Altering My Altar

I’m not that happy yet with my altar… I won’t include a photo here with this discussion, because this altar is really a temporary set-up; we’re moving in two months, so it’s going to change then anyway. This is just a preliminary consideration of why I’m not satisfied with it yet.

It’s odd. I like all the individual components of my altar, but they just don’t mesh very well. I have a pretty bowl for a well (brown with shiny turquoise inside); three little white votive candles in nice, clear holders; a pillar candle on a blue willow ware saucer for the fire; and two branches in a glass etched with a dragon for the tree. I chose the branches very carefully, and they’re standing up in polished rocks. My mother gave me the dragon glass. For Christmas, my fiance got me a tiny little “in vitro” cactus in a vial so that I could have something alive on my altar, and that’s hanging on one of the “tree” branches. Today I added a soapstone incense burner engraved with leaves.

No patron representations yet, and I haven’t unpacked my photos for the ancestor component. I don’t have a dedicated offering bowl, so I add a little ceramic cup when needed. The funny thing is, I don’t know where I’d keep an offering bowl or any representations because the altar is so cluttered already. Hopefully in the new apartment I’ll be able to add some little shelves above the table to keep representations.

Underneath the altar, I store the notebook where I write down rituals, a box with extra candles and incense, and a green glass bottle I use for storing water from the river near my apartment.

Anyway, it’s a chaotic mishmash on a tiny little table, and it just doesn’t satisfy that part of my soul that craves beauty in my place of worship. I need a little altar feng shui.  Has anyone else experienced this sort of dissatisfaction when building an altar? If so, how did you correct it?

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2 thoughts on “Altering My Altar

  1. I share my abode with a) a pack of Irish Wolfhounds whose tails are a height adequate to sweep clear in one wag the entire contents of any surface lower than about 4 feet, and b) cats who have a penchant for jumping up on any surface higher than 4 feet and pushing the previous contents of the surface onto the ground for their own amusement.

    As a result, I tend to make little altars here and there where they can be kept safe. For instance, I have a small Earth Mother altar on a shelf in my kitchen and a small altar with my well/fire/tree in the living room. You might find that having multiple altars can reduce clutter.

  2. My altar is very simple, but it’s also very incomplete. I have what I feel is the minimum for an ADF altar, representations of the well, fire, and tree. The rest of my pretty large (in comparison) altar table is used for things like oracle/tarot readings. I have a separate altar for offerings, but no representations of ancestors or deities, and the two altars are in separate sections of the room.

    It’s the best I could do with the space I have right now. I know that it doesn’t look like others I’ve seen, and I sometimes get frustrated with it and wish I had more space (or even the same amount of space but without the weird setup that doesn’t allow a lot of options) to make it the altar I want. For some occasions, I change it up a little, before Samhain this year I got rid of the working/reading section and covered it with things like leaves that represented the changing season for me. That helped me see it as adaptable rather than limited, being able to change out parts of it to suit my needs. I think that if I had a more permanent and complete altar, I would have static sections, which would be nice but wouldn’t allow for as much flexibility. It’s a different situation, and I’m learning to enjoy the simplicity and freedom while I have it. They both (more permanent and developed altars, and the simple temporary ones) have their benefits, they just have to be approached for what they are instead of trying to look like the other.

    No idea if that helps your particular situation, but it was what I was having problems with and needed to change.

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