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Melissa Portan MSW, MEd

Writer & Sexologist

Melissa is a 5th generation spiritual guide and healer who specializes in helping others find their own spiritual path. She is also a sex and relationship therapist practicing in NYC.

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The Altar


The idea of having an altar, because the word altar has heavy and religious connotations, may seem daunting to many. At the sound of the word altar, someone may think of Satanic worshiping and red, dripping candles, with bones scattered on a pentagram-clothed table. Or, or, someone may think of the cavernous church altar, complete with a kindly priest. But an altar can be many things and it is one of the most intimate aspects of a spiritual practice.

For many who have found their spiritual path and left the church, an altar may seem like a thing that has been left behind in the reverberating, white marble walls of an old building. A person going through this sort of situation may feel a quiet disconnect, like forgetting something without knowing what it is. Perhaps they have in their minds the idea that only churches can be holy and only churches can have altars, and that whatever else is outside of the church is sacrilegious and evil. This is not true. One can have a sacred place in the privacy of one’s home.


A glimpse of my altar; includes angels, Lord Ganesh, Buddha, and at the forefront, the Moon.

How your altar is shaped depends on your practice. The reason it may be overwhelming to create an altar is because you may have preconceived notions of what an altar is supposed to be. But if you are exploring your beliefs or leaving behind beliefs, then what is on your altar will change, and that is okay.

An altar is not about who you worship or what you have. It is not about having ornate tables with rare crystals. It is not about fancy daggers, feathers, or oils. Having an altar is about connecting wi