Creating an Altar
Today I am going to talk to you about creating a sacred altar in your home. It is a place where you can retreat to for stillness and peace as well as reflection. It is a shrine where you can connect with the Divine. Altars have been created throughout history by people all over the world.
Once you have decided that you want to create a sacredaltar you first need to do a physical and spiritual cleansing of the room that you are going to place it in. Begin by removing all clutter and dust. I decided that I wanted to create an altar in my sitting room but first I had to give it a thorough spring clean. Just clearing the clutter and cleaning the room lifted my energy whereas before I was feeling heavy every time I walked through that room. They say after three days you no longer notice clutter and that had happened to me.
I inherited a beautiful antique table from my father which Ibrought here all the way from South Africa via England. It is ornately decorated with a marble top and gilding on the legs. My Dad used to have it in the hall way of the house I grew up in so it brings back memories of my childhood. I then cleared the energy spiritually by burning incense. You can do this by burning incense or sage, or you can use the vibration of sound by drumming, ringing bells or chimes and singing or chanting.
In bygone times the four elements of air, water, fire and earth were honoured as without these elements there would be no life on earth. Each element represents an aspect of human characteristics: Air – mental; Water – emotions; Earth – physical; and Fire – spiritual life force. I place objects on my altar that represent each of these elements. An empty bowl represents air, a vase of flowers represents water, candles represent fire and crystals or stones represent earth.
It is necessary to keep something alive like flowers or a plant on your altar. You can change objects around and replace them with new objects so that you have a living and loving relationship with your altar that will nourish your soul. You can arrange the objects logically by arranging large items at the back and small items in the front or intuitively by choosing objects for your altar and then just moving them around until they feel right.
Choose an altar cloth such as a scarf or piece of fabric. It is important in many traditions and provides a context for the rest of the altar. The choice of fabric will greatly affect the entire structure. I chose an orange scarf that a close friend had just sent me in the mail as a gift and I wanted to honour her gift. Orangeresonated with me and I wanted to use it to set the tone for my altar. Orange is meaningful to me as it represents the second chakra, the Sacral chakra, on the sacred energy wheel. I started feeling myself being drawn to the lower chakras of of the energy wheel which are the Root, Sacral and Solar-Plexus chakras of red, orange and yellow respectively. These colours are grounding and invigorating whereas blues and violets may be more calming. Orange also reminds me of my home country, South Africa, and I found myself drawn to collecting objects that resonate with this African theme.
Select objects to put on your altar that have deep meaning and significance for you. Objects include rocks, stones, metals, shells, bones or horns, feathers, plants or flowers, dried plants, herbs, fruit and grains, twigs, branches, pine cones and leaves. Each object has an essence of its own which is influenced by symbolism, origin and physical substance. For example, a white dove or an olive leaf may symbolise peace. This is what makes your altar alive as it represents you. It’s an ongoing process and you will continue to replace objects on your altar table.
Your altar objects may have private meanings that are only significant to you. I chose an orange painted ostrich egg with the Big Five on it. I was attracted to the colour and also the picture of an elephant which represents the matriarch and therefore motherhood. I chose candles with tones that blended in to my colour scheme and held meaning for me. I chose a clay bowl with bushmen style drawings of antelope, lovingly made by my late mother, and a crystal vase from my father as my center piece. I picked fresh roses in bright pink, orange and yellow tones from my rose garden and arranged the flowers in the vase. I put some dry lavender flowers from my garden in the bowl giving off a fragrant scent.
My mother came from Norfolk where lavender is grown and I was honouring her roots. I also lived in Norfolk in England and had visited the stunning lavender fields that she had always spoken about to me while growing up in South Africa. I regard both South Africa and England as home. On a subconscious level I was creating energy that connects me and grounds me to my ancestral roots.
Trees represent the connection to the spiritual world. Parts of the tree such as, a leaf or bark, can be used on your altar. The oak tree represents strength and fortitude and the pine tree represents purification.
Depending on your own personal beliefs choose one item that signifies a realm beyond the physical realm in order todeclare a sacred space such as a picture or a statue of a deity. I have chosen fresh flowers to symbolise nature, a red candle with a female deity in a lotus blossom to represent the Divine Femine and a small, white candle in a container that represents the black Madonna from Montserrat for my sacred space.
The fresh flowers from my garden symbolise the here and now and are alive and vibrant. I have chosen roses as my flowers as they are a constant source of joy to me. They also signify abundance and joy as my rose garden has given me a never ending supply of beautiful blooms throughout the summerto which I am most grateful.
Essential oils and incense can create an uplifting feeling. Smell can affect the way you feel emotionally and can affect your energy. Frankincense and sandalwood are calming, lemon is uplifting and pine is cleansing. You can also use a ceramic vaporiser on your altar table or in the room. This consists of a small bowl with a few drops of essential oils in it that is heated above a candle.
Once your altar is complete it is time for its dedication ceremony. This birthing rite can be as simple as lighting a candle and sitting quietly for a few moments to allow the spirit of the altar to fill your mind and your heart. You may want to say a few words of prayer about your hopes and aspirations for the your newly created shrine.
Spend time regularly meditating and praying in front of your altar. The power of your meditations and prayers infuses the shrine with energy thereby beaming out to the universe and in turn will beam back to you. You are uplifting the vibrational energy of the planet and thereby contributing to a global awakening.
Dear hearts, may your altar change your life in positive ways so that your life becomes a beacon of love and peace to all those around you.
In love and light,