Ultimately, an altar is a focal point where you comfortably “Altar” your consciousness. Your altar is a place where you’re able to not only recognize the 10% of your brain that you use, but also activate the subconscious mind, the other 90% of the brain you don’t use which is your spiritual, higher self.
These are the type of questions that come up when at your altar. How genuine are you really living out your life?
I use my altar daily where every morning I take a moment to breathe & acknowledge my higher self. It’s also the place I go to when I’m having difficulties and need answers that I’m unable to get from myself at the moment. It can be your source of inspiration, when you want to reconnect with your ancestors, become a better person, etc. The purposes are endless and unique to you only and should not have any bearing on validation outside of yourself.
Caring for your altar: I normally clean my altar at least once a week. You can pick any day of the week that best suits you. Cleaning means changing of the water, wiping away any dust or remnants from offerings or rituals and smudging incense to clear and purify. This is also a good time to set the tone for your week ahead or start/end of your day. Prayers, affirmations and development are the things you should be working on your altar periodically.
Items to place on your altar: As mentioned you can place any item you’d like on your altar. For beginners, there are certain guidelines you can follow to help get you started. I started my altar when I was 17 years old. I had just moved out of my house a few months prior (yes, at the tender age of 16) and that New Year I had a few spiritual experiences which led me to the basic set up of an altar.
Below are the significance and dedication for each cup on your spiritual altar.
From the book:
Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Women By Iyanla Vanzant
Glass 1: Ori, the spirit of your head
Glass 2: The spirit of your bloodline (ancestors)
Glass 3: The spirit/essence of masculine energy
Glass 4: The spirit/essence of feminine energy
Glass 5: The spirit/essence of the inner child
Glass 6: Karmic spirits (spiritual energy from past existences)
Glass 7: Spirit of the creator, the god head that established the divinity of your life and all life. (Largest Cup)
The 7 cups are traditions of the Yoruba/Lucumi/Santeria traditions. The spiritual altar is called a "Boveda Espiritual" translated as, "Spiritual Vault". Its where you store what you value most, your personal power, intuition & dreams.
It was my first experience with "organizing" my spiritual lineage. We all create altars subconsciously in one way or another using images & symbols of things we're attracted to. I always found myself as a child creating shrines for butterflies, unicorns and as I got older moved on to other symbols.
Your altar is a reflection of you and the universe around you. All the elements that exist on this planet also exists within you. Here are the main elements to your altar.
Spiritual Focal Points
1. Water (Feminine Principle)
- Receptive/Passive energy
- Carrier/Conduit of energy and vibrations
- Represents movement
- Fertility, Initiation
- Water Absorbs, connects
- Use as a portal or gateway to realms
- A place to "house" or contain entities
2. Fire (Masculine Principle)
- Alchemy + Transformation
- Third Eye + Illumination
- Guiding Light
- Action + Beginnings
- Activation of thought
- Transporter of thought
- Breath of life
- Prayers +Affirmations
- Conscious Breathing
- Heaviness, obstacles
- Time, memory
- Established powers
Offerings: An offering is a sort of sacrifice or connection you make with the entity or energy you have the altar set up for. For an ancestor altar you may want to set up things your ancestors liked. I place coffee, bread rum and many other basic items as offerings to the spirits. Offerings "feeds" or rather empowers the energy you're working with. Sacrifices can come in many forms. You can give up a bad habit that is preventing you from elevating thus starving the lower self and feeding your purpose.
Common types of offerings:
- Food you cook (give as an offering to give thanks for providing food to your family)
- Crystal, stones, gems: They carry vibrations you can charge at your altar ans use.
- Liquor: Ever heard of wines and spirits? Liquor like many things has essence or spirits that enliven the ancestors and spirits.
- Bread: Symbol for abundance, life and the cosmic body.
- Flowers to bring life and new energy to your altar
- Photos & symbols of the energy you work with.
- Prayers: Any prayer will do. Prayers are forms of offerings as you're pouring yourself into the moment.
As with every person, every altar will be different. Each item you place on your altar speaks to your subconscious mind. You should not expect too much from your altar as with the items you place on your altar are symbols, so are the day to day experiences you have.
Spirit speaks in many forms and it is up to us to be aware, conscious and accepting of the symbols and messages being given to us. If you're in constant pursuit of trying to define or identify your spiritual experiences you'll end up losing the point. The point is you must allow the experience to reveal and define itself to you.
Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for WomenBy Iyanla Vanzant
Shrine and Altar: Establishing Your Personal Sanctuary for Spiritual Awakening, Self improvement and Divine Contemplation
by Yuya Assaan-Anu