, plants that are sacred to you, pictures, symbols for the directions, natural objects, poems and books. Once I used a pile of fresh, fragrant earth as a central element in an altar. (It worked in its context!)
You may want to use a beautiful cloth as the basis for the
rest of the elements.
You get energy and connection to the spiritual realm from your altar every time you look at it or walk by it.
But it is also good to take some more formal, ceremonial time to interact and work with its energy. Regularly set aside time to sit at your altar. Allow it to help you get still, center on Spirit and focus your attention, prayers, gratitude and intention. Light candles or incense, if they're part of the altar. Open to energetic shifts/healing and intuitive messages. Send prayers or healing. Be receptive to outcomes beyond what you can imagine or hope for.
Again, altars don't have to be elaborate, so try creating one to see if this practice resonates with you. I hope you love working with them as much as I do.