Tag: Tradition & Mythology

Bali’s Spiritual & Creative Pull: An Interview with Mooh Hood & Lori Goldberg

In March 2015 Mooh Hood and Lori Goldberg will be leading a Women’s Spiritual Art Journey in Bali. Here, we catch up with Mooh and Lori to talk about what keeps drawing them back to Bali and the effect of this beautiful country on their own creative processes. We also delve into what participants can expect from the journey, from a spiritual and creative perspective.

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KB: What is it about Bali that captivated you and keeps drawing you back?

Mooh: Bali feeds my soul on many levels. It is alive with devotional rituals from the daily placement of beautiful offerings, to the dance, music, and art that is created for the enjoyment of the Gods and Goddesses. When I experience these unique ways to keep their world in balance – it allows me to make sense of my world as well.

It is rare to be able to witness and also participate in such a rare culture that was created by “the Goddess birthing the world”. I find this constant awareness of their physical world – seen and unseen –the invoking the spirits of nature extremely compelling.

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Winter Traditions

Sacred Earth Journeys offers Sacred Journeys, Wellness Travel & Yoga Retreats, and Wisdom Teachings to many different parts of the world. Participants have a unique opportunity to both connect with the spiritual energies at some of the most important spiritual sites and be immersed in the local culture.  For many of us in the Western world December is a month dominated by Christmas, and whether or not we celebrate the holiday itself, it’s hard to miss its presence in our stores and communities. Here in Canada we are also blessed to share in other festivities that happen in the late fall, from Diwali to Hanukah.  But how about in some of the countries that Sacred Earth Journeys travels to throughout the year? Do these countries also celebrate the winter months with festivals of light and love? What are the local customs at this time of year? This blog takes a peek at some of the countries we will be visiting in 2014 to see how different cultures celebrate.

 

Aarti Ceremony, India

 

In India, as in many other countries around the world, Diwali is a national holiday, and is widely celebrated. This Festival of Lights celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and, importantly, inner light over spiritual darkness. It is a happy festival, of cleaning and preparing the home, shopping and buying gifts, listening to stories passed down through the ages, and marvelling at fireworks on Diwali night. Its spiritual essence can have meaning for us all as we work our way through life’s challenges. In the ever-wise words of our India tour leader, Jeffrey Armstrong:

“Just as we see that a small lamp drives away the dark of a whole room, so our doubts, sadness and fear are driven away by the constant renewal of our faith in the eternal light of Divine Love. In truth, we are like lamps that must be cared for. We must tend the wick of our mind, restore the oil of our life and relight the lamp of eternal love and truth that is in our heart. Diwali is the annual celebration of that rekindling of Divine fire within us.”

Lush Kauai, Hawaii

 

Today in Hawaii Christmas is celebrated much as it is on mainland America, expect that Santa prefers garlands of flowers to his stuffy red suit, and his sleigh – an outrigger canoe – is pulled by dolphins rather than his usual reindeer! But, before Christmas made its way to the Hawaiian islands in the late eighteenth century, Hawaiians celebrated Makahiki, a New Year Festival in honour of the harvest and Lono, the god of fertility and rain. This ancient festival ran for around four months from the middle of October, during which time there were contests, tributes to chiefs and a ban on war. It was a time to take a break from the usual farming cycles, and give thanks to the earth. The current Aloha Week festivals continue the Makahiki traditions. There will be plenty of time to give thanks to the earth and appreciate Kauai’s uniquely lush environment on our Goddess Retreat this coming April. As Dr. Alexina Mehta says,

“Kauai is considered to be the most sacred or spiritual of the Hawaiian islands according to many different sources. They consider it to be the third eye of the Hawaiian Islands and the lush environment is really conducive to a nourishing, goddess vibe. …The focus [of the retreat] is on connecting with the highest expression of the divine goddess that’s in every woman, connecting with the beauty, the wisdom, the different energies of various mythic goddesses and exploring how those energies live within each of us; how to find balance with those different energies, and at the same time how to have fun, relaxation and enjoy all the beauty of the island.”

Olympia, Greece

 

The Greek Orthodox Church is celebrating Christmas on December 25, the same date as the Catholic and Protestant churches. Greek traditions and customs at this time of year are rooted in the differences between light and darkness so apparent in December, and the date was chosen because it also marks the day many in the Mediterranean use to honour the Persian god, Mithras, the god of the Sun. Did you know that the word “carol” comes from a Greek dance called a choraulein, which was particularly popular in France! Of course, the Greeks are also famous for another festival we still celebrate today: the Olympics. As the writer and scholar Phil Cousineau, leader of our Greece journey, tells us:

“But there is another quality – a force – that deepens the mystery of these statues [of Olympians] especially in their connection to the Greek passion for athletic festivals, including the one the Greeks revered most of all, the Olympic Games. It is in fact the miraculous force that animates all great art as well as great athletes. Call it spirit, the divine spark, the breath of life – it is the transcendent element that lifts us up when you’re down and out, the source of courage, and the soul of inspiration. Strangely, we’re not quite sure where it comes from, where it goes when it’s crushed, or how to revive it. We just know we need to be in touch with it, which is one reason we turn to art, drama, poetry, and sports, especially the Olympic Games, the most watched television event on earth.” (from The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games)

As humans our need to tend our inner flames of inspiration, passion, faith, art and love is powerful. However you are celebrating this Holiday Season I hope you have an opportunity to connect with your own personal inspiration, tend your own wicks and find your own sacred place to be at peace with yourself and the earth. And I wish you joyous inner and outer travels!

~ Kim Bridgett

Notes:

Makahiki description taken from the Hawaiian Dictionaries.

Quote from Jeffrey Armstrong taken from his Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/kavindraVASA

Quote from Dr. Alexina Mehta taken from interview with Kim Bridgett. 

Merry Christmas

In Alain de Botton’s new book he talks about the three central themes of Christmas time that pre-date Christianity: community, festivity and renewal.(1) While we all interpret and celebrate this holiday in our own way, most of us will have an opportunity to gather with loved ones, taking a break from our usual routines.
How can we make this time meaningful? How we can avoid the traditional holiday stresses and focus on what is important? And how can we use this time to reconnect with ourselves and our community? Revisiting these three pre-Christian ideas can help us take a step back and create our own meaningful interpretations of Christmas.
Community
There has been much talk this year on social network sites of buying gifts from local artisans rather than the big retailers. It’s not too late to pick up some last minute gifts from your local stores, crafter friends, or to make your own gifts with recycled or local materials. There are also many other ways to bring a sense of community to this period: donate to your favourite charity or discover a new worthy cause; volunteer your time over Christmas; acknowledge those who provide a service to you throughout the year with a card or a simple thank you.
Festivity
When it’s dark and cold outside, being festive can raise our spirits and help us experience optimism, good health and happiness. Make the most of this opportunity to gather with those you love, and simply enjoy good company. And, most important of all, don’t let false expectations of what this festive period should be like to detract from the simple pleasures – choose to invite friends or family over and make a powerful choice to serve a simple dish; gifts do not need to look as if they were plucked directly from the Harrods window display. Aim to enjoy the process just as much – if not more – than the final product: focus on the smells, colours and textures of those vegetables as you chop, slice, peel them; inhale their aromas as they roast purposefully in your oven; and experience the joy of watching your loved ones taste and savour them.
Renewal
Let your to-do list get lost under the gift wrap and make the choice to rest over the next week and a half. By resting you will be able to better take on the challenges that await you in 2013. Renewal doesn’t have to mean discarding your old self, but it can be an opportunity to bring focus to areas in your life you’d like to change. It’s a good time to start thinking about and pre-planning your activities and journeys in 2013, be they metaphorical or physical. Browsing travel websites or reading about wellness retreats can help you visualize how you want to invest your time next year. Sacred Earth Journeys is one of the ideal places to start your ruminations.
Wishing you all a very peaceful, re-energizing, intentional Christmas.

(1) Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, 2012

~ Kim Bridgett

Let the Light Shine

November and December can be difficult months. From Remembrance Day, through Diwali and the anticipation of Holiday festivities, these celebrations of memory and light can bring with them a sadness, a sense of loss for loved ones who are no longer with us. It is a time of year when the dark and light can appear to compete, where we feel pulled in many directions, with unexpected sombre emotions surfacing during otherwise joyful events.
 
Diwali Light. Photo: Sabari Girisan M (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
 

Why is it we can feel overwhelmed by our emotions at this particular time of year? Is our fascination with illumination purely a practical response to the shorter daylight hours or is there something more spiritual, more profound at play?  How can we all shine a little brighter this year as the Holiday season approaches?

Jeffrey Armstrong in his class on Diwali: Festival of Lights, Vedic Celebrations Illuminated reminds us that the ritual of “relighting the lamp when it starts to get dark is a metaphor for the relighting of ourselves, for the trimming of the wick inside of us”. Our spiritual bodies may be self-luminous, he says, but our bodies here on earth are often covered in matter, in shadows, in “gu” (hence a “guru” being someone who has the power to disperse darkness). Jeffrey also suggests that a part of eastern wisdom that has been lost in western civilization can explain why it is that around this time of year our thoughts turn to gathering together with family: “now and further on as this darkness increases people will cluster together inside of an environment, and so on another level what’s happening is your ancestors are available and in that darkness those who are stuck within matter also come out”.
Our heightened emotions at this time of year, then, can be seen as our own “ghosts and goblins” and also the ghosts of our departed ancestors who aren’t at rest: “their spirits are moving and the spirits of our ancestors are real because their souls are eternal, but sometimes your ancestors are stuck in the gu because of things they did. You’re their only hope because your body is the result of what they did so your dream code is the radio they know how to broadcast on because your ancestors had similar radios.”
Deepawali Festival. Photo: Ashish Kanitkar (CC-BY-SA-2.0)


The relighting of a candle for Diwali or the gathering together of loved ones for Holiday celebrations are important rituals. Coming together helps us remember how alike we all are, how connected we are, how “covered in gu” we are, and when we recognize these truths, forgiveness naturally follows, for ourselves and for others – in all their forms. Simply bringing awareness to our true needs to forgive and gather together at this time of year (as opposed to the “wants” of the material world) can help our own light to shine and the gu to dissipate. In this way, we are tending our own wicks. As the poet Richard Howard says, “the corridor leading into the conscious life seems to me the right tunnel to find light at the end of.”(1)

However you interpret the emotions that surface over the coming weeks, taking time to accept them can be an important part of your personal journey. To help with this, you could try lighting a candle for 5 minutes every day, sitting silently with the flame, inviting the contrasting emotions in and watching them as they drift away, focusing on what is truly needed in your life, and creating more space within yourself and the world for light, warmth and joy.
To listen to Jeffrey’s talk in full, visit his website and navigate to the downloads section: http://www.jeffreyarmstrong.com/category/store-free. Find out more about how you can hear Jeffrey impart his wisdom first-hand on a profoundly inspiring journey to India that he will lead in March 2013 by visiting http://sacredearthjourneys.ca/current-tours/once-upon-a-time-in-india/tour-description.
(1) Richard Howard quote taken from an interview with J.D. McClatchy in the Paris Review, “The Art of Poetry No. 86”.

~ Kim Bridgett

 

Traditions and Symbols of Yule

yule traditions and symbolsWhen the days grew colder and the nights grew longer, people of ancient times would light candles and gather round fires to lure back the sun. They would bring out their stores of food and enjoy feasting and festivities. Dances were danced and songs were sung and all would delight in decorating their homes.

Evergreens for Yule

Evergreens were cut and brought indoors to symbolize life, rebirth and renewal. They were thought to have power over death because their green never faded, and they were used to defeat winter demons and hold back death and destruction. Because of their strength and tenacity, they were also believed to encourage the Sun’s return.

Christmas Holly

Holly, which represents the masculine element, was often used to decorate doors, windows and fireplaces. Because of its prickliness it was thought to capture or ward off evil spirits before they could enter a home and cause harm. The holly leaves, symbolic of the Holly King, represent hope, and the red berries represent potency.

Holiday Traditions: Mistletoe

Mistletoe, which represents the female element, also holds much importance as it was used by Druid priests in special ceremonies during the Winter Solstice. They believed that its green leaves represented the fertility of the Mother Goddess, and its white berries, the seed of the Forest God or Oak King. Druids would harvest the mistletoe from sacred oak trees with golden scythes and maidens would gather underneath the trees to catch the falling branches, preventing them from falling to the ground; for if this happened, it was believed that all sacred energy in the plant would pour back into the earth. The branches and sprigs were then divided and distributed to be hung over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. Mistletoe was also worn as an amulet for fertility, or hung above the headboard.

Yule Tree: An Important Pagan Symbol

The Yule Tree was also another important symbol in pagan tradition. Originally, it represented the Tree of Life or the World Tree among early pagans. In ancient times it was decorated with gifts people wanted to receive from the gods. It was adorned with natural ornaments such as pinecones, berries and other fruit, as well as symbols sacred to the gods and goddess. In some holiday traditions, garlands of popcorn and berries were strung around the tree so that visiting birds could feed off the tree as well.

To Honour and Protect: The Yule Log

The custom of burning the Yule Log began with the ancient Scandinavians who burned a huge log, felled from and Ash tree, to honour their god Thor. In the Celtic tradition, a continual hearth fire was kept to prevent spirits from entering the home. In order for the fire to keep burning, a large Oak tree was felled and brought into the home where the tree was placed trunk first into the hearth, with the last remnants set aside to burn with next year’s fire. It was also believed that the longer the Yule log burned, the faster the sun would come to warm the earth.

Other Yule Traditions and Symbols

Candles were another way to have an eternal flame within the home. They symbolized the light and warmth of the sun and were used to chase away evils and lure back the returning sun/son.

Wreaths were also traditional in ancient times for they symbolized the wheel of the year and the completion of another cycle. They were made of evergreens and adorned with cones and berries and hung as decoration throughout the home. They were also given as gifts to symbolize the infinity of goodwill, friendship and joyfulness.

Bells were often rung during the Winter Solstice to drive away demons that surfaced during the dark time of the year. They were rung in the morning as everyone began to wake to chase away the dark days and herald in the warmer, brighter days following the solstice.

Elves first became associated with Yule because the ancients knew that the Spirits that created the Sun inhabited the land of Elves. By including elves in the Yule celebrations, the ancients believed they were assuring the elves assistance in the coercion of the Sun to return.

Gingerbread was considered to be a specialty bread during this time since ginger had not been available until the Crusaders brought it back in the 11th century. There were strict laws regarding specialty breads in that time, so gingerbread was only allowed to be produced during the holidays and thus, it became associated with winter and Yule.

Wassail derives from the Old English words waes hael, which means “be well”, “be hale” or “good health”. It is a strong drink, usually a mixture of ale, honey and spices or mulled apple cider. When pagans went into the forest to fell the great oak for the Yule log, they would anoint the tree with wassail and bedeck them with wassail-soaked cakes, thus the ritual of wassailing was born. At home, the wassail would be poured into a large bowl during feast time and the host, when greeting his or her guests, would lift a drink and wish them “waes hael”, to which they would reply “drinc hael”, which meant “drink and be well”.

Carolling was also a popular Yule tradition when young children honoured the Winter Solstice with song. They would go through the villages, singing door to door. The villagers, in return, would reward them with tokens and sweets and small gifts which symbolized the food and prosperity given by the Mother Goddess to all her Earthly children.

Nature Symbols of Yule: Holly, Oak, Mistletoe, Ivy, Evergreens, Laurel, Bayberry, Blessed Thistle, Frankincense, Pine, Sage, Yellow Cedar.

Food and Drink of Yule: Yule Log Cake, Gingerbread, Fruits, Berries, Nuts, Pork dishes, Turkey, Eggnog, Ginger Tea, Spiced Cider, Wassail

Colours of Yule: Red, Green, White, Silver, Gold
Red represents the waning Holly King. Green represents the waxing Oak King. White represents the purity and hope of new Light. Silver represents the Moon. Gold represents the Sun/Son.

Stones of Yule: Rubies, Bloodstones, Garnets, Emeralds, Diamonds

Activities of Yule: Carolling ~ Wassailing the Trees ~ Burning the Yule Log ~ Decorating the Yule Tree ~ Exchanging Gifts ~ Kissing under the Mistletoe

Deities of Yule:
Goddesses: The Great Mother and Earth Goddess, Freyja, Gaia, Diana, Bona-Dea, Isis, Demeter
Gods: Mabon, The Sun God, The Star (Divine) Child, The Oak King, The Holly King, The Green Man, The Red Man, The Horned One, Odin, Lugh, Apollo, Ra

What Yule traditions and symbols still appear in your Holiday celebrations? Did you know the origin of some of these Yule traditions or did they surprise you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

~ Daniela Masaro and Sacred Earth Journeys

Artwork by Anne Stokes