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How to Make a Wicca Altar on a Dollar Store Budget

Updated on April 15, 2016
WiccanSage profile image

A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

Wicca on a Budget

Cheap Wiccan supplies aren't as hard to come by as you might think. You don't need to go to specialty shops and drop a bundle on expensive tools and supplies, when you can get them in your own neighborhood discount shops.

Not that you need to get anything at all-- the only thing you really need to practice Wicca is your own relationship with your Gods. Anytime there is an interest in the world (be it a religion, politics, hobby, etc.) there's going to be a market that caters to it. There are some wonderful Wiccan specialty shops. If you can afford it, it can be nice to buy stuff sometimes, to support our community business owners or to decorate your home or treat yourself. Nothing wrong with buying a full set of expensive tools. But don't get it into your head that you need to buy stuff you can't afford.

Tools are a meaningful part of ritual, though. You might want to incorporate at least some basic tools into your practice. It doesn't have to be expensive to get a simple altar set up, and I will prove it to you.

*All photos in this article copyright WiccanSage

Wiccan Altar on a $20 Budget

Wicca on a shoestring.
Wicca on a shoestring.

The Challenge:

Go to a random dollar store and create a basic yet complete Wiccan ritual altar set-up on a shoestring budget.

The first thing I had to do was set a budget, of course. I decided to go with something small but reasonable...

Thrifty Wiccan Altar Budget

I chose $20 because it's a nice, round number. It's obtainable (even for someone who can only stash away a buck or two a week). And it's what I happened to have in my bag when I opened it to look.
I chose $20 because it's a nice, round number. It's obtainable (even for someone who can only stash away a buck or two a week). And it's what I happened to have in my bag when I opened it to look. | Source

The Shopping List

So the challenge began one Sunday afternoon in May. I made a list of the things I want for my altar. So I scratch down a list:

  • A Goddess representative (figurine, candle, picture, etc.)
  • A God representative (figurine, candle, picture, etc.)
  • An athame (ritual knife, preferably metal)
  • A cup/chalice (preferably glass, ceramic, etc.)
  • A wand (preferably wood)
  • A pentacle
  • Incense (stick or cone) to represent the Element of Air
  • A censer of some sort for burning incense
  • Something to represent the Element of Earth (salt, stones, etc.)
  • A bowl to hold the Earth representative
  • A small container to hold water to represent the Element of Water
  • A candle to represent the Element of Fire (preferably red)
  • Altar decorations with what's left

I plan to be flexible, but I don't want to forget anything. The list should keep me on track.

Already on the ride, the wheels in my head are turning (I could tell because it smelled like something was burning). 'I'll see if they have one of these and I bet they have some of those' kinds of thoughts are running through my mind. This is going to be a snap!

I get to the store, $20 bill burning a hole in my pocket, and... the store was half empty.

Wow, is it going out of business? I'm thinking, but the clerk tells me no. They just had a mad rush. The shelves are half empty... which only adds to my challenge.

But I'm ready for it.

The Kitchenware Section

Nothing good here.
Nothing good here.
There's some potential here.
There's some potential here.
Hey, score!
Hey, score!

The Search Begins

My search started off a bit slowly because I must admit, I was knocked for a bit of a loop at the state of the store. But I had confidence that I could reach my goal.

I started looking for an athame-- but I wasn't really crazy about the kind of knives they had-- they were a little too sharp and dangerous. Plus, they had plastic handles. I just don't feel right having plastic tools on my altar. I decide right there, I'm going to avoid plastic.

Well, since the knives aren't that stellar, maybe I can try letter openers in the stationary section, or see what they have in tools.

While I'm in the kitchen section, I turn around and see the glassware. I'm weighing a martini glass in one hand and a wine glass in the other. That's when I notice a cute, glass, spiraled ice cream cup on a short blue stem. That's just what I need-- and it's the only one there! So I grab my new chalice.

Then I turn around and see some trivets. Most of them have fruits and veggies, roosters and other kitchen designs, but shuffling around through them, my heart leaps up! I just found a new pentacle!

Okay, so it doesn't have a pentagram on it-- but pentacles are representatives of the element of Earth, and this-- with the image and the sturdy square shape -- will work perfectly!

Now I'm excited.

It's Coming Together!

Do you see what I see?
Do you see what I see?
Oye, vey. Slim pickins, but we'll make something work.
Oye, vey. Slim pickins, but we'll make something work.
Now there's some artistic inspiration...
Now there's some artistic inspiration...
Okay, I can improvise an altar cloth.
Okay, I can improvise an altar cloth.

Moving On...

In the glassware section, I also found a cute little oval-shaped glass bowl for holding the Element of Water, and then I passed through the bath section where I spotted something that would do nicely to hold the Element of Earth.

I grabbed some blue marbles to put in the water bowl as a representation of the Element of Water (I don't like to leave water on the altar in an open bowl, I only fill it during ritual then empty it), and some kosher salt to represent the Element of Earth.

I couldn't find any figurines that would remotely do as God or Goddess representations, so I decided to go with some simple candles. The section that held candles and incense were quite sparse, however. No glass pillar candles as I had hoped. I opted for two glass plate holders and a package of white votives. I did find a small red glass-encased candle-- Element of Fire representative, present and accounted for.

I chose some stick incense (they didn't have cones), but there were no incense holders anywhere. What to do, what to do? I thought to myself, gazing around. Then I saw a tall, narrow glass taper holder.

That'll work, I thought, and grabbed it.

Heading down the isle I passed a craft and stationary section. A few things caught my eye, so I stuffed them into my basket. I hadn't had any luck in finding cloth tablecloths or interesting place mats, but the birthday bags were big and pretty. I could use one of them as a paper 'altar cloth' of sorts.

I also saw a little black notebook. Hmmmm, I thought to myself. If I were a new Wiccan, that might be a good little start for a book of shadows-- something small that'll fit in my purse, where I could jot down notes and questions before I committed to a bigger, more expensive book.

So I grabbed it-- and some gel pens as well, for writing in it. I like to keep a special set of pens aside for my BOS.

A Mini Book of Shadows!

That's pretty cute!
That's pretty cute!

Finally, An Athame and a Wand (Well, Potentially)

It just might work...
It just might work...

Wrapping It Up

So I have most of what I need by now and have grabbed a few miscellaneous decorations to boot, but I'm still short two very important items: my athame, and my wand.

There were no letter openers in the stationary section, and would you believe that I went up and down every isle in that store twice and could not find anything made of wood!!! I hoped to find something wooden-- a dowel, a hanger with a wooden bar, a kitchen tool with a wooden handle, a toy, a back scratcher... something! EVERYTHING is plastic! ARGGH!

Then I find the hardware section. I hoped to find a wooden-handle putty knife or something, but no. Nothing but sharp razor-like tools. I'm too clumsy to keep sharp knives out in the open.

But then I spot it-- some wire. I get creative inspiration, and I grab it.

I'd just about given up on finding a wand. Plastic, plastic everywhere, and not a speck of wood. Not that I need a plastic-free altar, but I certainly want to keep it at a minimum.

I'm stumped... maybe I can cheat and just go hunting through the park. It is free, after all, right? I mean, my own wand that I'd been using the last 15 years, and the one I used before that, were both just wooden branches found under trees.

Still, I couldn't help but feel that I'd somehow failed the mission by not finding a wand. Then as I passed the craft section one last time, something caught my eye: pencils! Pencils are wood; I might not know what kind of woods, but they do have graphite! Graphite is a mineral with properties that help you take command, that are used in communication, stimulating the mind, healing and aligning the chakras!

I grab a whole package of pencils. Now I have enough for 10 wands! I can make a wand for all occasions if I want! But one will do for now...

Looking around the store, I realize that there are a lot of sections someone could raid for stuff to use on the altar: silk flowers, seed packets (4 packets for $1! I might have to go back!), garden décor, flower pots and decorative boxes to hold your magical treasures, glass and rock pebbles, inspirational greeting cards... there is definitely a lot more to work with in the dollar store than I even thought about before my journey.

I happily paid at the register-- $20 on the nose, not including tax!

Some Other Ideas I Passed On

I could have made any of these work, too.
I could have made any of these work, too.

Here's My Haul:

I'm very happy with what I've found.
I'm very happy with what I've found.

Back Home

So I take home and survey all my goodies. I've still got a little work ahead of me, though. Not everything is quite altar ready.

So I take my glitter paints and do a little decorating. On one of my candle plates, I make a triple moon symbol in silver (for the Goddess candle), and I make a gold sun symbol on the other (for the God).

I also used glitter paint to decorate the fire candle and the cover of my Book of Shadows. Sweet!

I'd picked up a glass bottle with a cork. I planned to use it for blessed water or oils or herbal infusions. I like to keep these on my altar for blessing myself or thinks or to sprinkle around for cleansings. I wrote 'blessing potion' on it with the silver glitter pen. I'll fill it later with a brew made of herbs in my pantry steeped in some moon-blessed water.

I put some of the salt into the tall, skinny taper glass. Then I used it to hold a couple of incense sticks. The salt holds the sticks up so they don't touch the glass or fall over.

I selected a golden pencil from the pencil pack and removed the eraser. I topped it off with some gold glitter glue; I could use a tiny quarts, acorn, seashell or something, too-- the hollow space left by the eraser allows for a lot of potential to fasten something in.

I filled my Earth dish with some salt and my Water dish with bluish marbles. I set the whole thing up.

Ta-Dah! A Homemade Athame!

One Last Thing...

Wondering what I did with the wire? It became my athame!

This actually would work pretty well for someone who could not have a real blade, such as teens who aren't allowed to buy or keep daggars in their rooms, parents who don't want to leave an athame lying around for young children to get their hands on, people going to public parks or living in door rooms or anywhere that a real blade might be illegal.

I just braided the wire and shaped this. How to make one? Well, that's another hub... I plan to do some experimenting with this new idea, so look out for it! for it.

My Budget Wiccan Altar is All Set!

After a day of shopping and crafting, I've got a brand new, complete Wiccan altar, for a grand total cost of $20 (plus tax). It's more than enough for any new Wiccan starting out and looking to begin holding rituals and daily devotionals.

I cleansed and consecrated all of the tools and held a ritual with it-- a standard ritual format used in my coven's trad at Esbats and Sabbats, and a highly ceremonial one at that.

Mission accomplished!!!!

This little dollar store altar worked just great! And it can work for you, too!

My Budget Wiccan Altar from the Dollar Store:

A perfectly serviceable altar for a budget of $20. This would be a fine starter altar for anyone-- and you can build on it, improve it, add to it, etc. for years to come.
A perfectly serviceable altar for a budget of $20. This would be a fine starter altar for anyone-- and you can build on it, improve it, add to it, etc. for years to come.
Worked like a charm.
Worked like a charm.

© 2015 Mackenzie Sage Wright


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    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      This is very informative. I am already set, but I think anyone who hasn't bought items for their alter, and doesn't have a lot to spend, would find this super helpful! Thanks for taking us on your shopping adventure. You told me some things I didn't know--like the pencils! Who would have thought?! You're so clever!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      Thanks Social Thoughts; that was my intention. Glad you enjoyed the shopping trip-- pencils just hit me at the dollar store that they would suffice. Being a writer and artist who often takes pencil in hand, I don't know why I never thought of that before. LOL. Thanks for your comments.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Very interesting, indeed. I probably have enough 'stuff' around the house already. My sticking point is that I doubt I could leave a permanent setup. Why? 7 cats! ;-)

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 24 months ago

      I know what you mean, when I was younger with a bunch of friends in NYC, we rented a house from a friend and all of us had 1 or 2 cats. We called it the 'halfway house for humans and cats'. So there were I think 6 cats in the house in total, and we barely had any furniture. We were poor college students so we didn't have cable, so if we couldn't afford to rent a video we used to sit down at night and throw some toys and catnip out and just be entertained by the cats.

      I couldn't have an altar there, either. I tried making a small one for Yule, only to smell burning cat hair about 20 minutes after lighting the candles and had to break it down (he was fine-- just singed hair). I just hung up a bulletin board to put my spiritual images or messages and would focus my devotions and religious meditations on that. I'd have to go outdoors to do it in Central Park, or I'd go to open gatherings.

    • SM OBrien profile image

      Sharon OBrien 24 months ago

      Very creative! I have found many items at the dollar store. My favourite go-to trick is birthday candles for quick spells. It is fun to look at items in a new, magical way.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 24 months ago

      Thanks a lot! I just feel so bad for people sometimes who tell me they can't be Wiccan, or can't do rituals yet, or don't know where to start because they can't buy stuff. I hate to think people feel Wicca is a religion that only the elite can practice correctly. Hopefully this will dispel that myth.

    • nany717 profile image

      Natalie 24 months ago from Miami, FL

      Wow. who would have thought? This was so creative and such an enjoyable read. I love the pencil wand! Also, it was very interesting to know that something like that could be used as a pentacle. That was my favorite part.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 24 months ago

      Thanks nany, I'm glad you could find some inspiration in it! Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      Tahsiswitch 19 months ago

      I think that found items can also be a big savings for the beginning altar maker. Dollar stores are very helpful for candles and holders, but the Sally Ann and Valu Village can also give up some amazing finds. I'd ceremonially cleanse the items before using them, but waste not, want not. Reduce, reuse and recycle!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 19 months ago

      Hi Tahsiswitch, thanks for the tips. There are a lot of great values to be had out there; I like to browse the Salvation Army for candles, I find nice candles all the time for a great price. It's not always what I need at the moment, but it is a great way to stockpile. Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      Kimberly britt 19 months ago

      Thank u for all this information very helpful

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 19 months ago

      Thanks so much, Kimberly, glad you found it useful! I'm always looking for bargains, myself.

    • profile image

      NewPagan 17 months ago

      As someome who is still (very..) In the broom closest, this was awesome! I still need a few things for my altar, but this is great for ones who need to hide their craft. :)

    • profile image

      C.Druid 11 months ago

      I loved the whole article. I've done the exact same thing when I first started out building my altar. I live in a small town in south Ga, and was glad when we finally got the dollar tree. Found what I needed and built my 1st altar in 1994!

    • profile image

      AsphodelDreams 8 months ago

      I've found a lot of wine glasses, bowls, baskets, candle holders and other things that were useful for my altar at Goodwill and other recycle stores for less than $.50. I urge everyone to check them first for glassware because it's always very cheap.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 8 months ago

      Definitely AsphodelDreams, you find a lot of great stuff at thrift shops, garage sales and flea markets in addition to dollar stores. There's no need to spend a lot of money, thanks for your comment! ~Sage

    • profile image

      Anie Gonthier 4 months ago

      Thank you very much, very clear informations. Merci beaucoup!

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