The Altar is the sacred space that a Witch uses to honour the God and the Goddess as well as perform various Rituals. It can be either permanent or temporary - before my parents were fully comfortable with my religion, I had a temporary altar. (I now use the surface on my chest of drawers as my altar.) Altars can be placed indoors or outdoors, though most Witches, while they would prefer to have an outdoor altar, have one indoors due to convenience or circumstance.
There are a variety of things that go on your altar, among these are your Ritual Tools, which are explored below. Other items that go on your altar may or may not be:
- Altar cloth - just to keep it nice and clean. Candles drip and dust gathers, so cloths are generally a good idea.
- Representatives of the Elements (see Related Pages)
- God or Goddess symbols - pictures can be used.
- A Besom, or broom, used for purifying the Ritual Space.
- Cauldron, which is basically a larger version of a Chalice (below), but also used for other things within rituals.
Firstly, the Athamé - pronounced ah-tha-may, and usually spelled without the accent, but I do it so people remember the pronunciation. Traditionally, an Athamé is a double edged knife used for working with energy. Since we don't usually use it for slicing things, it has a dull blade. All the same, remember your knife safety! It is associated with Fire and masculine energy.
Secondly is the Wand, the object that is most associated with Witchcraft. It is used for working with magickal energy, and is another symbol of male energy, and represents Air. Getting a Wand is unique to each Witch. For example, mine was taken - with permission - from a tree in my garden, whereas you may find a random piece of driftwood on your local beach.
The third thing is the Chalice, which is a goblet used to represent Water and female energy. It is traditionally wine glass shaped, and used for drinking during rituals. It can be anything from something simple and wooden (a la Indy's choice in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) or even finely decorated.
Lastly, but not least, is the Pentacle, used to represent Earth and feminine energy. The Pentacle is the five pointed star with the interconnecting lines showing, encased by a circle. It is a symbol of protection and of the cycles of and within life.