Building Your Personal Altar
An altar is a deeply personal space for reflection, introspection and prayer. The purpose of your altar is yours, unto you. It may be to pay homage to a deceased loved one, to honor a god, deity, orisha or saint that you are connected to, or to support you through a challenging time. While they are built for different reasons, all altars are sacred. Everyone deserves a quiet space to strengthen the bond to that which they believe is divine, and anyone who desires to can create one.
Why Build an Altar?
Altars are built for a myriad of reasons. Some are large, taking up entire rooms. Others are small enough to fit into your pocket. Some are adorned with tapestries and relics. Others are sparsely decorated, displaying simple rocks and flowers. The one common thread that weaves every altar together is faith. Faith in that which is unseen and unheard. Building an altar is a way to deepen your faith. It provides you with a tangible place to go to center yourself and focus on your spirituality.
When you build an altar, you are making a commitment to nurture and strengthen the bond you have fostered between yourself and your beliefs. The first step in creating your altar is deciding on its purpose. Think about the parts of your religion or faith that speak to you deeply. Which god(s) do you find yourself drawn to? What aspects of your life would you like to change or improve? Take some time to meditate on these questions before embarking on your journey to build your altar.
Types of Altars
It is a good idea to cleanse the space you will be using for your altar. A physically and spiritually clean area will prevent unwanted spiritual forces from being attracted to your sacred space. Wash the walls and floor around your altar with Elegua floor wash to protect your home from any evil influences. Purify your space by burning a black sage smudge stick.
As mentioned earlier, altars are created for various reasons. One popular type of altar is called an ancestor altar. These shrines are popular in many religions. Erected to remember a relative who has passed, an ancestor altar can be extremely therapeutic and comforting. In Santeria, these altars are known as Boveda. The word boveda means cavern, vault and canopy of heaven.
The most common elements in an ancestor altar are a white handkerchief or panuelo, a white skull candle, an odd number of water glasses, and any pictures or heirlooms relating to your departed relative. Drape the handkerchief over your altar table and anoint with altar oil to further cleanse the area. Place the other items on the white cloth in a way that you find pleasing. Visit your altar when you seek a connection to your loved ones or guidance from them. Light your candle and focus your intention on drawing their spirit to you.
Another type of altar is a ritual altar. This space is dedicated to performing rituals and spells that have specific purposes. As with an ancestor altar, every item that is placed on the ritual altar should have a specific meaning or function that is important to you. A stone altar table is a traditional focal point of a ritual altar. Place any herbs, stones, prayer beads or other items on your altar table. Light an altar candle and place it on a pin candle holder while preparing for your ritual.
A goal altar refers to an altar that is built for a specific intention. If you are looking for a new job or trying to attract the attention of a suitor, this is the type of altar you should consider. Cover your altar with a green handkerchief when your goal is to improve your financial situation. Light a fast luck/money drawing candle and pray to a statue of the orisha Oshun to draw money and riches your way. Lay a black handkerchief on your altar when trying to remove evil or illness from you or someone you love. Add a health custom big al candle and some clear quartz tumbled stones to assist in the healing process. Pray to a statue of Saint Lazarus, the patron saint of the sick.
Your altar can be dedicated to any goal that you are trying to achieve. Adorn your altar with items that are somehow personal to you and that you find powerful and helpful. You can add or remove items from your altar as your intentions change. See the space as a haven in which you can fully relax and submerge into your spirituality. Dedicate some time each day to sit at your altar and worship your higher power.