|A Wiccan altar is functionally no different from an altar
of any other religion. It serves as the focal point for the
ritual, it holds icons which are important to the religion or
the purpose of the specific ritual or season, it is a place
from the celebrant
(priest/priestess/rabbi/minister/etc) to work and
perform the symbology of that religion, and is a place to set
things down used at some point in the ceremony. With Wicca or
almost any other solitary or small group rituals, there are
different types and sizes of altars. That’s basically a
matter of taste and what’s available. They should be
made of wood or stone. The MOST traditional material is
natural stone in its natural setting. That’s usually
not available, so wood is good. An altar may be made of any
material though. Some of us like something which is a height
where we can reach it well standing up. Others like things
low to the ground so they can reach it sitting. It’s a
matter of taste and how you work. You should have an altar
cloth as I described before. It’s not a requirement
A Hindu altar serves the same purposes. I will describe both
types of altars, and how I overlap, blend, and use the
similarities and differences in my own worship for Samkhya
Traditional Wiccan Altars
In a Wiccan setting, you have a
working candle that can be anywhere. It is to light other
things, including other candles and incense. There are 2
other candles on the altar; a power candle and protection
candle on the side away from the priest/priestess and on
either side of the altar. There are the god and goddess
statues. These are just next to the power and protection
candles, with the goddess statue being on the left side of
the altar and the god statue being on the right. The
thurible/censor/incense burner is in the middle of all of
that. The pentacle is in the middle of the altar and a bowl
of salt is on top of it. The priest and priestess can set
their athames down on the altar. The wand, bell, book of
shadows and scourge can go anywhere they seem to fit.
Someone may hold the book of shadows while someone else is
reading from it. Generally the working knife and cakes
& wine are kept under the altar until or unless used.
The size of the altar depends on what’s available to
someone and their tastes. The limitations are that it has
to fit inside the circle, which can be of different sizes
and that the altar has to be big enough to hold everything
that it needs to. Other than that… do what you want.
The altar can be of more than one use, such as when
it’s not being used for ritual purposes to be a table
in someone’s home. It can be a kitchen table, a
coffee table, an end table, a wooden workbench, or anything
else. Of course, if it’s used for a mundane purpose,
all of the ritual oriented things must be removed and put
The above is an indoor Wiccan altar.
Positions of all of the altar tools can be readily seen.
Figures representing the God and Goddess are near the back.
Photo courtesy of Moss
The above is an outdoor, Wiccan stone altar,
being used in a public ritual. Similar items are on this
altar, although more traditional figures of the divine are
being used. Photo courtesy of Moss Bliss.
An altar for Hindu worship is
strikingly similar to the “traditional” Wiccan
altar. It’s simpler though, or at least it can be.
There is only one statue of a divinity representing Who
that particular ritual is for. Within Hinduism alone, there
are a choice of 30,306 deities but NO ONE has that many
statues! What is often done is the person have at least 2,
one of their favorite god and one of their favorite goddess
and use these to represent Whomever. Personally, I’ll
either have White Tara/Kuan Yin (Chinese version of the
same thing) or Ganesh on the altar. These are the Goddess
of Compassion and the God of Luck, respectively. There is
one light, which is traditionally an oil lamp. A
candle will do fine though. You do have an incense burner.
You do have water although without salt for the Hindu
ceremony. You drink it in the Hindu ritual. You use a wand
similar to the Wiccan wand to draw the circle. You use a
bell for summoning things or focusing energy which is just
the same whether Hindu or Wiccan in pure form. In a Hindu
altar you have 2 extra pieces of cloth because part of the
ritual involves welcoming the god you choose as you would a
welcome houseguest in that culture. You offer washing of
feet, bath, clean clothing, food and drink. You set aside
some prasad, or food to be offered to the gods.
Within Hinduism, this is usually more complex than the
Wiccan “cakes and wine”. This is traditionally
fruit, but vegetables, baked things, and bread is fine too.
You also offer milk. As an aside, there was a period of
about 10 days about 10 years ago where statues of Ganesh
and Shiva worldwide were drinking the milk! It
really WAS working! In fact it can be any type of food
whatsoever so long as you offer it in love. This food is
eaten by the worshippers during or after the ritual or
given to the poor. At the end of a Hindu ritual music is
performed for the gods as part of it. In a Wiccan ritual
the music is very often done afterwards but not as part of
The above is an indoor, altar for solitary
puja use. The altar itself is made of wood. The deity on
the altar is Lord Ganesha, and the murti or statue is
already wearing a string which is symbolic of clothing. On
the far left is a bowed psaltry, used for making music to
offer the divine. Next to that is a censor for buring
incense, and a pear for offering behind that. There is one
candle. The brown cup contains a mixture of tilak.
Essensial oil is next to that, and a clear cup of water is
next to that. On the right are the wand used for casting
the circle, and a red, cotton cloth to be used symbolically
in the ritual to wash the deity's feet. A wooden wand used
to cast the circle is at the very front.
This is the same altar as the one above,
although arranged differently. At the back is the addition
of a drawing of Shiva and Parvati. Otherwise, it contains
the same items for the same purpose.
Thus, the details are slightly
different but the imagery is strikingly similar. To me,
Hindu circle feels much lighter and more open and airy. I
can’t explain any better than that. Since they are so
similar in both form and purpose, it follows that they can
easily be harmonized. That is precisely what I have done
and am doing.
Within Samkhya Wicca, I can use
either because they combine so readily. For a simple,
solitary Samkhya Wicca ceremony, I will generally use the
Hindu altar. For a more formal ceremony, I’ll often
use the more complex Wiccan altar. Most often though, I
will use the simpler altar of the Hindu puja, regardless of
whether I’m invoking Indian, European, Native
American, or African Gods, or what words I’m using. I
personally like to put the most focus on just what it is
that I’m doing, rather than the details of how
the altar is set up.