Friday, March 13, 2020

Thrifty Spring Equinox Altar 2020

The spring equinox, sometimes also referred to as Ostara, is a scientifically observable event marking relatively equal day and night and is often considered the first day of spring on the calendar. The ground is now warm and life is teaming as we see the trees green and flowers bloom.  We frequently celebrate the equinox by gardening and planting, be it literal seeds or metaphorical goals we hope to eventually achieve.

Last year before my hiatus, I began a thrifty altar series for witches looking to make altars on a budget.  Today, I'm continuing that series to completion by the end of the year!  The rules are simple:
  • Altar items must be obtained at either a dollar store or a thrift store.
  • Items must be purchased in a single trip to one location.
  • Items can cost no more than a $20 bill - preferably less.
  • Only items purchased in the trip can be displayed on the altar - nothing owned prior, nothing from the herb cabinet, nothing found outside, etc.
  • Must provide proof of purchase (and thus cost).
Spring Equinox Altar Store:
Red Racks/DAV Thrift Store

Because I shopped for my last altar at a dollar store, I decided to choose a thrift store for easy comparison.  Red Racks is a chain of thrift stores here in Kansas City, but they're owned and operated by the Disabled American Veterans, meaning you likely have something comparable near you.  The best part about shopping at a DAV owned thrift store is that part of my purchase will help disabled Veterans in a variety of ways, from transportation to and from appointments to claims and socialization, according to their website.  Not only does it help me create an inexpensive sabbat altar but it does something for the greater good in the process!

Like most thrift stores, the DAV Red Racks has a variety of options depending on what has been donated to your location.  These items frequently include decorative bottles, floral items, seasonal items, and more.  As you can see above, my local Red Racks had a two aisle display for Easter, which has a variety of crossover imagery with Ostara and the spring equinox.  This made it easy to hunt for a good spring equinox altar!

Thrift stores like the DAV Red Racks will also combine like-items in bags for incredibly cheap.  You can find everything from crafting supplies like paint and ribbon to unused votive candles and more if you peruse the aisles.  I also like to look for potpourri bags because they frequently contain real dried natural items that can be used in a multitude of ways.

Sometimes, you'll even find some incredible surprises at thrift stores - like these planters with actual seeds inside!  Who knows how old they are or if the seeds would sprout but for $2.99 (plus whatever discounts are running that day), it might even be worth a shot.

While I didn't purchase any of the above items, I wanted to show off the wide variety of things that can be found at a thrift store.  Every thrift shop will be different, including every DAV-ran store, because it depends on what's donated to your location and how discerning they are about what they shelve.  After a few trips though, it's easy to sort out what thrift stores you like and which ones don't suit your tastes.  I definitely have a select number of "favorites" that I frequent.  For this series, I'll be visiting a few of them, along with ones I don't particularly prefer, to show off the variety of items you might find - and how to work with what you've got.

In dollar stores, I frequently struggle with planning an altar out in my head, which forces me to circle the store multiple times before I come up with an idea.  Thrift stores, I frequently find, are much easier for two reasons.  One, you'll likely find a unique item that gives you the inspiration you need to create a full altar.  And two, you can often find a relatively empty aisle with a small shelf you can use to "test run" your altar a few times.  I definitely did that a couple of times before officially making my purchase:

And I only spent $11.19 USD!

It did help that I was able to land a few discounted tags, of course, but I doubt this altar would have been more than $17 or $18 full price.

So what was I able to do with everything you saw above?

For this altar, the initial inspiration piece was this faux tulip and egg:

I found this piece in the Easter area and it reminded me of a Turkish myth behind the formation of tulips involving two young star-crossed lovers named Shirin and Farhad.  I've heard a number of variations on this myth but the bottom line is that one of the lovers dies and the other, upon discovery, kills themselves.  Their blood mixed and from it sprouted the tulip.  Notice how the tulip above spouts from a shattered egg, which could be symbolic of the young couple's death. Even more so, eggshells are a great way to start seeds - an activity those of us with green thumbs tend to partake in around this time.  

This was the first item I added to the basket, which set the tone for the entire altar.  I knew based on this item that I wanted to look for pink, green, white, and glass items.  These colors work incredibly well for the spring equinox with green symbolizing growth and plants, white symbolizing the melting snow, glass representing ice melting into water, and pink representative of compassion and young love.  Knowing my color scheme helped me narrow my focus so I could find the items I needed.

The next items I ran across were these green votives in votive holders.  Though there were multiple offered, I knew I only wanted two.  

Two represents balance, like the balance of night and day during the equinox.  It also represents the two lovers who died.  

I placed them on either side of the tulip.  This placement made the most sense to me given the representation of the tulip and egg itself.

Because the Spring Equinox is the holiday of growth and plants, of the fertility of the earth, I knew I wanted some faux fauna to represent that.  In the floral section, I discovered a cheap little floral arrangement in burlap that had large, realistic fern pieces.  This fern is specifically called a swordfern and, as you can imagine by the name, has protective properties.  In one of the stories I've heard about Shirin and Farhad, Farhad was killed by Shirin's father because he was a commoner and she a princess.  Shirin's father saw this as an act of protection.  

Beyond the story, the swordfern provides us protection during the fertile growing months and we frequently sew the seeds of goals we wish to achieve.  These goals are new and still fragile - still in need of protection - until they grow.

The next item I discovered in my trip to the thrift store was a package of decorate-your-own faux eggs.  I was honestly really excited about these because they were perfect for egg representation on the altar.  For both the fern pieces and these eggs, I wanted to place eight on the altar to represent the eight sabbats.  While I wanted to leave most of them plain to match the cracked egg of the tulip piece and because I prefer a more natural look, I also knew I'd want to decorate one as a centerpiece.  So I started hunting for something to use in decorating.

That's where I found these party leis.  I figured that I could deconstruct them and use the flowers that matched the colors of the altar as bases for the eggs.  What I didn't know at the time is that the faux eggs I purchased were literally egg-shaped - as in they didn't have a flattened base.  I used one of the flowers of one of the leis under the base of the tulip's egg just to include them in the altar, but I really ended up not needing the package of leis after all.

Fortunately, I wasn't out of luck.  The package of eggs themselves came with their own markers for decoration!  The markers included a pink and green, perfect for the altar I was creating.  Even more so, I discovered in the process that the eggs were washable and reusable!  All I had to do was wipe them down with a wet napkin and I could start over.

A piece of me wants to use these for the caricature classes I teach because I think they'd help kids get the idea of a face in 3D space, but I digress.

While I played with a variety of options, from creating a bindrune to writing an incantation around the entirety of the egg, I ultimately decided in the end to replicate the tulip that inspired the altar.  I even added a little greenery. Because I knew I wanted to display one of the eggs front and center, I went back to the candle holders and found this floral glass votive holder that was perfect for just that!

Though I will admit, I can't stop seeing the greenery as little excited arms.

The last part of this altar I stumbled upon in the dishes section.  I wasn't really looking for much else at this point - and certainly not a teacup regarding an altar.  However, I randomly spotted the perfect floral pink and green teacup set that I simply couldn't leave.

Specifically for the rose-shaped dish!

Red roses remind me of May Day because I feel like they represent the more vivid and intense nature of the holiday.  But pink roses?  Pink roses are perfect for Ostara!  They represent a more childlike view of love - unconditional and forever.  Plus they matched the rest of the altar perfectly and gave my gleeful little egg a platform to fling its arms on.

For just a little more than $11 and a single trip to the thrift store, I was able to create an altar to the Spring Equinox that I felt captured the sabbat.  I hope this altar gives you some inspiration to rummage through your local thrift store.

Let Artie know what you've found in the comments below.  He's curious!

I'll leave you with a visual diagram of this altar.  Enjoy!


  1. I love the happy spring egg! :D

    And I am always amazed at how big American charity shops are compared to the ones over here.

  2. It's so nice to see an altar from you again. You always create such visually beautiful, deeply symbolic altars and are a real inspiration. :)