Altar Set-Up for Beginners and Witches on a Budget

Updated on March 4, 2017
kittythedreamer profile image

Kitty has been following an alternative spiritual path for seventeen years. She encourages others to follow their souls' calling.

A very simple altar set up to honor the 4 elements and deity. Best part is - you can store these items away if you aren't able to leave them out.
A very simple altar set up to honor the 4 elements and deity. Best part is - you can store these items away if you aren't able to leave them out. | Source

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

Flower Petals
Burnt Wood
Rain Water
Mortar & Pestles - $2 from a thrift store
Mortar & Pestles - $2 from a thrift store | Source
Elephant Ear - Free from Nature
Elephant Ear - Free from Nature | Source
Feather and Triple Goddess Leaves - Free!
Feather and Triple Goddess Leaves - Free!

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
Discreet Altar Set Up & Storage
Discreet Altar Set Up & Storage | Source
Books kept under my altar space
Books kept under my altar space | Source

Wrapping Up

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


Submit a Comment

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 2 months ago from Summerland

    Luna - Or you can substitute for cheaper crystals and stones. What particular gemstone?

  • profile image

    Luna Lulamoon 2 months ago

    I'm back again with another question I think I may know the answer to. Some spells require gemstones, but real ones can be rather expensive. Would imitation be okay?

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 3 months ago from Summerland

    Luna - If your room is that cluttered that there's something on every surface, you should really consider de-cluttering it. Lots of clutter prevents movement of positive energy in a small space. Once you've cleared some space, use that as your altar. And yes, the figurines would work perfectly.

  • profile image

    Luna Lulamoon 3 months ago

    I just bought a modern witchcraft book, and I’m learning about the magicks. My book led me hear, and I was wondering where the best place for an altar in a somewhat small, very cluttered room would be. And by cluttered I mean something on every surface.

    And also, would polymer clay figurines be good for representation of the four elements?

  • HoneyBee27 profile image

    Sarefina Winters 6 months ago from UK

    What is an Alter used for?

  • tritrain profile image

    And Drewson 6 months ago from United States

    Nice article! Very useful. ;)

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 6 months ago from Summerland

    ashrune2121 - yes! Absolutely!

  • Ashrune2121 profile image

    Ashrune2121 6 months ago

    Would a drawing of birds be ok for air?

  • profile image

    meep 84321 8 months ago

    im 13 and im kind of scared about researching witch craft because im also christian and im kind of scared that god will punish me but i also kind of think this stuff is cool and i want to try something simple like string magic but im scared

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 11 months ago from Summerland

    CalamityK - It's really up to you! If you feel you want the items to be separate, a tray is perfect! If not, keep it how you've kept it. I use the top of my buffet table as an altar, and no one can even tell it's an altar.

  • profile image

    CalamityK 11 months ago

    I've just started practicing and I've read so much about Altars, a lot of it conflicting. I started using my wooden chest coffee table for this purpose, sometimes leaving a few items out when its sunny as she sun shines directly onto the table, but putting most things away. Whist the items are out I still use the coffee table as a regular coffee table. I don't know whether I should be doing this or whether I should put the items onto a tray maybe so they're a little more separate? Thanks for your help :)

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 11 months ago from Summerland

    Hi Ryker - Yes, you can absolutely have altars at two places!

  • profile image

    Oakley 11 months ago

    So I am very new to Wicca and still trying to figure out how I would like my altar to be. I've ran into one question that I have yet to find an answer to. Since I am underage, I still live with my parents but they are separated so I have to switch houses often and am sometimes at one for a week at a time while other times its just on the weekends. Should I build an altar at both houses? Is it okay to have two altars? Thank you for taking your time to answer my question!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 11 months ago from Summerland

    DrJeebus - You can read anything by Scott Cunningham, particularly his book "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner". As for your altar, you can put whatever you want on it, but if you're a strict Wiccan they usually put something to represent each element on their altars.

  • profile image

    Drjeebus 11 months ago

    Hello Nicole,

    So i have always been a strong believer of energy, Chi, a universal tie we all have, what have you and i am just looking into Wiccan to see what it has to offer. I have done a good bit of research on Druidism which i'm very fond of but want to see what other similar religions and followings believe and practice. Could you reference me to some good starting places to learn a foundation of Wicca? Also, in reference to this article, from my research so far i seem to identify as Spirt(ual) and relate to all elements. Would i use a piece from all the elements in an alter or should i have the makings of each alter on hand and switch out depending on the circumstances? Any additional information you think would be useful to learn more about this religion would be very much appreciated. Thank you in advance for your assistance and time.

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 14 months ago from Summerland

    Dustin - Actually that necklace would be a wonderful way to honor your ancestors on your altar.

  • profile image

    Dustin Showers 14 months ago

    Hello, I'm new to this and have a few questions. For the male and female divine, it's kinda odd but I was looking for something for them, and I happened to be looking out the window and In my reflection I have had a necklaces on for over 10 Years the chain was given to me by my mother,and when my grandmother passed I happened to be drawn to a rose charm that I chose as a remembrance to find out Years later my mom gave the charm to my grandma when I was born and the necklace was bought for my mother by my dad and later on was given to me. I guess when I was 3 I found it and ruined my dads surprise. But would it be right because I'm still going to wear it, but it seems right if not any suggestions thank you

  • profile image

    Mel jukes 16 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing and giving us newbies some great ideas!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 16 months ago from Summerland

    Exy - It's no problem if you can't keep your altar the same or even in the same place for very long. I use a buffet table and a small accent table for altars but put away most of my magical stuff when I'm not using it just to keep it out of the little ones' hands. Spirit (God/Goddess/etc) doesn't care if you don't have a stationary altar or not. Spirit doesn't even care if you have an altar as long as you are constantly seeking connection with your higher self and spirit. Hope this helps.

  • profile image

    Exy Koroleva 17 months ago

    Hi, Nicole! This was very helpful & I loved reading, you have a great insight :) I have a question though: how do you feel about "temporary" altars? I gave barely any room in my small apartment so I cleared out a 12 in by 12 in wooden train case and lined it with fabric. Whenever I use it as an altar I move a bit of the things I have stored in it. I do like it, but it sometimes feels inadequate since it isn't very permanant. How do you feel about that and what would you do? xx

  • profile image

    julietbell 21 months ago

    Thanks so much for posting this! My favorite part is that you referenced your young children and work in the article as well. As a fellow working mom and wiccan I can definitely relate!

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Nicole, congrats on HOTD! This was well-detailed with excellent photos to go with this introduction on wiccan magic. I was once interested into it, a decade ago, for a short time and never gotten started. Thanks for sharing.

  • profile image

    Shawna50 2 years ago

    I am new to Wiccan teachings. This article was very helpful. I have yet to put together my Alter or do a spell/ritual. I'm still learning. Loved your humor too:)

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from Summerland

    fallenwhiteangel - Awesome! Glad to hear it. Blessings to you.

  • profile image

    fallenwhiteangel 3 years ago

    for a woman who has always been intrigued by wiccan and finally able to practice with no judgmental pass this is very very helpful thank you so much.

  • profile image

    SFIAOgirl021 3 years ago

    ok thnx for that

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from Summerland

    You can message me through facebook - search for The Writings of Kitty the Dreamer.

  • profile image

    SFIAOgirl021 3 years ago

    I've got some questions about Wicca as I am studying it been doing it for almost 7 months now there are a few things I'm still alil confused on would it be alright if I asked you about them? messaged you on this site or something? Idk how to use this site to send private message cause I don't wanna end up asking something completely stupid. Sorry it's hard to ask for help sometimes something I'm working on though.

  • Samantha Jag Rose profile image

    Samantha Jag Rose 3 years ago

    I loved this. It really helped me and I can't thank you enough. I have ordered the books you have recommended. Voted up!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 4 years ago from Summerland

    Earth - You don't need an altar or tools in order to do spells. Just nature and your intent. :)

  • profile image

    Earth 5 years ago

    I'm a beginner I haven't started casting spells until I get an alter and the tool I need. I found this interesting. I seriously want to become a Wiccan. Thank you!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from Summerland

    Radical Rog - That's so true! Thank you for reminding me of that and I'm happy you liked this hub. :) Blessings, brother!

  • Radical Rog profile image

    Peter Rogers 5 years ago from Plymouth

    I like this, especially the way you select things that 'speak' to you. Just remember, all physical items on your altar have a higher spiritual correspondence and you can take this with you calling the vision of your altar to mind wherever you are and whenever you need.

  • profile image

    darkchild 6 years ago

    Thank u I'm a beginner and I learned a lot

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

    moonray - Thank you, sweetheart!

  • profile image

    moonray 6 years ago

    Thank you for posting this very cute setup.

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

    Thanks. I enjoyed taking the pictures. Yes, you're absolutely correct. Some of the most powerful tools we could use are because we made them powerful!

  • profile image

    St.Cyprian 6 years ago

    Great job! I love the pictures.

    I like the idea of getting these items without spending a fortune. Some of the most powerful items you'll have in your collection are those you make yourself - wands, for example. They have so much more energy when you carefully select the components and do the work yourself.


  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

    Chatkath - Yes, it is that easy. Let me see some pics when you get yours together, please! :)

    sassyk73 - Well, blessings to you then! Thanks for being so open-minded. :)

  • sassyk73 profile image

    Karen A. Harris 6 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

    Very nice read. I have a lot of friends who practice Wicca. Very informative. Thank you for sharing :)

  • Chatkath profile image

    Kathy 6 years ago from California

    Awesome Kitty, I really enjoyed this because almost anyone can try! I have a nightstand almost identical to that one - I think I will give it a go! Up useful and awesome of course!!!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

    JesadaB - Awesome, so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for voting, too. :)

  • JesadaB profile image

    JesadaB 6 years ago from Home!

    Completely enjoyed this one, but then again I usually enjoy them! Thank you for sharing. Voted up and awesome!


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