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Once your physical circle has been constructed, you will next need to construct an altar. The altar is normally positioned in the center, leaving sufficient room to walk or dance around it while remaining inside the circle. Most people use a table of whatever type they have available, but if you are adventurous and desire to make a purpose built one, it can be made from any substance, though wood is normally used. Many purpose built altars you can buy are made from Willow which is sacred to the Goddess. Depending on your preference it can be round or square. A round altar is symbolic of the Goddess and spirituality, while a square one represents the four elements.
The altar doesn’t have to be a table at all, particularly if you are practicing outside; tables are bulky and cumbersome things to carry around. It can be nothing more than an area of ground covered with a cloth upon which to lay out you tools. A cardboard box covered with a cloth would also suffice, as would an old log or a large flat rock or stone. Look around and use your imagination, make use of whatever is available, the more natural and nature based your material the better. Generally the altar is place in the center of the circle facing North, its association with the elements of earth makes this the direction of power, ideal if during the rite you intend to do some magical workings. Some place the altar facing East where the Sun and Moon rises, ideal if all you intend to do is commune with the God and Goddess.
While its not absolutely necessary, many witches dress their altars with an altar cloth. These can be quite ornate or as plain as you like, but they do enhance its general appearance. Altar cloths can be purpose bought if you don’t mind the expense, or you could make your own. A simple plain sheet or tablecloth folded to size and draped over or around the altar would suffice for this. If you like, you could even personalize it with runic signs and symbols. Remember also to consider the colour of your altar cloth, and its correspondences with your rite or workings.
The working tools can now be placed and arranged on the altar. The left side of the altar is normally dedicated to the Goddess and tools associated with her are placed here. These are generally: the cup, pentacle, bell, crystal or wand and the cauldron. It’s also nice if you have one, to place an image or statue of the Goddess here, but if you haven’t a green, silver or white candle can be substituted. Also if you have one, a broom can be placed against the left side of the altar. The right side of the altar is reserved for the God, and his tools of association. These are: the censer, athame (black handled knife) and bolline (white handled knife). Your Book of Shadows might also be placed here. If you intend to work magic in your circle, be sure to have all your necessary ingredients and equipment within it before you start (i.e. matches, candles, herbs and oils, pen and paper etc), these can be placed on or beneath the altar as you feel fit. Finally its a good idea to have some refreshments to hand for use during ritual as offerings , or to replace spent energy while working. Most rituals finish with a "Cake and Ale" ceremony or feast.
The altar and the circle it stands in is your own personal construction, and there are no hard and fast rules as to how they should be constructed or arranged. Use you imagination and do as you feel appropriate for the rite or work you are conducting. If it pleases you, it will work for you to your own advantage and satisfaction. You are now ready to begin preparing the circle for use.
SundanceApproved The B.W.T.P.O.