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An altar refers to communicating with "the older ones" - in the olden days. It was said that passed away ancestors were placed halfway between the gods in the spirit world and the living people on the earth. 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.

The first thing before we set up an altar is to be reasonably clear who it is you want to communicate with. This sets the intention and also lets us know what 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.

Step 1: Who are you talking to?

Maybe you have a God or Goddess you are close to? Or are you working with Saints, familiars, spiritual beings? Or do you have a spirit guide close to you? Who do you want to dedicate your altar to?

If you are a total beginner and you don't have a clue (yet), then it’s safe to work with your ancestors. Maybe you have a granny you loved a lot, a past away uncle who still feels close, or any loved one who has passed over and you still have a strong connection with.
My preference? All my personal altars are dedicated to my ancestors and spirit guides.

Step 2: Know Your Contact On The Other Side!

Tune in on your chosen contact or 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. Bear in mind that not all information on websites is true or complete!
Mistakes are often copied from one website to another.

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. Your intention is more important then a fancy statue you have no feelings for to begin with.
Step 3: Find the physical location for your altar.

Once you have a sense of their presence, you can ask yourself, "Where would be the perfect place for this altar to (…….) to be constructed?"

Some spiritual entities like to be out of doors; this is mostly the case for the older nature spirits. For the ones that are happy to be indoors, you need to sense for the right place. Please note there is always a place that is "righter" than all the other places on offer.

In a palace with many rooms, cellars and gardens and a huge attic, there are many choices but still one place will feel more right than all the others. In a house with a few rooms and corridors, there will also be such a place. My best advice: never set up your altar in your bedroom. This is a place for rest. For a magickal altar, preferably do not set them up in your living room either. An altar for dedication to your passed beloved ones the living room is fine.

Hold the representation of your spirit and walk around your spaces. 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 is your guide through the realms of magick.
You'll notice that different places feel differently; and to choose the right place, you simply choose the place that feels the best.
Step 4: Creating a physical altar

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 earthly ground.

But of course, any natural material will work fine as well. Don’t get overboard on the techniques, and follow your gut feeling on this one. I have seen beautiful altars on a shelve or small table.

Mostly you will find that people put a picture of their spirit guide 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.

For a basic altar you can place flowers, some water, nice representations of your guide, some offerings like cookies and the like on your table, and a white candle. In witchcraft it is common to place the representations of the elements on the four corners of your altar: earth/ north/ salt, air/ east/ incense, fire/ south/ candle and water/ west/ a cup or bowl of water.

For now, keep it like this: a basic altar set up. Later on, when you are performing spell work you can add extra representations for your specific magick as coins and green candles for money work, glitters and yellow candles for attracting work, roses and red candles for love work and the like. You want to avoid a mirror on your basic altar setup, unless you really know what you are doing.

Step 5: Consecrating the Altar

When you have your altar set up, clean the whole area with a fine cloth, a brush and water and black salt, or any other magic cleansing salt. Florida water, VanVan and Grannies Grace wash are very suitable for this work too. This gets it ready and removes any old stuck on energy forms.

For a simple, powerful consecration, put your hands on your altar, 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 endeavors,
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 get stronger every time you use it.
Step 6: Using The Altar

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, favors, ask for help and assistance.

I strongly suggest you make offerings on your altar to bless the ones you ask for help and guidance. It will uplift the ones who uplift you. It’s an interaction between you and your spirit guide. You see them and praise them in the way they see you and help you out. Real offerings are the ones you make out of your heart. Did your passed away grannie loved tea and cookies? Then bring some to her. Follow your instincts on this one. Replacements are usually made once a week, on a Monday.

The offerings, they are a part of getting a closer relationship with your spirit guide too. What do they like? What would make them smile? What don't they like or find boring, unattractive? Just because "everybody" burns incense on their altars doesn't mean spirit guide 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.

This what a real relationship is about, that's how you make great offerings that don't buy favors, just show your love.
Step 7: Keep Your Altar Clean!

I strongly recommend to have nothing whatsoever on your altar, besides your basic representations and offerings, unless it is an active spell/ritual in process. People stuff all kinds of things on their altars, creating a cacophony of confusion that is a barrier to any kind of real magic, rather than a help.

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