There are 10 chapters in this book ranging in topics from what is an altar to how to build one with some of the seasonal references, and symbology as well as a variety of other topics. The authors discuss a variety of sacred spaces following a variety of religions and beliefs.
“The altar is the second conduit between the numinous realm and the shared reality. The first conduit is the practitioner.” page 23
Since Jason is a Gardnerian witch and Laura is a modern traditional witch, they bring different viewpoints and experiences to this book. While the author changes with each chapter, the transition is smooth between the two different writing styles. In the historical chapter they discuss what makes an altar and what the earliest altars may have been. They don't really give a concrete date but they talked about it in a conceptual manner.
There's a chapter on the pentacle which doesn't strictly relate except that the authors feel the pentacle is the altar on the altar. In this chapter they talk about combining the pentacle with other symbols from new age beliefs.
In the building an altar chapter they give a list of three questions you should ask before you start your altar.
• Are you setting up one general altar or do you need to have multiple altars for specific things?
• What kinds of activities do you plan to use your altar for?
• Who else will interact with your altar?
For this last question Zakroff talks about different uses for the altars. She has a list of things like devotion consecration offerings etc. Under each one she gives a brief description of each.
Scattered throughout the book they have excerpts from what they call Altar natives. These are stories from practicing witches who talk about their altars and how they came to be. This is a nice addition to the book as it gives multiple perspectives of how and when altars can be used.
The illustrations throughout the book are charming line drawings which enhance the text associated with it.
The remainder of the chapters cover why you would create an altar and how you would use it. For instance, daily or seasonal altars; outdoor altars; and devotional altars which cover the purpose for creating an altar. They also include how to honor the dead with the specific altar. Additionally, they include how to create an alter you can take with you.
The last chapter is on troubleshooting an altar. This includes considerations like making sure your alter won't burn down. Other things to take into account are things like food and dealing with others who may change your altar.
Overall the book has a good rhythm. The writing between the two authors is harmonious. The input from the other contributors helps round out the topic by giving multiple perspectives. They cover all the necessary things to get yourself started and how to deal with any problems associated with an altar.
~review by Eileen Troemel
Author: Jason Mankey and Laura Tempest Zakroff
Llewellyn Publications, 2018