Sacred Space: 5 Steps to Creating an Altar in Your Home

An altar serves as a visual focus of your spiritual intentions, affirmations, prayers, and energy. It also serves as a place to go be quiet, re-calibrate your mind, and re-ground your energy. An altar can be right where you are. In an open field, in your parked car, or in a private place in your home. The key is to create a space that’s sacred and consecrated. There are certain steps that you are encouraged to follow while setting up your altar in your home.

Step 1: Find a Location for Your Altar

Choose an area of your home that has little to no daily family traffic. I opted to turn one of the guest bedrooms into my meditation room. In there, I erected my altar. An empty closet or even a secluded attic or basement will work just fine. Choose a space that resonates with you.

Step 2: Cleanse the Space for Your Altar

Once you have found the place, clean it by sweeping, then by smudging with a cleansing herb such as sage. Through day to day experiences and the beautiful process of life, stagnant energy can invade your physical space and your spiritual space. Smudging is an ancient ceremony of burning sacred plants like sage, sweet grass, or tobacco. When burned, the smoke clears the space of negative ions and then blesses the space to begin fresh and new again. In essence, it’s like resetting and re-energizing the field. Scientifically, it has also been proven that burning sage removes bacteria from the air.

Here is how you can integrate this ancient spiritual practice into your life.

Items Needed

  • Sage or other sacred plants

  • Sage represents the earth element and when burned, the smoke from it represents the air.

  • Abalone shell. This is meant to hold and burn the plants. The shell represents the water element. (Sometimes I use this, other times I hold the smudge stick between my fingers)

  • Matches or a lighter. These represent the fire element.

  • Feather. This represents the air element. (When a feather is not available, I have waved the smudge stick to represent this element)

  • Drum(s) or sacred drumming music, which represent the beat of the heart. (If drum sounds are not available, set an intention and imagine it to be so. Trust your Spirit to create the sound for you.)

  • You can read about the processing of smudging in the article, Clear Your Energy and Your Space With the Sacred Ritual of Smudging.

Step 3: Choose Essential Items for Your Altar

There are no right or wrong items to choose when Spirit has spoken to you. I offer that you do choose to present at your altar at least one item that represents the four elements, fire/light, water, air, and earth. Fire represents creative energy, strength, and sexuality. Water represents cleansing, healing, and cultivating our intuition. For Air one might use natural incense, white sage, feathers, a bird image, or even a writing instrument; for air represents knowledge, wisdom, and masculine energy. Earth represents being secure, grounded, and carries feminine energy (as in Mother Earth).

Suggested items:

  • Candles (fire/light)

  • A vessel filled with water (water)

  • Feather (air)

  • Crystals or stones (earth)

  • Fresh flowers or herbs

  • Spiritual or inspirational books

  • Journal and writing utensil

  • Photos of loved ones (if creating an ancestral altar, photos of your loved ones who have transitioned)

  • Food offering (for ancestral altars)

  • Spiritual figures

  • Printed or written inspiration (poems, prayers, affirmation, etc.)

  • Bell (rung to vibrate or attune you to the spiritual energy)

  • White fabric to cover your altar and place to your altar items on.

Step 4: Bless Your Altar

Blessing your altar is saying a prayer, setting an intention or chanting a mantra or affirmation over the altar. You choose what your heart speaks for you to do. If you are constructing an ancestral altar, one traditional way is to use a wooden table or to place your white fabric on the floor and your items on top. Additional items for ancestral altars are

  • Food of any kind that your heart desires or that your ancestor requests. Remember, my grandmother requested a pork chop, sweet potato, and black coffee!

  • Clear liquor to represent someone that has gone through transition.

  • Cigar/Tobacco which is a sacred herb of the earth.

  • A cup of brewed black coffee

  • Two white candles to be placed on each side of the altar.

  • Masks or cloth dolls to represent ancestral forces. (I have an African mask on mine.)

Incense (I use Frankincense for strength, Myrrh for purification, Rosemary for clarity, Rose for love, Sandalwood for prosperity, and Lavender for peace. Use what feels good for you.)

If you are constructing a personal development altar, water is the most essential element as it represents cleansing, purification, and pure communication. Seven glasses of water in the following order are to be used on the altar, one for each spiritual force that dwells within each of us. These seven spiritual forces are the

  • The spirit of your head

  • The spirit of your ancestral bloodline

  • Place each water vessel to your head and dedicate it with a blessing. Bless and honor your altar by using it often. By doing so we send a powerful message to the universe that we are open and willing to receive the great things that are coming our way.

  • The spirit of your masculine energy

  • The spirit of your feminine energy

  • The spirit of your inner child

  • The spiritual energy of past of existences 

  • The Spirit of God who serves as the head of our being

Step 5: Bless Yourself

You, consecrated and made holy, are also an altar. Each morning I bless my head as a ritual to bless the functions of my being. The Head Blessing Ritual became so powerful that I noticed a significant difference on the days that I performed the ritual and the days that I did not. Miracles were frequently and the more evident on the days I blessed my head. I created a special blog for you to really see how the blessing works. You can find it here in the post, Head Blessings: 7 Sacred Steps in Blessing Your Head Each Day. 

Schan Ellis