One of the most common questions I am asked by those of my readers who are new to Theistic Satanism is "how do I create a Satanic altar?".
I will begin by first defining what an altar actually is. An altar is simply a structure, usually elevated, which serves as a sacred space and upon which one may conduct ritual work, offer libations to one's deities or establish a shrine to a deity or person amongst many other purposes.
How an altar will be used dictates the items which will adorn it. For example, for LaVeyan Satanists who do not acknowledge nor honour an external deity such as Satan, an altar would serve the purpose of enabling them to carry out their symbolic ritual acts by "appearing" to be a traditional "Satanic" altar. One may find upon such an altar an array of typically "Satanic" items - the Baphometic inverse pentagram, a ritual blade, a chalice of red wine, etc. These items serve as aids to LaVeyan psychodrama, yet do not typically possess any function outside of what may be considered "props".
Altars belonging to practitioners of Theistic Satanism and Demonolatry, on the other hand, can be quite complex. Because, in the context of theistic religious practice, the altar often functions as an intermediary space which unites both the physical and the unseen, great care is taken to keep the space and all items occupying that space clean and consecrated.
Several basic questions should be contemplated when deciding upon the creation of one's first altar:
Q: What will be the shape and size of the altar itself?
A: This is an important consideration. The size of an altar need not be outrageously immense, but it should be an adequate enough size to accommodate both the space it will be occupying as well as any tools and other items which will adorn it. An altar can be as large as a buffet table or as small as a pie plate. This will also be determined by the needs of the practitioner and what the ultimate function of the altar will be. For example, many practitioners have multiple altars. Some choose to use a large table or bench for their "working altar" (the altar which will be used to carry out ritual work, etc.) while a smaller altar (or altars) may be used as shrines for ancestors or for individual Demons.
The shape of the altar is sometimes based purely upon aesthetics and what pleases the eye of the practitioner. Altars with round surfaces are often popular amongst Satanists and Neo-Wiccans due to the fact that the entire surface may be painted or carved into a pentacle:
|Photo: The Glass Witch Magick Shoppe|
Some practitioners do not choose to use a table-like surface for their altars and instead may choose to use a slab of stone outdoors (if they are fortunate enough to have a private property) or even the floor or ground itself.
Q: In which area of the room will the altar be placed?
A: This decision will be based upon personal beliefs. Different traditions dictate different directions which an altar should face or indicate in which area of the room it should be positioned. Many Theistic Satanic traditions based upon Jewish heresy, for example, will often position the altar in the northern corner of a room because of the myth that the Demonic realm lies in the northernmost corner of the Universe. Others may feel that the South (in the Northern Hemisphere or North in the Southern Hemisphere) is a more fitting direction due to its association with the Element of Fire. Still others may prefer any of the other directions based upon factors such as the Elemental association of their Patron or Matron Demon(s).
Q: Is the altar likely to be disturbed or discovered?
A: A religious altar, as a general rule, should not be interfered with or touched by others. An exception to this rule would be in the case of a communal altar or an altar that is used by both partners within a relationship.
Many new to Theistic Satanism are young people still living at home with their families and who likely do not have supportive parents or siblings to encourage their exploration of alternative religions, especially a religion as controversial and maligned as Theistic Satanism. Because of the potential interference and turmoil caused by an altar being discovered unintentionally, it is wise to create an altar that will be both sufficient for the needs of the practitioner as well as easily hidden away when necessary from prying eyes.
As unattractive as it may seem, small and lightweight folding tables such as TV dinner trays can function quite well as portable altars. Using floor space instead of a physical table-like structure as an altar can also achieve this purpose by simply using altar cloths to denote the sacred space and by having a small bag on hand in which can be carried any ritual items. Even small decorative boxes such as those used to store jewellery may serve as a type of "mini altar":
|Mini altar by Iona Tasker - www.flickriver.com|
A: Again, these details will be solely dependent upon the personal beliefs and practices of the person in question. For most magickally-inclined Theistic Satanists and Demonolators, the altar acts as a home for ritual tools and a place upon which libations are made. As in many traditions of Neo-Wicca, many Theistic Satanists choose the basic Elemental tools to indicate the four cardinal directions upon their altars:
North - Earth (a dish of salt or earth)
South - Fire (charcoal or a red candle)
East - Air (incense)
West - Water (chalice or water bowl)
North - Fire (charcoal or a red candle)
South - Earth (a dish of salt or earth)
East - Air (incense)
West - Water (chalice or water bowl)
|My working altar. Photo by Torey B. Scott|
Typically, a working altar will include at least some of the following traditional ritual tools and items:
- Altar cloth
- Candles and candle holders
- Incense and incense holders
- Ritual blade (typically a decorative dagger)
- Water dish
- Libation dish
- Matches or a lighter
- Chalice or cup
- Symbolic statuary
- Altar paten (decorative pentacle)
- Divinitory tools such as Tarot cards, pendulums, etc.
An ancestral altar or an altar that is to be used as a shrine or dedicated altar for a deity or spirit will typically be adorned with some of the following items:
- Photographs (if ancestral, depending upon the personal beliefs and traditions of the practitioner)
- Personal items belonging to the ancestor(s)
- Items reflecting the things enjoyed during the lifetime of the ancestor(s)
- Libation dish
- Matches or lighter
- Altar cloth
There are other questions that I am often asked in regards to Satanic altars which I feel are worth addressing, but I will not address them all as most of the answers can already be found in the information I have already provided:
Q: If I create an altar, does that mean that I have to worship at it every day?
A: No. Again, how often you visit your altar will depend upon what its overall function is meant to be and what your personal beliefs consist of. It is good practice to regularly visit your altar every few days - at the very least, it should be kept clean and free from dust.
Q: If I create an altar for Satan, does that mean that I am eternally bound to Him?
A: Absolutely not. An altar is not a pact. It is a sacred space. While some entities and spirits may view an altar as a gift or as a place given to them by yourself, it does not bind you to them in the same manner that a ritualised pact might bind you to them. That being said, it is nonetheless a good idea to respect the altar once you have dedicated it (if you choose to dedicate it) to a deity or an ancestor. Do not use the altar as a space upon which to place your morning cup of coffee, half-eaten sandwich or dirty clothes as it is a sign of disrespect.
Q: What if I honour more than one Demon? Can I have one altar dedicated to Them all?
A: While most Demons do readily work together and generally tolerate one another's presence, there are those who inevitably clash with one another and will refuse to be invoked together, spoken to at the same time, asked to collaborate or otherwise venerated together. If you do not have an established line of communication with all of the entities with whom you work, it is best to assume that They prefer to be honoured separately. That is not to say that each Demon requires Its own altar, but that it is a good idea to work with only one sigil or representation of a Demon at a time within a given space.
Q: I can't find black candles anywhere! What do I do?
A: Black candles, while having some purpose within certain rituals and magickal workings, are not a necessity for a Satanic altar. Granted, they are quite attractive on a well-decorated altar, but they are primarily used by Satanists due to the fact that they appear "spooky".
Q: I don't have the money to buy all of these fancy tools. Will Satan ignore me if I don't have them?
A: No. The issue with this question is that there seems to be some confusion regarding what tools are used for. Tools generally apply only to ritual and magick workings whereas communication with Satan or any other entity is a matter of spirituality.
Satan nor any Demon requires a person to possess numerous tools in order to acknowledge them. Working with Demons requires Will, clear intentions, a sound and open mind and a great amount of respect. If you are creating magick, on the other hand, tools may be crude or fancy - bought or hand-crafted. Tools may not be used at all if the Will is strong enough.