One of the things that many who come to serve the lwa like to do early on in their service is to set aside a place to make regular service to the lwa. This is an excellent idea. It gives you a space where you can present the Spirits with coffee on a regular basis, sit and speak with the lwa, give them offerings, make requests, and prepare illuminations.
What is not so public knowledge is how to begin to set up such a table or altar. It does not have to be complicated, nor does it need to contain a large number of items. It will be a personal space that reflects you and your lwa, as well as your relationship with them.
Before beginning to set up a home altar, you will need to contact a Houngan or Mambo to determine which lwa walk with you. In Vodou we do not pick our spirits, they pick us. It is important that you serve the Spirits that are with you and want to be served by you. So begin with this reading, which you can book , or through any Mambo or Houngan that you feel comfortable approaching for a reading.
The second reason to consult with a Mambo or Houngan before constructing an altar is so that you have a source to ask questions. You will want to know about the lwa that walk with you, and although we do our best at Kiwi Mojo to provide information about a large group of lwa, you will need to know about your Spirits, their correspondences, what they need or want from you. Perhaps your Erzulie Freda wants a knife with which to work for you ... Perhaps your Danballa Wedo wants his egg on a mount of sugar to bring more sweetness to your life ... these are the things are revealed in the reading or in subsequent readings. As the colours, saints and items associated with each lwa vary from house to house, it is better to get your information from a single source to avoid confusion. Ideally, you will have been accepted into a house and be under the guidance of spiritual parents who can educate you about what each lwa is given in your house.
When you first define the space for home altar, it is important that this space is baptised. It is best if you can get this altar baptised and blessed by a Houngan or Mambo to make it a light to attract your Spirits. However, if this is not possible, you can do a small preparation of your table yourself. To do this:
Once your table is prepared you can begin to build the altar. The photo essay below will give you a good idea how to begin. Obviously you will need to use the Spirits that walk with you, and you will want to consult with a Mambo or Houngan which spirits should be positioned next to each other. This however is a good way to begin.
Also, you do not need to add all of the Spirits to your table all at once. You can add Spirits one at a time, begin pouring water for them, and getting to know them, and when you feel that relationship is ready you can then add another Spirit to the altar.
You also do not need to go out and get statues before you begin, or chromoliths before you begin, or anything specific. Altars are living things. They are always evolving and always a work in progress. If you can't get something right now, you can add it later. It is better to begin with what you have and can get easily, and build your altar up over time. If all you have for one spirit are prayer cards and a bottle of alcohol, put that on the altar and add a statue or chromolith image or other item when you can afford to or find the right thing.
Now that we've covered those basic ideas, here's how to do it.