What is an Altar ?
I have visited an old church yard at Castlemorris, county Kilkenny for many years, its a fascinating location. Its the Altar that sits within the old church and castle that’s just drawing me back everytime.
It sits below an old chapel window and the light from the doorway highlights it even on a very wet day, the old chapel is still roofed but the water gets through the stone and drips onto the floor of the chapel.
This Alter has started me wondering about the history of such constructions and what they have been used for over time.
Today in Christian times we think of an Altar as a place that a priest stands and performs a service for anyone who is in attendance, this however has not always been the case.
An Altar in Pagan and pre-Christian times was a place of personal worship they could be in any location but a place of spiritual meaning was common, in the woods and at a river or spring a place that meant something to the community, A pagan believer could and did have Personal Alters in their own homes.
Personally I feel that the Altar is the key to Pagan beliefs, they are places of personal dedication and an indication as to where we find ourselves as Humans.
At an Altar you usually leave an item of dedication, food, something you have made, an item that means something too you personally and that you are willing to spiritually hand over too forces that you both respect and/or rely upon for your very existence.
I feel that this alone contains a truth about our spiritual beliefs, we worship the elements the seasons , Nature because we live in it , we rely upon it and we feel the need to in some form get closer to it by forming a spiritual connection. Then to worship the elements that give us our existence and lives.
This is the function of an Altar, or at least the function of human spirituality relating to it for many thousands of years. Many feel that the Altar is the centre piece of this worship of the forces that we exist in.
Forces that for many thousands of years mankind has noted yet not understood, The season and the growth of food. In the winter its shortage, Storms, Other Animals that we live with and in many cases in the past and even today could pray on us.
Sometimes, simply leaving out food in the hope that they did not was a form of dedication.