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Do You Need a Portable Altar

Do you need a portable Wiccan altar? Many Wiccans do. Take this scenario. You work in sales and have to travel every other week. Having a portable altar makes your generic hotel room feel more like home. Or maybe your living arrangements are unsettled and you have to move often. You might be a college student living in the dorms and migrating back to your parents' house on school break. Or you might be fresh out of high school or college, trying to find yourself or looking for your next big break. You drift from apartment to apartment, living with various roommates. Or you stay with friends, sleeping on their couches. When all your worldly goods can fit in a backpack, you need a portable Wiccan altar. Or maybe you live in a house with non-Wiccans or with rowdy children and pets and you want to pack away your altar when not in use for privacy and safety reasons.

What belongs with a portable altar? First, you need a surface to delineate sacred space. This could be the lid or interior of a box, or perhaps a scarf or placemat. Add your ritual tools: athame or wand, chalice, candle or incense, and pentacle. To avoid trouble with airport security when flying, carry a wand instead of an athame. You may wish to include flat images of the God and Goddess. If space permits, you could instead use tiny statuettes or symbols such as an acorn for him and a tiny cowry shell for her.

The altar box is one type of portable altar. You can adapt an altar box from a folding portable chess set. The wooden chess board is hinged at its midpoint. When folded in half, it has a border maybe two inches wide that lines up to form the four sides of a box, which keeps the chess pieces inside. When unfolded, it becomes a chessboard supported on a raised foundation. You can keep your ritual tools inside such a box and unfold it to become a raised altar. Another type of altar box is a wooden box with a flat hinged lid from your local crafts store (or you can search for cigar boxes on eBay). The closed lid (or the interior with the lid open) serves as your altar and your tools can be packed away inside when you have finished ritual or spellwork.

The altar bag is even more streamlined. You lay a scarf or placemat flat to represent sacred space. When not in use, you can roll up your ritual tools inside your altar cloth and secure the bundle with a ribbon. For a more refined touch, you could sew pockets on one side of the altar cloth into which to slide your ritual tools for storage. Your altar cloth would then function like one of those tool rolls that woodcarvers or beauticians use to keep their implements organized. Or you could sew a drawstring into the edges of your altar cloth and pull it closed into a bundle with your ritual tools inside when not in use.

How small can you go? I have seen the world's tiniest portable altars for sale on eBay that include ritual tools that could fit on charm bracelet. Good luck holding the athame if you're a man with big fingers. You might also have a struggle at your motel room, trying to squeeze a drop of water from the sink into a miniature chalice. But it can be done. These altars are small enough to fit into a tiny recycled breath-mints tin, a small ziplock bag tucked in your wallet, or even into a chunky locket.

Perhaps you prefer a minimalist altar but with full-size tools. Reduce everything to your wand and your chalice, both wrapped in a small altar cloth. There are chalices that are only four inches long, but look full-sized; you can find them on eBay. Trim your wand down to match the length of your chalice. Your altar cloth can be embroidered with symbols of the God and Goddess, or your tools of wand (God) and chalice (Goddess) will suffice to represent them. Does that feel like enough for you? I always appreciate the element of fire and I like to do something ritualistic such as light a candle. If you are the same way, you could add a small tea light and a book of matches. Experiment with adding and subtracting elements until you create the portable Wiccan altar that best suits you.

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