Altar Set-Up for Beginners and Witches on a Budget
Altars for Beginners and Budgets
If you are new to paganism, witchcraft, or Wicca, and looking to set up an altar in your home, you've come to the right place. First of all, let me start by saying, you do NOT have to have anything elaborate, expensive, or flashy as an altar or altar tools. Your altar is a part of YOUR sacred space and can look or contain anything you feel connected to. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Often when someone is just coming to the path, they have an urge to go out and buy a special table for their altar, special tools, and other trinkets. Unfortunately, many of us are on a budget and cannot afford all of the items we may see on the pretty Pinterest photos of other pagans' altars and homes. Don't fret. You don't need to spend a ton of money. In fact, most of what you can put on your altar can be found in nature or in your own home. Or can be purchased for very cheap.
Also, don't feel you have to dedicate an entire room to your new faith. It is not necessary. Some of us don't have the space for this nor do we have the time to keep it all up and clean. Or perhaps you have children or animals that might get into your sacred space and knock things over, mix things around, etc. In this article, we will learn the simplest and most effective way to set up an altar, whether you are a beginner or a pagan on a budget.
Items You Can Find In Nature by Element
Pagan/Witch Altars on the Cheap
First, you have to figure out the best location for your altar. Most often you can select the top of a table already in your home. This could be your nightstand, the top of a buffet or china cabinet, a small wall shelf or even your kitchen counter! Let's say you don't even have room to do this or you don't want to practice openly with people in your household. No problem! There is such a thing as a "travel altar", which can be a basket or box that can be stored under your bed or in your closet (wherever) and taken out only when you want to practice. The Divine/Gods/Universe do not care where your altar is, as long as you are trying to make that connection.
Some kitchen witches and pagans use their kitchen counter as a means of an altar. They might add kitchen witch dolls, photos of their ancestors, kitchen tools (wooden spoons, knives, etc), and more to their kitchen altar. This is simply tailoring their practice to meet their own interests and needs. This is just an example of the creativity and joy behind setting up an altar.
Some witches and pagans use their nightstands as altars. They may place a couple crystals, a photo of their deities/guides, things from nature, and more on their nightstand and use it as an altar. Again, your creativity is limitless and you can use whatever you feel will work for you at the time.
Once you've figured out where you want your altar to be, you can then decide what you want on your altar. Remember, you can change your altar any time you'd like to. Some witches/pagans change their altars with the seasons, holidays, or as they feel. Some change it with the lunar phases. This all depends on what you feel is right.
You don't need anything expensive or flashy on your altar. Some witches/pagans might have a huge set-up altar including fancy crystals, expensive wands, swords, staffs, bells, and more. None of this is necessary for you to practice your faith/spirituality. I recommend starting by adding items representing the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Again, many of these things you can find in nature or right in your own home!
- Altar Items For Earth: stones/rocks, branches, dried herbs, dried flowers, soil, live/false plants, photos/artwork of nature, etc.
- Altar Items For Air: feathers, incense, pictures/drawings of birds and things that fly, representations of clouds and the sky, etc.
- Altar Items For Fire: candles, pictures/representation of fire and/or the sun, ashes, etc.
- Altar Items For Water: seashells, driftwood, sea glass, sand, a mirror, a bowl/cup of water, water fountains, pictures/representations of the ocean / ocean creatures, fish, seaweed, etc.
If you can't find certain items in nature or around your house and you really want a specific item, you can always hit up your local thrift stores and dollar stores. Often thrift stores will have cups, bowls, and plates that can be used as candle holders or offering bowls as well as to hold elements like water or soil. Dollar stores usually have packs of candles, oils, fake flowers and foliage, seasonal décor, and more for a dollar or very cheap!
If you don't have any natural items, you simply need to go outside! By opening yourself up to nature and listening to what Mother Earth has to say, you will often find these items will present themselves to you! For instance, perhaps you take a walk and find a feather or a triple-leafed twig. Maybe you notice a beautiful pine cone or a bunch of acorns on the ground. All of these things can be gathered and used on your altar. It pulls in that beautiful elemental energy that you can't find in a store! And they are totally free. Just remember to thank Mother Earth for her gifts to you and never take more than what you need.
An altar can be as simple as a small shelf in your bedroom with a candle, a seashell, a stone, and a feather. Don't over-complicate it.— Nicole Canfield
For a very simple altar set up, and one that can be put away if need be, check out the photo to the right. As you can see, I laid out a green altar cloth that was given to me as a gift. Then I placed a mirror and two pieces of coral in the West, representative of the element water. The triple-goddess leaves and stones were positioned in the North to represent Earth, the fairy figurine and feather in the East to represent Air, and a candle to the South to represent Fire, of course. In the middle, I placed my new Goddess figurine, as well as a gold pin to represent the God. Unfortunately, if you don't have anything to represent the male divine, use whatever you feel will work! You can also use an acorn or some sort of golden candle to represent the God. Also, don't forget you can always print off pictures from online to represent whatever god and goddess you want to work with.
Your altar is your sacred space. It is a place for you to honor your spirituality and your personal path. It by no means has to look exactly like mine or like any other altar you see online. You can put whatever you want on it that encourages and inspires your spirituality. Feel free to remove/add/change your altar at any time you wish. If you can't keep it up all of the time, store it away and bring it out when you have personal time.
© 2011 Nicole Canfield