Let’s Make A Samhain Altar!

Now that we’ve learned a bit about the basics of Samhain, let’s create a special space where we can honor the energy of the night and create some magic!

If you’re new to the idea of magic and the word altar brings up crazy images of naked virgins with creepy people in black cloaks standing around chanting, it’s time to stop watching old horror movies.

An altar is simply a space that has been set aside as sacred and is used to do magical or spiritual work. Everything on it holds a special intention and is placed with a purpose.  It’s not a place to rest your latte but a place to keep your crystals, candles and even your morning meditation journal.

We unintentionally create altars all the time. Our desks, dressers, the living room mantel, even bookshelves with some spare space all turn into little altars with pictures, trinkets and souvenirs from our life’s journey.  Spiritual or magical altars are the same thing – space with items and tools that are used to work and reflect on our spiritual journey.

I also just want to address something that is a pet peeve of mine…it’s spelled altar not alter.  An altar is a space dedicated to magical or spiritual work where as “alter” means to change things.  I like to explain it this way:  We alter reality when we work at our altar.

 

Since it’s Samhain we’re going to make an altar that reflects the holiday and the season!  Some of the items, symbols and colors that we might use include:

 

👻  Skulls as reminders of our connection to the land of the dead, our ancestors and also our own mortality, something that is often reflected on this time of year.

👻Pumpkins or mini Jack O’Lanterns are used to represent the final harvest of the year as well as to guard and protect us and our space.

👻 Candles to help light the way for the spirits who are visiting as well as for specific purposes like protection, honoring certain aspects of the Divine or to help us manifest a wish or desire for the new year.

👻 Crystal balls, runes or tarot cards for doing divination and gaining guidance for the new year.

👻 The colors orange and black.  Orange and black are the most at Samhain but other appropriate colors include red, yellow, gold and brown.  These colors represent things like protection, blood {a reminder of our morality}, death, transition, transformation and return.  Even though we are more focused on death we still light yellow and orange candles as a way to pray for the return of the light.

👻 Cauldrons, commonly associated with witch’s, are big things to see at Samhain. They are deeply tied to the concepts of change and transformation through mythology.

👻 Dark Goddess images can also grace your altar, but if you aren’t familiar with these aspects of the Divine you can simply use a black candle to honor Her as she holds domain over the night and the season.  Some of the Goddesses associated with this time of the year include The Morrighan, Hecate, Persephone, Demeter, Kore and Pomona.

👻 Apples and Pomegranates are often used on the altar as offerings to the Goddess at this time of year.

 

What you put on your altar is up to you.  If you’re new to this a simple candle, some incense and some flowers are perfect {mums are perfect for this time of year}. Just do what feels comfortable and what you feel called to do.

There is no right or wrong way to make an altar! This is you personal, private space for magic, spiritual practice and reflection.  How it looks and what is on it should reflect your inner thoughts about your spiritual practice and the time of year.

One thing that is also common at Samhain is to place pictures and items that belonged to your loved ones who are in spirit on the altar.  However I keep a separate space for this and use my altar for doing ritual and magic at Samhain. In a few days I’ll talk to you a bit about how to connect to your ancestors at Samhain and we’ll talk about setting up an ancestor altar.

 

Let’s put together a Samhain altar!

I’m going to take you through the process of how I made my Samhain altar for this year.  Let this help inspire you in making your own altar for Samhain.

First I start with completely clearing off my altar of anything that’s there already.  Samhain more than any other time of year I like to strip it down to the table and start from scratch.  The table itself was my grandmother’s living room coffee table so I always feel like I have a little ancestor energy at my altar all the time.

Photo Oct 28, 4 05 26 PM

 

Next it’s time to pick out an altar cloth.  This isn’t a requirement but I love the colors, textures and options for expressing yourself on your altar with a cool altar cloth.  Plus it protects your surface a little from wax, ash and anything that spills.  You can buy altar cloths sold specifically as altar cloths or you can simply get a few yards of fabric to use.  I love going to the craft store this time of year and getting different witchy and Halloween themed fabrics to use {and I admit I use them all year long}.

This year I decided to go with the moons, witches and bats.  I wanted something a little fun.

 

Next I picked out a statue of The Morrighan to place in the upper center.  The upper part of the altar is where I place things that are connected to the higher realms, the realm of the Divine.

Photo Oct 28, 4 12 23 PM

 

Now it’s time to place candles.  I am a big fan of candles so I may have a little candle overkill on my altar.  To each side of Morrighan you’ll see a black candle in a skull candle holder.  These candles are Spirit Lights and are specifically created for calling in ancestors and any other passing, helping guides or spirits {and they smell divinely of petitgrain and patchouli}.

On the right of the altar is a white candle the is dedicated to the God aspect of the Divine and to the left is a black candle dedicated to the Goddess.  In the center is my Samhain ritual candle.

Photo Oct 28, 4 42 20 PM

 

Now that all the candles are in place it’s time to add the regular working tools that I use.  Again, put what you feel you need here. For me this means a wand, an athame {aka ritual knife}, my incense warmer and an incense burning cauldron {just in case}, my altar pentacle, altar crystals, chalice, oils, plant spirit bottles and other little tools that are used for incense {spoons, tongs, etc}.

When you’re doing your altar if you don’t use all this stuff and you just need something for burning incense or a bottle of an essential oil you want to use, then that’s all you need to add.

Photo Oct 28, 4 46 13 PM

 

Then lastly I place my Samhain specific items on the altar.  This is where you’ll bring in things like seasonal flowers, skulls, pumpkins and anything else that represents the season for you.

Photo Oct 28, 5 04 30 PM

For Samhain I’ve added Samhain specific oil, incense, cauldron offering herbs and space clearing wash {special herbal water that will be flicked around the space to bless it before the ritual work}.  I’ve also added a Celtic resin skull, a Cabot Hallow’s Eve Spell Bottle for connecting with the dead and in the center a small plate with the seals, stones, herbs and other goodies I need for the magical work I’ll be doing.

 

The next thing to do is a simple altar blessing.

Everyone has their own way of doing this but this is what I do for Samhain.

Take a little bit of whatever ritual oil you may have out for Samhain and put a dab of oil at each corner of your altar.

Standing over your altar clap your hands loudly and rub them together quickly {if you’re having images of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid you’re spot on}.  As you do this you’re generating energy in your hands.  See this energy in your mind’s eye as glowing white and getting bigger and bigger, surrounding your hands as you rub them together.

When you feel ready very slowly begin to pull your hands away from one another.  You’ll likely feel as though you have something in-between your palms.  What you’ve done is created an energy ball!  By pushing your hands closer to each other or pulling them apart you can expand or contract this ball of light and energy.  Try pulling your hands apart slowly, still feeling the energy growing, until you have your hands apart almost to the width of your altar surface.

With the energy still between your hands say a little blessings for it:

Between my hands a ball of light,
Full of energy, love and all things right.
I place you now upon this altar
So my Samhain magic never falters.

Then toss it like your tossing a ball “into” the altar.  Visualize it absorbing and encasing the altar in protection.

 

And that is the basics of creating a Samhain altar!  I know yours would look completely different than mine and that’s how it should be!  Each year yours will change…it may grow or may shrink but it will always be perfect for you and where you are.

 

So now you might be asking “Now that I’ve created this altar, what do I do with it? And when do I take this stuff down?”

At your altar on Samhain night you can meditate, light your candles and simply reflect on the meaning of the celebration that night.  You can ask for guidance from the spirits that are passing through the veil that night, work with divination tools, or even journal.  Write about what you want to let go of from the year that’s passing and write out your hopes, goals and dreams for the new year.

Know that whatever you do in this space will be special and sacred.

I like to leave my Samhain altar up for a week or two after Samhain has passed.  Do whatever you feel called to do.


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