An Altar, a.k.a. Shrine, Workspace, is an area set aside for spiritual devotion and magic in the practice of Hoodoo/Rootwork.
Altars may be rather simple in construction and hold only a small number of items or may be more complex and filled with many items. Traditional items found on altars include a tablecloth, usually white or red, a bible, a cross, candles, an incense burner, and statues or pictures of Saints, if the practitioner works with the Saints. Additionally, spiritual products such as oils, powders, herbs, or waters, may be stored on or near the altar as well. Altars may be temporarily set up and taken down in-between doing work or may be permanent in nature. Some practitioners, especially shop owners or professional rootworkers, will keep several altars dedicated to various conditions, such as for money, love, luck, blessing/protection/spiritual work, and revenge. Such altars will include colors and items associated with such conditions. Keep in mind that most practitioners do not have an official altar but rather uses a workspace, or a specific area of the house where work is performed, such as a specific table or the top of a dresser where candles are burned. Altars or workspaces are traditionally kept in out-of-the-way areas, such as a back bedroom or closet, so that one's work is kept secret from any visitors or guests. Some practitioners will go as far as using the garage, basement, attic, shed, or to even to rent a storage space! There is a very common belief that one should not have an altar set up in one's bedroom. Actually there is some truth to this belief. For those who may be wondering why one shouldn't have an altar in the room in which they sleep, then first let me specify that such only applies to altars used for spiritual devotion and altars where one will work with the Saints or call upon God, Jesus, & the Holy Spirit. The reason why one should not have such a "spiritual altar" in one's bedroom is simply because most sexual activity occurs in bedrooms and let's face it, do you want Jesus and the Saint watching you have sex? Now, a non-spiritual altar or workspace can be used in one's bedroom if it's only used for magic, or work that doesn't involve the Saints, or Jesus. Of course this is just my opinion and practitioners are free to do what they like.
There is a special type of altar called an Ancestral Altar/Shrine. An ancestral altar will contain items such as a white tablecloth, candles, perfumes or colognes, bowls or glasses of water, candles, incense burner, and pictures of deceased loved ones. Additional items may include religious items, food and items the deceased enjoyed in life, such as cigarettes & cigars, whisky, or even Hostess chocolate cupcakes! Please note: Only "blessed ancestors" are included on an ancestral altar. If you had a loved one who was a child molester, rapist, serial killer, etc., do not include them on your ancestral altar for they are not with the blessed ancestors. Also, do not include deceased pets and non-relatives on your ancestor altar. Your recently deceased best friend may have felt like family but they are not your ancestors. Likewise, if your "best friend", a.k.a. "spot", died, then do not include a picture of him with an accompanying milk bone biscuit on your ancestor altar because he is not your ancestor. If you like, keep a separate altar that includes friends and pets. Ancestral altars are traditionally kept in prominent places in the home, such as a fireplace mantle or shelf. Because of such they tend to be simply in nature in order not to draw attention. As with spiritual-work altars, ancestral altars should not be kept in the bedroom unless you want your deceased loved ones to see you having sex.