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November 6, 2022

What is an altar, and what should I have on it?

Getting started in your magickal journey can often feel overwhelming, and sometimes you aren't sure where to start or what to do. The wonderful thing about witchcraft & magick is that there is no right and wrong, it all comes down to personal preference; but us at Tragic Beautiful know it is sometimes great to have a rough outline of what to do.

Read along to have your questions about altars answered, and to discover the essentials you should have on your altar.

What is an altar?

An altar is a personalised, sacred space that practitioners use for rituals, spells and other magickal workings. It serves as a focal point to connect with spiritual energies, divine forces, or personal intentions.

A witch's altar typically includes symbolic tools such as candles, crystals, herbs, and ritual tools that align with the practitioner's magickal goals and beliefs. The arrangement and items on the altar can vary widely among individual witches and different traditions within witchcraft and Paganism.

While it is not necessary to have a specific altar to conduct your spellwork, having a dedicated space is incredibly helpful for focusing on your craft and allows you to be further immersed in your rituals. The way you set up and decorate your wiccan altar is a reflection of your powerful, magickal self. It can be as minimalist or as maximalist as you’d like.

Keep in mind that the way you set up your altar does not need to be static; it is likely to change as your practice develops overtime.

Where should I set up my altar?

Deciding where to set up your altar is entirely up to you, however, we recommend setting this up in an area where you are least likely to be interrupted, experience distractions and where no one else will mess with it. Your altar's location and purpose will determine the kind of equipment you need. For a portable altar in nature, envision a kit tailored to spontaneous inspiration, while a home altar may involve a more permanent, organised arrangement. Whether this be in a separate room, your bedroom or living room, choose a space that feels right for you and gives you privacy. You can use a table, a desk, a dresser, shelf or a windowsill, depending on how much space you require.

What should I have on my altar?

As mentioned earlier, a witches altar is a reflection of who they are, so get creative with yours! We have collated some essential tools to help you get started with creating your very own powerful area for performing your rituals. We have compiled the most important altar essentials below!

    Start with an altar cloth

    It's a great idea to start at the foundation and place an altar cloth on your altar. Altar cloths are a representation of your magickal approach and serve to protect your altar from burning incense, candles & hot cauldrons. It is a good idea to choose an altar cloth that represents you and your approach to magick, whether that is a tapestry, rug, or even a towel if you're a sea witch. It does not matter the fabric, as long as you feel a connection to it.

    Choose whichever design you connect with, whether that be Celtic prints, witchcraft symbols, pentagrams, herbs or bones.

    Ensure you have various spell candles

    Candles are an essential part of your ritual toolkit. A lit candle represents the fire element, and the colours of candles take on different meanings for different rituals. A basic black and white spell candle are a good place to start, as these candles represent the goddess and god or masculine and feminine in nature, and are useful in most rituals, but these candles can also help provide protection, or cleansing and purification. Because colours have different meanings and what matters is your intent behind choosing, a set of chime or spell candles are an easy way to draw elements of focus into your ritual so are a must-have for your altar setup.

    Our top pick for a starter candle kit is this 20 pack of Chime Spell Candles - they are an affordable and easy way to ensure you have all different candle colours for your rituals and spellwork.

    For more information about candle colours and their meanings, read our guide on simple candle magick and the meaning of candle colours here.

    What would a witch be without her cauldron?

    Cauldrons are arguably the most well-known symbol of witches, and they are indeed an altar essential. Cauldrons hold many uses including mixing ingredients such as your herbs, burning loose incense on a charcoal disc, making black salt or to burn petitions. They are not only a useful tool, but they are a symbolic symbol for witches - you can keep one or multiple cauldrons on your altar!

    Multiple cauldrons are handy for rituals where you need to keep ingredients separate. For example, you might be burning incense in one cauldron, burning resin in another and need another cauldron for mixing herbs together with your hands. The amount of cauldrons you keep on your altar is dependent on how extensive your rituals become.

    For those starting out, we recommend something like our best selling metal cauldron with brass sieve.

    To learn more about cauldrons, head to our cauldron blog here.

    Show gratitude with an offering bowl

    The use of an offering bowl, sometimes called a libation dish, is dependent on your form of magick, but are essential to most rituals. Offering bowls hold a pivotal role on a witch's altar, serving as a symbolic conduit between the practitioner and the spiritual forces they engage with. This sacred vessel is a representation of gratitude, respect, and intention, allowing witches to express their devotion through physical offerings such as herbs, crystals, or liquids.

    The act of placing offerings into the bowl becomes a focused and intentional practice, channeling the practitioner's energy and enhancing the efficacy of their rituals. Beyond symbolism, the offering bowl signifies reciprocity, establishing a give-and-take relationship with the spiritual realm.

    Check out our range of offering bowls here.

    Crystals are a multi-use altar essential

    Crystals can be powerful ingredients within your spellwork have a broad range of uses on altars. A generator crystal is a great crystal to have on your altar; these crystals have six or more faces that come to a point on one end, and are designed to generate and protect energy during spells and rituals. Clear quartz helps to amplify the effects of your spell and hold onto energy you put into it.

    Get ready for rituals by cleansing

    Cleansing your altar is an essential if you want to conduct your spellwork from a fresh, clean slate. There a variety of ways you can cleanse your altar, but the most popular way to do so is with smoke. Smoke cleansing involves using the smoke from herbs like cedar, juniper, rosemary and eucalyptus to cleanse a space; cleansing sticks are a great way to efficiently cleanse your altar before each ritual. Other cleansing methods involve incense or resin blends, and even sound can be utilised to cleanse a space, with the use of a witches bell, pots, or even yelling.

    For easy ways to cleanse your space, head to our simple cleansing spell blog here.


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