The tree ran about $120.
The statues, well, four of them, came to about $110.
The other two statues were about $50.
The altar-cloth was free (it's an old dish rag my mother gave me).
The votive candles run about $.75 for all three, and the votive candle holders are about $1.25.
The candles and holders for the deity statues ran about $4 all told.
The incense holder was $4.
The well was a Wal-Mart special: 2 for $.75.
The offering bowls were about $2 for all 8.
The Golden apple was $3 at an after Christmas sale.
The shelving that they're on was probably the most expensive investment. Frist, there were the shelves itself, about $24 for all three.
The brackets were the killers, though. At $7 apiece, they ran almost $60.
So, in grand sum, the altar probably cost about $400, if you add all the expenses and then throw in whatever I paid in tax.
That is, of course, only taking into account this incarnation of the altar, and only what is on it right now. It of course leaves out the house I bought so I could make it permanent, and the paint I bought for the walls to put behind it.
There are cheaper ways to build an altar. There are probably better ways. Of all the people who have built altars, I think I know this better than most. After all, I started out with three bowls and a stick.
So why did I end up spending $400 on this one altar? Why am I already considering a larger, better altar outdoors, and estimating the initial cost at around $250? What on earth would make me so crazy as to do this over again? Isn't one expensive altar enough?
Gods, I don't know. Deep down, I think it just feels right. I love my altar because it shows me my physical love of the deities. It sits in my bedroom, and daily shows that I must be mindful of the deities. It is the first thing I see each morning, and the last thing I see each night. I start my day kneeling before it, and I end my day in the same position.
When I prepare to face my day, I stand before my altar and whisper prayers and thoughts. I sometimes speak my fears or concerns. I remember those who need strength.
When I prepare for bed, I quietly consider the events of the day, again whispering prayers and thoughts of thanksgiving. I discuss my successes and failures, and remember good friends and loved ones.
I suppose what the altar is to me is a place where I can go to be myself, to stand before the Gods as the mortal I am, flawed, imperfect, but willing. It is a place that none intrude to, and where I can go when I need to.
There's nothing in the price of the altar that makes it holy. The number of digits left of the decimal point don't increase it's holy worth by anything, really. Some of the most impressive altars I've ever seen are simple and free, actually. But this is how I felt I needed to build my altar, and that's what's important about it to me.