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A communal altar
Galena Stormrider

Witchcraft Altars: How To Set Up An Altar For A Beginner Witch

As a beginner witch, one of the first steps toward practicing magick regularly is to create a dedicated witchcraft altar. A witching altar is a sacred workspace dedicated to all your magickal workings! As a baby witch, starting an altar is a rite of passage that marks the beginning of a more consistent magickal practice.

In order to help you set up an altar, I will show you the basic elements of a witchcraft altar, as well as how to decorate, cleanse, and protect it. Each altar is as unique as the witch who crafts it, so I encourage you to take these tips as a guide, not a rulebook!

Beautiful Witchcraft Altar

This simple altar uses a triangular shelf to add height and storage space. The triangle represents manifestation and creation. Which shapes might you incorporate in your sacred space?

What Should Your Witchcraft Altar Include?

As you begin brainstorming what your magickal workspace will look like, remember that altars come in all shapes and sizes. The magick of witchcraft comes from tools and symbols that resonate with your personal power. Therefore, you have the freedom to use anything and everything that feels sacred, important, or relevant to you, as this is your sacred space! Use the birth of your altar to practice your creativity and resourcefulness.

Firstly, you will need to decide on the best location for all your magickal workings. A witchcraft altar can be used for meditation, spellwork, divination, and ritual, so think about the atmosphere, privacy, and amount of space you will need to perform these activities comfortably. Typically, witches will choose to use a table, dresser, nightstand, or desk as their altar surface. You may want to cover the altar surface with an altar cloth that feels magickal to you. 

People who are in the broom closet, or keep their magickal practice hidden, may choose to keep their altar hidden, or set up a witching altar that is small, obscured, or travel-sized. A simple candle on a nightstand can be the perfect altar for a witch that needs to go noticed. There is also something quite mystical and mysterious about keeping your magickal tools hidden in a drawer, chest, or shoe box.

A beginning witch secret travel altar

A box containing a witch’s altar tools such as candles, crystals, a lighter, and a bundle of sage.]

Witches who travel often or want their altar to remain impermanent may choose to create a travel altar. These types of altars usually consist of the most basic tools or small, mini-sized tools. They only include what one needs to do spellwork on the fly, and can be kept in a pencil pouch, shoe box, or my personal favorite– an altoid tin! While these types of altars may feel more temporary, a travel altar allows you to practice magick anywhere you go! You may want to include:

  • A piece of selenite or clear quartz
  • Birthday candles or tealight candles
  • Matches
  • Chalk for drawing sigils
  • A vial of salt water
  • Sticky notes or a pocket notebook
  • A pen (which doubles as a wand)

In this video tutorial, the gifted Sirena Moon will show you how to create a travel altar!

Lucky witches who have access to the outdoors may even choose to set up their magickal witching altars in nature, especially during the warmer seasons. Communal altars may be set up in public spaces for all to leave offerings or pray at, sometimes to specific spirits or deities. If you decide to set up an altar in a public or natural space, remember to maintain it and make sure your tools and offerings do not become litter in your precious environment! 

Next, you will need to decide which tools you would like to use during your magickal practices. You’ll keep many of these on your witchcraft altar. These are the things you will want to keep on, or nearby your witchcraft altar. Most often, witches will have tools on their altar that represent the energy of each of the five elements. As you call on the elements in your spellwork, the following tools may come in handy…

  • Earth: Crystals, a bowl of salt, a jar of crossroads dirt or sand, a pentacle, a bowl of coins. Earth elements are typically kept on the North portion of the altar.
  • Air: Incense, a feather, a sage bundle, a bell, bird imagery. Air elements are typically kept on the East portion of the altar.
  • Water: A chalice filled with ritual water, seashells, seaglass, driftwood, mermaid or siren imagery. Water elements are typically kept on the West portion of the altar.
  • Fire: Candles, a wand, an athame. Note: Wands and athames are considered to represent the element of Air by some witches. Choose the association that works best for you! Fire elements are typically kept on the South portion of the altar.
  • Spirit: Symbols, photos, and animal totems that represent specific deities or ancestors you work with, offerings to deities and spirits you work with, or divination tools such as pendulums, tarot decks, and dice. Spirit elements are typically kept in the center portion of the altar.

You may choose only a few of these tools, or you may choose all of them! Experiment with minimalist and maximalist approaches, colorful and monochrome, or larger and smaller spaces. Figure out what feels most inspiring to you, and take into consideration the colors and symbols of any deities you honor, as well as the current season and magickal holidays. 

A public shrine to the Virgin Mary

A public shrine to the Virgin Mary

How To Make Your Witchcraft Altar Magickal

Before you begin practicing at your altar, you will want to ensure this sacred workspace is cleansed of any negative energies. By performing the following cleansing ritual, you will make sure that you’re working on a clean slate and that no lingering energies from the space interfere with your magick. Be sure to maintain the cleanliness of your altar by repeating this ritual weekly, monthly, or as you feel necessary. Many witches, myself included, choose to cleanse their altars toward the end of a lunar cycle to start the new moon with a fresh canvas.

In this video tutorial, I will show you how to set up a beginner witching altar and bless it for magickal use. 

You will need:

  • A cleaning rag
  • Moon water, holy water, or salt water
  • Florida water or another cleansing liquid of your choice
  • A sage bundle or protective incense such as Frankincense
  • A Divine oil of your choosing such as Frankincense or Jasmine

STEP #1: First, make sure your windows are open as you do this, to allow the negative energies an escape route.

STEP #2: Beginning with your barren surface, start with a physical wipe down. You may use a rag doused in florida water, which has spiritual and physical cleansing properties. You may also use lemon or vinegar water. As you do so, set your intentions for purifying the altar surface.

STEP #3: If you’re using an altar cloth, wash or spray it with the same cleanser you used to clean the table before placing it onto the surface.

STEP #4: Next, light your incense or sage bundle and wave the smoke over your altar. As you do so affirm that this altar is cleansed of all energies.

STEP #5: Using moon water, holy water, or a protective oil such as frankincense, anoint the surface in the shape of a pentacle. This will boost the magickal energy of your altar and recharge it with the power of the five elements. Jasmine oil works well if you’re looking to charge your altar with more lunar energy, which helps aid divination abilities.

STEP #6: Now that your altar itself is cleansed and charged, you will need to cleanse the tools and items you will place upon it. You can do this by waving incense or sage smoke over each tool, and thanking each item for serving you on your magickal journey.

Once your altar is set up and you feel ready to put it to use, you may bless the space with the following consecration ritual.

You will need:

  • Letter writing paper
  • An envelope
  • A writing utensil
  • An offering of 5 coins or rose petals

STEP #1: Sit in front of your cleansed and charged altar with the intention of being open to its vibrational energy. What is your altar’s vibe? Maybe it’s a safe and nurturing space where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Maybe it’s an academic space where you will study and put your spiritual wisdom to the test. Maybe it’s supercharged, making you feel powerful and limitless. Maybe it’s all of the above!

STEP #2: As you feel the energy of your altar, get back in touch with your personal energy. How will this altar serve your magickal purpose?

STEP #3: Write a letter to your altar thanking it for serving this magickal purpose.

STEP #4: Place this letter into the envelope along with the offering. Your five coins or flower petals represent the hand of the Divine, as well as the five elements.

STEP #5: On the outside of the envelope, write the following: I bless this altar with the power to aid my magickal workings. Protect me from all unwelcome energies, and serve my unique magickal mission.

STEP #6: Stash this envelope in a secret compartment, a drawer, or in between some books on your altar!

How To Use Your Magickal Altar

Image of a beautiful witch working with her altar

A witch working some potent magick at her altar. Many witches choose to adopt this more antiquated aesthetic for historic inspiration!

Now that you’re all set up, your witchcraft altar will serve as a home base for your spellwork, rituals, journaling, and so much more! Many baby witches are unsure of how often they must visit their altar or what sort of magickal workings are best performed there. The truth is, there is no wrong way to utilize your altar! Trust your intuition, and remember that your altar is meant to serve you– and not the other way around. Your witching altar is there for you to visit whenever it intuitively feels good to do so.

Some witches make a point to visit their altars daily and/or nightly, especially to begin or end their day with gratitude journaling. Other witches may practically live at their altars, allowing their mundane tasks to be supported by their magickal foundation. Some may only visit their altars for the eight sabbats or for special lunar and solar events.

The great thing about your altar is that it is always available to you whenever you need magickal support in any task. Nearly every witch will go through periods in which they do not visit their altar as frequently as they would like to. As a result, dust may collect and the magickal energy may become stagnant. If this happens, do not feel guilty! 

As all things in our lives, our magickal practice will ebb and flow. If you find that your altar space does not appeal to you, ask yourself what you can do to liven up the space and make it more practical for you. Consider decorating for the season, finding inspiration online, or choosing an area of your home that is more cozy to work in.

Lastly, do not feel pressured to imitate other witches. We are all unique, and what works well for one witch may simply not resonate with you. While some are inspired by antiquated aesthetics, some witches keep their altars on their tech devices. Appreciate what suits others, but do not give up on finding what suits you!

Your Magickal Milestone

In closing, I hope you find setting up your magickal witchcraft altar to be a fun and creative process. Creating your witching altar is a rite of passage that each witch should be extremely proud of. Congratulations on taking this step toward affirming and supporting your spiritual path!

May your altar be inviting, powerful, and protected as you grow into yourself, witchling! I am sending you Divine love and light in all of your magickal activities.

With Gratitude,

Galena Stormrider 🙂

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