Our columnist extols the virtues of having an altar in your home
We’ve been building altars for millennia – archaeologists have found evidence of them all over the world, while many religious traditions continue the practice today. Yet, there’s no need to follow a particular faith to create an altar and it doesn’t need to be large, ornate or complicated. An altar is simply a way to imbue everyday life with a sense of the sacred. It’s a place to stop and be still and aware – if only for a few moments. It is a small place of refuge, an aid to feeling safe, secure and part of something greater than ourselves.
There are no set rules as to what you should put on your altar. However, if you want a template, most traditions start with items that represent the four elements – a candle for fire; a bowl of water (maybe with flowers floating on it); an incense holder or aromatherapy burner (for air), and either a bowl of salt or crystals/stones (for earth).
Now, add items to personalise your sacred space. If you follow a particular spiritual path, include an image or symbol – a figure of Buddha or the Goddess; a cross, a menorah, a statue of Ganesh, Shiva or Kali. I like to include any particular oracle cards or tarot card that I’m working with at any particular moment. Sometimes, I’ll add an inspirational quote, poem or affirmation, or I’ll open a book at a particular page or picture. Play around with the arrangement until it feels right. Light your candle and let your mind wander over the altar. Does it provide a focus for meditation? Does it set your mind on interesting pathways? If so, it’s doing its job.
I have little altars all around my home – once you start, you may well find it’s impossible to stick to one. Many ancient cultures have some kind of shrine or sanctuary on or around the threshold of the house, offering protection and signalling the shift from the outside world into the sacred home. A kitchen is a natural place for a homely altar, offering thanks for all your blessings (I use the window ledge where earthy goddesses and coffee-scented candles sit amongst my herbs). My bedroom altar is all about dreams and visions with sleepfriendly essential oils and my dream journal.
If you want to summon success, or love, or peace, you could construct an altar specifically geared to that purpose, maybe including a vision board or symbolic pictures. Let your altars shift and change according to the seasons or your own intuition. My book The Holistic Therapy Bible (Carlton Books) gives various suggestions if you need a little more guidance. But really, just follow your own inner voice and you won’t go far wrong.
Jane’s book The Energy Secret - Practices and Rituals to Unlock your Inner Energy for Healing and Happiness (Kyle Books, £14.99) is available now.
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