Hindus are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism. The term has been used as a geographical and religious identifier for people indigenous to the Indian subcontinent; the historical meaning of the term Hindu has evolved with time. Starting with the Persian and Greek references to the land of the Indus in the 1st millennium BCE through the texts of the medieval era, the term Hindu implied a geographic, ethnic or cultural identifier for people living in the Indian subcontinent around or beyond the Sindhu river. By the 16th century, the term began to refer to residents of the subcontinent who were not Turkic or Muslims; the historical development of Hindu self-identity within the local South Asian population, in a religious or cultural sense, is unclear. Competing theories state that Hindu identity developed in the British colonial era, or that it developed post-8th century CE after the Islamic invasion and medieval Hindu-Muslim wars.
A sense of Hindu identity and the term Hindu appears in some texts dated between the 13th and 18th century in Sanskrit and regional languages. The 14th- and 18th-century Indian poets such as Vidyapati and Eknath used the phrase Hindu dharma and contrasted it with Turaka dharma; the Christian friar Sebastiao Manrique used the term'Hindu' in religious context in 1649. In the 18th century, the European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of Indian religions collectively as Hindus, in contrast to Mohamedans for Mughals and Arabs following Islam. By the mid-19th century, colonial orientalist texts further distinguished Hindus from Buddhists and Jains, but the colonial laws continued to consider all of them to be within the scope of the term Hindu until about mid-20th century. Scholars state that the custom of distinguishing between Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs is a modern phenomenon. Hindoo is an archaic spelling variant. At more than 1.03 billion, Hindus are the world's third largest group after Muslims.
The vast majority of Hindus 966 million, live in India, according to India's 2011 census. After India, the next 9 countries with the largest Hindu populations are, in decreasing order: Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, United States, United Kingdom and Myanmar; these together accounted for 99% of the world's Hindu population, the remaining nations of the world together had about 6 million Hindus in 2010. The word Hindu is derived from the Indo-Aryan and Sanskrit word Sindhu, which means "a large body of water", covering "river, ocean", it was used as the name of the Indus river and referred to its tributaries. The actual term'hindu' first occurs, states Gavin Flood, as "a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus", more in the 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I; the Punjab region, called Sapta Sindhu in the Vedas, is called Hapta Hindu in Zend Avesta. The 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I mentions the province of Hidush, referring to northwestern India; the people of India were referred to as Hinduvān and hindavī was used as the adjective for Indian in the 8th century text Chachnama.
The term'Hindu' in these ancient records is an ethno-geographical term and did not refer to a religion. The Arabic equivalent Al-Hind referred to the country of India. Among the earliest known records of'Hindu' with connotations of religion may be in the 7th-century CE Chinese text Record of the Western Regions by the Buddhist scholar Xuanzang. Xuanzang uses the transliterated term In-tu whose "connotation overflows in the religious" according to Arvind Sharma. While Xuanzang suggested that the term refers to the country named after the moon, another Buddhist scholar I-tsing contradicted the conclusion saying that In-tu was not a common name for the country. Al-Biruni's 11th-century text Tarikh Al-Hind, the texts of the Delhi Sultanate period use the term'Hindu', where it includes all non-Islamic people such as Buddhists, retains the ambiguity of being "a region or a religion". The'Hindu' community occurs as the amorphous'Other' of the Muslim community in the court chronicles, according to Romila Thapar.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith notes that'Hindu' retained its geographical reference initially:'Indian','indigenous, local', virtually'native'. The Indian groups themselves started using the term, differentiating themselves and their "traditional ways" from those of the invaders; the text Prithviraj Raso, by Chanda Baradai, about the 1192 CE defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Muhammad Ghori, is full of references to "Hindus" and "Turks", at one stage, says "both the religions have drawn their curved swords. In Islamic literature,'Abd al-Malik Isami's Persian work, Futuhu's-salatin, composed in the Deccan in 1350, uses the word'hindi' to mean Indian in the ethno-geographical sense and the word'hindu' to mean'Hindu' in the sense of a follower of the Hindu religion"; the poet Vidyapati's poem Kirtilata contrasts the cultures of Hindus and Turks in a city and concludes "The Hindus and the Turks live close together. One of the earliest uses of word'Hindu' in religious context in a European language, was the publication in 1649 by Sebastiao Manrique.
Other prominent mentions of'Hindu' include the epigraphical inscriptions from Andhra Pradesh kingdoms who battled military expansion of Muslim dynasties in the 14th century, where the word'Hindu' implies a religious identity in contrast to'Turks' or Islam
In ancient Rome, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being were regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, they cultivated the sacred fire, not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children and took a 30-year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were forbidden to the colleges of male priests. Livy and Aulus Gellius attribute the creation of the Vestals as a state-supported priestesshood to king Numa Pompilius, who reigned circa 717–673 BC. According to Livy, Numa assigned them salaries from the public treasury. Livy says that the priestesshood of Vesta had its origins at Alba Longa; the 2nd century antiquarian Aulus Gellius writes that the first Vestal taken from her parents was led away in hand by Numa. Plutarch attributes the founding of the Temple of Vesta to Numa, who appointed at first two priestesses.
Ambrose alludes to a seventh in late antiquity. Numa appointed the pontifex maximus to watch over the Vestals; the first Vestals, according to Varro, were named Gegania, Veneneia and Tarpeia. Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, was portrayed as traitorous in legend; the Vestals became a influential force in the Roman state. When Sulla included the young Julius Caesar in his proscriptions, the Vestals interceded on Caesar's behalf and gained him pardon. Augustus included the Vestals in all major ceremonies, they were held in awe, attributed certain magical powers. Pliny the Elder, for example, in Book 28 of his Natural History discussing the efficacy of magic, chooses not to refute, but rather tacitly accept as truth:At the present day, too, it is a general belief, that our Vestal virgins have the power, by uttering a certain prayer, to arrest the flight of runaway slaves, to rivet them to the spot, provided they have not gone beyond the precincts of the City. If these opinions be once received as truth, if it be admitted that the gods do listen to certain prayers, or are influenced by set forms of words, we are bound to conclude in the affirmative upon the whole question.
The urban prefect Symmachus, who sought to maintain traditional Roman religion during the rise of Christianity, wrote: The laws of our ancestors provided for the Vestal virgins and the ministers of the gods a moderate maintenance and just privileges. This gift was preserved inviolate till the time of the degenerate moneychangers, who diverted the maintenance of sacred chastity into a fund for the payment of base porters. A public famine ensued on this act, a bad harvest disappointed the hopes of all the provinces... it was sacrilege which rendered the year barren, for it was necessary that all should lose that which they had denied to religion. The College of the Vestals was disbanded and the sacred fire extinguished in 394, by order of the Christian emperor Theodosius. Zosimus records how the Christian noblewoman Serena, a niece of Theodosius, entered the temple and took from the statue of the goddess Rhea Silvia a necklace and placed it on her own neck. An old woman appeared, the last of the Vestals, who proceeded to rebuke Serena and called down upon her all just punishment for her act of impiety.
According to Zosimus, Serena was subject to dreadful dreams predicting her own untimely death. Augustine would be inspired to write The City of God in response to murmurings that the capture of Rome and the disintegration of its empire was due to the advent of the Christian era, its intolerance of the old gods who had defended the city for over a thousand years; the chief Vestal oversaw the efforts of the Vestals, was present in the College of Pontiffs. The Vestalis Maxima Occia presided over the Vestals according to Tacitus; the last known chief vestal was Coelia Concordia, who stepped down in 394 with the disbanding of the College of the Vestals. The Vestalium Maxima was the most important of Rome's high priestesses. Although the Flaminica Dialis and the regina sacrorum each held unique responsibility for certain religious rites, each came into her office as the spouse of another appointed priest, whereas the vestals all held office independently. According to Plutarch, there were only two Vestal Virgins when Numa began the College of the Vestals.
This number increased to four, to six. It has been suggested by some authorities that a seventh was added but this is doubtful; the Vestals were committed to the priestesshood before puberty and sworn to celibacy for a period of 30 years. These 30 years were divided in turn into decade-long periods during which Vestals were students and teachers. After her 30-year term of service, each Vestal was replaced by a new inductee. Once retired, a former Vestal was allowed to marry; the Pontifex Maximus, acting as the father of the bride, would arrange a marriage with a suitable Roman nobleman. A marriage to a former Vestal was honoured, – more in ancient Rome – thought to bring good luck, as well as a comfortable pension. To obtain entry into the order, a girl had to be free of physical and mental defects, have two living parents and be a daughter of a free-born resident of Rome. From at least the mid-Republican era, the pontifex maximus chose Vestals between their sixth and tenth year, by lot from a group of twenty high-born candidates at a gathering of their families and other Roman citizens.
The girl ha
Theophany is the appearance of a deity to a human. This term has been used to refer to appearances of the gods in the ancient Greek and Near Eastern religions. While the Iliad is the earliest source for descriptions of theophanies in the classical tradition/era the earliest description of a theophany is in the Epic of Gilgamesh; the term theophany has acquired a specific usage for Christians and Jews with respect to the Bible: It refers to the manifestation of the Abrahamic God to people. Only a small number of theophanies are found in the Hebrew Bible known as the Old Testament. At Delphi the Theophania was an annual festival in spring celebrating the return of Apollo from his winter quarters in Hyperborea; the culmination of the festival was a display of an image of the gods hidden in the sanctuary, to worshippers. Roman mystery religions included similar brief displays of images to excited worshippers; the appearance of Zeus to Semele is more than a mortal can stand and she is burned to death by the flames of his power.
However, most Greek theophanies were less deadly. Unusual for Greek mythology is the story of Prometheus, not an Olympian but a Titan, who brought knowledge of fire to humanity. There are no descriptions of the humans involved in this theophany, but Prometheus was punished by Zeus. Divine or heroic epiphanies were sometimes experienced in historical times, either in dreams or as a waking vision, led to the foundation of a cult, or at least an act of worship and the dedication of a commemorative offering; the 4th-century bishop Eusebius of Caesarea wrote a treatise "On Divine Manifestation", referring to the Incarnation of Jesus. Traditional analysis of the Biblical passages led Christian scholars to understand theophany as an unambiguous manifestation of God to man, where "unambiguous" indicates that the seers or seer are of no doubt that it is God revealing himself to them. Otherwise, the more general term hierophany is used. In Revelation, God is described as "having the appearance like that of jasper and carnelian with a rainbow-like halo as brilliant as emerald".
The New Catholic Encyclopedia cites examples such as Gen 3:8a. The same source quotes Gen 16:7–14. In this case it is an angel which appears to Hagar, however it says that God spoke directly to her, that she saw God and lived; the next example the New Catholic Encyclopedia cites is Gen 22:11–15, which states explicitly that it was the angel of the Lord speaking to Abraham. However, the angel addressing Abraham speaks the words of God in the first person. In both of the last two examples, although it is an angel present, the voice is of God spoken through the angel, so this is a manifestation of God Himself. A similar case would be the burning bush. Moses saw an angel in the bush, but goes on to have a direct conversation with God himself. In the case of Jesus Christ according to the gospels and tradition, the majority of Christians understand him to be God the Son, become man; the New Catholic Encyclopedia, makes few references to a theophany from the gospels. Mk 1:9-11, Lk 9:28–36 are cited which recount the Baptism, the Transfiguration of Jesus respectively.
Although Jesus Christ is believed by Christians to be God, it is only when his divine glory is not veiled by his humanity, that it could be termed theophany. Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches celebrate the theophany of Jesus Christ on the 6th of January according to a liturgical calendar as one of the "Great Feasts". In Western Orthodox Christian Churches, the 6th of January is kept as the holy day Epiphany, while the feast of Theophany is celebrated separately, on the following Sunday. In Orthodox Christian tradition, the feast commemorates the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, considered a theophany because this event marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry; the account of this event in St Matthew's Gospel is the first occasion in all of the Bible where the Holy Trinity is revealed explicitly as Father and Holy Spirit: the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Some modern Evangelical Christian Bible commentators, such as Ron Rhodes, interpret “the angel of the Lord,” who appears in several places throughout the Old Testament, to be the pre-incarnate Christ, Jesus before his manifestation into human form, as described in the New Testament.
The term Christophany has been coined to identify preincarnate appearances of Christ in the Old Testament. Non-Trinitarian Christians differ on the pre-existence of Christ; those groups which have Arian Christology such as Jehovah's Witnesses may identify some appearances of angels the archangel Michael, as Christophanies, but not theophanies. Those groups with early Unitarian or Socinian Christology such as Christadelphians and the Church of God General Conference identify the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament much as Jews do as angels. Early Christadelphians, notably John Thomas and C. C. Walker integrated angelic theophanies and God as revealed in his various divine names into a doctrine of God Manifestation which carries on into a Unitarian understanding of God's theophany in Christ and God being manifested in resurrected believers. Joseph Smith, the prophet and founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, said that when he was 14 years old, he was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees near his house, a theophany in answer to his spoken prayer.
This "First Vision" is considered to be the f
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns along with associated commentaries on liturgy and mystical exegesis. It is one of the four sacred canonical texts of Hinduism known as the Vedas; the core text, known as the Rigveda Samhita, is a collection of 1,028 hymns in about 10,600 verses, organized into ten books. In the eight books that were composed the earliest, the hymns are praise of specific deities; the younger books in part deal with philosophical or speculative questions, with the virtue of dāna in society and with other metaphysical issues in their hymns. The oldest layers of the Rigveda Samhita are among the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language of similar age as certain Hittite texts. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the bulk of the Rigveda Samhita was composed in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, most between c. 1500 and 1200 BC, although a wider approximation of c. 1700–1100 BC has been given. The initial codification of the Rigveda took place during the early Kuru kingdom.
Some of its verses continue to be recited during Hindu rites of passage celebrations and prayers, making it the world's oldest religious text in continued use. The associated material has been preserved from two shakhas or "schools", known as Śākalya and Bāṣkala; the school-specific commentaries are known as Brahmanas Aranyakas, Upanishads. The text maṇḍalas, of varying age and length; the text originates as oral literature, "books" may be a misleading term, the individual mandalas are, much rather, standalone collections of hymns that were intended to be memorized by the members of various groups of priests. This is true of the "family books", mandalas 2–7, which form the oldest part of the Rigveda and account for 38 per cent of the entire text, they are called "family books" because each of them is attributed to an individual rishi, was transmitted within the lineage of this rishi's family, or of his students. The hymns within each of the family books are arranged in collections each dealing with a particular deity: Agni comes first, Indra comes second, so on.
They are arranged by decreasing number of hymns within each section. Within each such collection, the hymns are arranged in descending order of the number of stanzas per hymn. If two hymns in the same collection have equal numbers of stanzas they are arranged so that the number of syllables in the metre are in descending order; the second to seventh mandalas have a uniform format. The eighth and ninth mandalas, comprising hymns of mixed age, account for 9 %, respectively; the ninth mandala is dedicated to Soma and the Soma ritual. The hymns in the ninth mandala are arranged by their length; the first and the tenth mandalas are the youngest. Some of the hymns in mandalas 8, 1 and 10 may still belong to an earlier period and may be as old as the material in the family books; the first mandala has a unique arrangement not found in the other nine mandalas. The first 84 hymns of the tenth mandala have a structure different than the remaining hymns in it; each mandala consists of sūktas intended for various rituals.
The sūktas in turn consist of individual stanzas called ṛc, which are further analysed into units of verse called pada. The meters most used in the ṛcas are the gayatri, anushtubh and jagati; the trishtubh meter and gayatri meter dominate in the Rigveda. For pedagogical convenience, each mandala is divided into equal sections of several sūktas, called anuvāka, which modern publishers omit. Another scheme divides the entire text over the 10 mandalas into adhyāya and varga; some publishers give both classifications in a single edition. The most common numbering scheme is by book and stanza. E.g. the first verse is in three times eight syllables: 1.1.1a agním ī́ḷe puróhitaṃ 1b yajñásya deváṃ ṛtvíjam 1c hótāraṃ ratna-dhā́tamam "Agni I invoke, the house-priest / the god, minister of sacrifice / the presiding priest, bestower of wealth." Tradition associates a rishi with each ṛc of the Rigveda. Most sūktas are attributed to single composers; the "family books" are so-called. In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95 per cent of the ṛcs.
The original text is close to but not identical to the extant Samhitapatha, but metrical and other observations allow reconstruction of the original text from the extant one, as printed in the Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 50. The surviving form of the Rigveda is based on an early Iron Age collection that established the core'family books' and a redaction, co
Kupala Night, is celebrated in Ukraine, Poland and Russia during the night from 6 to 7 July. Calendar-wise, it is opposite to the winter holiday Koliada; the celebration relates to the summer solstice when nights are the shortest and includes a number of Slavic rituals. The name of the holiday was Kupala; the Ukrainian and Russian name of this holiday combines "Ivan" and Kupala, derived from the Slavic word for bathing, cognate. The two feasts could be connected by reinterpreting John's baptizing people through full immersion in water. However, the tradition of Kupala predates Christianity; the pagan celebration was adapted and reestablished as one of the native Christian traditions intertwined with local folklore. The holiday is still enthusiastically celebrated by the younger people of Eastern Europe; the night preceding the holiday is considered the night for "good humour" mischiefs. On Ivan Kupala day itself, children engage in water fights and perform pranks involving pouring water over people.
Many of the rites related to this holiday are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification. This is due to the ancient Kupala rites. On Kupala day, young people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of faith; the failure of a couple in love to complete the jump, while holding hands, is a sign of their destined separation. Girls may float wreaths of flowers on rivers, attempt to gain foresight into their romantic relationship fortune from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men may attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who floated it. There is an ancient Kupala belief that the eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. Prosperity, luck and power befall whom finds a fern flower. Therefore, on that night, village folk roam through the forests in search of magical herbs, the elusive fern flower. Traditionally, unmarried women, signified by the garlands in their hair, are the first to enter the forest.
They are followed by young men. Therefore, the quest to find herbs and the fern flower may lead to the blooming of relationships between pairs within the forest, it is to be noted, that ferns are not angiosperms, instead reproduce by spores. In Gogol's story The Eve of Ivan Kupala a young man finds the fantastical fern-flower, but is cursed by it. Gogol's tale may have been the stimulus for Modest Mussorgsky to compose his tone poem Night on Bald Mountain, adapted by Yuri Ilyenko into a film of the same name. St John's Eve Midsummer Wianki Kupala Kupolė Jāņi Semik — a related spring holiday. Yanka Kupala — the pen-name of this Belarusian author refers to his birthday of July 7. Loi Krathong — Thai autumn festival when people leave wreaths with candles on rivers Ukrainian Kupala traditions The Day of Ivan Kupala as it has survived in the Vologda Region Kupalle holiday in Belarus on the Official Website of the Republic of Belarus Kupala Night in Poland
Vulcan is the god of fire including the fire of volcanoes, deserts and the forge in ancient Roman religion and myth. Vulcan is depicted with a blacksmith's hammer; the Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor. His Greek counterpart is the god of fire and smithery. In Etruscan religion, he is identified with Sethlans. Vulcan belongs to the most ancient stage of Roman religion: Varro, the ancient Roman scholar and writer, citing the Annales Maximi, records that king Titus Tatius dedicated altars to a series of deities among which Vulcan is mentioned; the origin of the name is unclear. Roman tradition maintained that it was related to Latin words connected to lightning, which in turn was thought of as related to flames; this interpretation is supported by Walter William Skeat in his etymological dictionary as meaning lustre. It has been supposed that his name was not Latin but related to that of the Cretan god Velchanos, a god of nature and the nether world. Wolfgang Meid has dispued this identification as phantastic.
More this etymology has been taken up by Gérard Capdeville who finds a continuity between Cretan Minoan god Velchanos and Etruscan Velchans. The Minoan god's identity would be that of a young deity, master of fire and companion of the Great Goddess. Christian Guyonvarc'h has proposed the identification with the Irish name Olcan. Vasily Abaev compares it with the Ossetic Wærgon, a variant of the name of Kurdalægon, the smith of the Nart saga. Since the name in its normal form Kurdalægon is stable and has a clear meaning, this hypothesis has been considered unacceptable by Dumezil. Vulcan's oldest shrine in Rome, called the Vulcanal, was situated at the foot of the Capitoline in the Forum Romanum, was reputed to date to the archaic period of the kings of Rome, to have been established on the site by Titus Tatius, the Sabine co-king, with a traditional date in the 8th century BC, it was the view of the Etruscan haruspices that a temple of Vulcan should be located outside the city, the Vulcanal may have been on or outside the city limits before they expanded to include the Capitoline Hill.
The Volcanalia sacrifice was offered here to Vulcan, on August 23. Vulcan had a temple on the Campus Martius, in existence by 214 BC; the Romans identified Vulcan with the Greek smith-god Hephaestus. Vulcan became associated like his Greek counterpart with the constructive use of fire in metalworking. A fragment of a Greek pot showing Hephaestus found at the Volcanal has been dated to the 6th century BC, suggesting that the two gods were associated at this date. However, Vulcan had a stronger association than Hephaestus with fire's destructive capacity, a major concern of his worshippers was to encourage the god to avert harmful fires; the festival of Vulcan, the Vulcanalia, was celebrated on August 23 each year, when the summer heat placed crops and granaries most at risk of burning. During the festival bonfires were created in honour of the god, into which live fish or small animals were thrown as a sacrifice, to be consumed in the place of humans; the Vulcanalia was part of the cycle of the four festivities of the second half of August related to the agrarian activities of that month and in symmetric correlation with those of the second half of July.
While the festivals of July dealt with untamed nature and waters at a time of danger caused by their relative deficiency, those of August were devoted to the results of human endeavour on nature with the storing of harvested grain and their relationship to human society and regality which at that time were at risk and required protection from the dangers of the excessive strength of the two elements of fire and wind reinforced by dryness. It is recorded that during the Vulcanalia people used to hang their clothes and fabrics under the sun; this habit might reflect a theological connection between the divinized Sun. Another custom observed on this day required that one should start working by the light of a candle to propitiate a beneficial use of fire by the god. In addition to the Vulcanalia of August 23, the date of May 23, the second of the two annual Tubilustria or ceremonies for the purification of trumpets, was sacred to Vulcan; the Ludi Vulcanalici, were held just once on August 23, 20 BC, within the temple precinct of Vulcan, used by Augustus to mark the treaty with Parthia and the return of the legionary standards, lost at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC.
A flamen, one of the flamines minors, named. The flamen Vulcanalis officiated at a sacrifice to the goddess Maia, held every year at the Kalendae of May. Vulcan was among the gods placated after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. In response to the same fire, Domitian established a new altar to Vulcan on the Quirinal Hill. At the same time a red bull-calf and red boar were added to the sacrifices made on the Vulcanalia, at least in that region of the city; the nature of the god is connected with religious ideas concerning fire. The Roman concept of the god seems to associate him to both the destructive and the fertilizing powers of fire. In the first aspect he is worshipped in the Volcanalia to avert its potential danger to harvested wheat, his cult is located outside the boundaries of
An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples and other places of worship, they are used in Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism used such a structure until the destruction of the Second Temple. Many historical faiths made use of them, including Roman and Norse religion. Altars in the Hebrew Bible were made of earth or unwrought stone. Altars were erected in conspicuous places; the first altar recorded in the Hebrew Bible is. Altars were erected by Abraham, by Isaac, by Jacob, by Moses. After the theophany on Mount Sinai, in the Tabernacle—and afterwards in the Temple—only two altars were used: the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Altar of Incense. Altars in antiquity The word "altar", in Greek θυσιαστήριον, appears twenty-four times in the New Testament. In Catholic and Orthodox Christian theology, the Eucharist is a re-presentation, in the literal sense of the one sacrifice being made "present again". Hence, the table upon which the Eucharist is consecrated is called an altar.
Altars occupy a prominent place in both Eastern and Western branches. Among these churches, altars are placed for permanent use within designated places of communal worship. Less though nonetheless notable, altars are set in spaces occupied less such as outdoors in nature, in cemeteries, in mausoleums/crypts, family dwellings. Personal altars are those placed in a private bedroom, closet, or other space occupied by one person, they are used for practices of piety intended for one person. They are found in a minority of other Protestant worship places, though the term "Communion table", which avoids the sacrificial connotations of an altar, is preferred by Churches in the Reformed tradition; the altar plays a central role in the celebration of the Eucharist, which takes place at the altar on which the bread and the wine for consecration are placed. The area around the altar is seen as endowed with greater holiness, is physically distinguished from the rest of the church, whether by a permanent structure such as an iconostasis, a rood screen, altar rails, a curtain that can be closed at more solemn moments of the liturgy, or by the general architectural layout.
The altar is on a higher elevation than the rest of the church. In Reformed and Anabaptist churches, a table called a "Communion table", serves an analogous function. Churches have a single altar, although in the Western branches of Christianity, as a result of the former abandonment of concelebration of Mass, so that priests always celebrated Mass individually, larger churches have had one or more side chapels, each with its own altar; the main altar was referred to as the "high altar". Since the revival of concelebration in the West, the Roman Missal recommends that in new churches there should be only one altar, "which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church." But most Western churches of an earlier period, whether Roman Catholic or Anglican, may have a high altar in the main body of the church, with one or more adjoining chapels, each with its own altar, at which the Eucharist may be celebrated on weekdays. Architecturally, there are two types of altars: those that are attached to the eastern wall of the chancel, those that are free-standing and can be walked around, for instance when incensing the altar.
In the earliest days of the Church, the Eucharist appears to have been celebrated on portable altars set up for the purpose. Some historians hold that, during the persecutions, the Eucharist was celebrated among the tombs in the Catacombs of Rome, using the sarcophagi of martyrs as altars on which to celebrate. Other historians dispute this, but it is thought to be the origin of the tradition of placing relics beneath the altar; when Christianity was legalized under Constantine the Great and Licinius, formal church buildings were built in great numbers with free-standing altars in the middle of the sanctuary, which in all the earliest churches built in Rome was at the west end of the church. "When Christians in fourth-century Rome could first begin to build churches, they customarily located the sanctuary towards the west end of the building in imitation of the sanctuary of the Jerusalem Temple. Although in the days of the Jerusalem Temple the High Priest indeed faced east when sacrificing on Yom Kippur, the sanctuary within which he stood was located at the western end of the Temple.
The Christian replication of the layout and the orientation of the Jerusalem Temple helped to dramatize the eschatological meaning attached to the sacrificial death of Jesus the High Priest in the Epistle to the Hebrews." The ministers, celebrated the Eucharist facing east, towards the entrance. Some hold. After the sixth century the contrary orientation prevailed, with the entrance to the west and the altar at the east end; the ministers and congregation all faced east during the whole celebration. Most rubrics in boo