How to Set Up a Home Altar

Although having an altar at home is not necessary for spiritual practice, people often enjoy having a designated location to meditate, burn incense, or other activities. Some individuals also find that this helps them focus on the task at hand.

Below we are going to discuss some various aspects of a home altar.

Altars have been used since ancient times in religious ceremonies and spiritual sacraments. Many such architectural sites were used in divine worship of the gods. An altar provides an area where one can feel relaxed and have access to their spiritual materials. They can also be fairly decorative and many people find beauty in these old traditions.

“Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.”  ― Joseph de Maistre

Where Do I Place My Altar?

Altars are most often placed upon whatever flat and raised surface is available. Small tables, dressers or shelves are good examples of acceptable altar locations. In monasteries they often make the altar a focus piece but don’t feel like you have to do this.

You may place your altar wherever you see fit.

What Do I Put On My Altar?

Below is a list of example items you may decide to place upon your altar.


Religious or sentimental books are a typical altar adornment.

Many people read these books before or after their practice, so it also proves to be rather convenient.

Prayer Beads

Prayer beads or mala beads are an excellent addition to your altar.

Since they are often used to recipe mantras or prayers during practice.

Spiritual Items

A spiritual item does not necessarily mean traditional items such as incense, books, or Tibetan water bowls. Whether it’s a a family heirloom or simply a relic of your past history, if an item has deep meaning to you and you wish to place it upon your altar then you should feel encouraged to.


Statues that are relative to the religion you practice are popular choices to place upon an altar.

You may want to place a Hindu statue or figurine such as Ganesha, Vishnu, or Shiva. If you are Buddhist you may prefer a statue of Buddha. If a specific animal has significance to you, that might be another good choice. It is important that your altar resonates with you, as one of it’s main purposes is to encourage spiritual practice.

Five Elements

The five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are symbolic of the very reality surrounding us and are common additions to an altar. For example, incense may represent fire, or a plant may represent earth.

Tarot Cards

Whether you use tarot cards for spiritual practice or simply enjoy entertaining friends, it makes sense to put these nearby.

Tibetan Prayer Flags

In ancient times Nepalese Buddhist suttas (religious texts) were transmitted onto these flags and then flown away in the wind, in hopes to spread the wisdom and sentiments contained within. This tradition eventually traveled to Tibet, where the flags were visually modified, but continued to hold a similar purpose.

Many people now use these as decorations, including on bicycles and altars.

tibetan prayer flags
Tibetan Prayer Flags


If you have any photos with significant meaning and would like to display them on your altar, feel free to do so.

Examples of such photos might include religious or martial arts teachers, and loved ones.

This article was last revised on 02/26/2020.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Vienna Imports