Beliefnet

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.

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.

Perhaps your theme centers on your desire to spend more time at the ocean. To mirror this need, choose objects that reflect your love of the sea: a watercolor of the ocean, a bowl of beach sand, a dried starfish, and a snapshot of you frolicking in the ocean. These visual representations of your desire to visit the ocean will help you focus on that desire when you sit before your ocean altar.

The beach is the perfect setting for a temporary outdoor altar. Simply take a pail, fill it with sand, place a circle of sea-washed beach stones on the sand, and stick a seagull feather into the center of the circle. In this way you have created a space apart which honors sky (feathers), sea (beach stones), and earth (sand).

Consider creating an altar to pay tribute to the private self hidden deep within the psyche. For this type of altar choose objects that symbolize disparate parts of your inner self. An altar honoring your many selves emanates a wild beauty, a terrible truth, an awesome power. The altar becomes a stage upon which the inner and outer selves merge, creating a wholeness that is truly healing.

Relax and trust the altar-making process. Know that various objects such as scarves for altar clothes, statues, pictures, candles, and candleholders will find their way to you. Objects you find around the house, in the yard, or in the shed will suddenly appear in a different light as you become more in tune with the art of altar creation. Altar objects are sacred because you consider them special--that is the only criterion.

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