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An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples, churches and other places of worship. They are used particularly in Pagan, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Modern Paganism, and Witchcraft. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Witchcraft, Roman, Greek, and Norse religion.
Witchcraft altars may be set up outside as well as indoors. Some Witchcraft dedicate an entire room to their practice while others use a temporary altar. A temporary altar can be any flat surface that can be moved easily such as a coffee table. More permanent altars are left up for the Wiccan to return to for their rites and rituals. Personal altars are those placed in a private bedroom, closet, or other space usually occupied by one person. They are used for practices of piety intended for one person.
A Witchcraft altar is a raised structure or place used for worship or prayer, upon which a Witchcraft practitioner places several symbolic and functional items for the purpose of worshiping the God and Goddess, casting spells, and/or saying chants and prayers. There are many types of altars Witchcraft may choose to use during ritual. Depending the rite they are performing, the material used for their altars may vary. This is because in many circles, different types of wood are believed to carry certain magical qualities. The altar is often considered a personal place where practitioners put their ritual items.
In the most basic form, an altar can be a single stone or a flickering candle that serves as a focal point for your meditation practice. If your spiritual practice is earth-based, your more formal altars may want to include a nod to each of the four directions. A more elaborate altar could include many elements that bring to focus a different energy that you would like to focus on. If you are creating an altar for group ritual, perhaps each member of the group brings an object to place on the altar to represent a facet of the work you are doing together. If you have a spiritual project that spans many days or sessions, you may want to bring a new object to the altar at the beginning of each session to refresh and deepen the practice.
Some Witchcraft arrange their altars to represent all four elements and directions. In the North the earth element is represented; in the east is air, in the south is fire, and in the west water. These elements can be represented in various ways, but generally do not vary in elemental and directional correspondences. When placing items on an altar or when a practice involving inviting the elements to be a part of the circle and lend their power a practitioner will move clockwise and when dismissing the elements they will move counter-clockwise.
Common items on a Witchcraft altar include athame, broom, candles, cauldron, chalice, incense, pentacle, wand, etc. Some of the items represent the Earth’s four elements, but elements may be represented more literally, with gems, salt, water, plant material, etc.
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