The altar is the place you go to honor and pay homage to your deity.
It’s the place you go to pray, perform magical rites and connect with the energy of spirit. The altar is a sacred space and it should be treated as such. Over the years I’ve read about many different ways one is “supposed” to set up an altar. Put “this” over there and “that” over there and make sure you have a gazillion magical tools and all the elements are represented and……
It can get a little overwhelming especially for someone who might be new to magic or to keeping an altar.
I personally believe that the creation of an altar should come from the heart. And if you are keeping an altar to honor a deity you might want to spend some time with that deity and ask them what they would like on their altar. The most common things to have on an altar are candles, incense, smudge stick, a representation of your deity and something to put an offering into.
It helps if your altar is aesthetically appealing as well because this adds to the energy of the sacred space.
But, it’s not mandatory. The more comfortable you get with keeping an altar and working with your deity, the closer you will get to creating an altar that pleases both you and your God/Goddess. You can also choose to make some of the things on your altar yourself if you’re so inclined. Or you can pick up things from nature to use at your altar. For example, I use a clam shell that I got from the beach as an offering bowl. If you do decide to take something from nature, make sure you thank the earth when you do so.
Another aspect of tending an altar is keeping it clean and participating in monthly altar cleaning rituals.
In Ancient Greece on the night of dark moon, the Deipnon was celebrated in honor of the house deities and the Goddess Hekate. On the eve of each new moon people would hold a feast in honor of Hekate and they would also clean their homes and their altars from top to bottom. Sacred effigies of their deities were dusted and cleaned. Offerings were buried in the earth and offering bowls were wiped down. Scrap wax from candles and dust from burned incense was swept outside. When they were done they had a clean, shiny altar ready for new offerings and new prayers to be made.
It’s important to clean off your altars every so often, not only is it just necessary for cleanliness, but it also pleases the Gods.
It lets them know that you care about them and that you don’t just use them for your own needs. You don’t have to wait until the next dark moon to clean your altar, of course. If you do decide to wait, then try to make it a monthly thing. Get out your cleaning supplies (preferably natural), turn on some soft music, light some sage to cleanse your area and ground and center yourself with some deep breathing. Then start to clean. Ask spirit for guidance if you’re not sure what to do with scraps of wax and other such things.
Notice how you feel after you’ve cleaned everything.
Also notice how the space feels. Thank your deity for their guidance and leave a fresh offering. This helps to seal the energy and it sets a new intention for the now clean and fresh space.
Do you have any special altar cleaning rituals that you like to perform?