Tools Witchcraft

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.

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Pagan Alter Set Up Tutorial - Set Your Altar Up in 1 Day

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  1. Lisa

    June 17, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you for this Alter information. I had been gathering things not really knowing what I was going to do with them. Many things have been happening one after another in my life and I feel so much better that my Alter is set up and my home is cleansed. Very much needed…
    Thank you so much….

    1. Mary Anderson

      July 8, 2021 at 11:57 pm

      Hi Lisa, I saw your message about your altar and the same thing happened to me when I first started my path. I was afraid I would do something wrong and the god s would get mad at me. I bought my tools alphabetic, yes I know that sounds silly. Okay, everybody can stop laughing. LOL! The day I was initiated into the tradition happened to be June 6, 2006.If ya believe in the mark of the beast
      thing. One thing I like about Wicca is there isn’t really a wrong way of doing anything. If it feels right to you then go with it. I know that having a home turned upside down for any reason can be stressful. I had that happen to me also. I took over a spare bedroom as my altar room. Wasn’t a bad idea, until I had to move everything into my bedroom because my youngest son moved back home. But that was fine, that way I won’t bother anyone if I do a spell or ritual. Well, getting late. Hope to hear from you.

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  3. Cindy

    July 27, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    This is awsome! I am re-consecrating my altar on Thursday – in preparation for Lughnasadh, so this was very helpful! In addition your words are so wise – we should not spend a lot of money on our Craft – witches of old were on their own for the most part, so they had to grow, or scavenge for the things they wanted or needed. It’s fine to purchase a fancy athame or crystals but it is certainly not required. Thank you for reminding me of this. I want to get back to basics.

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  7. Nikki

    September 30, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    Thankyou so much! This was so helpful & made me feel encouraged to start my alter knowing I dont have to spend alot of money to do so!

  8. Cadi

    August 14, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    Hi! I have no idea what kind of food you should give your God or Goddess?

    1. admin

      August 15, 2019 at 1:02 pm

      any food! but also do research on what plants and animals, etc. are associated with your god/goddess to find a more specific offering.

  9. Lora

    June 9, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you so much. I am very new to all of this, even though I feel like paganism has been calling to me since long before I had a word for it. I had no idea where to start. As a teen I almost gave into the calling to it, but could not yet formerly renounce Christianity, and had no way to set up an alter, this mixed with a very cloistered ability to research, and alot of conflicting information that made this all seem so overwhelming, led me to quit. I have my oen home now, and can create an alter. A cluster of things ended up on my kitchen windowsill and it started to feel like an alter. I’ve gone back and forth on weather or not this is the place to formerly consecrate and set up. It seems unceremonial, it’s above an over the sink dish rack, it’s above where I do my most dreaded work, however since those items gathered there, washing up feels much easier. It faces East, which feels some how significant to me, and it looks out on my Garden, plus it is the only flat surface my kids can’t get to! Do you think a kitchen window is an adequate space? The closest thing I have to a symbol of a God or Goddess is a little replica of the Parthenon, that I somehow came across. Can I use feathers from my pet doves? Or do I need to get a feather from outside?

    1. MK

      June 17, 2019 at 11:22 am

      Hello Lora,
      I am in the same situation. Been reading alot but haven’t had the chance to official start making it a daily practice. I’ve joined a Facebook group and they shared that anything you do, use and say it’s all about intent. If you have dove and they are your familiar, I think that’s a great idea! You would have more energy used in a spell. But if you intent to use a feather for revenge, speeding up karma or anything against someone’s free will. I wouldn’t use anything from your Dove. Hope this helps.
      Btw the Facebook group is called Witch Way is Witch.

  10. Angie Beer

    April 7, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you sooo much. For so long I was wondering how to get started with no money and you have helped me to understand and know how to begin my learning journey!! I’ve been interested in the wiccan/ pagan ways for a while. I feel ready to begin my new journey THANK YOU

    1. admin

      April 8, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      Angie – You don’t need any money at all to start practicing. Nature is the core. Blessings.

  11. Margaret Adamson

    March 27, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you, I have been so confused and nervous about my alter. That’s why I don’t have one yet. You have made this so easy. I do have everything I need. I plan on making up my alter space this Saturday. It will be quiet and I can just be myself and allow my gut or instint to guide me to my alter peices.

    1. admin

      March 27, 2019 at 11:05 pm

      Margaret – I’m so glad we’ve eased your worries! Altars are just that place where you can focus on your spirituality. 🙂 No need for frills.

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  17. Onyedikachi

    September 14, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    I am very glad for the tips you shared on how beginners can set up their altar. I must say that you have wonderful topics. Thanks, you are blessed.

    1. admin

      September 14, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      Onyedikachi – I’m glad to be able to help!

  18. Dori

    September 12, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing, it has given me a starting point… now to figure out the perfect place where I can call my own that will require no answers to questions by family that don’t follow my same mind set. In my perfect world I would have that carved table right in the middle of my living room!

    1. admin

      September 12, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      Dori – If you can’t practice openly, you can always keep your altar in a box under the bed or in the closet and bring it out when you feel comfortable. Or create a natural altar in the woods or natural place.

      1. julie

        October 26, 2018 at 7:07 pm

        That’s a great idea.
        I heard a different way of having a secret altar is to use the 4 walls of 4 corners of a room. Putting the 4 elements that you mentioned in thus article in their corresponding directions. So put something to symbolise earth in the north corner or wall, etc.
        You mentioned in this article you call use a picture from the Internet as your god/goddess/ancestors/nature symbol. You could also do that for the 4 elements. So you could have a picture of the sea to represent water, etc.
        So people would just see 4 pictures in a room & wouldn’t think anything about it.
        What do you think?
        Thank you for thus article.

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