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.
During the Winter months the Suns is sitting low in the sky for most of the day, this is a feature that I personally like a lot when taking images. Long shadows form on the landscape from woodlands and trees , hedge rows form deep and dark areas in your images during the morning and long into the afternoon.
What about the Sun in the deepness of the forests, its light finds it hard to penetrate far into the woodlands and onto forest floors.
If you get as deep into the woods as you can and find an thinned area of old tall trees however the light that does get through can be used to wonderful effect, in the images below I did my best to capture the light that was getting through, making use of some moss covered rocked and the trunks of the trees themselves.
One thing I noticed was that if you position the sun right behind a tree , the light wraps its way around both sides of the trees in front of you, forming an outline of sun light.
I also very much like placing the sun on the very edge of the image or just outside it and using lens flare to bring a beam of light on to some of the rocks and plants.
Following the suns light through the trees: Gallery
When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”