An Altar is a sacred space, its great to go out in nature and meditate or talk to your guides but its not always possible and you can get disturbed by others, even in the most quiet spots. Having an Altar, or space which is devoted to spiritual work and connection can help you form a more regular spiritual practice, its also a reminder of spirit when you get stuck in 3D.
Whats most important with an Altar is that it feels good to you and that you are connected to the items and imagery you place on it. You can follow guides for different traditions if that is what you believe but if you are not of any one faith or spiritual tradition you may wonder where to start. You can borrow aspects you like or appeal to you from various cultures, such as representing all four elements, having incense or a bell for example. You can include symbols you have always resonated with, look for items or objects featuring these such as the ankh or the flower or life for example.
In all traditions something is used to respresent spirit or the divine aspect of Universe. This is because your Altar is about connection with your Higher Self or a higher level of consiousness. This can be the image of a God or Goddess but it could also be an Ascended Master, an Angel or a portrait of your Guide for example. You do not have to worship or pray to these icons, they should reflect the God inside you more than anything. They show that there is more to life than what you can see and touch.
Representing spirit on your Altar can be even more subtle, abstract or personal to you. Consider a large Quartz Crystal, a Geode, Ammonite fossil or a Labyrinth. Some people like to include pictures of their family members or ancestors. You can collect things as simple as a stone from your favourite beach, a twig from a forest you like to visit, items that respresent things that are important to you.
An altar is also a great place to store your favourite spiritual items, such as Oracle or Tarot Cards, essentual oils, a spiritual journal, crystals, your pendulum, herbs, malas, prayer beads or any spiritual jewellery you have. You may prefer or need a small Altar, with just a few special items and a single candle. Its really up to you, and there is no wrong way, anyone who tells you that has not done any real research into Altars.
It is important to keep your Altar clean, free of items that do not belong there like a wallet or your car keys for example. This is a sacred space and a place to disconnect from the everyday world and reach stillness. I also recommend that you do some kind of space clearing, wether you clear the space with a sage smudge stick, a singing bowl, Tibetan symbals, a bell or any cleansing inscense or oils you prefer. As we are renewed each day, its nice to keep the Altar fresh too and clear of any old energies which may interfere with your spiritual work. Like many things, through regular use the Altar becomes more powerful and like your own temple.
This is a great project, and can build up and change over time, some people also change them with the seasons. A really good book which goes into alot more detail on the use of Altars, without any bias towards any one culture or tradition is Altars by Denise Linn. Its very inspirational, with lots of beautiful photography and ideas. The book is out of print so you will have to find a second hand copy.
Also check out this Pinterest board for Shrines and Altars:
Beautiful handmade mini and portable Altars by Elemental Enchantress:
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Spiritual Jewellery for Men and Women:
Spiritual Jewellery for Men and Women: