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Monday, February 4, 2013

Mailbag Monday: Maintaining a Discrete Wiccan Altar

Dear Carolina Dean,

I’ve been interested in Wicca for a while now, and have just started to learn and practice as I learn. I’m trying to set up a small healthy alter that I can construct and deconstruct everyday in my dorm room. I was wondering if this was a bad idea or not, and if you had any tips about the most important things to keep on an alter. I’m sorry to ask but everywhere I search I come up with different answers.

Please help me?
Stuck at Shiz

Dear Stuck, 

A witch's altar is is the focal point of many spells and rituals. It can be any size or shape, depending on the needs of the individual, what materials they have available, and the amount of space in which they have to work.  Some Witches use an altar cloth, and others do not, this is a personal choice. Of those that do use an altar cloth, there is a tendency to change the color of the cloth to reflect the season, Esbat, or working.
There are two main schools of thought regarding alignment of the altar.  Those who follow a predominantly ceremonial path align their altars towards the East and the rising Sun. Others align their altars to the North, for several reasons. Some put forth the theory that "everything comes from the North," while others point out that maps are aligned towards the North, and magnetic lines runs towards the North and therefore the flow of energy around and/or through the ritual area will be more in harmony with nature.
Overtime, you altar will absorb the residual energy from your magickal working, becoming a storehouse of power from which you may draw at will.

In a perfect world you'd be able to keep your altar set up all the time, or at least a small shrine where you can meditate and perform devotions. Due to space limitations and sharing your environment with someone who may not respect, tolerate, or understand your religious choices it is perfectly okay to set up your altar when it is needed and put it away when it is not. 

That being said and to answer your questions the only thing you "need" on your altar is what you think/believe you need in order to practice the craft as you know it and you believe it. For some folks that will mean an image of the divine (God, Goddess, or both) and the four elements or at least special candle holder and incense.  For others it may mean this as well the elemental tools, a crystal ball, incense holder, and a full array of other sacred objects.

Being that your space is limited and you share it with another person you have a few choices that can function as your altar. They are:
  • The top of a chest-of-drawers can cleared off and an altar erected on top of it. Your sacred items can be stored in the top drawer when not in use. 
  • A trunk at the foot of your bed can contain your altar tools, candles, herbs, books etc... and your altar set up on top when you wish to meditate or perform ritual. 
  • The same can be done on a smaller scale with a shoe box or other containers stored neatly under your bed.  
  • A small wall altar can be constructed by putting a shelf up on a wall where you store a collection of objects that you find sacred such as holed stones for the goddess or pine cones for the god, or an animal figurine for your power-animal-- and where incense and scented candles are burned in their honor.  
These are just a few examples of how you can maintain an altar in a limited  space or in a situation in which you share your space with someone who does not respect your understand your religious beliefs and practices.

Blessed Be, 

Carolina Dean 

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