[Tutorial] How to Construct an Altar

Hello All,

I hope you have been well!

I thought I would produce/introduce more beginner friendly material for the newer crowd of practitioners. In this thread we will go over how to construct an altar for almost any tradition.

Please note that some traditions may have specific ways of how the altar or space should be constructed and this is just a catch all that will fit most needs. Additionally, please consider your situation and make sure it is appropriate for an altar. If you know that someone that lives with you is going to tear it down or disrespect it, I would wait to set up an altar.

First off, what is an altar and what is it used for?: An altar is a space, typically some form of slab or table that is set aside for a tradition, spirit or group of spirits. However, one can set up an altar for more retroactive goals, such as a money altar or love altar. An altar is constructed to anchor a current or spirit(s) into this plane so it can more directly affect it. The altar is first cleansed and physically cleaned before construction and use.

So, to start you need to find a space to place the altar. Certain traditions are again, stricter on this. For example, in Quimbanda you actually want to place Exu close to the door so he can open roads for you and keep out what needs to stay out. Some Muerteros will also tell you to not to place Santisima Muerte’s altar in a bedroom or bathroom (which I agree with more or less) as well. So, you will need to consider these things as you pick your location.

Once that is decided, you need to figure out the surface in which you will keep your altar items on. IKEA or a secondhand store like Goodwill should have affordable yet sufficient tables for altars. For something with plenty of space yet affordability I recommend checking out coffee tables.

Now that you have your table taken care of and ready to go, you want to physically and spiritually cleanse the table. First start with cleaning it off with some Clorox wipes or even soap and water. Get into the crevices and really clean it. Remember, this is where your spirits will reside in the home more or less, so you want it presentable for them and hospitable. Especially if it is an ATR type spirit or an ancestral/muerto type spirit. Other spirits are also picky about this. For this reason I recommend keeping the home and the space specifically, clean at all times. Better to be safer than sorry. Also, a physically cleaner space generally has an easier time keeping the energy flowing.

Once it has been deeply cleaned, you will want to spiritually cleanse the altar and space. Below are a list of herbs you can burn for this:

  • Sage

  • Basil

  • Frankincense

  • Pine

  • Tobacco

Other Cleansing Things:

  • Florida Water
  • Agua De Basil
  • Agua De Ruda
  • Agua Bendita (Holy Water)
  • Selenite
  • Obsidian

Once the space has been cleansed, we move to another crucial part of the process, consecration. Consecration is the act of declaring or making something sacred and holy. In order to properly consecrate something, you must first cleanse it, to remove any prior residual energy that would interfere with the goals you have. Cleansing is the act of removing those obstacles, consecration is the act of dedicating something towards that goal.

The actual consecration can vary from tradition to tradition, so I will put a prayer I made real quick to consecrate something to Santisima Muerte. Perhaps you can rework it to your benefit :wink:

Most Holy Santisima, our Lady of Death, El Madre Del Mundo, El Madre Del Brujeria De La Noches, I declare this space, this altar holy and for you. Mi Madre, Mi Santisima, weilder of the holy scythe, balancer of the scales of life and death, balancer of the scales of justice, holder of the hourglass, she who takes at the hour of our death, por favor, take this space, of which I have dedicated to you in your honor. Gracias.

Now that the altar has been consecrated you will want to put items that represent the goal, spirit or tradition on the altar after they have been also cleansed and consecrated, this is an altar not a table anymore and should be treated as such. For example, we don’t put Popeye’s and Coke cans on the altar. Especially if you the one eating it. :wink:

This is where it comes from following some form of general process into something a little more personal. So, I will not touch on this that much, but feel free to ask any questions you have.

Once that is done, you are more or less done. However, you will want to maintain the altar. It now represents your connection to these forces or goals and their manifestation, so you want to keep it and the space clean and clear of clutter. Below are general tips to maintain the power and efficiency of the altar:

  • Don’t place items that belong to a different tradition on an altar that is specifically for a particular tradition. For example, don’t put Aphrodite on a Santisima Muerte altar.
  • Try to avoid salt with an Ancestral/Muerto type altar.
  • For more Necromancy type altars consider a form of astral guardian to watch over it in your absence. Many call on the help of a death god for this. Anubis is generally friendly and welcoming. If the necromantic altar is really an altar with just strictly your ancestors, then don’t worry about this. This is more so for altars that have randos that are not related to you in any way.
  • NEVER just abandon the altar. In ATR traditions we consider this letting the altar get too cold and once it gets too cold it becomes difficult to easily work magick with this altar. If you know you won’t be using the altar too much, place tealights on the altar to keep the energy moving, refresh any glasses of water that you keep on there as an offering, light some incense but never do nothing. This can tarnish your magick and offend the powers that be. If you construct an altar, see it through, maintenance and all.
  • Take it apart every once and awhile and clean the items and statues, as well as the altar itself. I clean Santisima’s altar once to twice a week for example.
  • To keep the power or energy of an altar at it’s prime, consider keeping crystals on there. I like to keep Selenite, Obsidian, Black Tourmaline and Clear Quartz on my altars generally. This helps keep a protective element in your space, in case you fall off the horse with your protective magick. This will keep some form of ward up in absence of such things. Things like Selenite and Black Tourmaline will help keep the energy clean clockwork.
  • For money based altars you can keep Pyrite, Citrine, Gold, Green colored crystals as well.
  • Keeping your statues in a “curve” or arc can help protect your space. Look at how choirs position themselves on a stage, that is what I refer to.

I hope you all found this tutorial helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!


N.M. Ginnarr


Nice job. This will be very useful for people around the world!


This brings some questions to mind.

Can you make temporary alters (say if you go on vacation to take with you) or temporary alters for a purpose and if so what would be the best way to respectfully retire it after the fact?

Also I saw a few ads for statues for a “car alters” for sale.

How would that even work (I’m assuming such a set up would be considered a temporary alter since cars only last so long before you need a new one)? And how would you respectfully retire it if you changed cars?

Can alters be set up temporarily as opposed to permanently ?

Could a temporary alter be in a hinged box that you open when you want to… do-the-magick/respect-the-spirit (I’m asking this because I just remembered college/university students while thinking about travel and alters).

How would you respectfully retire a temporary alter if they are possible?

Also how would you respectfully move an alter (permanent or temporary) if you had to move?

If you had to move an alter would it cause problems doing so (like if it was a wealth alter cause money problems? Or if it was to a deity would it piss them off IF you had to move it)?

I was thinking of asking this in a thread, and then this thread popped up so I figured maybe this thread is the best place to ask these questions since this thread is on alter making so … :crossed_fingers: that this was the right place (thread) to ask it


Certainly! I have done this before.

Hmm I would honestly say that if you were open about that when you built the altar and you didn’t just abandon it I think you would be safe to take down. Many people build up a temporary space for a pathworking they know won’t be a permanent facet in their life and take down once finished.

I’m not a fan of this idea personally. What is that person going to do once that altar is ruined in a car crash? This is what you have malas, necklaces, prayer beads, etc for. I also don’t recommend magical works while driving- that’s going to get someone killed. It’s just not practical imo.

Many people do that too.

It probably wouldn’t so long as the space is clean, cleansed and clutter free.

This is where you need to have that conversation with them first.

Add on: now some spirits are lax and don’t care where you move it. But it’s a generally recommended thing that you keep an open communication with those spirits you have it set aside for to make sure they’re good on how it’s built and where it’s at.


I can’t believe I forgot to ask what would be the best way to set up a temporary alter when I asked about how to decommission it after. My bad. Anyways…

What would be the best way to set up a temporary/travel alter?

Let’s assume I’m not the only one gonna read this and maybe someone in a dorm is gonna want to know how they can set up a temporary alter they can then hide (under the bed?) after use.

Add: I don’t even know if there’s space under a dorm bed just supposing they might wanna put it away hidden from dorm monitors or whoever after use but have a temporary one for their magick.

When I was in college I was close enough to live at home. So I don’t know about dorms.


I’m not the intended target of your question, but I did do magick in a dorm for a while. And I did not keep a real altar. When it was magick time I took my magick things out and when it wasn’t they got put away. In one of my dorm rooms, there was a closet and under the bed storage, a bed, a small corner-facing desk (no it couldn’t be moved & yes I used it for mundane things), and a chair. There was no where to keep an altar. In another room, I could have used an extra flat surface but didn’t want all my ritual items just sitting out in that space (remember in most dorms adults in charge, repair people, and RAs can just walk in whenever). Not to mention I didn’t want the dresser in the center of the room or right beside my working desk for hazard/annoyance, distraction, and cleanliness of altar reasons. Most of my dorm rituals took place sans-fire, sans-smoke, and on the floor.

Pack away altar boxes, in my view, are pretty great for dorms.


There are actually a lot of tutorials on this on the interwebs, but basically take a wooden box or suitcase and follow the same steps above :slight_smile:


For the longest time all I had was a little cloth bag which I tossed a lighter, a tea light, a pen, a sewing needle, a small bit of rope and a folded up piece of paper.

I never really needed anything else.


This is tea and may be a next post of mine.

A mark of a skilled witch is being able to do something with nothing.