Holy Daze: Guru Nanak Gurpurab (November 28th, 2012) – Sikhism

November 26th, 2012 No comments
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Guru Nanak’s birthday lighting at Akat Takht near Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib, Punjab

Guru Nanak was the first Sikh Guru, and is considered the founder of the religion.  Sikhs celebrate the anniversary of the births or martyrdoms of the ten Gurus during remembrance days known as Gurpurabs. The festival celebrating Guru Nanak’s birthday falls on the full moon in the month of Kartik.

In preparation for the festivities, Gurdwaras (Sikh places of holy worship) are decorated with lights, flowers, and flags.  Activities usually begin a couple days in advance of the anniversary day.  One important activity is the continuous reading, over two days, of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book).  This is undertaken by several men and women, each reading for a few hours at a time.  On the day preceding the anniversary, processions are led by five people representing the original Panj Piare or Five Beloved Ones.  Following them are various musicians, singers, and groups displaying martial arts and sword skills.  The actual day of Gurpurab is devoted to early morning hymnal singing, sermons, lectures – many of which are based on the life of the Guru.  Of course, any Sikh celebration wouldn’t be complete without the congregation sharing langar – a free community meal.

The short video below gives a nice glimpse of a Gurpurab procession.  Enjoy!

Happy Gurpurab!

M. xo

Muktsar Nagar Kirtan – Sri Guru Nanak Birthday (3:09 mins):

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Holy Daze: Diwali (November 13th, 2012) – Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism

November 12th, 2012 No comments
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Diwali Celebrations

Diwali, popularly known as the “Festival of Lights” is an important festival in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.  All three traditions share this sacred day, however, the significance and meaning of the day differs.  I think many of you will also note some striking similarities around the spiritual metaphors between this revered Eastern holiday with one of similar reverence in the West.

For Hindus, Diwali is similar to Christmas for Christians.  It is the most important holiday and is celebrated with colourful displays of light.  It is also a time to rejoice with family and friends.  Central to Hindu philosophy is an awareness of the inner light (Atman) and the light of higher knowledge (Brahman).  In essence, Diwali celebrates triumph of good over evil or light (knowledge) over dark (ignorance).  For several days Hindus may celebrate Diwali with various traditions including fireworks, worship, colourful sand and light displays, the sharing of sweets, cleaning out of homes/businesses, gambling, the purchasing of new clothes, and the exchanging of gifts.

Jains mark Diwali as their New Year’s Eve.  Similar to Hindu belief, Jains believe in an inner light or awareness.  They celebrate in remembrance of the day in 527 BCE that Lord Mahavir, an Indian sage believed to have established the central tenets of Jainism, reached Nirvana.  Jains also incorporate light into their celebrations, particularly as a reminder of the absence of the light of Lord Mahavir.

Similarly, Sikhs mark Diwali as a day of remembrance.  It is considered the day in 1619 when the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, was released from prison along with 52 Hindu kings, whom he had a part in freeing.  He became known as “Bandi Chhor” (deliverer from prison).  Upon the Guru’s return, the Golden Temple was lit with hundreds of lamps in celebration.  Every year since, Sikh commemorate Diwali to pay homage to the Guru and religious freedom.

Diwali is an extremely important holiday and as such I can’t do it justice in this short blog post.  National Geographic has a fantastic, three minute clip that highlights some Diwali celebrations.  Check it out!

M. xo

Diwali – Festival of Lights

 

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Holy Daze: Samhain (October 31st, 2012) – Wiccan/Neopagan

October 31st, 2012 No comments
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Neopagans honoring the dead as part of a Samhain ritual

For many, October 31st marks Halloween, a day for dressing up in scary (and not-so-scary) costumes and going door-to-door trick or treating.  For others though, this day is the most sacred day of the year.

Wiccans and Neopagans celebrate this day as the New Year and end of the harvest.  It is a day when the veil between the corporeal world and spirit world is believed to be the thinnest.  Many Wiccans honour or attempt to contact deceased love ones.  It is a time of remembrance, change, and positive blessings for the future.  The memorial elements of this sacred day share much with the Christian observances known as All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.  For some Wiccans, it is customary to dress in a costume reflecting what they hope to achieve or become in the New Year.  Others may engage in a tradition known as the Silent Supper.

The Silent Supper (or Dumb Supper, less popularly used) tradition entails the preparation of special meal, whereby those who have crossed over in the last year (and indeed other loved ones long since passed) are honoured.  Either one place will be set for all loved ones, or a setting for each person that has passed will be set at the table.  The room is often purified through smudging or other ritual acts.  Guests to the silent supper will proceed with their meal in complete silence as a token of honouring their loved ones.  Following, notes to those who have crossed over may be placed under the place setting of the deceased.  Later, these notes may be burned in a cauldron as part of the closing of the ritual observance.

There are other ritual ancestral observances that some Wiccans engage in, such as setting up an altar honouring the ancestors that may include grave rubbings of the deceased’s headstone and the baking of soul cakes traditionally made as gifts for the spirits of those who have crossed over.

The first video below is an overview of this sacred holiday, while the second is a glimpse at one Wiccan’s family ancestral altar.

Blessed Be!

M. xo

Samhain / Halloween:

Wiccan Altar For Samhain:

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

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NRMs: Jediism

October 23rd, 2012 No comments
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Temple of the Jedi Order symbol

I’ve wanted to write about this new religion for a while now.  Mostly because it was inspired by one of the greatest movie franchises in the history of cinema, but also because I keep company with various geeks, freaks, and assorted fanboys/girls who I thought would appreciate this post.  That being said, let’s chat about Jediism.

Now before you start snickering, I’d like to point out that on January 12th, 2009 the Canadian government officially recognized Jediism as a religion.  This past March, the United States followed suit and recognized Jediism as a nonprofit religious organization.  This may have been the result of a grassroots movement in 2001 to encourage people to write down Jedi as their religious affiliation on national censuses.  The movement was so successful that 21,000 Canadians indicated their religion as Jedi.  In other countries, the numbers were much more impressive.  For instance, in 2001 New Zealand had the highest per capita population of reported Jedi followers, even eclipsing those who identified with two major world religions – Buddhism and Hinduism.

Certainly, the movement has had its critics – particularly those from the irreligious persuasion who believe that their own numbers are being under-recorded due to non-religious folks indicating Jedi as a joke or novel answer to the question.  Make no mistake – practitioners of this religion are serious about their faith.

Jediism, like many other religions, has different variations between groups.  Most groups draw inspiration from the Lucas films, such as the belief in the Force and possibility of interaction with the Force.  The manifestation of this belief appears to take on different contexts.   Perhaps most interesting about this NRM is the drawing from a wide variety of religious beliefs.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jediism, there are several sites you can visit.

The Temple of The Jedi Order purports to be the first international church of Jediism.  Quoting from their website, “We are real Jedi.  We believe in Peace, Justice, Love, Learning and using our abilities for Good. We are not fictional Jedi, nor are we role playing. We live our lives according to the principles of Jediism and work together as a community to both cultivate and celebrate.”

The Order of the Jedi, is a Canadian-based organization; however it considers itself a worldwide Order.  A description of a Jedi taken from their Web site, “[…] is someone who believes in an energy that surrounds, binds, penetrates, and encompasses all living things. A Jedi believes in the greater good, and always tries to follow the light or positive energy. Jedi do not discriminate, all are welcome.”

As I stated previously, Jediism isn’t without its critics.  Members have also been subject to some highly publicized religious discrimination.  In the video posted below, a news station provides coverage of a Jedi follower who was asked to remove his hood at a job center.  He was subsequently escorted from the premises when he refused to comply.  Self-proclaimed Jediism founder, Daniel Jones is also interviewed in this segment.

May the Force be with you…

M. xo

Jedi follower discriminated against & Jediism Founder interviewed:

Image Source: Temple of the Jedi Order

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The Puck Stops Here

October 13th, 2012 No comments
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If you perch here regularly then you’ll know that I don’t just squawk and chirp about religion.  This is one of those times when something else has gotten my feathers in a ruffle.  Let’s address the 2012 NHL Lockout (isn’t it sad that we’ve even resorted to dating the lockout?).  Personally, I just find it ridiculous that millionaires are bickering about money.  I can’t really say any more than that.  It’s just ridiculous.  Of course, I know I’m simplifying things tremendously, but it’s just so exasperating, and I kind of feel like we’ve been here and done this before.

Besides, I couldn’t express myself any better than the frustrated hockey fans you’ll find in the videos below.  They’ve come up with some creative messages for the players and the owners.  Hopefully, they’ll be an end to the lockout soon.  Especially for my father’s sake – you know something just isn’t right in your world when your hockey-loving father is substituting the missed games on the ice with episodes of Survivor.  Please bring back the game before the merge; otherwise my Dad might be sucked irreversibly into the Burnett vortex.

M. xo

Shut the Puck Up (NHL Lockout Song)

The Lockout Song

The Lockout Song – (No More Merch)

The Official Song of the NHL Lockout

NHL – ‘Together We Can’ change.org/nolockout (HD)

 

 

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Holy Daze: Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4th, 2012) – Catholic Christian

October 3rd, 2012 No comments
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Saint Francis of Assisi Church, Coyoacan, Federal District, Mexico

St. Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher born in the 12th century.  Despite being born into wealth, he dedicated his life to living in poverty and prayer.   He was known to wander and minister to lepers.  St. Francis was also known for his love of animals.  He is often depicted surrounded by birds and other animals.  Today, he is considered the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment.  To commemorate this holy day, many churches offer blessings to pets.  Below you’ll find a short video about this popular saint.  In the second short video, you’ll see a large gathering of people and their pets lining up to receive blessings.

M. xo

Saint Francis of Assisi

Church day for pets

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Holy Daze: Sukkot (September 30th, 2012 – October 7th, 2012) – Judaism

October 1st, 2012 No comments
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Etrog, silver etrog box and lulav, used on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot

Sukkot is an annual week-long harvest festival that follows the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur.  It is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Booths.  Historically, it commemorates the years that the Israelites wandered the desert following the revelation at Mount Sinai.  Sukkahs, or huts, are traditionally built during this holiday to represent the temporary shelters the Israelites used.  These huts are also believed to represent pre-biblical times when ancient farmers would construct these during harvest to protect their crops.

Typical rituals during Sukkot include the eating of meals in the sukkah, and for some, sleeping in the sukkah.  Construction of the sukkah is very specific so as to allow for certain elements, such as a view of the stars.  Another, traditional observance is called the Taking of the Four Kinds.  A blessing is recited, while holding and shaking four specific species of plants consisting of palm, myrtle, willow (lulav) and citron (etrog).

For more in-depth information, check out the videos below.  My Jewish Learning presents two fun and informative videos.  The first video, entitled Sukkah City, will inform you in a hip, urban style on the construction and nature of a sukkah.  The second video follows Heshy Fried aka Frum Satire around Hasidic Brooklyn as he tries to find out what makes for the perfect etrog (and he also reveals the astonishing price paid for these sacred fruits).  Finally, Maoz Israel presents a more serious look at the sacred meaning behind this important Jewish holiday.

M. xo

What is a Sukkah?

Buying a Lulav and Etrog for Sukkot

Sukkot in Israel

Image Source: Wikimedia

 

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NRMs: Fellowship of Isis

September 29th, 2012 No comments
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Founded in 1976 at Clonegal Castle, Ireland, the Fellowship of Isis (FOI) was formed to foster closer unity between individuals and the Goddess.  The founders include former clergy with the Anglican Church, Lawrence Durdin-Robertson (1920-1994); his wife and clairvoyant, Pamela (1923-????); and Lawrence’s older sister and surviving founder, Olivia Robertson (1917-).  Claiming a hereditary lineage to the priesthood of Ancient Egypt, these Anglo-Irish aristocrat descendants sought to form a fellowship that embraced all religions, cultures, and traditions.  This still remains an integral part of their manifesto, as members are free to maintain other religious allegiances.

FOI is organized on a democratic basis, whereby all members are equal.  Further, the FOI does not require that members take any vows or commitments to secrecy.   Both men and women can seek initiation as priests or priestesses.  Membership is free, and members can resign at any point.  The number of members throughout the fellowship’s history is murky, in part due to poorly kept records; however, some sources claim over 50,000 members.

Love, Beauty, and Truth, are engrained in the Fellowship’s manifesto.  Further, it seeks “to develop friendliness, psychic gifts, happiness, and compassion for all life.”

Over the years, the Fellowship has grown to include a network of daughter societies, many of which honour a specific Goddess and/or God.  In addition, the FOI network includes “colleges” which carry out the liturgy and training of priests and priestesses.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Fellowship, you can visit the Fellowship of Isis Web site which has numerous photos and writings.  There are also a host of affiliated sites that can provide more in-depth information.  Below is a short video that provides a great introduction to the Fellowship of Isis.

M. xo

Fellowship of Isis:

Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons

 

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Holy Daze: Meskel (September 27th, 2012) – Ethiopian Orthodox Christian

September 26th, 2012 No comments
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Meskel is an annual religious festival celebrated in Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox Churches to commemorate Saint Helena (mother of Constantine the Great) finding the True Cross (the cross upon which Jesus was crucified).  Typical celebrations include dancing, colourful processions, feasting and the lighting of a giant bonfire known as a Demera.  The lighting of the bonfire symbolizes how Saint Helena located the True Cross, by following smoke that led her to its location (although the myth surrounding the sources of this smoke seems to vary).  Meskel is an annual public holiday in Ethiopia.  It is a colourful and lively display that culminates in the most amazing spectacle of fire.  Check out this video that strings together an entire day into night of Meskel celebrations.  The end is quite spectacular, especially if you love the site of a great bonfire and fireworks.  Although, I suspect we couldn’t get away with quite so extravagant a bonfire in Canadian cottage country.

M. xo

Meskel Festival Highlights:

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Holy Daze: Yom Kippur (September 25-26, 2012) – Judaism

September 25th, 2012 No comments
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Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day of the year, is the Day of Atonement.  It occurs on the 10th day of Tishri (the seventh month of Jewish year).  It is a day to atone for the sins of the past year.  A ritual fast is performed for 25 hours beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending the following night.  Eating, drinking and sexual relations are prohibited, as well as bathing or anointing the body with such things are perfumes or deodorants.

Another rite historically performed and alluded to in the Bible is the casting of sins by driving a goat into the wilderness.  In this rite, a high priest would confess the sins of Israel onto the goat before sending it into the wilderness.  This also may be where the term “scapegoat” originates.

As usual, I’ve found some interesting supplements to my brief introduction of this holiday.  Check out the videos and links below if you’re interested in learning a bit more about this sacred holiday.

M. xo

Yom Kippur: Overboard (Jonah’s song)

Huffington Post: Yom Kippur Explained (including video and photo gallery)

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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