Step One: Set the Mood with Sacred Items
Because I’m a Witch, I personally opt to have the four elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth) represented on my altar—but please do whatever you want! If you’re interested in incorporating the elements onto your altar but don’t know which one to pick, start by adding the element associated to your Sun sign: Air (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini), Fire (Sagittarius, Aries, Leo), Water (Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio), and Earth (Virgo, Taurus, Capricorn). To represent Air, place feathers; for Fire, add some candles; for Water, put Rose of Jericho in a bowl of water (a chalice of water can totally work, too); and for Earth, select a few of your favorite crystals!
Since I’m building this altar to lead me into 2018, I’ve placed some of the coolest antiques I’ve picked up during my travels this past year to serve as a good omen for my next year to be filled with just as much traveling (and scoring even more rad vintage finds). I’ve placed mirrors, a Victorian photo, a vase with baby’s breath, a Tarot card from the Small Spells deck that I pulled on the Winter Solstice (which was the 9 of Cups), and of course, the cult-favorite Many Moons 2018 Vol 1 by Modern Women, a workbook of moon spells specifically designed for the first half of new year. Altars are great places to fill with memorable knickknacks—all the ones I’ve chosen mean something to me—so feel free to place as many as you want on yours that hold importance for you!
Step Two: Add Crystals!
In the interest of saving time since my last Beauty Witch column explored Crystals and Highlighters, I’ll keep this step brief! If you don’t know much about crystals or their meanings, that’s OK, because crystals can be chosen intuitively. Sometimes we’re guided towards certain ones without realizing what they’re meant for, why we need them, or how to use to them—so trust your gut when selecting yours. I intuitively picked out Smoky Quartz (for manifesting dreams), Black Tourmaline (for psychic protection), Rose Quartz (for love and emotional healing), Opalite (for purification), Selenite (for spiritual activation), Carnelian (for creativity), Shattuckite (to assist me in my studies of Tarot and astrology), and Titanium Clear Quartz (for dispelling sorrow) to place on my altar for energetic projection in the new year. Try intuitively picking out a few from your collection to place on your altar, then go back and read up on the ones you’re less familiar with—from there, you’ll realize why certain ones were selected just for you!
Side note: Altars are wonderful places to charge your crystals—you can leave them there year round and reach for one when performing a moon ritual, when you need some extra luck (think: a first date or a job interview), or if you want to place one in your bag to help combat anxiety or stress (say, while traveling or moving). There are a million ways to utilize the power of crystals and one of the easiest ways to charge them are by simply adorning them on your altar—plus, they’re gorgeous, so who can really complain?
Step Three: Decorate with Candles and Smudging Tools
Before we get into this step, please allow me to give you the full PSA on candles and smudging tools on altars: Please, please, please be a responsible Witch and be mindful of candles, incense, sage, and other flammable objects on your altar! Do not leave candles unattended, do not burn sage in objects that aren’t fire safe, and if you’re going to use charcoal discs for burning incense or loose herbs, please use something like a cast iron cauldron to burn them in (and please do your research before using this technique).
OK, now to the fun and yummy-smelling part: Candles! I’ve chosen two for my altar: Byredo’s Altar Candle, which is appropriately dubbed for this story, and House of Intuition’s Happy Birthday Capricorn Candle, which was made in collaboration with illustrator and Tarot deck creator Holly Simple! The former is a must-have for any bougie Witch out there (admittedly, I fall under this category), since it’s blended with notes of clove bud, carnation, ylang ylang, açai, cotton musks, vetiver, and papyrus. The scent is unbelievably unique, warm, and opulent—if Barney’s had an occult and divination section in their store (could you imagine?), this is exactly what I imagine it would smell like. The latter, like I mentioned, is a collaboration with proud Capricorn and illustrator Holly Simple (creator of the iconic Holly Simple Tarot deck)—the candle comes with a custom illustration by Simple on the front, as well as a “Wise and Ready” intention-setting mantra written on it to recite during ritual! Both are must-haves for all Witches.
Other smudging items I’ve included on my altar are the Catherine Rising Large Floral Smudge Stick (made with sage and rose petals), Norden Ojai Incense (formulated with frankincense, cypress, patchouli, and palo santo), Aquarian Soul Wild Woods Sacred Smoke (offerings of eucalyptus, bay laurel, and cedar to be burned on a charcoal disc), Woodlot Palo Santo, and Espiritus del Ande Incense (blended with rosemary, wiraqoya, and palo santo). As you can tell, I’m an incense/sage/palo santo superfan, but if you’re not fond of certain smells or blends, please make sure you’re burning something you actually like the smell of! It’s your space, after all.
Step Four: Add Your Favorite Beauty Products
My favorite part! If you’re rolling your eyes at this step, think twice: There’s nothing wrong with placing beauty products on an altar—in fact, I did this technique accidentally for years. I used to place my favorite essential oils on my altar and use them to diffuse during special moon ceremonies and rituals—then I realized I was “charging” them with energy, similar to how my crystals were charging on my altar. Since then, I’ve incorporated more and more beauty products on my altar, with the intention of using them in a more mindful and powerful way.
I really love charging fragrances on my altar with the intention of wearing them during ritual, meditation, or, like, on a date with my partner—so grab one (or if you’re like me, grab four) and place them on your altar! (Another common sense Beauty Witch PSA: Do not place any fragrances too close to burning objects.) My first pick is Ostara Apothecary’s High Priestess Oil, which I recently discovered and fell in love with since it’s made with Mugwort and Lapis Lazuli and infused in the moonlight to promote mysticism, just like the High Priestess herself. I’m also really into the Under Aurora Botanical Perfume Oil in #7 Minor Arcana, a 100% natural, plant-based rollerball fragrance blended with essential oil notes of vetiver, patchouli, and rosemary in a base of jojoba oil—it smells divine (no pun intended). To continue the accidental fragrance Tarot-theme (oops!), a cult-favorite scent of mine is the Catbird Tarot Deck Solid Perfume, which beams notes of incense, Turkish rose, and pencil shavings for a dusty, sensual aroma—and since it’s a solid perfume, it makes a great travel companion. And last but certainly not least is the Adorn Rose Quartz Fragrance, which boasts subtle notes of rose water, lotus, and musk—it’s even infused with a real piece of rose quartz, so you’ll be (literally) covered in love.
I’m also adding some skincare and bodycare items on my altar this year—remember, beauty is a self care ritual, too! For face, I’m really digging the Fat and the Moon Sage & Rose Face Mist, which mixes rose geranium hydrosol as a gentle toner, clary sage as a mild astringent, and jojoba oil for moisture—this stuff is great for oily and acne-prone skin, since it clears both blocked pores and blocked energy. Moisturizers are essential for me to slather on this time of year, and Herbivore Botanicals Pink Cloud is the holy-grail moisturizer I’ve been waiting for: As the name suggests, it’s a fluffy, lightweight rosewater, aloe water, and white tea extract formula that hydrates skin, leaving the most angelic glow behind. Remember when I said I was a Palo Santo addict? Well, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Urb Apothecary Copal Palo Santo Ritual Body Oil made it on my altar this year: Palo Santo essential oil is anti-inflammatory and known to help mend skin issues and ease muscle pain, so apply this oil on your body whenever you’re in need of a spiritual cleansing (you can even apply it before heading off to work or before you begin meditating). I’m really into taking ritual baths, so I also chose The Fifth Veda 4 Heart Bath Salts that helps balance the heart chakra (which supports love and connection)—these bath salts are made with notes of rose and bergamot, so all you have to do is dissolve a handful of them into warm bath water, sink in, and relax. My last beauty pick is the Dori Midnight Boundaries in a Bottle spray, which is “witchcrafted” on the full moon eclipse and made with essences of yarrow, rosemary, echinacea, cedar, black tourmaline, citrine, smoky quartz, snowflake obsidian, salt, pine, and cedar (to name a few). Midnight is a magical herbalist, intuitive counselor, healer, and fellow Witch, and the Boundaries in a Bottle spray is a must for space protection, clearing, and grounding—I personally like spritzing this around myself before getting on the subway to give me a barrier of personal space and block negative energies of those around me—but since it’s multi-purpose, I also like spritzing it on my pillows and around my altar, of course!
Here’s what my final altar looks like! I hope this has inspired anyone reading to clear their space and build their own altar—and remember, get creative with it! Don’t let information online intimidate you, or pressures from anyone else get you down—there’s really no wrong way to do this. Get inspired—add photos, mementos, treasures, flowers, candles, mirrors, crystals, artwork, literature, beauty products to your altar—the sky is the limit! Anything that has emotional significance or is aesthetically or visually pleasing to you can work. Start 2018 with the intention of creating space for yourself—and use the new year to focus on your health (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual). I’m sending you all good vibes—and I’ll see you in the new year with brand-new Beauty Witch articles!