Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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

October 1st, 2012 No comments
Share

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

 

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

NRMs: Fellowship of Isis

September 29th, 2012 No comments
Share

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

 

Share

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

September 26th, 2012 No comments
Share

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:

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

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

September 25th, 2012 No comments
Share

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

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

NRMs: New Religious Movements

September 23rd, 2012 No comments
Share

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

 

Share

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

September 19th, 2012 No comments
Share


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:

Jainism:

Image Source: Wikipedia

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

My thoughts on the chaos surrounding “Innocence of Muslims”

September 16th, 2012 No comments
Share

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.

Peace.

M.xo

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

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

September 13th, 2012 No comments
Share

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

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

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

August 29th, 2012 No comments
Share

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:

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/index.shtml

http://www.chabad.org/

 

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Sikhs: The Way of the Disciples

August 8th, 2012 3 comments
Share

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.

Peace.

M. xo

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,