Let’s face it. When you’re ready to construct your first alter after you’ve looked into the eight million books you’ve collected, you feel intimidated. If you’re anything like me when I first started you’ll look to your right, you’ll look to your left, then say:
‘uhhh….which side does the goddess go on again?’
For the first couple years of becoming pagan I did everything the books I had read told me to do. God statue went on the right, goddess went on the left, etc. But every time I placed the Goddess on the left I felt it was wrong. Very wrong. So one night, while constructing my altar, I determinedly put the goddess on the right. Ahhhh, yes. That’s where it should go! But I felt guilty. The books on my bed stared at me accusingly screaming ‘how dare you not listen to us! We are wiser and know better!’ And they clearly stated that the Goddess went on the left. I ignored them however, and continued to put the goddess on the right, shoving away the feeling of guilt every time.
So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up a book on Celtic altars and what should appear but the statement that “the goddess goes on the right.” And here I had spent years feeling guilty about doing it! Books are wonderful things, and are filled with wisdom and traditions, but sometimes you have to go with your instinct, because more often than not, it’s right! Now I’m going to say something that might scare and shock you. Or quite possibly have you throwing hexed fish at me. Ready?
It is OK to alter your altar.
Are you done freaking out now? Great! That’s right everyone, it’s OK to alter your altars. The gods won’t smite you, and you won’t run into seven years bad luck. Sure there is something to be said for tradition, and if it feels right to put the goddess on the left and the god on the right, then do so! Heck, maybe you feel closer to Male divinity and want him in your power hand, or maybe you’re a lefty! If you feel the need one night to place water (typically female) onto the god’s side, there might be a reason for it! And who’s to say that in some other culture, this is correct?
What books tell you (and what authors will often say) is that you should use their book as a starting point. Or maybe the books you read tell you that ‘this is the only correct way’. Either way, I encourage you to do what feels right when making an altar. Maybe you don’t feel the need (like me) to have every single thing that books tell you to. You know the bits. The wand, the anthem, the statues, the water and salt, the incense, the wand. All of it.
Personally I’m good with my statues, my wand, and a bowl of salt and water. That’s it. Do I light incense? If I feel I need it. But in general, I feel the need for very little (even when I do a ritual). But that’s just how I roll. So please, take the books advice, use them as guidelines but don’t feel you have to follow them to the letter. Listen to your feelings and intuitions. That’s what being a witch (or pagan) is all about! And remember, altering your altar is OK!