As we wrap up this series on An Altar for Aphrodite, there are a few more things for us to keep in mind. The possibilities of potential altar trinkets are endless, and there are a few commonly used items that were not mentioned in the previous posts. I also want to discuss some important considerations for setting up your altar.
You can incorporate the aspect of color into pretty much any item on your altar, including candles, candleholders, crystals, water vessels, and many more. In my experience, Aphrodite’s sacred colors are red, white, and pink. I have also seen references to green as one of Her color correspondences, and I imagine any shade of blue from the ocean would also be appropriate. I have also used black when working with Her, both for Her darker shadow aspects as well as Her more risque side (think sexy black lingerie).
The Altar Surface
Is your altar on the ground? On a table? On the top of a bookshelf? On the kitchen counter? Depending on the intention behind your altar, you have many options when it comes to the actual altar surface. You can choose your altar’s surface based on a correspondence to a sacred type of wood or metal, or (more realistically) whatever surface you happen to have available. I have a circular white marble altar that sits very close to the floor that I absolutely love. However, it is only about a foot in diameter, which doesn’t leave much room for other altar items, so I usually arrange any elemental representations or other accoutrements around it on the floor when I am using it.
You may also choose to cover your altar surface with a cloth. This can range from a simple white table cloth to a dedicated altar cloth with an intricate design. Aphrodite’s sacred colors can be incorporated here, as well. Since we hold rituals in public parks, my Pagan group has a variety of collapsable plastic tables that we use as altars. Not very impressive by themselves, but cover it with a nice tablecloth and *poof* – an instant altar upgrade!
Tools are another popular addition to an altar, particularly if you will be practicing magick. Depending on your tradition, there can be rules about what tools go where on the altar. Since I don’t follow an established tradition, I put whatever tools I might be using wherever they intuitively make sense.
My wand needs to be where I can reach it to cast and release the circle. My chalice is usually in the West, holding whatever type of water I wanted for my elemental representation. Divination tools such as tarot/oracle decks or my pendulum go wherever there is space, though usually towards the center if I plan on using them that day/night. Any spell or ritual items are also usually in the center for blessing and so that they can soak up all the awesome energies I’ve worked to create with my altar.
Experiment with the arrangement of your tools and find out what works best for you! And don’t be afraid to change things up if the energy starts feeling stagnant.
Okay, I know this isn’t typically included in a traditional altar setup, but you are as much of a part of your altar as anything else on it. I view our beings and our bodies as essential components of the sacred space we create. Whenever you use your altar, you add to that sacred space simply by being you!
On a tangible level, you can do this through the items with which you choose to decorate your body. This can be clothing or jewelry with sacred symbols, colors, or a depiction of the Goddess. It can be an outfit that makes you feel sexy, romantic, empowered, or comfortable. Or it can be nothing at all! Aphrodite appreciates lavish adornments, complete nudity, and everything in between. Pick what suits you and the occasion!
There are several important things to consider about your altar, both while you are setting it up and while it will be displayed. Here are the major ones:
Where will your altar be set up? The particular location of your altar will dictate what can be used and displayed there.
If your altar is outside, are all the items on it weather-proof? Or, if they are not, do you have a place to store those items when you are not actively using your altar? Depending on your surrounding environment, your items may also need to be squirrel- or magpie-proof as well. Though Aphrodite probably wouldn’t mind, you might not want a bird flying off with one of your expensive altar shinies.
Location is also important for indoor altars. If you are a kitchen witch with an altar near your stove, you probably don’t want to use anything too flammable, lest your nice altar cloth catch on fire the next time you are making a stirfry! Some locations will present space limitations – There are only so many altar items you can stick on a shelf or on the top of your bookcase. You may also want to avoid using particularly fragile items if your altar is in a high-traffic area where a visitor or a curious pet may knock something over.
Some locations, like a rented apartment or a public park, may come with additional restrictions. Probably the most common rules are no fire and no weapons (including athames, swords, and other ritual blades), but there may also be limits on incense or other items.
Additionally, there are some practical considerations for location as well. If you are burning a taper candle, where are the wax drips going? While it is possible to get wax out of a nice table cloth or even your carpet (I learned that one through personal experience), avoid the panicked call to your witchy friend by planning ahead! (Also, “dripless” taper candles are a LIE!) Same goes for accidentally overturned chalices, hot ash from burnt incense, spilt essential oils, and falling pieces of burning sage or other herbs. Plan ahead!
Does your altar need to be portable? If you are setting up an altar somewhere that is not your place of residence, it is likely that at least parts of your altar will need to be easily transportable. This could include a folding table that can fit in your car trunk. (Double check that, too, before you volunteer to bring a table that won’t fit in your tiny car like I did once). You might want to include a table cloth or altar cloth to make things prettier if your table surface isn’t aesthetically pleasing.
This could also mean that you need a way to pack your altar items for transport so that they won’t get damaged. Towels or paper towels are great for this, as are sturdy Rubbermaid tubs. Pack things tightly so they don’t jostle around and increase the chance of breaking something.
If setting up altars in other places is something you do frequently, I would suggest finding some more durable altar items that will withstand being knocked around a little. Both the journey to and from the ritual space (as well as potentially clumsy ritual goers) may not be kind to your beautifully intricate statue with many small, breakable details.
If you have sturdy altar items, you also won’t spend the whole ritual worrying if someone is going to knock something over. That someone could also be you. I once shattered a glass wand on the concrete floor of a picnic shelter before a public ritual. I’ve had flower vases get blown over by the wind and break. I’ve spilled sacred water (Well, it’s an offering now!) and almost brought down a Maypole (though the Maypole was a group effort).
This isn’t to say that you can’t bring nice, but potentially fragile, altar pieces to a public event or over to your friend’s house for a ritual. You just need to accept that, even with the best precautions, you may have to replace the item in question. This is even true for objects that never leave your house, which brings us to our next topic…
Curious Pets and Children
The other inhabitants of your home are a very important consideration for any altar. If you have fragile sacred items, you may need to construct your altar in a place high up where a batting paw, wagging tail, or curious hand won’t knock over your expensive hand-blown glass chalice. Alternatively, if your altar is on the ground, nothing can fall off of it! (Though things may still get knocked over.) You may wish to keep your altar out of high-traffic areas of your home to avoid potential collisions with passersby.
Open flames and lit incense have the potential to be dangerous. Same goes for ritual knives and other weapons. Make sure they are in a safe place and that you are around to monitor them.
Considering other inhabitants of your home is particularly important for food, plants, essential oils, offerings, or other potentially ingestible things on your altar! There are many foods and plants that are toxic to dogs and cats (check out the ASPCA’s website for a good list), and small children will put pretty much anything in their mouths. Essential oils (either ingested or diffused in the air) can be toxic to pets. Small items can be a choking hazard for both kids and animals. Pet- and child-proof your altar just like you would any other area of your home. Because if there is a way for them to get to it, they WILL.
Visitors to Your Altar Space
Depending on the location of your altar, you may need to consider visitors to your altar space. Are you okay with visitors to your home seeing your altar? Or do you need a setup that you can hide away or artfully disguise when family is visiting? If you have an altar on your desk at work, are you okay with your office knowing that you are Pagan? Or do you need to construct a desk altar that muggles won’t recognize, even if it is in plain sight right next to your family photo?
Cleansing and Purifying Your Altar Items
It is a good idea to physically and energetically cleanse any items before adding them to your altar. This is particularly true for any items that may have been acquired secondhand! By purifying all the different aspects of your altar, from the surface on which it is arranged to the items on it, you can ensure that the energy of the altar space is whatever YOU consciously create.
See my post Elemental Cleansing and Purification Ritual for Self, Spaces, and Tools for some suggestions on how to do this.
There are so many wonderful possibilities for an altar for Aphrodite! Take a look at Part One and Part Two again. I encourage you to pick something that resonates with you and go with it. Let the inspiration come from your heart. I’m sure you will create something beautiful!
Brightest blessings to you on your journey!
*Please note that an “altar” (ending with an -ar) is a place for spiritual things. “Alter” (ending in an -er) is a verb meaning “to change.” I frequently see this misspelled on the internet and I wanted to clarify any confusion.