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An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples, churches and other places of worship. They are used particularly in Pagan, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Modern Paganism, and Witchcraft. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Witchcraft, Roman, Greek, and Norse religion.
Personal altars are those placed in a private bedroom, closet, or other space usually occupied by one person. They are used for practices of piety intended for one person.
A Witchcraft altar is a raised structure or place used for worship or prayer, upon which a Witchcraft practitioner places several symbolic and functional items for the purpose of worshiping the God and Goddess, casting spells, and/or saying chants and prayers. There are many types of altars Witchcraft may choose to use during ritual. Depending the rite they are performing, the material used for their altars may vary. This is because in many circles, different types of wood are believed to carry certain magical qualities. The altar is often considered a personal place where practitioners put their ritual items.
Some Witchcraft arrange their altars to represent all four elements and directions. In the North the earth element is represented; in the east is air, in the south is fire, and in the west water. These elements can be represented in various ways, but generally do not vary in elemental and directional correspondences. When placing items on an altar or when a practice involving inviting the elements to be a part of the circle and lend their power a practitioner will move clockwise and when dismissing the elements they will move counter-clockwise.
Common items on a Witchcraft altar include athame, broom, candles, cauldron, chalice, incense, pentacle, wand, etc. Some of the items represent the Earth’s four elements, but elements may be represented more literally, with gems, salt, water, plant material, etc.