How to Build an Altar: Creating a Sacred Space

Building an altar is a wonderful first step in any spiritual journey. The act of creating a sacred space for your spiritual work ensures that you will make that work part of your daily life. 

Altars come in many forms (a self love altar is a great place to start), and you should listen to your feelings every step of the way as you build one. Here I’ll share plenty of advice on how to build an altar- creating a sacred space in your home.

What is an altar?

self love altar

The word altar can feel very loaded, but the truth is an altar can be any area that you fill with objects that feel important or significant to you. 

These items could be anything from pictures of loved ones to crystals to gifts you received from family members.

The thing to keep in mind is that your altar can include ANYTHING that feels good to you, anything you want to see regularly.

Sometimes people have altars in their homes without even realizing it!

When I was a kid I had a shelf in my room that I filled with animal-themed items- little porcelain whales, snow globes with tigers in them, postcards from zoos. I was obsessed with the animal world, and I wanted to be able to see animals in my bedroom. 

This was my first altar! Though I didn’t know that at the time. I went on to have a career with animals, and I often feel like that altar helped keep me on track to manifesting my dreams into reality. 

Importance of creating an altar

The act of creating a home altar is a conscious choice to love yourself. Every step of the process of altar creation is a chance to check in with yourself, and do what feels good for you- just you

When you create an altar you are dedicating time and energy to your own personal development. You are making a sacred space in your home that is dedicated to your self love practice. 

Constructing an altar also makes it far more likely that you will stick with your spiritual practice. It is a commitment to your self love journey.

Altars are the perfect place to sit and do your spiritual work because an altar is a gift that you gave to yourself out of love.

Whether you are meditating, journaling, or performing rituals, sitting at your altar will help center you.

Components of a spiritual altar

As I mentioned above, an altar can include anything that feels good to you. With that said, if this is your first time making an altar you may need a little inspiration! 

Below I’ve listed some items that you may want to include on your altar.

Altar Cloth/ Covering

I like to cover my altars with soft, brightly colored cloths because I love the way they look. You could use a scarf, swaths of leftover fabric, even tablecloths for this! 

My very favorite altar cloth is a 1 yard cutting of bright orange/red cloth that was in the bargain bin at my local craft store! To me the pattern resembles fire, and I love the energy of it. 

I share this example because an altar does NOT need to cost much money to put together. In fact, you can likely put it together with items you already have around your house.

Don’t let money get in the way of creating your sacred space. 

Natural Elements

Feather against the sunset

This can be anything you find in nature that feels beautiful or sacred to you. On my altar I have a piece of petrified wood, some seashells, a large turkey feather, and a few rocks that I’ve picked up on different camping trips.

Other items that you might find on a hike like fallen sticks, leaves, or pine cones would also make great additions to your altar.

Remember that you should do no harm when choosing items for your altar. So do not pick living, wild plants. Instead scan the ground for fallen plants that you can dry.

Items of Personal Significance

Carved dragon on altar

This can be anything that has sentimental value for you, or that makes you feel good when you look at it. 

Jewelry, photographs, and figurines are all items that may work well on your altar.

Crystals and Rocks

Crystals in wooden bowl

Crystals can really amplify the energy of your altar, which is why I always place plenty of them on mine. They are also really pretty, and make a nice, sparkly addition to your altar.

If you don’t own any crystals that’s okay! You can go for a walk and pick up a small rock that feels good to you. Or, you could certainly purchase a small crystal (or two or three…) for your altar. 

Don’t worry too much about the type of crystal, just choose one that appeals to you. Trust your gut here!

Cards, runes, or any item that allows communication from your higher self

Adding a divination tool to your altar makes it easier to connect with the universe. Divination tools are simply a direct way for your higher self to send you messages.

Examples of divination tools include: tarot cards, oracle cards, runes, and pendulums.

Tarot and oracle cards are my personal favorite divination tools. There are hundreds of tarot and oracle decks available for purchase online or at your local metaphysical shop if you don’t own any. 

Choose a deck that feels good to you, that pulls you towards it. For more information on choosing a deck, and learning to read it check out my article on card reading for beginners.

Items that engage your senses

Candles and Buddha figure

Place items on your altar that will engage as many of your senses as possible! It is easier to go deep into a ritual or meditation when you are engaging your senses. 

  • Items like incense and scented candles help to engage your sense of smell. 
  • Items like chimes or singing bowls engage your sense of hearing. 
  • Items like palm stones, and small bowls of water can engage your sense of touch. 

Creating an Altar

Altar with box, shells, and water

An altar is a deeply personal space. Take your time deciding where to place your altar. 

Try to choose a spot where you can get some privacy. It doesn’t need to be a private area all the time, but consider how easy it will be for you to sit in the space alone when you want to. 

Choose an area of your home that feels peaceful and calming to you. For some people this will be the bedroom, for some it will be a covered porch, for some it could be the attic or the basement. 

There is no right or wrong place for an altar, so trust your instincts! Your altar should go in a spot that feels good to you, a spot where you will be happy to spend your free time.

The base of the altar can be just about anything! A coffee table, a large trunk, or an actual altar table will all work as a base. 

My altar is a big storage trunk that I’ve draped an altar cloth over. This works well for me because I have limited storage in my house, and this way I’m making double use of the storage trunk. 

Take your time.

Remember that your altar does not have to be completed in a day (and it probably won’t be). Create a basic altar, and then add to it as time goes on. 

Don’t be afraid to change your altar over time as you change! Remove items that no longer serve you, and add items that feel good to you. Reorganize the placement of items as often as feels good to you. 

This space is sacred because of the power you give it, so never limit your own power around your altar. Touch it, change it, play with it, think of your altar space as an extension of yourself!

Incense burning

Now that you have an altar you may want to consider a daily meditation practice! Meditation comes in many forms, check out my article on meditation methods for anyone to find a method that feels right for you.

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