• Lilith Starr

Satanic Altars: An Inside Look


Some Satanists find that having a Satanic altar in their home is a useful form of expression. A Satanic altar isn't dedicated to worshiping an actual deity; nontheistic Satanists don't make offerings to any gods or expect supernatural results. But altars can provide other advantages. Having a space deliberately set aside to represent your Satanic path can help remind you of that path on a daily basis, provide a place for meditation or contemplation, serve as a focal point for rituals, and any other purpose for which you find it useful.

I asked a number of Satanists to give us insight into their altars. Though there were some common themes, like using candles, bones, and representations of Baphomet, each Satanist had their own unique take on what was meaningful to them. This fits with the general theme of Satanism: instead of enforcing a rigid set of rules and traditions, the Satanic path encourages us to create our own individual practices. The general consensus was that building your altar should be a very personal undertaking, organically choosing whichever items and symbols resonate most strongly with you. Everyone's altar is going to be different.

Here's what fellow Satanists had to say about their altars:

Practitioner: Scott Street

Q: What does Satanism mean to you?

A: To me, Satanism encompasses the description of not only being a Satan, "one who accuses or opposes," but one that actively pursues everything they are mentally and physically capable of. Bruce Lee referred to it as the art of ultimate self expression, of fulfilling every aspect of the individual in the pursuit of perfection.

Q: Do you consider this a Satanic altar?

A: I consider this a Satanic altar in that it has a representation of my own personal interpretations of Satanism.

Q: What purpose does your altar serve?

A: Its purpose is that it creates a focal point of meditation, a collection of subconscious triggers, a statement of faith/beliefs, as well as artistic expression.

Q: Tell us about the items on your altar.

A: The Baphomet flag is a representation of the "flying the flag" line of thought, the LED Baphomet acts as an emotional/psychological manipulation of the subconscious into a meditative state, the twin black candles represent the black flame of Satan, and the baphomet statue is a representation of applied knowledge.

The assorted pins and necklaces represent my own personal interpretations as well as the standard interpretations, such as the pins from the movie series "The Omen"/ Damien Thorn character ─ no grease paint/black leather/obscenely-expressed vulgarities towards Christianity, but very intense, very intelligent, very focused on being exactly who they are, which to me is a very accurate depiction of a Satanist. The Baphomet dagger is very much another focal piece, creating a particular mindset.

Q: Does your altar change with the seasons?

A: I normally won't change it for seasonal holidays, other than maybe adding a few extra candles.

Q: What advice do you have for those setting up their altar for the first time?

A: For anyone setting up an altar for the first time, I advise studying other altars to create a general guideline, then adding pieces that reflect your own individual tastes, preferences, and interpretations of Satanism. It doesn't necessarily have to be anything overly elaborate; the only true requirement is that it be a reflection of your own personal individuality.

Practitioner: Felo De Se

Q: What does Satanism mean to you?

A: The use of myth-making to articulate rejection of arbitrary authority and the struggle against tyranny.

Q: Do you consider this a Satanic altar?

A: Not exclusively, no. Most of Satanic religious practice (as defined above at least) is expressed through direct action such as community building, promoting education, and resisting theocratic and fascist encroachment. The altar pulls aspects from a variety of schools and traditions, though it's fair to say it filters them through a Luciferian lens.

Q: What purpose does your altar serve?

A: It is a focal point to help reach a headspace or frame of mind to reflect and hopefully explore ideas and avenues of thought inaccessible while distracted by daily life.

Q: Tell us about the items on your altar.

A: In photo 1, the peacock plate/tray on the wall is a nod to the Yazidi tradition in acknowledgement of and solidarity with their persecution as "devil worshipers." The ominous Orthodox monk was a gift from a dear friend's travels to Greece. The tealight holder was probably meant to evoke something other than a burning church but there's no way around it, that's what it is. Pair of Baphomet coins (only one pictured) for the ferryman. Small ceremonial bell to initiate and dismiss the ritual space. Sculpture of Kali and Santa Muerte prayer candle, beseeching Death in all her forms (gross oversimplification, but that's the general idea). The bumper sticker is not usually present, but it is fun to add for pictures. The straight razor crudely symbolizes that the right to self-deliverance is inalienable. And of course Baphomet to represent unifying opposites and transcending duality.

In photo 2, prayer candles on the bookshelf are deeply inspirational figures. Tubman's story and Baldwin's work should be part of any self-respecting Satanist's library. A statue of the archangel Michael beheaded as it tramples Satan which is almost too on-the-nose. But believe it or not that break was an accident. Unless of course the Lord isn't the only one who works in mysterious ways.

Q: Does your altar change with the seasons?

A: It is constantly in flux as new elements are added and old ones removed. Nothing that correlates with the seasons or the holidays yet, though that is an appealing idea.

Q: What advice do you have for those setting up their altar for the first time?

A: Aleister Crowley advised not to do anything in a ritual that you didn't understand and that doing what felt meaningful was more important than doing things "correctly." So basically go nuts and set it up however works for you.

That said, don't use fake bones. Or replace them as soon as possible. Not trying to be elitist or invalidating here. Of course it's a personal preference. But the feeling of inauthenticity might work against you, depending what your aim is. This obviously doesn't apply to skeletal artifacts like sugar skulls or memento mori sculptures. More like plastic Halloween decorations. Unless of course they have sentimental value to you.

If that's not persnickety enough, they should also be ethically sourced. Yes really. Ideally ones you found out in nature yourself. At the very least please don't use those of a creature slaughtered specifically for altar components as this would be a monstrous hypocrisy, going against the Fundamental Tenets, the Rules of the Earth, and just about any other moral code worth a damn. Leave the animal sacrifice to the God-adorers.

Practitioner: Tabitha Slander

Q: What does Satanism mean to you?

A: It is the set of guiding principles I base my understanding of the world around.

Q: Do you consider this a Satanic altar?

A: Very much so; it is my first altar.

Q: What purpose does your altar serve?

A: I originally built it when we had our first Dark arts (and crafts) night. My hope was that it would activate the intentions for creativity and bring us closer together as a group. I still use it for this purpose but also I like to just look at it. It reminds me of who I am and what I’m about.

Q: Tell us about the items on your altar.

A: Most of the things hold sentimental value to me. The fluorite and quartz were gifts from my father, the tile and most of the christian iconography were from my grandmother (posthumously,) the incense holder from my best friend, the list really goes on. It helps remind me that the greatest gifts are the people around me and the memories objects can hold. I think altars are deeply personal so mine came together more on feeling than any research and since I use it more for reflection/intention most of it is aesthetic by nature instead of useful in a practical sense.

Q: Does your altar change seasonally?

A: The only time it changes is when I borrow items to bring to rituals.

Q: What advice do you have for those setting up their altar for the first time?

A: Go for it! The only way to do it wrong is to not do it. Actually, make sure your table is sturdy otherwise, anything goes!

Practitioner: Tor J Keyes

Q: What does Satanism mean to you?

A: Freedom to be myself in a society that hates multiple aspects of my existence.

Q: Do you consider this a Satanic altar?

A: Yes. It's an homage to my own history of beliefs and I consider it a long awaited comfort at the end of a personal journey. A warm summit campsite, to pick a metaphor.

Q: What purpose does your altar serve for you?

A: Mostly artistic, but ultimately a physical manifestation of my Satanic faith and beliefs.

Q: Tell us about the items on your altar.

A: I have a lot of objects, so I'll explain my favorites. On the left side of my altar, I have artistic manifestations of pagan faiths ─ Greek, Norse, and Egyptian. These represent my love and appreciation for ancient history. On the right is a triple deity figure of my own design. Primitive clay sculpts of 3 self-invented modern entities embodying the concepts of Innocence, Knowledge, and Wisdom, regarding a pyrite "bonfire." These figures are a reminder to see the common ground between differences and to recognize the importance of personal growth.

Q: Does your altar change with the seasons?

A: My altar doesn't change much. It's a good constant between seasons. I might add or remove items on a Satanic whim, though!

Q: What advice do you have for those setting up their altar for the first time?

A: Don't worry about getting fancy. My altar cloth is a shower curtain. There's an old doorknob too. Also a plastic toy goat and some old bones from a roast something or other that I cleaned. Half of it is art I made not even intending it to end up there. The ordinary can become the extraordinary when allowed to be together in a dedicated space in the flickering light of a Yankee Candle you bought at the mall with your mom.

Practitioner: Jon Winningham

Q: What does Satanism mean to you?

A: Satanism represents strength of will to me and is a reminder that I control my world and no one can take that away from me. It helps give me courage when I am faced with adversity. Q: Do you consider this a Satanic altar? A: Absolutely Q: What purpose does your altar serve?

A: My altar serves as a daily reminder of my Satanic beliefs. It also serves as a place for ancestor "worship." It generally encompasses all of the things you mentioned in your examples (a space for reflection or meditation, a celebration of a holiday, a place to focus your thoughts and feelings, an invocation of archetypes, an artistic display). Q: Tell us about the items on your altar.

A: The athame (dagger), antlers (phallic object), bell, and Baphomet statue are all used during ritual practice. The rest are just various decorations. Q: Does your altar change with the seasons? A: It does not change seasonally. Q: What advice do you have for those setting up their altar for the first time? A: Just like there is no one true way to be a Satanist (although there are those who will tell you there is; do not listen to them) there is no one true way to set up an altar. Let it be a reflection of who you are and what you believe.

Practitioner: Daniel Walker

Q: What does Satanism mean to you?

A: Employing the myth of Satan for personal gratification, community building, and public action in the spirit of the original revolutionary.

Q: What purpose does your altar serve?

A: I’ll be honest, part of the point of the altar is just to have a place to keep things we use in group rituals. But it’s also a persistent reminder: Of our Satanic values, of the fact that I’m allowed sometimes to stop and take time to recoup myself, of knowing that I have interior resources that have helped get to this point, etc.

It can be difficult to keep those things at the front of your mind some days, so having the altar in a visible place provides a mental update every time I see or walk by it.

Q: Tell us about the items on your altar.

A: The Baphomet is there to serve as a centerpiece. We have a smaller version, “Travel Baph,” for everyday use, and we reserve this larger one for more important ceremonial occasions. I had a black one from the same mold but decided that the faux “bronze” finish looks more dramatic.

The candles are just for illumination and atmosphere, although I’ve discovered that when they’re lit they create a moving silhouette of Baphomet on the ceiling that can actually be quite relaxing to watch. I’m not the type who is patient enough for meditation but sometimes when fatigue is setting in a few minutes of this can be relaxing.

The stoneware vessel is actually a mortar, but I use it to burn incense. I honestly don’t remember where the pestle went.

The skull is a raccoon, so selected because it fits conveniently on top of the bowl and because I wanted something on the table to serve as a reminder that, well, life is short.

Similarly, I’m not that into Tarot, but the deck is there to acknowledge that life is random and unpredictable, and sometimes the imagery on the top card gives me something to think about while I’m trying not to think about anything else.

The glass case has dirt collected from various places I’ve traveled to — nothing particularly special, just a reminder of those trips.

The stone on top was a gift from friend, supposedly taken from a beach that curses anyone who (you guessed it) steals stones from it, and I did indeed get quite ill almost immediately after he gave it to me. But I got over it in a few days, so now the rock is a helpful reminder that curses are bullshit anyway.

The cup we use in various rituals to hold whatever we need, usually blood or wine, sometimes water, once milk because we were doing a screening of “The Witch” and there’s a lot of nursing imagery in that movie, etc.

The bell is also for ceremonial use. We keep talking about upgrading to a gong, which I don’t think will fit on the table.

The knife doesn’t actually get much use, but it’s a common ritual implement for a lot of people so I keep one around just in case it ever comes up.

The pendant was a gift from Tabitha; I wear it whenever we’re on Satan business but keep it here the rest of the time (so it doesn’t get lost).

And as for the turkey’s claw…I’ll admit I just thought it looked cool. I assumed we’d find some use for it eventually, but nothing so far. I tell people it’s mostly there so that if anyone breaks in and finds the altar they’ll be sufficiently spooked to just leave without stealing anything, and actually I might not be kidding.

Q: Does your altar change with the seasons?

A: No, mostly it just changes with my whims.

Q: What advice do you have for those setting up their altar for the first time?

A: It’s perfectly fine to use someone else’s as a reference or a template but don’t feel beholden to anybody’s instructions.

Practitioner: Lilith Starr

I wanted to include my own setup as an example of a temporary altar. If you don't have permanent space to set up your altar, you can use a simple portable altar that can be set up and put away easily. This is the situation in my home; there is no large clear flat space permanently free for an altar. So I have a black cloth, TST symbols and a ritual painting I did on a wall as a permanent installation and I simply set my paper representation of Baphomet, my candle and my bell temporarily on a computer table in front of the wall during my daily dedication ritual. Then I put them away when I am done so we can use the laptop.

As you can see, everyone's altar is a form of unique self-expression. Take whatever calls to you and create a space that reflects your inner Satanist.

Lilith Starr is Co-Chapter Head of the Satanic Temple's Seattle Chapter, and the author of "The Happy Satanist: Finding Self-Empowerment."


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