How To Create A Sacred Altar For Prayer & Worship
If you’ve been wondering how to build an altar, here is a practice guide that will help you out.
“The energy in here is so inviting. It’s peaceful, so soothing.”
It’s not uncommon to hear this when someone comes to visit. They immediately sense good, peaceful vibes in the house. The intent of sacred space went into every room when decorating.
You see, everything is energy.
And even if you’re not “in tune” with it or recognize it fully, energy is affecting you.
I’ve been watching the series “Lost Resort” on Hulu. It’s about a group of men and women who attend a Shamanic healing retreat in Costa Rica for three weeks.
The Shaman, Chrissie, talks a lot about “hoocha”, or heavy, dense energy.
The type of energy that causes you to feel heavy, down, etc.
You ever walk into a room and feel negative vibes?
That’s “hoocha” you’re sensing. The kind of energy that vibrates at a low frequency.
If you’re not careful, this lower energy can affect your energy level.
And just the same, when you enter a room where the energy is vibrating at a high level, that affects you too – but in a good way.
Create Sacred Space
Your home space is important. Sacred, I might even say.
Well, it can be sacred if you learn how to create such a space.
This brings me to the topic of an altar.
I’d like to share with you a little bit about altars and some basic tips for creating a sacred altar in your home.
I’ll also throw in some helpful tips for you in terms of how to use that altar to strengthen your spiritual practice – whatever that it for you.
Take what resonates and leave the rest.
What Is An Altar?
An altar is a space/place where you place objects, symbols, etc. and focus your prayers or offerings to your higher power.
Here in the West, we don’t see that many altars in public places. When I visited a couple parts of Mexico, I was amazed at how many altars I saw. In fact, the majority of homes in some cities have some sort of altar in the home.
We visited Zinacantan in the Chiapas region one day – a very small village. It was Sunday and quite quiet. We walked around the village taking in all the beautiful Mexican architecture and sites.
If you know Shala, then you’ll know that if she sees someone, she’s going to engage with them.
Well, we ran into a family sitting outside. The women were weaving old fashioned style, and by that, I mean knees pressed to the ground. No fancy machines.
Shala, who doesn’t speak Spanish, used hand motions to inquire about seeing their weavings.
The women, happy to engage with us, took us into the home by way of the children’s bedroom. It was a large bedroom with two beds on each side.
In one corner, they had piled high the latest of their beautiful weavings.
But that’s not what caught my eye.
It was their altar that astounded me.
It was so beautiful. There were many candles, photos of I’m guessing family members, trinkets, statutes, and more.
Right there in the children’s bedroom!
I’ll never forget that site – and that day! Beautiful memories.
An Altar Is What You Desire It To Be
There are all types of altars. When constructing one for yourself, keep in mind that you can use that altar for whatever you desire:
It can be small, big, minimalistic, creative. It’s all up to you!
How To Build An Altar
If you’re not sure what kind of altar you want, look at some examples on the web. Pinterest is a good place to start. Get an idea of what you want and just get started. You can start simple and add as you become inspired.
Some people have altars on the floor. They put meditation pillows down and create a holy space to sit and meditate.
Others use a small table, top of a dresser, shelf, or have an altar built. There is a huge variety and there’s no right or wrong when it comes to this type of thing.
Here’s our altar built locally by a craftsman. As you can see, there is a variety of things that are meaningful to us.
How Can A Home Altar Benefit You?
Creating an altar may benefit you in several ways. For me, I enjoyed the process of creating it. Putting the time into it and really praying about what to put on it. I also think having an altar reminds me that prayer, worship, meditation, and silence are important. Seeing the altar and spending time there helps me grow spiritually.
Other benefits may include:
- Having a physical space to for spiritual practice.
- Using your creativity to create through self-expression.
- Space to go deeper in inner healing work.
How To Build An Altar
Step 1: Decide where you want your altar to be
The thing about an altar is that there’s no right or wrong in selecting the space for it. You can build an altar, (or have it built) us a table or part of a table, or have it on the floor. It’s completely up to you.
Your altar can be in any room you wish. The living room, kitchen, bedroom, closet…it’s all fine.
Look around your home and decide where you’d like your altar to be located. See what feels right for you.
You’ll also want to think about how busy the room is. If you’re wanting a quiet spot, yet have lots of traffic in the living room, you may want to choose a quieter room.
The size of your altar is up to you. It can be small or large – makes no difference. Whatever works for you.
Step 2: Dedicate The Space
Think of your altar as a holy space. It will serve as a portal to the Divine. A reminder of the Sacred.
As such, take time before you create it to cleanse and purify the area.
Think of the priest sprinkling holy water to purify and bless. Or the Shaman smudging with sage. The ritual you choose to use is up to you – again, no right or wrong. You could speak blessings over the space, light candles and pray, use your tuning forks or singling bowls, put on worship music and sing your heart out. Get your drum out and bang away.
Do what resonates with you.
Step 3: Gather Meaningful Things To Put On The Altar
Now it’s time to start gathering objects that you’ll put on your altar. As I’ve mentioned several times, there’s no right or wrong. What you choose should come from listening to your intuition. Your heart.
What’s on my altar may be completely different than what you choose. That’s alright. Trust that as you contemplate and pray about the objects you choose, you’ll choose exactly what you’re supposed to.
Here are some common objects people place on their altars:
- Pictures of themselves as a child to represent their inner child
- Pictures of family members/friends (deceased and/or alive)
- Crystals, gemstones
- Photo or statue of spiritual teacher or higher power (Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, etc.)
- Something that represents the four elements, fire, water, earth, air
- Objects that are meaningful to them (feather, bones, rosary beads, gifts, tokens, etc.)
- Holy texts such as the Bible
- Essential oil
- Incense, sacred herbs like palo santo, sage
- Prayer cards or written down prayers
- Angel, tarot, or oracle cards
Essentially, you can put whatever you want on your altar. Try not to overthink it. Your altar will be uniquely yours and however it looks, it’s great!
Step 4: Place The Objects On The Altar
Once you have your objects selected, it’s time to place the objects on the altar.
When you’re arranging the altar, take a few moments to get into a meditative space. You might want to put on some quiet, reflective music or sit in silence.
Take time to hold each object and get a feel for where it should go. Then, start placing each object until you’re complete.
If you want your sacred altar to have a focal point, that’s fine. Maybe you have a statue, a large crystal, or photo you’d like to single out. Again, your altar can look however you want it to look.
Keep in mind, however, you might not want it to be cluttered. Think symmetry or feng shui.
And that’s all there is to it.
The only thing left to do is enjoy your altar anytime you want!
Feel free to modify the objects on your altar whenever you wish. You can add to it, take away, move things around, or move the location of the altar. All is fine.
We moved our altar from the floor when we had a wood altar built. Both of them we love!
We’ve got various items on the altar – statues, pictures, palo santo, smudge sticks, feathers, candles, and other items that we value.
Use Your Altar
Your new sacred space will be a wonderful place for you to sit, contemplate, pray, worship, etc. whenever you want.
How often should you use it?
Whenever you want.
If you’re on a tight budget, no worries. You can use objects you already have around your home. Don’t think it has to look all fancy either. It can be simple (because simple is beautiful too).
You can pick things up along your life’s journey too. No need to have all your objects on hand now.
My hope and prayer is that your altar helps you grow spiritually. That you come to love yourself more, your higher power more, and humanity.
May you gain more clarity that you are spirit. You are a luminous spirit connected to Spirit. You are loved and you ARE love.
Here are some photos to help you along your sacred altar building journey!
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.