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How To Set Up A Magic Altar
Michael from the US asked how to make an altar.
Here's a simple 7 step method to make a real working energy magic altar and some tips on altar offerings and how to make sure your altar gets more powerful over time, rather than becoming ever more confused.
The word altar refers to communicating with "the older ones" - in the olden days, it was held that dead ancestors were placed halfway between the gods in the spirit world and the living people in the Hard, and that one might get one's wishes, wants and needs transmitted via the "older ones" as a go between.
For this purpose, special places were set up in nature which had particularly beneficial energies to make it easy to reach the old ones, and thus, the Gods.
As time went by, people wanted to talk to the Gods more directly and from then on, altars were used as communication platforms with the world of spirit in general.
In many spiritual traditions, the communication still goes through intermediaries, such as the orishas in Voodoo or the saints in the Catholic faith; but the main thing to remember is that an altar is always a communications portal, much like a spiritual skype console.
This sets the intention and also lets us know hat kind of objects you will have on your altar, and what kind of spells or rituals you will be performing on or in conjunction with it.
What spiritual forces do you believe in? How do the higher powers work in your world view? Which is the highest God, what are the other types of Gods, and who are the messenger intermediaries?
If you can't answer those question, you need to start thinking about it, because a letter written without an address on the envelope isn't going to find its recipient. Our spiritual Skype installation or altar likewise cannot function without it having a direction of some sort.
If you are a total beginner and you don't have a clue about gods and goddesses, pick something or someone that's easy and makes sense to you.
Mother Mary, Krishna, Jesus, Venus, Buddha, Thor, St Michael, Ra - there's a world of spiritual entities to choose from. If worried or in doubt, just dedicate your first altar to your own personal guardian angel and start there.
Once you have decided who your altar is going to connect you to, your skype contact to the higher forces as it were, we can move on.
Tune in on your chosen contact to the higher forces and get a sense of what they're like, what they feel like.
Think about them, get to know them better. Find out more about them by meditating on and with them, and reading up on them on the web too.
Get a physical representation to bring their presence more strongly into your world. This can be a picture or a sculpture; a simple stone dedicated in their name, or simply for starters their name written on a piece of paper that you carry with you.
Once you have a sense of their presence, we can ask, "Where would be the perfect place for this altar to (x) to be constructed?"
Some spiritual entities like to be out of doors; this is certainly the case for the older nature spirits and god/desses.
For the ones that are happy to be indoors, you need to sense for the right place.
In a palace with many rooms, cellars and gardens and a huge attic, there are many choices but still one will be righter than all the others.
In a house with a few rooms and corridors, there's will also be such a place.
In a little bedroom, you still have four corners to choose from and all the space in between and here too, is a place that is "righter" than all the others.
Hold a representation of your contact (a picture, a sculpture, an object such as a stone dedicated in their name or simply just a piece of paper with their name on it) and walk around your dwelling. Try a location by standing in front of it and asking, "Is this a good place to contact (x)?" Pay attention to your intuition, your 6th sense, feelings in the body, that are your guide through the realms of magic.
You'll notice that different places feel differently; and to choose the right place, you choose the place that feels the best.
In the olden days, altars were made from stone. Now it could be argued they only made them from stone because they didn't know how to make them from concrete, wood or plastic but I'm a great believer in the weight of stone and the way it anchors spiritual things in physicality.
For modern energy magicians this can be a problem if they're in student accommodation. Do what you can but if you can, have a piece of slate, marble or any kind of flat stone as your main altar surface. It is quite a difference to step up to it and touch it with your hands.
The surface area should as big as it can be; you should be able to reach all parts of it easily so you can touch it.
Nowadays, people make altars on dressers, even inside a dresser in a drawer to hide them; out of book shelves, radiator shelves, boxes, all sorts.
This works too.
So that's the flat horizontal surface; now we need to talk about what you are looking at when you are standing in front of your altar.
You can think of the flat surface as your keyboard, and what's above that is your screen which connects you to your contact.
Mostly you will find that people put a picture of their contact at direct eye level so you're looking at them (which gives your physical eyes something to do and focuses your mind on your contact) whilst you talk to them, question them, perform a ritual you want their help with or ask them to go and do something on your behalf.
However, you can do other things. You can place a symbol there, such as a cross, spiral, dragon eye etc; or a picture that reminds you of your contact, such as a sun or a moon, or stars.
You want to avoid a mirror unless you really know what you are doing.
When you have your horizontal surface and that which you will be looking at established, clean the whole area with a fine cloth, a brush and water and salt. This gets it ready and removes any old stuck on energy forms.
For a simple, powerful consecration, put your hands on the flat surface, take a deep breath, look up at the focal point and evoke something like:
"I dedicate this altar to you, X,
my friend of the spirit world,
my guardian and my guide,
to help me with my magic,
to support my endeavours,
across the levels and the layers,
in love and light, so shall it be."
Keep it simple, make it heart felt, make it personal, don't make a song and dance about it.
Your intention will then be inscribed and set for this altar, and it will stronger every time you use it.
Your altar is now ready to be used.
You can perform spells upon and in front of it. You can place photographs of people you love or want to remember on special occasions upon it. You can step up and ask questions, favours, ask for help and assistance.
Now, making offerings on an altar does not buy you favours with a spirit or an angel or a God.
You're not horse trading grain or salt for a new job, or a new love, it doesn't work like that.
You need to make the offerings on your altar in the way you would make a cup of tea for a loved one and bring it to them in bed, decorated with a little flower on the saucer - as a material sign that you love them.
That's all, that's it, that's what offerings - real offerings! - are, they are love gifts.
As such, they are a part of getting a closer relationship with your contact. What do they like? What would make them smile? What don't they like or find boring, unattractive?
Many a relationship never got off the ground because some guy bought the standard boring box of chocolates for his lady, without bothering to find out whether she likes chocolate or not or whether she might have preferred a wrench set, a book of French poetry or a donation to the humane society.
Just because "everybody" burns incense on their altars doesn't mean your contact likes incense. Ask them if they do or not, and if they do, take the trouble to find out what kind they like the best.
That's what a real relationship is about, that's how you make great offerings that don't buy favours, just show your love.
One final thing about energy magic altars:
I strongly recommend to have nothing whatsoever on your altar, ever, unless it is an active spell/ritual in process.
People stuff all manner of things on their altars, creating a cacophony of confusion that is a barrier to any kind of real magic, rather than a help.
In fact, I've often thought when I've seen that, they'd be much better off not having an altar at all.
Just for fun, look at this picture of a bad altar. Tune in on the energy. Headache, anybody?
This is a spiritual mess, spells upon spells, old stuff, power objects wrestling for space and cancelling each other out, energy forms piling up and fighting one another, and most importantly, there's no space to do any NEW work at all!
Now, look at this one - an empty altar, ready to go.
How does that feel?
Isn't that inviting, exciting, waiting for some major magic to be performed here ...?
For patterns and crystal grids to be made, for love gifts placed, for simple moments of sitting and talking with your friend on the spirit side?
And when you do place a photograph, a special candle or a flower on this altar, can you feel how powerfully the energy form will be transmitted?
I rest my case for empty altars!
Here's also another tip on this. If you've done a spell for health, and you're not healthy, don't keep that spell going, don't keep the stuff you used for it on the altar for longer than a day and a night, ever.
Clear it away.
Give the spell or ritual, prayer or request a chance to work.
If it doesn't, have another go.
Wonder what you might do differently this time, what you've learned since the last time you tried. Confer with your contact on the other side, ask for guidance, learn something new.
And whatever you do with that, also clear THAT away after 24 hours at the most, religiously, always.
Cleaning the slate of your altar in between spells is the best thing you can do, and a true 101 of spiritual housekeeping.
I hope that helps to alleviate some of the confusion over energy magic altars.
May your magic always be delightful, strong, and full of love (for that *is* the most powerful energy form in the universe, make no mistake!)