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What is An Altar?

Written by Alauna Whelan


When looking up the definition of an altar, it is defined as a structure upon which offerings were placed for religious purposes.

I define an altar as a sacred and personal space where we can connect with our intuition, higher guidance, source, nature, memories, ancestors, and so on. It is the creation of a beautiful arrangement of material goods that act as a reminder of an intention, goal, or memory. 

Altars act as physical reminders of what we are seeking or remembering. They constantly remind us of our intentions, acting as portals, calling in and anchoring our dreams here in reality.

An altar doesn't need to be fussy or complicated. I am confident you already have an altar set up in your home, you just might not realize it! 

Does your nightstand contain a few items that aid you in getting a restful sleep? Perhaps you have a book, glass of water, and some nice lip balm or scented lotion that assist you in drifting off. This is a simple example of an altar. 

There are many different types of altars. We will explore three types together.

evergreen branchesSeasonal Altars

Creating seasonal altars help us usher in the energy of the new season, celebrate with rituals and customs associated with that season, and help us to bookend the previous season. They can assist us with releasing with what was, integrating what we have learned, and welcoming what is ahead.

Many of us already practice celebrating Christmas or Yule by putting up an evergreen tree. While modern times associate the Christmas tree with Santa or Christianity, the Yule tree actually stems from Paganism folklore where trees were worshiped and revered. Evergreens symbolized the Tree of Life and were used an offering to the gods. Greenery was brought inside as protection and to act as a reminder of the sun’s return.

nightstand with books, buddha, and water glassPersonal Altars

A personal altar is having a collection of items arranged to support and empower us. Back to the example of the nightstand I gave earlier, having a selection of items within reach can support us with connecting and settling into ourselves. Whether you have a daily meditation practice by candlelight or light a stick of incense each morning or applying a favorite scented lotion before bed, having designated space and items that honor and reflect coming home to yourself is so important. It is something we all do quite naturally without being fully aware.

living room gallery wall

Family or Communal Altars

Do you have a photo or gallery wall in your home? A family or communal altar is a designated space where we gather and honor our beloveds, special memories, and our achievements. It is where we can remember those who might not be with us and also celebrate milestones; whether they are personal or shared with others. Is this space adorned with plants, an arrangement of special books, or memorabilia? Maybe you have a collection of travel photography that reminds you of a special adventure. Communal altars are the space where we can be reminded of all we have accomplished, those who have supported us, and all the joys that have been shared along the way.

Enhance your altar space by incorporating a beautiful candle or spray from the Element Collection