I read a lot of Pagan based forums and one of the main things I have noticed when it comes to people who are new to the Pagan path is that they have a lot of questions on Alter creation. Alter creation is a very personal thing and also depends often on what your spiritual path centers on. I can honestly see how new people can get very confused with alter craft.
The books tell you to represent all the elements, the books tell you the elements must be represented by certain objects, the books tell you the pentacle must go here or the wand must go there….that you have to have a wand, that you have to have special crystals or that you have to set up your alter on specific moons etc. The books can, for the most part, go fuck themselves.
I don’t say this to shock anyone or to show disrespect to other people’s spiritual path. I say this to liberate those of you who might be having an Alter based melt down. Books are books. They represent a helpmate, guidance if you will, to aid in those who are looking to learn more. When you become more comfortable in your practice and when/if you begin interacting with Pagans who have been practicing for a long time, you will find that the actual process of Paganism is much freer, much more organic then some of the books on the market will have you believe. It’s the path that you ultimately choose and the intention of the alter that often dictates the creation process.
I often use AA slogans. I come from an AA family and they have been ingrained in me from a young age. They are useful because they hold their own simplistic truths. In this instance I would say “keep it simple stupid.” Some of my more meaningful and beautiful alters have been the most simple and heartfelt.
I criticize Hollywood the most for this sort of thing. Television shows and movies lead people to believe that in order to wield power we must have “stuff.” The energy in ritual comes from within, it comes from the universe, it comes from our community and it comes from our deity of choice. It does not come from the “stuff” we purchase or collect for our alter. Most items only have the energy we imbue them with.
You don’t need to go out and purchase beautiful cups, expensive jewel encrusted wands and large brass pentacle alter makers for your alter to hold power and meaning. Unless they hold some kind of significance to you, don’t take on the burden of that expense until you want to or you are ready to. You don’t need to bury it in feathers, mounds of stones or vessels full of water, herbs and salts. There is no need to have a rock from every corner of your property or a leaf from every tree represented in your radius. You don’t want to confuse your intention. You want to focus your will like a lighthouse in the darkness.
The singular light of one lone candle—charged with our energy—can be the beacon representing your will and intent. This can be enough. We must first find the power within. We must find the strength to know that we, as we are, are enough. Once you find that, items on your alter can help focus your intent.
The key to a personal alter is to find things that speak to you—that speak to your intentions and help you focus your energy. Begin simply and build as you change and the seasons and situations around you change. Life and Spirituality is only as complicated as you make it.