Shamanic Writings

February 20th, 2017 – So You Want to Build and Altar – Part 1

Published on February 20, 2017 under Shamanic Writings

How you build your altar will entirely depend on how YOU chose to. Now, there are some standard items that every altar has in common regardless of practice. So this series of articles is going to cover the varying tools needed to build a basic altar. Not all items will be necessary depending on practice or faith and will be noted as optional.

So let’s talk about the first 4 items on your list.

Altar Table:

This is usually one of the hardest pieces to acquire. Ideologically, it will be a table that you can leave up and dressed at all times. Height and size depends on the primary practitioner. I am 6’0”. In searching for a table I looked for something both tall (bar height) and collapsible. I found both online. Real wood or real materials should always be chosen if budget allows. Ornate decoration is optional. My table is rather plain and simple, but I have seen beautiful tables that are intricately carved. In my search for my current altar I came across tables with wrought iron legs and marble tops. So you can see it really comes down to personal preference.

Altar Cloth:

This item is optional, especially if you have an ornate table, but it is useful. Choosing one with an appropriate color or design, you are able to set the stage for the energy of your altar. Some people look for altar cloths that have symbols relevant to their practices. I have seen ornate cloths with runes or alchemy symbols. Now there are some pragmatic uses for an altar cloth. However, something too ornate can prove to be problematic with dripping candle wax or spilled mead and/or wine. I have often recommended finding a simple table cloth in various colors to represent the various rituals you would be performing. Another choice would be to align your main altar cloth to your sign or element. Capricorns are an earth sign, so they could use a green or brown. Aquarius is air, so white or pale colors would work.

Candles – God and Goddess Candles :

Often large candles, such as pillar candles, are used to represent the God and the Goddess. These are usually set on either side of the Pentacle, or somewhere in the center of your altar. These candles are intended to invoke the Energies of the Divine. While white and black are used to represent the Goddess and God respectively and are probably the easiest to find, silver and gold can be used as well. The Christmas/Yule/Winter season is a great time to stock up on silver and gold candles, or shortly thereafter when everything goes on sale.


This is one of your main ritual tools. While it is not as common outside of Wicca per se, it is highly useful during any ritual. It does not have to be made of metal. Mine is made of rainbow obsidian in an amethyst handle. I have a separate knife I use for more utilitarian reasons. The use of the knife will vary greatly between different practices.

Check back next week for part 2.


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