When I first heard of personal altars my reaction was “How weird.” The concept was so foreign to me that I dismissed it as foolish and perhaps dangerous nonsense. Was this not the worship of false idols? Or, at best, a heathen practice?
I grew up with a very clear understanding of what an altar was. Every Sunday morning our family made the trek to church. There was a wooden railing about two thirds the way up the interior. On one side of this railing was blessed space. The altar, waist high and a body length long, dominated this area. The other side of the rail was where all us sinners sat, stood and kneeled. We could approach the rail but only the priest could stand at the altar.
At home, there was little to suggest that we followed any faith. The one object declaring our Christian status was the crucifix in our parents’ bedroom.
As a large family squished into a normal sized home, room was at a premium and privacy non-existent. This meant there was an unspoken policy of “For everyone or no one.” Personal worship space definitely came under the “No one” label.
Fast forward many years. The family was scattered far from the home we had grown up in. Heal Your Life by Louise Hay sat proudly on my bookcase and Wayne Dyer had become required reading. I loved all these new ways of thinking yet when I was ever suggested that I create a sacred space or make an altar those old beliefs came tumbling back out of the closets of my mind.
Finally, it was Denise Linn and her course “21 Days to Fabulous, Glorious Abundance” that allowed me to make room in my life for a tiny, little altar.
Her step-by-step guide looked like fun. It ignited my curiosity and created a challenge. I had to seek out firstly, a suitable place to set my altar, then whatever seemed appropriate to place there.
It all seemed easy enough. All I needed was a piece of quality cloth and some attractive items to represent abundance.
Immediately, I came adrift. The closest I had to material for an altar cloth was a tea towel or a pillowcase. No, there were no scarves or bolts of cloth in my home at that time. What I had was, in my mind, not worthy of the task.
This minor issue concerned me but did not deter me. I learned to improvise way back when I was a youngster. I polished the wooden surface of my altar space until it gleamed softly. Then I arranged my crystals and trinkets as felt right. It gave me pleasure to look at my work.
The exercise taught me that, while tradition is a good guide, you do not need to be bound by it. Imagination and intent will overcome setbacks.
One thing I discovered making that first altar was that it did not need to be a general “Worship of God” space. I could be quite specific in my intent. I started with abundance and moved onto health, opportunities and good fortune. All I needed to do was find objects and items that represented these things to me. The understanding that I was not, as I had originally feared, worshiping false idols grew as I worked.
Some elements are present on all my altars; feathers, a candle, crystals and a glass of water. These help me feel connected to nature.
One recommended item never appears. The single time I actually set up my altar with a beautiful altar cloth, my cat decided to play sliding on it. I walked in to discover my trinkets strewn across the floor and my cloth with threads pulled.
Sometimes one just has to accept your efforts won’t ever match the ones you want to replicate.