How to Build an Ancestor Altar – Inviting Spirits In

ancestor altar

Family Connections

Unfortunately not all of our loved ones are still here in the flesh to celebrate the holidays and other important milestones with us. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be there in Spirit. Or that you can’t invite them to be a part of your day to day life. If you’re looking to continue the connection, one way to keep everyone close is to set up an Ancestor Altar.

For those of you who don’t know what this is, an ancestor altar is simply an area set aside in your home that is devoted to those you love who are on the other side. It can be a table, a shelf, a closet or even the top of a dresser or bookshelf. The area can be as big or small as you like. And it should have items such as photographs, flowers, trinkets or things that remind you of the people you are honoring.

However, there are a few things you will want to know before you set up one of these in your home. While it can be a nice gesture, or even something that makes you feel closer to your family, an ancestor altar does require some work on your part. Make sure you’re ready to accept the responsibilities of caring for one if you decide to place this in your home.

Place in a Low Traffic Area

You will want to create this altar in a space that has low traffic and isn’t highly visible to everyone. This is because the altar will become a “Spirit Highway” of sorts. That means that it will attract, draw and emit a high level of spiritual activity. Because what you are essentially doing is creating a safe meeting space for the other side. Places near your altar may be adversely affected by this energy, so make sure it is in a safe space. Never place it in or near a bedroom as this can cause sleep issues and negatively affect your dream state.

Cleanse & Consecrate

As you may know, it is important to cleanse any area that you are working with magickaly before use. Purify the area with a good smudge, or rub a spiritually charged solution over the altar’s surface. You can use a homemade herbal wash, Florida Water or anything else that works for you. Then use a blessing oil or spray on your new altar area as you state your intentions. This will consecrate the space for use. When you are finished, place an altar cloth or piece of fabric over it before you set it up.

Appoint a Guardian

Like any good nightclub, you’re going to need a bouncer. When you open a door like this to the Spiritual realm, everyone is going to want in. Even if you can manage to keep it to just your family, I’m sure you know from previous gatherings that some people are just always going to cause a problem. This is why you need to appoint a specific spirit for protection. A representation of them should be included on your altar. If you have a particular deity you like to work with, charge them with the task of keeping any negative or malevolent spirits out of your home. If you are new to this and do not yet have a deity, ask the Archangel Michael for his assistance in this matter.


Place at least one white seven day candle on your altar. These are the tall glass ones you find in the store near the religious candle section. The flame will illuminate your altar on the other side and draw your ancestor’s spirits toward you. Make sure the rest of your altar is set up and a guardian is secure before you light your candle and start inviting people in.


Your altar should have a chalice, special cup or a bowl that holds fresh water. Water has long been seen as a point of entry between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Having water on the altar will create a stronger connection between you and your ancestors. Make sure you change it weekly. Or sooner if you notice the water is no longer clean or fresh.


A persons got to eat! Leaving out your loved one’s favorite foods or more traditional offerings like fruit are a common practice with ancestor altars. You don’t have to leave a full plate, but a small offering will go a long way on the other side. If you’re leaving food out, let it sit there until it goes stale or there is clearly no “life” left in it.


Many people like to add fresh flowers to their altar as a gift. You can choose something specific to one of your ancestors. But if you don’t remember their favorite flower, choose something that just looks pretty. Flowers are a beautiful gift that you can present to anyone on the other side to honor them. Just be sure to remove the vase from the altar when the flowers die.

Divination Tools or Other Supplies

Your ancestor altar will not only be a place for you to honor your lost loved ones. But it is a place where you can call them to connect with you. If you are not well versed in communicating with them right off the bat, having some divination tools you are comfortable working with may come in handy. Consider including things that will help you decipher any messages you receive. Some good examples would be tarot cards, bones, runes or even a pendulum.

Spend Time Daily

If you’re going to have an ancestor altar in your home, it makes sense that you miss them and would like to spend more time together. You don’t have to spend all day here, but you should make time every day to connect. It can be something quick like a prayer or blessing for them. You may want to drop off a gift and say hello. Perhaps there’s a question on your mind or a difficult life situation you need advice on. Or maybe you’re having a hard day and you just want to sit down with them and talk. Either way, your ancestors need to be acknowledged on a regular basis. Especially if these are Spirits you’re calling on for assistance in any magickal way or for day to day life. No one wants to help the person that only reaches out when they need a favor. Remember that your altar is a two way street.

I hope this helps give you a guideline to set up an ancestor altar that works for you. Feel free to add in any additional items that feel right. Our family is eternally connected by a great love that transcends all time and space. Being able to honor and tap into that whenever you need it is a special gift. Use it wisely.

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