Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

What is an Altar ?

The Alrar 1
The Altar at Aghaville Church , Castlemorris,
County KIlkenny

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.

The Alrar 2.

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.

The Alrar 3.

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.

The Altar today

14 responses

  1. Cynthia

    A beautiful post. πŸ˜‰

    February 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    • Hello Cynthia πŸ™‚

      Thank you , πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      February 19, 2014 at 4:50 pm

  2. Just a wonderful post, Nigel. I completely agree–altars bring spiritual meaning to whomever creates them. That these you’ve so beautifully photographed still remain after all this time speaks volumes about their significance! Nature is her own altar. πŸ™‚


    February 19, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    • Hello Sharon

      Great comment , Yes Nature is and she offers so much back to us !!!

      Thank you Sharon πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      February 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm

  3. Christianity copied a lot from earlier beliefs. The Altar (sacrificing ‘block’) dates back at least 2000 BC (see history of Stonehenge). The ‘fasting period’ always followed the end of the winter when food became scarce and ended when the first crops were harvested. Some celebration days, dedicated to whatever saint or occasion, also originate from BC. It was the way of how the Roman Catholic church eased the transformation from ‘paganism’ to the ‘true religion’. Should the RC-church have done something similar in the Middle East there, most probably, wouldn’t be the Islamic religions….. (according to historians!). The Altar is a great choice for an Irish photographer for via (Celtic) Ireland the Roman Catholic religion was spread in Northern Europe and as far as I understood it were the Celts (originating from Middle Europe) who sacrificed….. and had an incredible knowledge about the cosmos (in the 19-sixties Canadese scientists discovered the meaning and the concept of Stonehenge just after other astrologic scientists discovered, with the help of computers the total length of the solar year (19 yrs and days/hrs)….

    February 19, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    • Hello πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      What a great comment !!!

      You have placed the perfect addition to the post, I would love to say lots more but I feel I just want to leave what you have said like this – its very important and I could not have wished for more.


      I just want to think about your wonderful line of thought !!!

      Thank you very much πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      February 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      • Your subject deserved it!!!

        PS I miss this kind of subjects here …. Maybe, maybe …. I’ll pop into Ireland for some days sometime…

        February 20, 2014 at 5:37 am

  4. If we all returned to the kind of paganism that had us worshipping nature, the seasons and so forth, just try to imagine how much better off this poor, suffering world would be!!!

    February 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    • Hello M. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      What a wonderful comment !!

      Perfect in fact – Thank you πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      February 19, 2014 at 8:50 pm

  5. This is a really wondeful post Nigel. I love the synergy between your serene images and the carefully chosen, peaceful, contemplative words. There is great beauty and reflection here – a post to be returned to from time to time to recentre oneself. : )))

    February 22, 2014 at 9:16 am

    • Hello Anne πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much, this is a wonderful comment.

      I am very pleased you found the post interesting and like it as much as you did ! .

      πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      February 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

  6. Beautiful images. πŸ™‚

    February 25, 2014 at 2:05 am

  7. When I originally commented I clicked the
    “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three
    e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me
    from that service? Many thanks!

    April 9, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    • Hello πŸ™‚

      Well I have spent 1/2 an hour looking for any options in the admin tools and I have no way for doing so !!!

      I think you need to look at the post again from your perspective (Being the user who took the option!) and see if you can un-check the same setting as you clicked first time around.

      April 9, 2014 at 9:12 pm

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