22 February 2007

Happy New Year - Miaos' Flower Pole

From chinaculture.org- Flower Mountain Festival takes place during the two weeks following New Year's Day each lunar calendar year to pray for happiness of the Miaos and bless with safety and prosperity. During the festival, the Miaos get dressed up and go to the large lawn near the village. They play the Lion Lantern Dance, swing, blow bamboo leaves and play the bamboo flute. People erect in the mountain a "flower pole" dyed in red and blue in 12 segments to pray to the god for giving birth to children. Young men and girls riot in dancing and singing and seek their lovers. The entertainment lasts three days, and the Miao villages are filled with animated dance and songs.

On the very day, the erection of the Flower Pole is to precede the activity of the Flower Mountain Festival. The Flower Pole is the icon of the Flower Mountain. It is also the performance tool in the festival. It is made of straight and decorticated fir in several zhang (1 zhang = 3.3 m) high. Afterwards, people plant it in the middle of the Flower Mountain to form the center of the entertainment -- Lusheng ground. The Lusheng players play the Lusheng and dance under the Flower Pole with the contests of climbing pole when playing Lusheng, and climbing pole when playing Lion Dance. There are also programs such as the antiphonal singing, bullfight, horserace, bird match and various martial arts performances, which make the Miaos immersed in great happiness.

The festival not only provides all villagers with the festal gathering, but also the unmarried young people with the chance to seek their lovers. In the mountains south of Yunnan Province, the homemade telephones are installed to enable young men and girls, without knowing each other, communicate with each other or sing through homemade call before date. There is another interesting way of selecting lovers: the young men wander in the crowd. As he found his favorite girl, he will stealthily draw near to her. When he stands at her side, the young man will open the umbrella to cover the girl and sing to observe her reaction. At this moment, the girl keeps silent and skews at the young man. If she finds the young man unsatisfied, she will still keep quiet or refuse by singing. If she likes the man, the girl will look at the young man and sing a sweet song tenderly. As they feel satisfied with each other, the girl will offer her ring to the young man as the keep sack. When the Flower Mountain Festival ends, the spoony girl will follow her lover.

In the Flower Mountain, the most favorable young men are those fellows who climb the Flower Pole while heading down and taking up the Lusheng and pig head. He has to climb up and down keeping playing Lusheng, which can match with the acrobatics. The crowned young man is not only regarded as the hero, but also the icon among the girls. It is said if the young man courts some girl, she will surely fall in love with him.

NPR.org's Flower Mountain piece by Louisa Lim or listen to the story. Credit on photo above, also Louisa Lim.

11 February 2007

On a Sun's day morning, dear Teacher-

When you get a chance, I am curious about the narrative of the dream that caused your recent contact. Also, any thoughts on my attempts at unlearning by means of this modern bile smearing bloggering - the "fool" in the "where angels fear to tread" - as Jesus Himself warned - "pray only in your closet" (Matthew 6.6) and stay off the street corners and infohighways.

I will ponder to dying day the proper direction and misdirection allowed to teachers by his/her conscience. I read today in his biography that even Julius Wellhausen had pedagogical misgivings- "Wellhausen received a professorship at Greifswald, [but] resigned in 1882 because he believed that his teachings were having a dire effect on theological students destined for the ministry, and because he had become a figure of controversy over his published views on the Old Testament."

By the late 1960s, not only had Wellhausen's now well developed "Documentary Hypothesis" (P-E-J-D sources) called into question the fundamentalists' understanding of authorship of Hebrew scripture, but Wellhausen's approaches to "biblical history" (1878) had also set off the largely failed attempts at "proving" Hebrew scripture through "biblical archaeology" - showing that any actual reality afforded Scripture before 1000bce was fanciful ethnocentric myth, at best, equal to Homer's stories - no Abram, no Issac, no Moses, no falling Walls of Jericho, no David, no Solomon, no Israel, not even a camel - and of all this, from my religious teachers, not one word.

Add to this, the wider body of huge mythological works produced between 1900 and 1960s- such as Fraser's 12 volume "Golden Bough"(1906-15); Briffault's 1800 page "Mother's"(1927); Graves'"White Goddess"(1948); and the early efforts of Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade. Again not one word. Perhaps to the odd high school bible student off to conduct a storefront evangelical series - a headsup might have been in order - a "look out for the truck!" or similar.

As a seven year old child, my father would pay me $10 to read small condensed volumes of a children's encyclopedia. His admonition was to "Skip over the mythologies, because they might cause one not to believe in Bible stories." Being an obedient child and seeing the shorter path to the $10s, I skipped the mythologies.

Now, as my own wandering muse, I am beginning to puzzle over the dynamics of "forbidden knowledge" and its dangers- "when to hold them...when to walk away". Silent knowledge surrounds us, as do severe reprisals for speaking. As a present example of the unspeakable, the last thing any of us in the United States are allowed to even ponder, during the Bushes' αρμαγεδδων, is the earlier question, "What Jewish homeland?" (above).

(And the mundane - even to suggest that wrapping evergreen roping around a bridge railing is an ancient vulvic/phallic exercise - this too is forbidden knowing - and never, ever suggest that a baseball cap, a pickup truck and the SuperBowl are the same compensatory symbols - be prepared for a bloody nose.)

Listen to today's NPR "Children of Abraham"
Further link to "what did the biblical writers know and when did they know it?" which in fairness to the "1960s" comment above, speaks of an ongoing controversy at present.
Image credit: Wm. Blake's Woman Clothed in the Sun

08 February 2007

"One Man's Ceiling, Another Man's Floor"

Photo caption reads: The swastika is a sacred symbol for Hindus, who are protesting its proposed ban in the EU. Here Hindus in India celebrate Diwali by lighting lamps in the shape of a swastika. Photo credit: Reuters

SPIEGEL ONLINE - January 17, 2007, 12:38 PM
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,460259,00.html
CROSSED SWORDS - Hindus Against Proposed EU Swastika Ban

European Hindus are opposing German calls for an EU-wide ban on swastikas, arguing that the Nazis hijacked the Hindu symbol which actually stands for peace.

Germany's plans to push for a Europe-wide ban on swastikas may seem reasonable enough to those who prefer not to see far-right extremists sporting Nazi symbols in public. Unless of course, you are a Hindu, for whom the Nazi era is just an unpleasant blip in the millennia-old symbol's history.

European Hindu groups have come together to oppose a German proposal to introduce a ban on Nazi symbols -- including the swastika -- within the European Union, arguing that the Nazis hijacked the Hindu symbol.

"The swastika has been around for 5,000 years as a symbol of peace. This is exactly the opposite of how it was used by Hitler," Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain told Reuters. The swastika is commonly used as a blessing in Hindu rituals such as weddings.

"It is almost like saying that the Ku Klux Klan used burning crosses to terrorize black men, so therefore let us ban the cross," he added. "How does that sound to you?"

Hindus from the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy want to form a pressure group in the European Parliament in May to oppose the ban. They plan to visit European Commission leaders and members of the European Parliament to put pressure on them to resist the German move.

Germany, which took over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU at the beginning of this year, wants to launch an initiative to make Holocaust denial and the display of Nazi symbols a crime across the whole EU. The swastika and other Nazi symbols are already banned in Germany.

"In Germany the fight against racism and xenophobia is both an historic duty and a current political concern," Germany's Justice Ministry said in a statement earlier this month.

Kallidai said Germany's initiative was probably well-meaning but said that Hindus had not been consulted.

"Every time we see a swastika symbol in a Jewish cemetery, that of course must be condemned. But when the symbol is used in a Hindu wedding, people should learn to respect that," he told Reuters.

"In Sanskrit it means May Goodness Prevail," he said. "Just because Hitler misused the symbol, abused it and used it to propagate a reign of terror and racism and discrimination, it does not mean that its peaceful use should be banned."

Even within Germany, the swastika ban can be problematic. There was an outcry last year when the owner of an anti-fascist mail order company in Stuttgart was fined for selling anti-Nazi merchandise featuring swastikas with a line through it.

dgs/reuters © SPIEGEL ONLINE 2007

02 February 2007

Kissing the Shroud

Photo by Max Becherer, appearing in the New York Times Travel Section, part of an article entitled "The Mysteries of Kabul" published January 21, 2007. This particular image is not part of the excellent NYT's "slide show" of Becherer's Kabul photographs.

Caption for the photo above reads "Shiite Muslims kissing a sacred shroud before prayer." For those following these "scribblings", this single image of the adoration of a wrapped pole is worth more than any 1000 word comment (. . .we are only the messenger!).

"Imbloc" aka "Groundhog Day", February 2

Already half the way from solstice (December 21) to spring equinox (March 21), we reach the "quarter" holiday of "Imbloc" known only to those who do not accept the accepted "Groundhog Day". Why not?? perhaps a clue from the White Goddess site- but compare with Wikipaedia's Groundhog Day-

"Imbloc (Candlemass, Imblog, Imbole) - February 2nd Pronounced: EE-Molc

"This holiday is also known as Candlemas, or Brigid's (pronounced BREED) Day. One of the 4 Celtic "Fire Festivals. Commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden. Celebrates the first signs of Spring. Also called "Imbolc" (the old Celtic name). This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, i.e. the first sprouting of leaves, the sprouting of the Crocus flowers etc. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year. This Festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Crone to Maiden.

"It is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter and make way for Spring. It is the day we honour the rebirth of the Sun and we may visualize the baby sun nursing from the Goddess's breast. It is also a day of celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Brigid is the Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft, and Midwifery. If you can make it with your hands, Brigid rules it. She is a triple Goddess, so we honour her in all her aspects. This is a time for communing with her, and tending the lighting of her sacred flame. At this time of year, we will light multiple candles, white for Brigid, for the god usually yellow or red, to remind us of the passing of winter and the entrance into spring, the time of the Sun. This is a good time for initiations, be they into covens or self-initiations.

"Imbolc (February 2) marks the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the God. The lengthening periods of light awaken Her. The God is a young, lusty boy, but His power is felt in the longer days. The warmth fertilizes the Earth (the Goddess), and causes seeds to germinate and sprout. And so the earliest beginnings of Spring occur.

"This is a Sabbat of purification after the shut-in life of Winter, through the renewing power of the Sun. It is also a festival of light and of fertility, once marked in Europe with huge blazes, torches and fire in every form. Fire here represents our own illumination and inspiration as much as light and warmth. Imbolc is also known as Feast of Torches, Oimelc, Lupercalia, Feast of Pan, Snowdrop Festival, Feast of the Waxing Light, Brighid's Day, and probably by many other names. Some female Witches follow the old Scandinavian custom of wearing crowns of lit candles, but many more carry tapers during their invocations.

"It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house - if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honour of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place this in a prominent part of the home or in a window.

"If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.

"Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines and dishes containing raisins - all foods symbolic of the Sun - are also traditional."

Further Imbloc / Candlemas links:
Wiccan Web Weavers
Candlemas, from a Roman Catholic view
The Light Returns


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