Paganism for Beginners: How to Set Up A Pagan Altar In 1 Day
So you’re brand new to this thing they call Paganism. Everyone seems to be talking about pagan altars, showing off their altars, maybe they’re even asking you what yours looks like. But you don’t have an altar set up yet, so what do you do? Follow this super EASY guide to set up your pagan altar in 1 day for FREE using things you already own and free gifts from nature. Paganism for Beginners 101.
First, Why Have An Altar?
If you’re a new pagan or witch, you might be wondering why is it necessary to have an altar. It’s not required, first of all. But secondly, if you choose to have an altar, there’s a few reasons. Altars serve as sacred space where you can meet and commune with spirits you might work with including: gods and goddesses, ancestors, elementals, the dead, etc. If you’re not one to work with spirits, you might choose to see it as sacred space for Universal energy or “source” energy. Or just a space to honor Mother Earth.
In addition, a pagan altar gives you a place where you can ground and center yourself. I’ll be honest in saying, when I’ve been having a sh*t time in life, sometimes just sitting next to my altar and holding the tools and things in my hands calms and recenters me. It soothes me just being in the presence of the energy surrounding my altar. If anything, it gives you your own space to focus on your spiritual practice.
How To Set Up Your Pagan Altar in 1 Day for FREE
Paganism for beginners doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it have to be expensive. Sure, pagans on Pinterest seem to have elaborate, detailed altars. But guess what? Those altars didn’t manifest out of thin air. Every pagan had to start somewhere with their altars – they started at the beginning and built onto it from there. That’s just what I’m going to show you how to do.
1. Choose Your Altar Space
Everyone dreams of having a pagan altar table that looks like it was carved from the nearest magical oak tree, carried into our homes by a log-wielding giant, and then enchanted by the nearest sorceress, but we don’t all live in Fairyland now do we? So for your beginner pagan altar, choose the top of a small table, windowsill, corner of a dresser, buffet or credenza, hutch or bookshelf as your altar surface. If you spend a lot of time in your kitchen, consider a corner of the countertop, a shelf in the cabinet, or a shelf on the wall as your altar space.
If you want to dedicate a large piece of furniture to your practice, that’s great too. If you can afford it. Some tips on places to look: scour antique and secondhand stores for affordable unique nightstands, china cabinets, round end tables, etc. You might be surprised what you find. And if anything, you can paint and design it the way you want. This makes your altar that much more magical – putting your personal energy and time into it.
2. Cleanse and Consecrate
You’ve chosen your altar space, now it’s time to clear any random items off of it. Then dust it with a rag and while doing this, visualize white light cleansing the surface with each stroke. Wipe in counter-clockwise movements (which is called Widdershins and removes negative vibes). Afterward, find a bit of olive oil (or any kind of cooking oil in the kitchen), dab a little on your finger, and draw a pentacle (five pointed star with circle) in the middle of your altar surface.
If you’re not comfortable with the pentacle, choose a symbol of your liking. As you do this, state something like “I consecrate this altar in the name of _____” (insert god/goddess/ancestor/universe name). Also state your purpose in setting up the altar. Something like, “may this altar be a place where positive energy gathers freely to meet with the goddess and her consort.” Adjust to fit your preferences.
3. Bowls, Cups, and Kitchen Ware
Now it’s time to do some digging around the kitchen. Take stock of what you have that will work as altar pieces. You know that mixing bowl that sits at the back of the cabinet you never use? Now you’re going to use it as an offering bowl. Have an extra wine glass, champagne flute, or glass cup, Voila! Now it’s a chalice! In the same regard, if you have an older kitchen knife, it just became your first athame. Other small bowls can be used to hold salt and water, etc. You’ll want to clean these with soap and water, visualizing white light while doing so, and then consecrate them BEFORE placing them on your altar.
4. Represent the 4 Elements
Taking one of the consecrated bowls you acquired from your kitchen, fill it with water. This water can be filtered or tap, whatever you have on hand. If you have quick and easy access to spring water or ocean water, by all means, run out and grab it. Then fill the bowl with it. Set the bowl on your altar. Next, take another small bowl and fill it with salt (if you have salt on hand). This represents the element earth. If you don’t have salt, don’t worry! A rock or stone from outside is perfect to represent earth!
Next, use a fan, bell, or feather to represent the element air. If you don’t have any of these, don’t worry. A feather will come to you. You don’t need this right away. And last, you need a candle to represent fire. If you have an unused candle around your house, this will work. It can even be a tealight or birthday candle! Be sure to cleanse and consecrate every item before setting on your altar.
5. Ancestors or Gods
Depending on your preference and beliefs, you may want to include items to represent your ancestors or gods. This can be as simple as a drawing or a photo printed out from the internet. A representation of your ancestors or gods isn’t required. If you prefer to leave your altar dedicated to nature and/or the universe, that’s fine too! Often items representing the gods or ancestors will come to you at a later time. So there’s no rush.
6. Other Items to Add
A pagan altar is a place that is sacred to you, so feel free to add items that help put you in a spiritual mindset. If you have a small indoor plant, this is great for any altar. Seashells from your trip to the beach, photos of your favorite “happy” place, family heirlooms, and seasonal décor can all be added to your altar. Your witch’s broom, crystals, charms, amulets, hag stones, bells, oracle and tarot cards, fairy figurines, mirrors, jar spells, bottles, containers of herbs and more can all be kept at your altar.
Setting Up Your First Altar Doesn’t Have to be Difficult
I see a lot of beginner pagans getting confused when they first set up their altar. This is because there are a plethora of altar photos circulating social media that immediately screams at us that we have to emulate that perfect altar. This is simply not true. Start out simple with the steps I’ve listed above. Use what you have on-hand in your house, in your own backyard, or in nearby natural places. Add items to your altar that bring you a sense of peace and connection to the Divine and to your higher self.
An altar is where you meet with the Divine and re-connect, it is NOT necessarily a bragging tool for social media. Also remember, your altar will grow and change with time. Items will be gifted to you from friends or family and nature will send you gifts along the way.
How often should you cleanse and charge your altar?
I used to be the witch who cleansed her altar once a month, every New Moon. But here’s the deal, I’ve realized the spirits that take up residence at my altar have an energy that I don’t particularly want to strip away every month. My advice is to keep your altar clean of dust, incense ash, dirt, etc. but don’t worry about cleansing it constantly. Now, if you start having problems with malevolent spirits in your home or space, definitely cleanse your altar and re-charge it. But, I’d say, every 3 months or so a spiritual “cleanse” is helpful. The thing is, if you use sage, this is a powerful enough herb to remove any and all energy. So you’ll have to re-invite your spirits back to the space. I prefer rosemary for cleansing instead. But again, do what feels right for you.