How to Set up a Magical Altar

Setting up an Altar for the purposes of your personal practices is, well… personal.

When you ask mother google “How do I set up an Altar” you usually get one of two things. The first is an overly specific set of parameters and an overload of information, while the other is a nebulous an unspecific “do whatever you feel” approach, which isn’t wrong but it also doesn’t offer much guidance.

Have you ever asked someone what time it is and they try to tell you how to build a clock?

The truth is – there’s no wrong way to set up your spiritual practice. I encourage you to make choices that help you SPEND TIME with your altar OFTEN if not every day. I think two things to consider are What is an Altar and How do you intend to use it?

Whatever you put on an altar – you are telling the universe that it’s pretty important.

What is an Altar?

I often describe an Altar in short as a “Spiritual Workspace”. To this end an Altar could be a yoga mat, your fireplace mantle, a small table top, or a special spot on a bookshelf. It could also be an outdoor space, a circle of stones or a picnic blanket. Temporary or permanent, one of many or singular and significant, general or specific it’s literally where the magic happens.

When I say “Spiritual Workspace” the most important factor in declaring something an Altar is that it isn’t used for other things than for spiritual work—and spiritual work is personal. You are the main ingredient. So unless that cup of coffee is an offering — let’s just put in on the coffee table, and if you’re using a coffee table as an Altar, you’re gonna need a new place to set down your coffee.

That being said – there are a few guideposts to offer some inspiration, I wouldn’t leave you floating like like that! My suggestions are exactly that and you can take from them what you will. I encourage you to be creative with your altar. And if you’re a member of the Ephemeral Experiences Magic Camp I encourage you so share your creation to help inspire others with your approach. The more magic shared – the better.

How do you intend to use it?

Many people with a religious affiliation will place sacred objects on their Altar for use in rituals. The consecrated Altar of the Catholic Church is a prime example. The Priest uses the Altar to perform the Sacrament of the Eucharist at Mass (that’s a ritual within a ritual)

In a Temple or Shrine altars feature statuary and attendants might burn incense or place flowers, prasad, and other devotional items to focus their intentions.

If you’re new to the whole Magical Altar thing I’d like to suggest placing some items that are sentimental to you, remind you of loved ones or inspire hope and resilience. A lot of spiritual work should offer a sense of peace and clarity. I’d suggest keeping it simple.

Will you meditate with your altar? I like to sit in front of mine and reflect on the objects placed there. I sometimes write myself notes or pull tarot cards for insight. I like to burn candles and incense if I’ll be able to attend to them while they are burning. Most of the time I write in a journal and keep in on the Altar (I call this my book of days)

Think about what your “Spiritual Workspace” might need if you were going to spend at least 15 minutes a day connecting with with your Higher Purpose, even if you don’t know what that purpose is (most of us don’t). This is the sacred spot you make to focus your attention.

Make sure anything you put there has a reason. Even if it’s just because you love it.

Here’s a tidied up version of my Altar as just one example:

Here’s what I recommend to get started with a pretty solid altar

Altar Cloth

This can be a specific color or the fabric itself may have some personal history. I have one piece that I use that was a scarf a friend brought to me as a souvenir from her trip overseas.


Safety First! Flameless candles totally work. Your altar should never pose a safety hazard to you, your family and your pets. Full stop. Candles are used for all kinds of Magical purposes and they are rich with symbology. In the Experience Community we do a deep dive into Candle Magic.

Pen & Paper (always comes in handy)

Some might say that Sacred Parchment and Blessed Ink are the only way *Dogma Alert* – I love fancy paper and quills and I feel really connected to that sometimes, other times a notebook and a ball point pen serve the best purpose. You’re better off with tools you can use instead of not writing down your thoughts, spells and intentions because you didn’t make it to the witchy poo market in time for the perfect parchment sale.

Something that Creates Sound

Bells are great. It’s phenomenal how sound and vibration can focus the mind in an instant! I also have a noise maker made of shells that one of my favorite spiritual influences gave me at a ritual years ago. It sounds like a rainstick – so soothing. I know someone who has a small harp. It’s a perfect way to set the tone (pun intended) for your Spiritual Work session.

Fresh Flowers, Herbs, Aromatherapy, & Insence

These awaken your olfactory senses and, in the case of flowers, your visual senses. But activating a your sense of smell is a proven way to help you associate your magical work with a particular state of mind. Our olfactory senses are directly linked to memory.

Vessel and/or Bowl

I think it’s good to have a bowl around to place offerings in. Sometimes I put a little rose water in (see above) and other times I fold little notes with prayers or hopes. Sometimes I’ll hand the flowers upside down to dry out and make a potpourri in my bowl (Especially if the flowers were a gift)

A Sacred/Sentimental Item

This could be a picture of a personal hero or deity. A gift from a loved one or ancestor. Something that helps you see the larger picture of your lifetime and helps remind you of your inherent meaning.

Ephemeral Experiences

We talk about this a LOT in the Magic Camp Community discussion, perhaps you’d like to join the conversation?

Yoga people are kooky but Jessica Blanchard means business, and her business is helping you feel your best.

by Precious Ephemera

When I first decided to move to New Orleans in 2013, I started looking at yoga studios for teaching opportunities. In Chicago, at times, I was teaching like 18 classes a week to make ends meet and I was burnt out. I wanted to just teach a couple classes to keep yoga as a part of my life. After a couple studios informed me that they only hire teachers through their own teacher training program (imagine paying upwards of 4k to get a despicably low paying job doing something you’ve done professionally for more than half a decade) I got a wonderful email from a studio owner who was interested in meeting me. She invited me to the studio to get to know her. This, to me, is how New Orleanians do it. They’re gonna feel you out.

Balance is a different kind of yoga studio than you find most places and Jessica is a different kind of studio owner. First of all, she’s completely sane (surprisingly hard to find) and it is evident upon meeting her that she’s someone who practices what she teaches. We don’t often meet people with her level of character and integrity. She wasn’t just offering me a job. She was offering me a place in a community of people who want to feel better and don’t want to subscribe to some Gweneth Paltrow inspired lifestyle with an impossible set of standards. Balance is a studio where normal people can learn and practice yoga without any of the social pressure or spiritual elitism you find in a west coast inspired studio.

It’s a fucking breath of fresh air, to be quite honest.

I’m proud that this is where I lay my mat down. I’m glad that our studio doesn’t hold classes for 50+ people at a time. I’m glad that when you get there on a Saturday someone is preparing an Ayurvedic meal after a workshop and it smells like a house full of people who are kind to one another and learn together. My relationship with her and Balance Yoga Wellness + Ayurveda is a cornerstone of my life in New Orleans and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her gentle encouragement and tempered support.

Jessica Blanchard, RD – Functional Nutritionist

Since starting at the studio Jessica and her partner have welcomed a second child and we spent last year on campus together as she finished pre-med. She has a little window of downtime before med school kicks back up again and SHE’S TAKING CLIENTS! I tell you this because it is such a huge opportunity.

Jessica Blanchard is the example. You can’t say that you are too busy to take care of yourself. She has years of experience making time for yoga, nutrition and wellness AND the demands of being a business owner, a functional dietitian with a private practice all while raising two kids under 10. She’s just as intuitive as she is a scientist and she will make a terrific doctor.

If you find yourself grump and groggy all the time and you haven’t been able to figure out a plan, I can’t tell you enough how much working with a functional nutritionist can demystify the fog of concerns that overwhelm us at times.

Jessica Blanchard and her children. New Orleans, LA

When it comes to tackling wellness, there is no one more qualified to help you feel like yourself again. Come to our humble lil spot in Mid-City and take a gentle class, grab a coffee in the kitchen, take off your shoes and take a deep breath, she’s built a space where we can gather to get better, and she’s here to help. and she wants to meet you.

Here’s the page that tells you all about what she does. Check it out and if you happen to see her and her friendly family out and about – be sure to give her a high five from me.