Setting up your altar

To turn your dressed table into a proper altar, you will need as basics the following objects:

1. Two candles with candle holders – you might like to think of one representing the female principle and one the male. You may also choose, in addition, candles of a colour suitable for the ritual or spell you are working.

2. An incense holder and incense suitable for the particular working.

3. A representation of the deity or deities you prefer to work with. An image of the Goddess, for instance, could be anything from a statue of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, Kuan Yin, to seashells, chalices, bowls, or certain stones that symbolize the womb or motherhood.

4. A small vase for flowers or fresh herbs.

Other objects appropriate for ceremonial working are:

• • An athame, which is a sacred knife for ceremonial use; it should never be used for anything else.

• • A white-handled knife (called a boline) for cutting branches, herbs, etc.

• • A burin, which is a sharp-pointed instrument for inscribing magical objects such as candles.

• • A small earthenware or ceramic bowl, or a small cauldron, for mixing ingredients.

• • A bowl of water.

• • A bowl of salt or sand, representing Earth.

• • A consecrated cloth, or a pentacle, on which to place dedicated objects.

Some people additionally use bells to summon the powers of the Elements, whilst others have additional candles with the colours representing both themselves and the work they wish to do. You can also have other items on your altar, such as crystals, amulets and talismans. You can do what you wish with your own altar provided you have thought through very carefully your logical or emotional reasons for including whatever you have there. You might, for instance, choose to have differing representations of the Earth Mother from diverse religions or include a pretty gift to establish a psychic link with the person who gave it to you.