Most witches have a spell table or altar which is used only for ritual and magickal work. Some may have an indoor altar and an outdoor altar. Do not worry if you cannot keep your altar set up all the time. Indoors, a small table, end table or nightstand will serve the purpose. Outdoors, a tree stump or the ground will serve nicely. Some folks will be able to keep their altar available all the time, other will have to set up and take down their altar. Sometimes you just have to adapt to the situation that exists in your home. There will be times when you just can't leave your altar out because family and friends may not be very understanding.
Generally, the altar faces North, altho some prefer the East. Some may choose to make an Altar Cloth and decorate it with symbols and some will prefer a simple plain colored cloth. Some will use 2 Altar cloths: one for the basic covering of the Altar and the second to go over the first to allow for wax drippings, spills and the like.
Depending on the tradition or path you follow, generally the left side of the Altar is for the Goddess and the right side is for the God. In the top left is the Goddess candle and Goddess icon; in the top right is the God candle and God icon. Examples of a Goddess icon are: green, silver or white candle; a seashell; a statue. Examples of a God icon are: red, yellow or gold candle; pinecones; acorns; a statue.
To the North is placed the symbol of Earth (stones, salt, sand); to the East is placed the symbol of Air (feathers, fresh flowers, incense); to the South is placed the symbol of Fire (votive candle or piece of lava rock); and to the West is placed the symbol of Water (water, shells).
For the Strega, this is the placement of tools: the Wand is placed in the East; the Athame, Sword or Blade in the South; the Chalice or Goblet to the West; and the Boline to the North.
In other traditions, this is the placement of tools: the Wand is placed in the South; the Athame, Sword or Blade in the East; the Chalice or Goblet to the West; and the Pentacle to the North.
If you would like to use a Cauldron, this may be placed on the Pentacle (be sure the Pentacle item is heat-proof), or it can be placed on the left side of the Altar. Other items that may be included on the altar are: a bell, matches, candle snuffer, libation bowl, gemstones, tarot cards, pictures or photographs and spellbook.
Don't forget that as the Seasons change you may want to make some changes to your altar. For example, in the Spring add fresh flowers; in the Summer add a green plant; in the Fall add a carved pumpkin or turnip; and in the Winter add a small snowman. Be creative.
Clockwise movement in the around the altar or circle is called Deosil, or Southward, and is used to raise or charge energy. Counter-clockwise movement was called Tuathail, or Northward -though many traditions have popularized the colloquial term 'Widdershins'. Counter-clockwise movement in the circle is used to cleanse or release energy.
To evoke means to summon or call forth a presence. To invoke means to instill their nature within ourselves thru prayer. To petition means to ask and pray for something from a specific diety/being. To command means to demand.
The Athame or ceremonial knife is the first of the major Working Tools. This is a tool of Connotation of Thought or Decision. It represents the moment of first creation and symbolizes the God. You will mainly use your Athame to create the Magic Circle.
The Wand is the second of the Working Tools and represents the power of the God as consort of the Goddess, Lord of Cycles. The Wand is primarily used in invoking the Quarters, for cleansings, and as part of certain specific rituals. The purpose of the Wand is to facilitate the directing of energy. One holds the Wand and focuses energy through it, visualizing the energy emerging as a beam from the tip of the Wand.
The Chalice is the third Working Tool, and represents the Element of Water, and the power of the Goddess as Mother of all creation. A Chalice can be any kind of glass or cup, and every kind imaginable is used. The Chalice is used mainly to make libations or drink-offerings, and to confer blessing.
The Boline is the fourth Working Tool. This is a a white handled knife, single edged, and used in ritual purposes of cutting herbs, or engraving candles; the blade may be a miniature scythe, a curved bladed tool or a sickle.
The Pentagram is the fifth Working Tool. The Pentagram is a five-pointed star in a circle. As a tool it is usually worn as a medallion. The Pentagram medallion can be used to focus energy, and also to ground it.
The Altar and its arrangement is a personal choice: these are but some guidelines. As I mentioned, all traditions are different. Set up your Altar to your liking; make sure the placement of tools works for you. Just because I may place my Wand in the East, doesn't mean you can't place yours elsewhere. This may sound a little silly, but don't get too caught up in how others do it. You are a unique individual and I encourage you to be that person.
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