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What Is the Purpose of a Home Altar?

If you’re seeking a new beginning in life—whether it’s a love relationship, a big move or a career change—you don’t have to just wish upon a star, though that might help. You can create a home altar as a place to focus your energies to help turn dreams into reality. “In ancient times, altars were built to serve as a focal point for human beings to connect to the divine,” says Hollywood-based healer, yogini and intuitive psychic Marie Bargas. But nowadays, altars can be used as a place of meditation, prayer or manifestation of goals—whether connected to a particular religion or not.

You decide what a home altar means to you, says Aimee Bello, kundalini yoga teacher, Reiki master and founder of Altared Space in Los Angeles. “Really what the altar is creating is a portal of prayer. It’s a gathering of all the symbols and representations that are important to you,” she explains, adding that there are so many cultures and traditions to draw from. Altars can come in the form of a shrine or a memorial, and they can be dedicated to something you want or to someone, such as an ancestor or deity.

How to Create an Altar for a Fresh Start in Your Life

1. Strategically determine the location of your altar.

The first thing you should consider is which side of the room you want to set up your altar. Bargas, who practices Shaivism (a Hindu sect), states that each direction represents a different element and purpose:

  • North represents earth; the purpose is material gain, prosperity and grounding
  • South represents fire; the purpose is for conflict resolution and inspiration
  • East represents air; the purpose is communication (e.g., with your deity)
  • West represents water; the purpose is dreaming and imagination

For a new beginning, Bargas recommends building your altar in the east because the rising sun in the east is itself a new start every day. Bargas places her own altar on an eastern wall. The focal point of her altar—the goddess of fortune Lakshmi—faces west so the rising sun comes up behind her. Bargas’ new beginning? Each new client she works with.

Bello follows Vaastu Shastra, a Hindu system of architecture, which designates each direction to a different facet of your life:

  • North represents prosperity
  • South represents career
  • East represents health
  • West represents creativity
  • Southeast represents transformation or change
  • Southwest represents support (to allow your aspirations to come to fruition)
  • Northeast represents the spiritual
  • Northwest represents marriage, relationships and partnership

If you have a specific new beginning in mind, place your altar in the direction that represents what you desire. For instance, if you seek a new job, then your altar should be in the south. If you’re looking for an overall new beginning, Bello recommends creating your altar in the southeast.

2. Curate your altar items.

The altar itself should also be built according to the elements. Bello says this ensures there’s a balance of energy.

  • Air brings about possibilities: fan, chime, feathers, angels, incense.
  • Water takes your individual intention and connects it to the greater good. It also represents emotions and desires: glass or vase with water in it.
  • Earth holds the seeds of your intention that can grow into unlimited possibilities, and represents new possibilities: rocks, twigs, leaves, crystals, stones, wood/bark.
  • Fire brings fire, power, strength and passion to manifest. It transforms energy into your passion: candle, incense, lamp.
  • Sky: Bargas says you should always include the sky in your altar—it’s what lies above the other four elements. Items can include anything you deem celestial, holy, spiritual or heavenly.

In the center of your altar, add an offering tray such as a plate or a bowl. Place an object (this could be a piece of paper with writing on it) that symbolizes the new beginning you’re focusing on. The writing can be an affirmation or a prayer. If you prefer an object, Bello suggests placing plant seeds in the offering tray to symbolize the new beginning. Her other recommendations: a house key if you’re desiring a new home; a heart symbol if it’s a new relationship you’re looking for; or coins if you’re looking for a new job. Ultimately, what you put in your offering needs to be meaningful to you, whether it’s literal or abstract. If you’re calling upon certain deities, teachers or ancestors, place a statue or photo of the god, spirit animal or whatever figure you want to connect with behind the offering tray.

Your altar can be set up anywhere—on a desk, stand, table, floor or a block. Whether you want to sit on a chair or the floor is up to you. You can even create a travel-friendly “pocket altar” by carrying around a symbol of each element in a little pouch, adds Bello.

3. Use your altar to manifest your new beginnings.

It goes without saying that you must actually use your altar to bring in the energies you want. Use the space to perform certain meditations, repeat affirmations, chant or read a passage. You can also sit in silence as you focus on the various components and meaning of your altar.

Regardless of what you do, the most important thing is to take the time to focus your energy on whatever it is you are calling in, says Bello. No matter how simple, this altar is your sacred space. Treat it with the respect it deserves and wait for it to deliver the results you seek.

A Sacred Space of Your Own

Looking for more ways to create intention-setting rituals? Check out our interactive course, The Power of Clear Intentions, created by Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, pioneers of Spiritual Psychology and founding faculty of the University of Santa Monica. This eight-module audio course teaches you how to manifest your true goals and dreams. Learn more here.

About the author

Sarah Ban is a lifestyle writer and reporter who loves digging deep into the worlds of health, wellness, beauty, mental health, spirituality and happiness studies. She believes a fulfilled life rests on three pillars: meditation, balance and self-love.


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