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

September 25th, 2012 No comments

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

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

NRMs: New Religious Movements

September 23rd, 2012 No comments

If you’ve perched here before, you’ll know that I find religion a fascinating subject matter.  One of the most intriguing (at least to me) areas is New Religious Movements (NRMs).  These movements are popularly referred to as cults; however, due to the inherent negative connotations associated with the word, I’m going to refrain from using it.

Typically, these religions are considered minority in the scope of the world’s religious landscape, and they are relatively new in the sense that they usually weren’t established over a millennia or so ago.  Some NRMs do claim to originate from centuries old beliefs; however, their existence and proliferation is, generally, relatively recent.  Of course, as with many other aspects of religion, there is much debate among scholars concerning the scope, prevalence, and definition of NRMs.  Within the mainstream and popular media, there are many misconceptions and negative stereotypes regarding NRMs.  This is in large part due to the highly sensationalized portrayal of some rare and extreme cases of violent, abusive, and sometime bizarre behaviour by NRM leaders and followers.

That being said, I’ve decided that I want to write a regular series of posts that provide a brief overview of some NRMs, and some of their leaders.  I will not be engaging in debate about any group’s validity as a religion.  As I’ve previously indicated, religion is hard to define, so what you might call religion, someone else may not.  The sole purpose of these posts will be to introduce you to something new, and to try and dispel the myth that all NRMs are somehow dangerous, violent or engaged in brainwashing of their members.  Chances are you will not agree with the practices of many of these groups.  That’s fine.  The point is that simply branding all NRMs as inherently the same is narrow-minded.  In the same sense, tarnishing the image of all members of an NRM because of the actions of a few individuals is also narrow-minded.   So, I hope that you’ll try to keep an open-mind as we peck into this intriguing area of study.

For me, NRMs speak to the diversity and creativity of human beings in trying to make sense of the world and their part in it.  It also speaks to the freedoms that many of us enjoy.  So, let’s not engage in debate about the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’, and instead, let’s engage in learning something new about our fellow human beings.

So, stay tuned in the coming days as I introduce you to the incredibly diverse milieu of New Religious Movements.

Cheers! M. xo



Holy Daze: Paryushana Parva (Throughout Sept 2012) – Jainism

September 19th, 2012 No comments

Paryushana is considered one of the most important and sacred festivals of the Indian religious tradition, Jainism. Now, if you’re not familiar with the Jains, and you happen to be interested in subjects like this, I highly recommend doing some reading on this very interesting sacred path. In all my studies, I’ve found the Jains to be one of the most fascinating of traditions. The core of their beliefs is one of a path of non-violence (ahimsa) toward all living beings (and when they say all living beings, they literally mean it).

Back to the matter at hand – Paryushana, (meaning “coming together”) is a time for heightening awareness of both the physical and spiritual aspects of the self. One of the central ritual observances is fasting, which depending on the Jain’s devotion and strength, can last anywhere from one day to one month, and can include abstaining completely from food or taking only one meal a day. Fasting is believed to help purify the soul by discovering one’s faults and seeking forgiveness for transgressions. It is also a time to take stock of how one’s actions have affected all living beings.

Other rituals can include the reading of scriptures, and observing vows of silence. Periodic meditation may also be carried out (different paths within the Jain tradition, observe different rituals at different times – it’s a bit confusing, so stay with me). It’s also important to point out that the laity and monastics will engage to different degrees in these rituals.

The culmination of this festival is to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings that one may have intentionally or unintentionally committed upon another living being (and for some Jains this includes the microscopic organisms that are naked to the human eye – I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned all living beings). Jains express to one another, “Micchami Dukkadam” (If I have caused you offence or wrongdoing, intentional or unintentional, by thought word or deed, I ask your forgiveness).

There’s much more to this festival than what I could possibly provide in this post, so check out the short video below showcasing some upbeat celebrations during Paryushana Parva. I’ve also included a short animated informational video about Jainism. The animation leaves much to be desired, but it does an adequate job of providing you with a primer of the Jain tradition.

A final important note: The swastika, while considered a symbol of evil and persecution for many in the West, is a very sacred symbol for the Jains. So, please refrain from sending me comments about the inclusion of this symbol in my post.

I hope to post more about the fascinating sacred path of the Jains in the future!

Cheers! M. xo

Paryushan Parva 2011 – Bhavya Aarti:


Image Source: Wikipedia

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

My thoughts on the chaos surrounding “Innocence of Muslims”

September 16th, 2012 No comments

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard or seen the violence that has erupted in the Middle East over the video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims”.  The video has been branded by some as inflammatory, while others have justified its existence using the tried and true ‘freedom of expression’ argument.  Before I could weigh in, I decided to watch the controversial film.  It was a daunting task, to say the least.

The video is of extremely poor production quality.  It’s crudely dubbed (and then overdubbed).  Ultimately, it’s an absurd piece of film that I have no idea why anyone would waste their time watching.  In fact, but for the violence that has ensued, I’m skeptical that the video would have made even the tiniest blip on Internet.

Now, having said that, I can appreciate how some Muslims would find it offensive.  At the same time, I could also see how this could easily be overdubbed (again) to offend Christians.  If one were to mute the video, the prophet depicted could easily be mistaken for Jesus.  Perhaps then, the original intention of the film was not what it ultimately became.  It’s clear that the video was re-imagined to include opinions better left unsaid.

Ultimately, I believe the film is inflammatory – but it’s important to bear in mind that this is a piece of absurd fiction that is seemingly the ignorant opinion of a small group of people.  Unfortunately, freedom of expression is a valid argument here.  Those of us who think that this expression just plain sucks have the right to counter-expression.  Our opposition to this kind of garbage should never, however, include violence.  Certainly, the producers of this film should be ashamed, but those who have responded with violence should be more ashamed.  One of the points expressed in the film is the misguided notion of the violence inherent in Islam, and as far as I can tell those who have responded with such violence are only giving relevancy to the film and doing a huge disservice to their faith.  Had there not been such violence, this film would have slipped into obscurity and the fires of bigotry directed toward Muslims and the West would not have been inflamed further.

IMO, violence is never an appropriate solution when responding to bigotry and ignorance.



Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

What would the Bible look like in Lego? Like This!

September 13th, 2012 No comments

I’m always on the look out for fun and unique twists on the presentation of religious stories, myths and teachings.  The Brick Testament definitely falls into this category.  Here, you’ll find the stories of the Bible told through Lego.  The site even provides a rating system for those who may find the content of the Bible objectionable or not suitable for minors.  Ratings include ‘N’ for nudity, “V’ for violence, ‘S’ for sexual content, and ‘C’ for cursing.

Kudos to the Rev. Brendan Powell Smith for this very engaging and entertaining site.  Now swoop on over and check it out!  While you’re there, stop by The Brick Bible Shop to purchase greeting cards, books and posters.

The Brick Testament:  http://www.bricktestament.com/home.html

M. xo

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Holy Daze: Rosh Hashanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

August 29th, 2012 No comments

I’ve decided to start a regular series of posts showcasing upcoming religious holidays. I’ll be entitling this series, Holy Daze, because clearly these observances are sacred, and I’m hoping to dazzle you with new and enlightening stories, myths and rituals. Of course, I will only be able to give a snapshot into these sacred celebrations, but I’ll provide links and fun resources for you to find out more information. Let’s get started by talking about the upcoming “Jewish New Year”.

Rosh HaShanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

Rosh HaShanah is one of the High Holy Days in Judaism. It occurs on the first and second days of Tishri (the seventh month of the Jewish year). In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah literally means “the first of the year”, and is commonly regarded as the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection, resolution and renewal. The main ritual of Rosh HaShanah is the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn) which symbolizes both a trumpet call of a coronation of a king and a call to repentance, particularly those of man’s first sin. Other special observances include eating apples dipped in honey to symbolize wishes for a sweet year ahead and casting bits of bread from one’s pocket into a nearby stream to symbolize the casting away of old sins.

Check out these music videos that explain and celebrate Rosh HaShanah in a hip-hoppin’, rockin’ way:

Rosh Hashana Rock Anthem:

Shofar Callin':

Suggested further reading:




Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Sikhs: The Way of the Disciples

August 8th, 2012 3 comments

This past Sunday, another mass shooting spree occurred in the States. The target this time was a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Speculation that this attack may have been a case of mistaken identity began to run rampant in the news. Reporters, bloggers and the like suggested that the gunman may have believed that he was attacking a Muslim house of worship. This, they said, was because many Americans thought Sikhs were Muslims. Of course, there is no way of knowing the shooter’s motivations as he was killed by police. As an aside, I find it curious that the media were quick to suggest this attack was meant for Muslims. With no evidence to suggest otherwise, this is clearly another case of media scaremongering.

I’ll admit that my feathers have been ruffled with this latest attack on a religious group. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have little tolerance for religious intolerance (I know, a bit oxymoronic, right?). I’m also concerned that in the Information Age (you know, an era where information is available at the tips of one’s fingers) that so few people bother to educate themselves about the world around them. While I agree the Internet isn’t always the most reliable source; a little critical thinking can certainly weed out the bad from the good information. But, I digress…

The point of this post (aside from a bit of squawking) is to introduce you to the Way of the Disciples (Sikhs).

Being a Sikh means being a disciple of the Guru. There are ten Gurus in the Sikh sacred story, beginning with Guru Nanak. The succeeding Gurus are all believed to have carried the spiritual light of Nanak and God’s word. Writings about Nanak in Sikh sacred texts, known as Adi Granth, suggest that he was influenced by both a Muslim and Hindu spiritual upbringing.

As with any religion, there is both unity and division within the community; however, there are some core central beliefs at the foundation of the Sikh world meaning. Like other monotheistic belief systems, God is central. Sikhs, however, recognize God (Nam) as the same One worshipped by many different belief systems and known by many different names. God is considered formless, timeless, and beyond human conception. Sikhism does not claim the only path to God, nor does it work toward converting others. Part of the Sikh world view is freedom of religion, which may come from the fact that Sikhism has blended many ideas from different faiths.

Sikhs engage in various ritual and worship. Daily worship entails reading and meditation on the sacred word found in the Adi Granth. Worship at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) centers around the Holy Book (Granth Sahib). Before worship, a ritual bath is performed. Following, offerings before the Holy Book are made. There are no ordained leaders in the gurdwara, thus each Sikh is free to perform the rituals of worship.

Women hold a high degree of respect in the faith. It is believed Guru Nanak once said this about the status of women, “Why denounce her, who even gives birth to kings?” As such, women are given equal status with men in services and ceremonies. Further, Sikhs welcome all faiths and cultures to their house of worship.

Sikhs may be most identifiable by the turbans (dastar) worn by men. This is worn because one of the prohibitions in Sikhism is the cutting of hair. Devout Sikh men may have unshorn hair and beards. They may also be identified by a sword or dagger (kirpan) worn, which is symbolic of a willingness to protect the weak and fight for justice. A metal bracelet (kara) is worn as a constant reminder that one is a servant of God and should conduct oneself befittingly.

There is much more to the Sikh religion than what I have provided. My hope is this brief introduction might encourage you to learn more about this blended belief system. Certainly, there are similarities to other religions; however it’s important to recognize the differences. It is short-sighted (IMO) to lump together all peoples who may look similar, share similar beliefs, or who come from the same part of the world. Ignorance that perpetuates fear, anger, and confusion can lead people to commit horrible acts. It’s time to stop the madness.


M. xo

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Happy Ramadan!

July 21st, 2012 No comments

Today is the start of the Islamic holy season known as Ramadan.  It occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows a lunar cycle.  It is believed that during this period the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation.

Muslims who participate in this holy time abstain from ingesting anything into the body for one month from sunrise to sunset.  This includes food, drink, smoke and sexual relations.  It is a time of deep reflection and spiritual self-purification through prayer and meditation.  Additionally, one is required to refrain from evil thoughts toward others, such as thoughts of harm, lust or jealousy.  Through these ritual practices Muslims seek to gain an appreciation for the material gifts from God, regain self-control from bad habits, and deepen empathy for the hungry and deprived of the world.

Despite this seemingly disciplined and stringent ritual, Ramadan is also filled with much joy.  The nights are a time for the community to come together to share in food, prayer and one another’s company.   The end of Ramadan, or the breaking of the fast, is a celebration of grand proportions.

To all my Muslim friends I extend a Happy Ramadan!

M. xo

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

What’s in a Name?

July 5th, 2012 1 comment

It’s a common question posed to me – “What’s the significance of the name Black Chicken?”  Often, this question is accompanied by chuckles and a perplexed expression.  I typically do not offer any explanation aside from the name being an inside joke, which is in part, true.  So, today I thought I’d let the cat out of the bag the bird out of the cage.

The term Black Chicken was coined many years ago when I was hanging out with friends.  I had developed a bad case of hiccups — you know the kind that just won’t stop no matter what you do.  One of my friends told me that he could get rid of my hiccups — guaranteed — then promptly shouted, “White Horses!”  To my surprise, my hiccups disappeared.  My hiccup-curing friend told me that it had never failed for him.  And you know what – I’ve done this many times since, and it works.

After mulling it over, I realized that it was the very absurdity of his actions that probably caused a physiological response similar to that of which one experiences when surprised.  I began to think of whether I could use this element of surprise in other ways.  One evening while I was out with friends playing a game of pool, I thought I’d test the theory.  As one of my opponents steady to shoot, I calmly walked by and said, “Black Chicken” (Black because it was my favourite colour, and Chicken because I was egging my opponent on).  He missed his shot and asked me what the heck my muttering was all about.  I shrugged and told him it was the power of the Black Chicken.  Eventually, the practice of muttering “Black Chicken” while one’s opponent was concentrating on their next move, became an inside jinxing joke among my circle of friends.

Years later, when I was looking for a Web domain name I found that Black Chicken was available.  Since, the moniker had a personal connection for me, I chose the domain name.  I began using the domain in my emails and for various online projects, and came to discover that people remembered the name simply because it was so odd.

Around this time, I also discovered that black chickens were actually real and not just a figment of my imagination!  I learned some curiously interesting facts and myths about black chickens.  I discovered that black chickens were fundamental parts of folklore from Italy, Bulgaria, China and various parts of the southern United States.  In present day, black chickens are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia for their black meat, bones and feathers.  Additionally, a breed of black chickens called Silkies are considered some of the most docile of poultry.

When I started this blog, I decided to keep the Black Chicken name because all that I had learned seemed to fit quite well with my on-line presence.  Black Chickens are:  gentle, unusual, valuable, abhorrent, and memorable.  That’s how I see my blogging.  I will always try and be gentle about the unusual topics I choose to write about, and at times you may value my opinion or you may abhor it.  Above all, I will strive to leave a memorable impression on those who flutter into my coop.

That’s it in an nutshell eggshell.  I wish I could confess of more profound origins, like it being my spirit animal (which actually would be quite befitting), but I can’t.  It’s really that simple.

M. xo

Categories: Personal Tags:

Kids Who Love Zeppelin! Hail to the Non-Beliebers!!!

June 7th, 2012 No comments

There is hope for the future… the future of Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!!!!

3 Year old sings Led Zeppelin!

Led Zeppelin Baby

Baby Headbanging to Some Led Zeppelin!!!

Kid Loves Led Zeppelin

M. xo

Categories: Society and Culture Tags: , ,