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I have to be honest; altars are somewhat of an unfamiliar fixture to me.  I’ve seen them in people’s homes, often on the floor, but I was not raised religiously, and never knew there were guidelines for it until I began to study Feng Shui.

A recent client of mine who I’ll call “Jenn” has given me permission to post about her altar. She is Buddhist, but altars are configured for various religious or spiritual reasons.  For those who aren’t familiar with altars, they are used for prayer and worship, and offerings are often bestowed upon it, like flowers, fruit, incense and candles. It can be a very beautiful thing in any home, although from a staging standpoint (that is, if you are actively trying to sell your home), it is my opinion that the altar should be taken down for showings.

Jenn lives in a townhouse with two floors, and her altar is on the second floor in her bedroom, about two feet off of the floor, in front of a gas fireplace which is next to her bed and adjacent to the bathroom.  Her altar’s location also happens to be in the southeast – her accumulated wealth area.

I’m happy to say that Jenn was very open to the changes I recommended, and is enjoying her NEW alter even more! 

A bedroom that is used regularly isn’t the best place for an altar.  Facing the bathroom is thought to be disrespectful to whatever deity it might be. Being in front of a large, gas fireplace makes it too yang a place for an altar which is yin. For these reasons, we moved it downstairs to a quiet northwest part of the living room visible when she comes home each night from work.  We raised it to about five feet, atop a large chest that also contained religious figurines, photos and meaningful scriptures. Having an altar in a sector such as the southeast, which represents money, is not auspicious for that area and not considerate to the religious figure. 

General guidelines:

  • Altars commonly should at least be four or five feet off the floor to show love, worship and respect for it. Ideally, eye level is a good height. 
  • The northwest is the area representative of heaven, and symbols of mentors of all kinds could be placed there, religious or not.  It also benefits the patriarch of the family (traditionally, the “breadwinner”) so the whole family benefits from an altar in this sector.
  • Having the altar visible from the entrance of the home is very auspicious.
  • Altars should not be in a busy or noisy area of the house.
  • An altar facing a toilet is inauspicious (and disrespectful).
  • Altars in the bedroom are not considered the most favorable placement. A quiet place where it will be undisturbed is best.
  • An altar underneath a staircase or underneath an exposed overhead beam is not a proper placement of honor.
  • Leaving two small lights on either side of the deity attracts positive Chi and indicates its importance in your home.
  • Altars outdoors should have a cover, roof or shelter of some kind over it, not allowing it to be exposed to the elements.
  • Keep it clean and neat!  Dust it regularly, and take away offerings that have become old or stale.  Always keep clutter away from altars.

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