Altar Stuff

Below are a few of photos of altars that I've had over the past few years. There are a lot of books that come to mind that give lots of ideas about altars. Laurie Cabott's "Power of the Witch" and Starhawk's "Spiral Dance" give some great ideas. Also, Patricia Telesco's "Urban Pagan" and "Victorian Grimoire" are really good for getting creativity stimulated. I thought it would be fun to get some photos up so someone who is just starting out might get an idea of what some stuff is and how to go about getting/making it. Actually, that brings up a good point. There is/has been a debate going on for some time about which is better buying your magical tools or making them. Well, I sort of do both. There are lots of magical tools that I've made and I love them dearly (a little more than I love the ones I've bought? Yes, I'd have to say so). But, I am not a silversmith, and I am not blacksmith, so some of my tools have been purchased. They are still wonderful, and I love them, but I would love to have all my tools be handmade by my hand. In the photos you will see, I'll point out how I made the ones I made and at some later time, I'll put up instructions on this page. In the meantime, if you have some altar photos to share that you'd like to see go up, please email me at the address below and I'll be happy to put them up for you. I'd love to have a library for people to come to to see what kinds of stuff other people are doing with their altars. Lastly, here is an article I wrote about setting up your altar. Some of the images in the article are the same as this page, but there is a good bit more information on the whys and hows of setting up your altar.

Here are some of the most recent altars we've had.

I find it interesting that no two altars look alike. Here are two photos of Imbolc altars a few years apart.

Imbolc 07 Imbolc 02


Solstice 06

Solstice pic #2

Beltane 06


Beltane altar

This was a group altar at our ritual in 03.

Autumn altar

Here is my last year's autumn altar. I usually put my autumn altar together right at the autumnal equinox (Mabon or whatever you wish to call it). It's right at the second harvest festival and you can see by the altar cloth, that's what I am celebrating. There are a number of handmade items on the altar. First, in the center is one of my most prized possessions. My dear friend Eryq (you can see how creative he is from other parts of this page or you can go to his page. He's amazingly talented.) made this stained glass box for me. He knew of my love for opals and that my rune is the Ing, and he created this Ing box out of opalscent black and white glass. You can kind of see the rainbows he created by laying out the Ing rune glass so that it goes from red to yellow to blue to violet. The next thing on the altar is another of my prized possessions. It is a wand that I made years ago. I found the wood in the forest and stripped, sanded and polished it til it shone. It has a quartz crystal on one end and a lapis on the other. I have braided and entwined silver wire on the wand and have hung various charms and crystals from it. I also inscribed the Witches' Rede, "An it harm none, do what thou wilt," in runes on the wand.

If you look around the box, you will see five little sculptures. They are the elemental goddesses and the horned god that I made out of sculpey. The one on the right, lying in the east is the Air goddess. She is white and silver and winged. Moving down to the south is the Fire goddess. She is vibrant and yellow and orange and red and she has the light rune, Sowelu, carved on her belly. She is the most simple of the goddesses I've made and she is very special to me. The next one, in the west, is the Water Goddess. She is in blues and she has a mermaid's tale. Her cloak is flowing water. The next one around to the north is the Earth Goddess. She is a tree with leaves just sprouting on her hands. The last figurine is the horned god. He is antlered and he wears a green vine. At some point, I'll put up instructions on how to make your own goddesses or god out of sculpey. It's a lot of fun and it is meaningful and inexpensive. (Up at the top of the altar, there is a dolphin that I made out sculpey as well.)

My chalice, at the time (I have a new one now) was a blue cup that we found in the woods behind our house. The incense burner was the wind blowing from the Heinecke booth at the MD Renaissance Festival. The candle sticks were a gift from my friend Michele, and the tarot deck is Mary Hanson-Roberts' incredible deck. The copper cop I found in a shop and the athame Rich found in the street. The cloth came from a Minnesota fabrics. It was a remnant. I heartily recommend that if you are altar cloth shopping, go to a fabric stor e and check out the remnant table. You won't belive some of the great fabrics there.

Autumn altar 2

This altar sits on the same altar cabinet and this time I used no altar cloth so everything could be firmly connected to the wood of the cabinet. I have a silver chalice, my fire, water, and earth sculpey goddesses, a representation of the Venus Willendorf, golden leaves, a letteropener that I was using as an athame for a while, candle holders and my wand. The Star (which I colored in) from the Daughters of the Moon Tarot deck sits in the background and a wind incense burner is at the east.

Hallows Altar

My cat Ariadne loves altars and anything having to do with tarot, holidays, divination and ritual. So, of course she had to sit in on me putting together my Samhain altar. Lots of stones and crystals (the shiny one on the left is my little crystal ball) are on the altar. My friend Michele gave me the copper celtic knotwork pentacle, and the deck I used for this is the Mythic tarot. Hecate, the Moon card in that deck, is on top. I ha ve black and white candles for the light and the dark and there were purple and green for a spell I was casting. Of course, the wand is always present as well.

Hallows altar 2

Hmm, for this altar, we all brought everything to put on the altar and decided that we should indeed use everything we brought. There are five chalices, lots of stones, apples, gourds, candles, oils, photos or other images of the elders in our lives, corn dollies, tarot cards, wands, and lots of incense. It was a wonderful ritual.

Pumpkin carving

I tried to carve the triple moon goddess on this pumpkin and it worked pretty well. The technique is to carve away the skin but don't cut all the way through the pumpkin. That way you can get various shades of orange and yellow as each portion is different thicknesses.

Woman altar

It's really won derful to have an altar celebrating you, your gender and what it means to you. If you have place in your house, dedicate a little spot to yourself. The altar cloth is a silk scarf given to me by my mother. The standing goddesses were made from sculpey. The full moon goddess is red for life's blood and fertility and she has a full moon in her belly. The crystal goddess was also made from sculpey and she shows the power of growth. In the center is a menstrual goddess. I created her to celebrate my moon time. We found the feather in the woods, and the necklace is an opal (my stone) that I could not resist for its brilliance and beauty. The tarot card is the hanged man from the "Herbal Tarot."

Woman altar 2

This is a much simpler version of a woman altar. I have a representation of the Nile River Goddess, a yoni rose, a menstrual goddess and some incense and a wand in a wood bowl.

Summer Solstice altar

There are a number of images of fire (including candles and the fire goddess I made being on the center of the alt ar). Also, there are suns, the horned god, and the altar cloth is very fiery. I had lots of fertility symbols on this particular altar. The Venus of Willendorf, the horned god, the couple statue are some examples.

Summer altar

This is another version of a summertime altar. Lots of goddess, fire, and sun imagery here. There are: a Willendorf Goddess, a Nile River Goddess, and the earth and fire goddesses that I made.

Spring altar

This is a spring altar, right around Beltane. There are lots of woman symbols on here. The yoni rose makes an appearance as well as both the earth and fire goddess I made. Plus, lots of crystals and a red candle round out the altar. Below is another view of the same altar.

Spring altar: different view

Beltane altar

Summer Solstice altar. This photo was double exposed with a winter scene with snow, and I thought that it just came out magical.

Here are two photos of our harvest moon altar.

These are two views of the same altar. This was a harvest moon altar, and it had a number of different facets that I find both interesting and fascinating. We didn't pay much attention to the directions for the elements; it ended up being a more organic altar than that. To celebrate the harvest, we had flowers and herbs from a garden. We also had the red full moon goddess, Sophia the Goddess of Wisdom from the Goddess Oracle deck, candles, Frog from Jamie Sams' Medicine Cards, a yoni rose, crystals and other stones, a sand dollar an apple, and a stone I brought back from the coast of Maine. Since we didn't pay much attention to where things were placed, there ended up being a real circular rather than a directional feel to the altar for me.

Here is a solstice altar. < /P>

This was a particularly meaningful winter solstice altar for me. My beloved kitty, Belly was fighting cancer and his photo was prominently displayed on the altar. Also, there are lots of sun symbols including a sun box and sun/star-shaped candle holders (holding red and green candles) made by my friend Colleen. There are also the elemental goddesses (and the horned god) made of sculpy, , round amber beads, a chalice, an incense burner, an athame, a container of melted snow, tarot cards, my wand, a chalice, the wonderful rune stained glass box made by Eryq, and a dolphin mirror (also made by Colleen). Some of these are traditional altar tools and some were made for my personal use. I like having the center box on my altar (it is in almost every one) because it gives an energetic focus to ritual for me.

A Samhain altar.

In honor of the current season, here is another Samhain altar. A lot of the same pieces show up in this one again. The elemental goddesses and horned god as well as the chalice, the dolphin mirror, the center box, and pics of Belly and Ariadne. There is also a card of Hecate from the Goddess Oracle. I love this altar cloth; it really sp eaks the season to me.

Personal altar

This last one is a personal altar. It is really for my own space and meditation. I think it's a good idea to have a personal altar set up all the time. That way, if I ever need to have some grounding, it's right there and ready for me.

There are lots of different ways to create an altar. I think that an altar can be anything that is meaningful to you. But, a more traditional approach might be to have at least some if not all of the following things on your altar.

I think that it's a great idea to make things for your altar. For example, a few years ago, I discovered sculpey. I've made a lot of my symbols since then. The fire and earth goddesses as well as the yoni rose mean a lot to me because I made them. Eventually, I'll put up some instructions on how folks might go about making their own.

If you have any ideas or photos that you'd like to get up on the web, please email them to me, and I'll be more than happy to put them up here. As I said above, I'd love to have a photo library where people can get ideas for their own altars.

Oh and here's a great thing to do on Samhain or just about any time there are punkins to be carved. We did these at Art Night (mor e on that later).

Here are two images of an incredible altar by the hermit. They are kind of sizeable images (in order to fit in as much as possible) and they are really worth checking out. He's been building and adding to this magnificent altar for years: Full altar and closeup. One of my favorite things about the altar is the triple candle holder with one white, one red, and one black taper. Just wonderful.

One last thing. I mentioned above that I'm going to try eventually to have all handmade altar tools. Well, my great friend Gina showed me how to throw on the potter's wheel, and I've made my own chalice. What an incredible feeling it was to work with the clay and shape it and pour in my intentions for its presence. It has been on my altar for years now and I just treasure it. Here is a photo of it, in process, after it was fired the first time but before it was glazed. It's been finished for quite some time now, but I haven't had the oomph to take photos. I'll be sure to put up photos of it soon.
Here, finally, is the finished chalice.

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Last Updated: February 4, 2007