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About Altars

Altar (Roman: ara, plural: arae)

The cornerstone of worship of Ethnikoi is not the Temple, a piece of architecture that of course does not symbolize the dwelling of an out-of-space deity, but it is just the roof under which sacred objects and statues are held. The real centre of our ancestral worship is the altar (a table-like construction where offerings are offered to the Gods) where sacrifice is taking place with ultimate goal the direct communication with the Gods. After Temples are built altars are erected in front of their entrances, while other altars, for house worshipping, are erect in the inside of homes.

There were also small public altars where burning incense or libations of fragrant were offered. Altars were a point of sanctuary and whoever touched them was considered immune, like someone who «was holding the hand of Gods». The inauguration of an altar was accompanied by a «consecration», viz the invitation of the divine to accept the specific pedestal as the «gate» from the world of mortals to the world of Immortals and conversely.

The basic outdoor ritual is performed by a priest or priestess who wears colourful canonicals, walks in circles around the altar holding a «panspermia», sings or chants hymns and blessings to the deity and, at the end, pours the offering onto the altar by invoking the divine presence, according to the ancient law of:

«where there are altars, there are also Gods»

To Hellenes, the most ancient altar is considered to be the one dedicated to God «Lykaios» Zeus on the mountain Lykaion of Arcadia, while to Romans the one named Ara Maxima (in honour of Invincible Hercules).

Most altars, at least in the Greco-Roman world, have a cubic or quadrilateral shape, but in some cases we also find cylinder-like altars. On the top of the altar there was a circular recess (pyre, focus) for the reception of a fire pot whereas the adjacent sides were ornate with carved designs and inscriptions with the name of the honoured God or even the names of the adorers who dedicated the altar.

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