The Home Altar 101: For Tiny Spaces and Places

If you follow me on Instagram you might know about the rotating altar we tend in our home. Since we have been in the process of moving from one place to another for well over a year now, we have taken a minimalistic approach to the family altar.

Who Needs an Altar?

You might be asking why someone would even have an altar, especially if you are not religious, or even if you are and have only seen them in places of worship. If you didn’t grow up with an altar in your home (I didn’t) it may seem exotic, or archaic, even blasphemous. But the reality is that an altar is just a focal point of your home, which you have seeded with intention. In fact, you may already have a home altar (or several), but you don’t call it that. Essentially an altar is a place set aside to display objects that mean something to you and remind you of your heartfelt intentions. It is also a place to give thanks for the blessings in your life. It can also be a place to do ritual if you are so inclined. Altars have been part of the human experience for a very long time, and need not be tied to a specific religion or belief system; anyone can have one.

Altars and Simple Rituals are Part of Human Nature

If you have ever placed a bouquet of freshly picked wildflowers on your kitchen windowsill after spring-cleaning your home to make everything feel brighter or fresher, you have created an altar and done a ritual. If you display items from your travels to remind you of your love for different cultures so you make sure to travel again, that is an altar. If you light a scented candle while you take a bath in order to feel relaxed, you have created an altar. If you’ve ever cooked a pot of chicken soup for a sick loved one in hopes it will make them feel better, that is a ritual. If you light incense to “clear the air”, that is a ritual. Certainly, if you have ever left milk and cookies out for Santa, you have created an altar, with an offering. See, it is all very natural. These are small examples of altars and simple rituals that we do every day without thinking about it. Altars help us to give physicality to our intentions and rituals help us to manifest them.

Try a Small, Rotating Altar To Begin

Some altars can be very elaborate, but they needn’t be. Our altars have been very simple of late because we don’t have a lot of space. Small, moveable and rotating altars are a great solution if you live with others, or you wish to keep your altars private when you have guests (or contractors or repair people) over. Starting small is also a good way to begin tending an altar, for it is simplistic and easy to manage.

I like having a rotating altar because it allows us to change our focus on a daily basis if we want. That means if you are trying to manifest a long-term relationship and financial security or abundance, you can easily tend to all three by changing our altar frequently, even daily.

Here is our Tomten altar that we put out on the night of the winter solstice.

For us, we honor our ancestors, plus several different gods and goddesses as well as land spirits. Even if we lived in a big home, it would be hard to have dedicated altars set aside for each, so this is a very practical solution to make sure everyone is honored. We also change our altar seasonally or make it specific to help with something we are trying to manifest.

Here is our daughter Alba making an offering to Freyja

A small altar is also good for us because we have two little children, and it is easy for fragile things to be broken in our home. With a small rotating altar, you can place it up high in a small space that little hands can’t reach. For example, our altar has been housed in several places depending on where we are living – on a kitchen windowsill, on top of a dresser, on a fireplace mantle, in a small wall alcove and on a tiny shelf above the stove in the kitchen.

Kitchen Altar

That reminds me that I also have a small kitchen altar in addition to the family altar. For me, cooking is one of the most magical acts one can do and it is a simple ritual that most of us do daily often multiple times a day. Cooking transforms raw ingredients into something mouthwateringly delicious and something that nourishes our bodies. Depending on what spices and herbs you use, can significantly change the outcome. I talk more about the history and magic of spices in my post Spices: Culinary Magic.

Using the art of visualization and the act of intention while you cook can also impart certain feelings to the ones who eat it. I am always trying to impart a feeling of contentment and well being on my family when I cook for them. Having a small kitchen altar reminds me to be thankful for the food we eat, and to those who produce it.

If you want to learn more about cooking with intention or kitchen magic, check out my book: Love in Every Bite: The Secret to Cooking Healthy Recipes with Positive Energy. It contains 35 naturally gluten-free and heart-healthy recipes for the whole family. Each recipe includes ingredients associated with love and contentment, and there is a whole section on how to use visualization and intention to impart this love to those you cook for.

Special herbal offering blend to Cernunnos

If you want to create an altar here are some things to think about:

  • Choose a space, somewhere that you will see the altar often; make it a true focal point of your home so you are often reminded of your intentions.
  • What is the focus of the altar? Are you trying to manifest something in your life? Do you want to honor someone? Do you want to cultivate a certain feeling or a relationship? Again, you can have several different areas of focus and can create an altar for each one, rotating between them as you see fit.
  • What objects symbolize those areas of focus or whomever you wish to honor? Choose a few symbols to represent that. For example, do you seek financial security? You can place a few coins or dollar bills on a windowsill. Then write on a piece of paper what you need in order to be financially secure and add that to the altar. You can also add a few pictures of what you would do if you were financially secure. Would you buy a home? Add a picture of your new home. Would you go on vacation? Add a picture of where you would go. If you want to honor and remember an ancestor that passed on, a picture of them or an object that used to belong to them is perfect.
  • Then each day, do a simple ritual. Light a candle, and take a few really deep breaths to connect with your intention, the reason you set up your altar and then see what comes up.
  • Place an offering on the altar in thanks to whomever you are asking for help in manifesting what you need, or just to honor that being, even if it is just the Universe. Typical offerings are flowers, food, beverage or incense.
  • Repeat this process for each area of focus and then rotate the altars as needed.
Do you have an altar? I’d love to see pictures or hear about it in the comments.

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