For pagans, altars are places of worship and contemplation, as well as being a place where they work rites and rituals. An altar is a highly individual thing for the person who keeps it, and it reflects the nature of the person who uses it. While an altar should reflect your own personal beliefs and your ritual needs, understanding some of the different types of altars can help you design your own.
Table altars may be constructed from card tables, low wooden tables, or even a bench covered with draped fabric. They are raised off the ground, and if they are large, they are handy for situations where group work is being done. Table altars may be temporary, erected only for certain ceremonies or rituals, or they may be permanent fixtures in the home, carrying the tools that the pagan uses regularly. Choose a table with storage space underneath to keep all of your tools stowed safely.
Niche altars are meant to be a permanent fixture in the pagan home. They may be niches made in the wall itself, or they may be cabinets that can be mounted on the wall with the doors left open or shut. A niche altar offers less horizontal space than a table altar and they tend to be small and shallow. It is, however, ideal for housing statues and other representations of your religion. A niche altar leaves you more floor space than a table altar, and it is suitable for tighter spaces. Use a niche altar with doors that can be closed if you like to keep your religious practice private.
For some pagans, an altar should be something that they carry along with them, wherever they go. A briefcase altar, modified with representations of the pagan’s deities and stocked with supplies for rituals and prayer, is one version of a portable altar. A pocket shrine is a small shrine made from a matchbox or other small box. It is often highly decorated and though its size keeps its practical use minimal, it can still be an expression of faith. Portable altars are excellent for pagans who need to travel constantly. Glue elastic straps into a briefcase to hold your tools in place and decorate the interior using fabric or paper to make it uniquely yours.
Some pagans hold nature to be an integral part of their worship and their rituals. Because of this, their altars need to be outdoors. Some options for outdoor altars include stone benches used as table altars, a simple cloth on the ground or a broad flat expanse of concrete designated for religious purposes. Outdoor altars may also be made from natural things found at the site, like tree stumps or flat rocks.
Choose an altar that reflects your needs and your religious practices. Try out different altars until you find the one that suits you, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles and moods. Decorate your altars using items that are important to you, or which are attractive to you, whether the attraction is emotional or tactile. Make your altar a place where you feel comfortable and at home.