Setting Aside Sacred Space
By Anika Tené Cazenave
With the current focus on spirituality especially for the elder children of Mother
Gaia, many people are considering how best to set aside space for their ancestors,
rituals, and meditations among other practices. While I believe that all space is sacred
because it is part of the earth, it is important to note that intentionally creating a
physical environment for your spiritual practice helps to facilitate the transition between
that practice and our other daily activities. The Western paradigm of
compartmentalization has touched nearly all areas of the globe and many of us are
forced to separate our spiritual practice from our secular lives. While this is not ideal
particularly for the elder children of Mother Gaia, it is an unfortunate reality we must
often navigate. For this reason, altar, ritual, and meditation space can make the
difference between surviving and thriving. Here is a brief guide to creating that space
First, set the intention for your sacred space. What purpose is it meant to serve?
Is this an ancestral altar, a meditation room, a working altar for conjuration? Or will this
space serve a variety of functions including the ones I mentioned. The function of your
sacred space depends upon your needs and the size of the space available. If you are
limited in physical space, then perhaps shelving may help you maximize the types of
altars you want to create. If you have an expansive abode, then you can dedicate an
entire room for spiritual practice and divide the location into areas suitable for each
purpose. The key thing to remember is everyone can create an altar even if it is a
temporary one that goes back into a box when you are done with your practice.
Second, determine the location of your sacred space. It should be somewhere you
can easily access it but that is not necessarily accessible to other’s prying eyes and
curious hands. Certain traditional practices recommend not placing altars for ancestors
and other entities in your bedroom, however that protocol may not be practical for you.
If you do have to have an ancestral or similar altar in your bedroom it is recommended
to cover it with a white cloth when you are not actively engaging with those spirits.
Third, decorate and adorn your sacred space. This altar is a collaboration
between yourself and your spiritual guides. Place beautiful stones, fountains, statues,
etc. on your altar. Listen to your internal guidance about what is needed, what needs to
stay, and what should go. Please be aware that Orisha traditions do not create altars to
an Orisha without the person having received that Orisha in legitimate ceremonies from
priests with acknowledge lineages. If you feel called to work with certain energies, it is
respectful to determine what the protocols are for working with those energies and
follow those protocols.
Fourth, consecrate your space. During the construction phase you should have
cleansed the area and items going on your altar including any tables and shelving you
may use. After constructing your altar, you should invite positive energy into the space.
Make it sacred and personal to you. Remember to keep cleansing and consecrating
regularly to keep the energy at your altar positive and flowing. Below I have given
general guidelines on how to create an ancestral altar.
General Guidelines for Creating and Ancestral Altar
Table or shelf
Pictures of ancestors not including living people
Objects belonging to ancestors
Objects requested by ancestors or that they might have liked
1) Cleanse the table or shelving
2) Cleanse all items to go on the altar with a mixture of salt water and Florida
3) Place the with cloth on the table or shelving
4) Place the white candle in the center with the clear glass filled with water and
the vase of flowers arranged around it
5) Place the pictures and objects around the table or shelving in a manner
pleasing to you and your ancestors. Trust your intuition in this.
6) Consecrate your altar through prayer and ask your ancestors to be with you in
7) Place any offerings including food and drink on the altar.