A Guide to Women's Altars

A personal altar invites us to reconnect with the deeper parts of ourselves. Here's how to get started.

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You instinctively pick it up and turn it over in your hand. The feather begins a flow of thought. The color reminds you of a startling blue place mat tucked away in the linen drawer. You remember a gorgeous picture of a bird in flight from a nature magazine. The bird was photographed against a dawn sky just before sunrise. You become aware that yellow candles will mimic the sun's glow and accent the yellows in the picture. Before you realize it, you've found the theme, the colors, the centerpiece--all inspired by a blue jay's feather, which you now lay in a place of honor in the center of your altar.

Once you choose the intention for your altar, select a place where you can set it up. Remember, an altar can be created anywhere, outdoors or indoors. Once you make a place special through the creation of an altar, you begin to respond to that place with a certain reverence. The altar absorbs and retains some of this reverential energy and so, over time, you become aware of the interplay of energy between you, the altar-maker, and your creation, the altar.

You have a theme and you've chosen a place. The question is now, "What do you place on your altar?" The answer is, "Anything you please!" An altar is a place where you give attention to objects and people and places that matter to you. When choosing objects for your altar, select those that revolve around your theme.

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If you find inspiration in nature, consider which of the four elements you feel the most affinity towards an dedicate your altar to that element. Choose flags, fans, or bird feathers to represent air, and bowls of spring water, seashells, wine, or essence oils to symbolize water. Gems, stones, crystals, potting soil, plants, and flowers for earth; candles, incense, pictures of flames or drawings of the sun for fire. Any or all of the four elements can be represented on your nature altar, whether it be indoors or out. If you wish to represent all four elements on your indoor nature altar, you might include a candle for fire, a paper fan to air, flowers for earth, and a bowl of water.

 

Another aspect of nature is the animal kingdom. You might decorate your altar with a drawing of your totem animal (a helping spirit that comes to you in your dreams or reveries in the form of an animal), a photo of your favorite wild animal, or a picture of a pet. This altar space is created to honor these beings that are in sync with the natural forces of the universe in a way we can only hope to emulate. By creating this altar you are establishing a connection to a nature-centered view of the world.

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Nancy Brady Cunningham
Photos by Denise Geddes
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