It was a painted cardboard box, thankyewverymuch. Black, of course, with a silver pentagram painted on the top. I had a dollar store incense burner and dollar store incense to go with it, and that went on the box along with a candle or two and my athame. (By which I mean a letter opener.)
I was sixteen years old, living in the Bible Belt, and I habitually wore fishnets and combat boots*. I'd just finished Bucky's Big Blue, and it said you needed an altar. A cardboard box seemed better than nothing.
Except even at sixteen, I knew it was pretty ghetto.
Now. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there for whom a cardboard box with a badly drawn star on it is perfectly serviceable. Hey, I did use mine... it was just that the entire time I did I couldn't help but think, "holy shit I want better." Maybe it's because I'm a Libra. We like things to look pretty.
In the first apartment my sister and I lived in in Vancouver, we had a HUGE altar. It was an old dresser, painted black (sensing a theme, here?) with pretty much every witchy thing we owned piled on it. This monstrosity was kept in the living room. There were also a bigass Celtic wall hanging on the wall behind it. At the time, it all seemed very romantic and gothic. In retrospect... well. We were in our twenties! The whole apartment was ugly! The couch was velvet and the bathroom sink fell off the wall!
I've had several altars since then, most of them quite small. Not cardboard boxes, but generally very small tables or the tops of old radiators. The apartment I currently live in has ample space, but with the exception of the ancestral altar, I have moved all my various magical spaces to my bedroom.
I no longer have a hardon for Celtic knotwork. I've expanded my decor to something besides 'black' and I'm at a point where I can afford to buy myself decent quality supplies.
Hilariously, my altar is back to being a dresser. My working altar anyway - the space that I use for magic and for the bulk of ritual and offerings. It's kept quite clean both because it is my dresser, and because I like things to look tidy. I keep most of my supplies put away, but certain things are left out: my mortar and pestle, the slate pentacle I bought years ago in Aldergrove, my Morrigan candle, and a cigar box full of sigils.
The top of my bookshelf, behind the door, holds more devotional objects: a statue of Ganesh, the crow skulls my grandfather Jimmy carved, and on the shelf below a statue of Thoth. (By the Tarot books, natch.)
Pictures and more after the jump:
|Got the lantern at HomeSense. Fuck yeah.|
|Not pictured: the messy drawer below.|
So there you have it. When in use, the pentacle tends to get hauled to the middle of the dresser along with whatever else I'm working with, but these are my spaces for communing with the Divine and the spirits, the places in which I work magic.
I poked fun at my old penchant for Celtic knotwork and black furniture, but the truth is that 'fugly' is in the eye of the beholder. There are as many altar set-ups as there are witches, and if you prefer god-and-goddess candles, or brass pentacles, or Waterhouse prints? That's perfectly cool.
After all... even if it's ghetto, it's what you use the space for that really matters.
* - Over the holidays, I watched The Craft with my best friend, and I said, "you know, I'm pretty sure I had Nancy's jacket." Diana looked at me kindly and replied, "you were kinda rocking a LOT of Nancy's look, dear."