To set up an altar, you will need some kind of large flat surface.
A table or a cupboard will do.
You can use the drawers for storage and cover it with a cloth.
It does not really matter what shape the surface is.
Circles and squares are both sacred shapes.
Any shape is easy to divide into quadrants, for the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, that are central to traditional magic, and play a part even in informal rituals.
A round altar, the shape of the sacred circle, works especially well.
If you do not have a suitable piece of furniture, a piece of uncut stone or unpolished wood, such as hazel, ash, rowan or oak supported on stones or bricks will do.
Ensure that it is high enough so that you are not constantly stopping.
In good weather, if you have a sheltered private place in your garden or back yard, you can adopt a tree stump or tall, flat rock as your workspace.
But perhaps the best altars of all,are those impromptu ones you make.
These could be such as, the top of a standing stone ,with a circle of your favourite crystals.
Or on a rock on the beach, with a circle of seaweed, and shells to mark the directions.
The altar need not be large. but you will need to have room,to move all the way around it.
Many rituals demand that you move in a circle with the altar in the centre.
Although in some places, the altar will be placed the North of the circle, whilst you stand to the South, facing North.
At the end of the day though, how you have your altar is, your choice.
The central position of the altar or circle represents the realm of Spirit or Akasha.
Akasha is the name given to the fifth element, formed by the combination of the four ancient elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water.
These four elements were considered, in classical times,to be the components of all life and matter.
In formal magic, artefacts, and lighted candles, are kept on an altar but this is not vital.
It is quite possible, even if you are using a communal room, in an apartment or house, to leave your altar partly prepared.
Although items such as, salt and water,are best added immediately before a ritual, so they will be fresh.
A garden altar can be set with an outdoor candle or torch and stone figurines, perhaps shaded by bushes.
It may be an idea to keep living plants, on your indoor altar, when it is not in use, so as to keep the energies fresh and moving.
If the plant feels stagnant, sprinkle an infusion of lemon or peppermint widdershins.
This may, in turn, remove the negativity, that has come in from the activities of the day, and then deosil, to charge it with power.
You can also cleanse it with incense, creating a protective circle of pine or myrrh, again widdershins and then deosil.
Each night, or whenever you have time, you can explore your inner psychic powers at your altar.
For example, you can gaze into a candle, or scry into a bowl of water ,on the surface of which you have dripped coloured inks.
Try holding the different crystals that you place on your altar, and allow impressions to pass through your fingertips, manifest as images, sounds or feelings.
This psychic art is called psychometry and is one that will emerge spontaneously.
You may, however, have a more specific aim in mind.
For example, to improve your finances, place a pot of basil herbs, surrounded by golden coloured coins ,and light a green or golden prosperity candle, while visualising golden coins showering upon you.
If you have a friend who is sick and wish to send healing thoughts to them, place a photograph of them on the altar, and surround it with pink flowers, pink rose quartz crystals and a circle of tiny pink candles.
Send your message of healing or visualised golden light, then blow out the candles deosil, sending the energies to where they are needed.
When you are not carrying out formal magick, keep on the altar any crystals that are of personal significance to you.
You might wish to have a clear crystal quartz for pure energy, a blue lapis lazuli flecked with gold for wisdom, purple amethyst and rose quartz for healing and harmony, or a gleaming, golden-brown tiger’s eye for grounding.
You can also keep different herbs there according to your current focus.
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