An Altar is a Spiritual Home
Week 1 (A): altars
When I read my first pagan book (Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham) almost fifteen years ago, the first thing I wanted to do was set up my altar. I had been searching for a spiritual home when I discovered that book (or rather, when that book discovered me), and an altar sounded like a good way to start building one. I’d tried churches but none of them seemed to fit. I needed a spirituality that was more personal and less about other people.
My first altar was a rickety card table in dusty blue, with a slightly padded top and sturdy metal legs. I didn’t like the idea of altar cloths, for fear I would spill something on it. I scoured thrift stores for a matched set of gold and silver candleholders, offering bowls that were neither grand nor entirely plain, and a cauldron. My first cauldron was a gigantic cast iron affair that I still occasionally use today for banishing rituals. That cauldron was hiding in a dusty corner of an antique shop in foggy northern California. I no longer have the matched candlesticks or offering bowls, but I still have the same wand I made when I was 13.
Today, my altar looks like this.
That piece of furniture is from Ikea, with two sturdy drawers and one cabinet. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I turned it right side up, fully assembled by my hands alone. Inside the drawers and cabinet are the various implements that are important to my craft. I have stacks of candles, tarot cards, old flower crowns that were worn for previous sabbats, half finished spells, etc. Things are piled a bit precariously, but I can see a sort of order in the chaos. It works for me.
Occasionally the crystals atop the altar shift around and the candles change, but things generally stay in their places (save when the kitties decide to explore). My altar is both workspace and shrine, a daily reminder of my devotion to the Goddess. It is, as I suggested, my spiritual home. Wherever I’m living never quite feels like home until my altar is set up. Then I light a candle and invite the Goddess into my home, with the altar serving as her home in addition to my own.