We instinctively create altars all the time.  Whether it is an arrangement of family photos
lovingly placed on a piano, or the dinner table’s elaborate centerpiece, or perhaps a specific
planting of flowers around a stone or pond in the garden where we like to sit, all of these  in
their way carry the intent to create a central focus of beauty and peace, inviting us to come
back again and again.  This is the power of an altar, we feel more centered and at peace
when we visit one, more in touch with the Divine.  This is especially so with one that we have
personally created. An altar establishes sacred space and a vortex of energy based on your
intent.  So what makes such an arrangement of personal objects different from any other
decorative accessories in the home? The difference is in the intention and awareness of
sacred purpose. As we build an altar, we tap into our inner truth and make it manifest in a
physical way. We bring the sacred into our everyday lives.  

An altar can be as elaborate or simple as you want.  Traditionally, the most consistent
components found present in the creation of an altar is the representation of the four
elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air, the use of a predominant color, an offering, and a focal
point. The focal point can be a picture of a deity, person, or entity, whose qualities inspire
you, or it can be something symbolic such as a mandala, crystal, saying, or affirmation.  
Inspiration is the key.  It is always important, whether inside or outside, to choose a
harmonious and peaceful location where natural forces can contribute to the energy.  In my
yard there is a large and very old Ponderosa pine that hosts an altar at its base.  Before that
a circle of large boulders was my favorite meditative location.  In my home I have four altars,
one facing each of the four directions in different rooms and built with a different focus and
intent.  Your intention in the creation of a specific altar is the key factor.  The various spiritual
traditions each have their specific layouts and components, which are beyond this article to
address but you can go online for further information.

Items commonly found on an alter  The use of statues, things from nature, incense,
candles, or pictures engage all our senses.

Candles—representing the divine spark or holy fire within
Gemstones, Crystals, Gold, Silver—representing the abundant earth element
Chalice or water bowls—representing the water element, the Holy Grail and fulfillment
Incense, feathers—representing the air element, unity with Creator and Divine
consciousness, also used in smudging rituals
Flowers—representing beauty
Holy Ash—from a sacred fire or cremation of a Holy person
Medicine Bag—a bundled collection of sacred objects
Prayer Beads/Mala/Rosary—are used as a focus for your prayers
Book or Books—to energize your altar or to read a passage out of daily
Mandala—Sacred geometric design used for focus and aid in meditation
Circle--completion/wholeness Can be made of anything you hold dear
Cross--In Christianity symbolizes the intersection of heaven and earth
Egg--new beginnings, regeneration
Pentagram--five pointed star of harmony and balance
Star--symbolizes the heavens, great attainment
Pyramid--symbolizes revelations, ancient mysteries
Triangle--symbolizes the divine trinity or path toward higher union
Key--used as a symbol of opening inner realms
Picture--placing a picture of something dear to you symbolizes your heart
Statue--many altars contain a statue of a chosen deity for focus

Deities  *Welcoming the energy of the deities of the past can sometimes fill a need not
addressed by the religious system of our times. A figurine or a painting or drawing of the
deity can be placed on your altar as a reminder of the qualities that the deity represents.”
Denise Linn

Christ—Unconditional Love
Mother Mary—Compassion, nurturing
Buddha -- purveyor of compassion
Confucious--wise teacher
Kuan Yin (Quan Yin)--goddess of compassion, nurturing mother
St. Christopher (Christian)--patron saint of travelers
Horus (Egyptian)--Sky god and hero
Isis (Egyptian)--mother goddess, inner feminine mysteries
Osiris (Egyptian)--powerful fertility god
Athena ( Greek) --goddess of wisdom
Zeus (Greek)--king of the gods
Durga (Hindu)--mother goddess
Ganesha (Hindu)--helps to overcome all obstacles
Krishna (Hindu)--Incarnation of Vishnu (The supreme being)
Shiva (Hindu)--god of destruction which insures rebirth
Odin (Norse)--god of wisdom and war
Freya (Norse)--goddess of fertility and birth
Minerva (Roman)--goddess of wisdom

Colors and their meanings
Whether you burn candles as part of your ritual or lay cloth on your altar, color does play a
role in the creation of your sacred space. Listed here are some basic colors and what they
represent
Black --Introspection
Blue--relaxation, meditation, peace, also represents the 5th Chakra
Green--healing and balance, also represents the 4th Chakra
Orange--happiness, socializing, also represents the 2nd Chakra
Pink--love, softness, also represents the 8th Chakra
Purple--royal, intuition, in most cases, represents the 6th Chakra
Red--stimulating, activating, passion, also represents the root or 1st Chakra
White--purity, in most cases represents the crown or 7th Chakra
Yellow--wisdom, communication and represents the 3rd Chakra

Offering Suggestions
An offering on your altar signifies your gift to the Universe. Each culture has a variety of
offerings which can be utilized. A few suggestions are shared here. A copper bowl as the one
depicted below, can be used as a container to place your offerings
Corn--in many cultures represents harvest and abundance
Flowers--one of my favorites which represents an emblem of the Divine
Fruit-- symbolizes the feminine spirit and harvest
Grain--symbols of prosperity and renewal
Rice--represents good fortune
Salt--symbols of purification and resurrection
Tobacco--symbolizes a connection to the spirit world
Water-- a representation of cleansing and spiritual attunement
Wine--symbols of the blood of life, eternal life

Animal Totems
An animal totem can be an important symbolic object used by an individual to get in touch
with specific qualities that an animal carries which that person needs or feels and affinity
towards.

After the altar is built, you can energize or activate it by using rituals that have meaning in
your life. You might bring a small offering, such as a fresh flower; you can light a candle to
begin your prayers. Burning a smudge stick or sprinkling water on the altar can help to focus
your energies.
There are a multitude of details to building an altar—placement, colors, symbols, offerings,
rituals, and so forth. There are many books on altar creation and feng shui, which discuss
these notions. Remember, however, not to get too involved with complicated details. Go with
what speaks to your soul—the colors, images, and symbols which instinctively ring true. The
essence of creating sacred space is a spontaneous impulse to acknowledge and celebrate
the core of our lives, our souls, and the Divine.

My favorite book of inspiration on creating altars is by Michael and Robin Mastro, titled
       “Altars of Power and Grace.”  
Creating Your Altar
By: Ingrid Jeffries
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