How to Make a Wicca Altar on a Dollar Store Budget
Can You 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.
Wiccan Altar on a $20 Budget
I challenged myself to 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—in this case, that was $20.
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.
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 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.
The Kitchenware SectionClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
It's Coming Together!Click thumbnail to view full-size
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 wood, 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!
Finally, An Athame and a Wand (Well, Potentially)Click thumbnail to view full-size
My Wicca Dollar Store Haul
What I Did 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.
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.
Ta-Dah! A Homemade Athame!
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.
This little dollar store altar worked just great, and it can work for you, too!
My Budget Wiccan Altar From the Dollar Store
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2015 Mackenzie Sage Wright