I once believed -- and you may have, too -- that altars were only found in religious buildings. The word “altar” comes from the Latin words “altus,” meaning “high” and “adolere,” meaning “to adore.” Simply stated, an altar is used in a place of honor to draw on a higher power.
But an altar can also be located in a home as a sacred area set aside for devotion. It can be constructed for other intentional purposes, too, such as a focal point during meditation or to relax, a place to find inspiration, celebrate joy, or honor grief. An altar might purely be reminding you to take time for yourself for peace, healing, and serenity.
Creating an altar doesn’t have to be complicated or based on any set of ideas that don’t particularly resonate with you, and there’s no need to follow complex instructions either!
An altar is usually set up on a flat surface and prepared in such a way to receive meaningful items placed upon it that have symbolism: candles, flowers, stones, other elements of nature, books, quotes, photos, a decorative box, and various other important tangible items.
Choosing what to put on an altar is a personal and intuitive process and is meant to inspire a connection with the theme of the altar. Altars can remain set up and added to periodically or taken down and a new one assembled at any time.
The basic steps I use to make my own humble altar:
1. I find a space where I can set up, somewhere my pets can’t get to it or is in a little to no traffic area. Since I’m not receiving visitors during the pandemic, I currently have an altar set up on a cabinet in my downstairs office which doubles as a yoga/meditation/tai chi space and is also our guest bedroom.
2. Then I arrange a piece of cloth as a cover, a material that I think is beautiful to me or resonates with the theme of my altar. I currently am using a blue scarf that has been “charged” outside in the wind. But a piece of family lace, an article of clothing, an antique napkin, or any other fabric will serve nicely.
I also like to keep a journal near my altar so I can write down my wishes, dreams, desires, thoughts and fears that come up when I’m taking the time in quietness. Using the dedicated time at the altar can be a new and creative way to look at situations in life and it allows me to connect with a divine higher power.
In today’s modern age, we can become seduced by society and lose the connection we have with our ancestors and with the earth itself. An altar can create a spiritual center in your home and help to increase positive energy and flow throughout your home.
Check back to my blog the first week of every month where I’ll be highlighting other "Down to Earth" Altars: some traditional, some non-traditional, some having to do with current events, and some to honor personal events that are coming up.