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The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

By Nixa De Bellis | March 20, 2023

Looking for ways to temper anxiety and promote inner peace? In the chaos and stresses of today’s world, we need supportive tools to help us return to a sense of calm and deep listening. A daily practice within personal places of reverence helps root us and find ourselves again under all the noise.

Let us introduce you to the art of building a home altar.

Creating an altar is a way to announce to ourselves that we are prioritizing our spiritual needs and it can be as personal as your practice. Let it visually reflect your unique relationships with the spiritual and natural world. From a cabinet altar decorated sparsely with things found in nature to an elaborate full-room altar, creating a sacred environment in our home place can make a profound difference in our lives.

Many items that hold meaning are already in your home. In the Hudson Valley, many gifts of beauty and resonance are outdoors in nature as rocks, pine cones and plants. Please always show respect by leaving endangered or challenged plants alone and taking only one or two small symbols of prevalent forms to adorn and metabolize at your sanctuary place.

Organized crystals and candles for The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

Altar Building 101

  1. Choose the dwelling of the altar to reflect your own views and practices. Do you want to sing and play instruments there? Do you want to meditate or pray? Do you want space for one or more to join you? Altars can be behind closed cabinet doors in an armoire or in a drawer for privacy. The altar can be in a defunct fireplace, on the mantle, in the garden, or on a small table, not far from the floor with a sheepskin there for your seat. Another great space is on the wall you will walk directly towards every single day. Think of what and where you want the altar to be for you.
  2. Manifest something for all of the five senses, the elements, and remember that building is a ritual, too. Consider bringing objects like photos, handmade things, gems, candles, aromatics, fabrics, reliquaries, cups, baskets, bowls, and any creative appropriate reflection of your practices, inherited and chosen. It is okay to take your time, collecting and building. Seasonal fresh flowers and food offerings will change regularly, keeping you in communication with your sacred zone.
  3. Make ritual activities before the altar. If you can, do so daily. This can be as uncomplicated as lighting incense and thinking or saying what you’re grateful for, meditating, or sending love out to whatever and whoever comes to mind. Maybe you will try a mantra or prayer. Make offerings of found feathers, fresh flowers, clippings, or words. Follow your heart.
    Alter at Aumhome sanctuary and retreat

    Photo: Aumhome Sanctuary and Retreat

The look of your altar is entirely up to you.

In one home there may be an altar on a fireplace mantle, one in every room, as well as one or more in your garden, reflecting a complex pantheon of spiritual allies and ancestors you feel walk with you. In someone else’s abode, a candle is enough, lit each day with intention, honoring your time to go inward. In many cultures and throughout time, home altars are and have been spiritual touchstones for remembrance, inspiration, and spiritual power. Creating such a sacred space can deeply affect the peace of a household, amplify a person’s intuition, presence and awareness, and in turn positively impact the world.

Daily Rituals & Practice

Soon your oasis may call you to explore in new ways or through modalities that emerge along with your deepening practice including meditation, music, nature and breath, chanting, sound healing, and much more. Show up fully, allow yourself to open to your intuition, and see if you are guided in new or just deeper ways.

Things to Consider About an Altar:

  • Do you sit regularly in silence or contemplation?
  • If you make excuses to thwart a regular practice, what stands in your way? Maybe consider journaling about it.
  • If you already have an altar, does its presence help you to remember your own sacred grandeur, even when just walking past?

Person working the sound bowl by The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

Altars are an age-old practice found in all corners of the world

In Mexican cultures, there are professional or familial altar builders called an “altarista(s).” In India, pujarins build and perform puja for a fee. Puja (poo-juh) is both the shrine and the activity. In Wicca, the Earth religion of the northern hemisphere, and in shamanism, altars are often associated with the directions and the elements, the sky and the abode of Gaia.

Thankfully, we have the luxury and freedom of living in a time and place that invites us to follow what feels true for us. That includes building an altar. Get creative and see where your artistry and intuition take you to make an inspiring space that reflects your own unique path and belief system.

If you trace time back far enough, every one of us came from indigenous folx. Many have become long orphaned in relation to the customs or even awareness of such peoples, and others have abandoned or colonized them consciously and violently. Regardless, all humans can benefit from the art of altar building to creatively magnify their own earthling need for getting down with the meaningful states of spiritual life. You too may discover that creating and tending to yours will become an art, a practice, a tool, and an ally.

If you do not have a lineage, an elder, or another wisdom keeper in your culture or your life, if you are an orphan to at-home prayer, song, meditation, artistic visual beauty shrine making, or if you want to make a pragmatic connection with divinity/the sacred/Great Nature, read on for 3 simple suggestions.

Nixa's personal alter represented in this article The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

Resources for Altar Building (in alphabetical order:)

Antiques on Main + Antique Barn at Water Street Market in New Paltz can be a fun place to treasure hunt for small curio shelves, tiny tables, glass door cabinets, trays, boxes, many old ready to be loved or refurbished by you. Visit their website.

Aum Home Owner, Nidhi Huba, creates beautiful altars and sacred spaces as a “Fengshui Space and Soul consult” plus brings experience and certification in Reiki, Crystals, intuitive coaching, Aromatherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, Kundalini, Tibetan & Hatha yoga therapy, Akashic record reading, Family Constellation Therapy, Nutritional support, more. Visit their website.

Soul Spray by Nidhi at Aum Home

Candlestock in Woodstock has been sharing its large collection of candles of all kinds, as well as incense and incense holders since 1970. Visit their website.

Menla in Phoenicia holds all kinds of retreats, lectures and classes for the spiritual seeker. They also have a wonderful boutique for silk tapestries, sound bowls, tuning forks and altar items. Visit their website.

Narnia Vintage is a sweet shop in Woodstock and online for stunning gems and crystals, including curated sets by Molly. Visit their website.

Building a Home Alter

Omega in Rhinebeck has long been a place of convergence for thought leaders, renowned spiritual teachers, seekers, and holistic living. Visit their website.

Persephone’s Pearl in Peekskill is a great place for statuary, energy tools, metaphysical supplies, gems, cards, ritual items from a variety of traditions with healers available for learning and training. Visit their website.

Ritualist in New Paltz offers readings and occasional classes and has oracle and tarot cards, candles, sage bundles, incense, gems, plants, and more in a light-filled space. Visit their website.

Burning sage stick for The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

Sage Academy of Sound in Woodstock has tuning forks, gongs, rattles, shruti boxes, incense, sound healing instruments, as well as offers transformational training, classes events and retreats. Visit their website.

Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne is a great place to stop in the temple for a sit, perhaps some asana or lunch, even a stayover. Workshops, residencies and learning in the tradition of yoga. The boutique has items to adorn the home space in yogic ways. Visit their website.

Burning incense for The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

Shanti Mandir means Temple Of Peace. This oasis in Walden is an ashram where yoga, music, classes in philosophy and spirituality, and meditation intensives are offered. They also have a gift shop with incense, singing bowls, statuary and more. Visit their website.

Tweefontein Herb Farm in New Paltz offers up a lush offering of crystals, smudge bundles, statuary, oracle cards as well as what they are known for best: healing herbal tinctures, teas and heavenly salves. Visit their website.

Buddha holding flower petals for the The Art and Serenity of a Home Altar

We invite you to remember this:

In the magical portal at your altar, there’s no judge beyond the one you want to continue to hold on to. Here in this place, you have permission to explore what and how feels truly authentic. This may include setting dates for goals with intentions at each season, celebrating a birth, death or rite of passage, full and new moons, morning meditation, Saturday meditation, good night prayers, facing a fear, asking for change, holidays, prayers to benefit the Earth, or simply relishing pure, delicious silence and still thought.

Thankfully, here in this mecca of wellness potential in the Hudson Valley, we have many places to study and learn spiritual paths of all kinds. If you want to enrich or start creating your altar, many of those retreat centers and spiritual wells also have wonderful shops to collect some of your altar items. We’ve added a few others to spice up the mix.

Please do send feedback if this blog has sparked or deepened a practice for you. We’d love to hear how this powerful tool may impact some of our friends in this valley!

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Please do send feedback if this blog has sparked or deepened a practice for you. We’d love to hear how this powerful tool may impact some of our friends in this valley!


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