Monday, December 17, 2007

New Threat To Religious Freedom In the US?

I had hoped to leave you with the Winter Solstice Celebrations article for the holidays, but the following news is very disturbing, and if you are an American citizen in favor of the freedoms granted by the Constitution, I hope you tell your Representative in the House of Representatives how you feel about this threat to the equality of religion in the United States that he or she may have favorably voted for. See Roll Call below.

Thomas Jefferson, in his Autobiography 1743 – 1790 said: "The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination." (Bold emphasis added by Michelle) (University of Virginia library)

No mention of any God or any God's prophet or messenger was allowed into the statement for the freedom of religion in order that all people of all religions would be accorded equal – let me emphasize EQUAL – respect and rights and freedoms.

If anyone happens to be in the vicinity of Thomas Jefferson's grave and feels a rumble in the ground, don't be surprised. It's not an earthquake. It's Jefferson spinning away in his grave.

He's heard that the U. S. House of Representatives has just taken the first major step toward undoing the religious freedom granted to American citizens by the U. S. Constitution, or laying the foundation to make Christianity the state religion and enabling the prosecution of anyone who disagrees with it, thereby making religious prosecution legitimate in the United States.

The members of the House have passed a declaration pointing out that Christianity is the leading religion in the United States and the World, it has contributed greatly to the development of western civilization and by extension to the United States because its civilized roots are in Christianity, and they promise to deeply respect Christians in the US and around the world.

Just what does this declaration of respect for Christians and Christianity mean for the people who practice other religions in the U.S. and other parts of the world? In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, I suspect it means they "don't get no respect around here." Worse, it opens the door to legal prosecution if they should speak out against Christianity.

A lot of people think this bill on "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith" is stating the obvious. Well, yes, it is, and people only go out of their way to state the obvious in order to set up action on it later.

For those of you who may think this is just "a nice thing to do at Christmas time," guess again. It is one of two things (maybe even both):

  1. It's a set up for the declaration of Christianity as the state religion of the United States.
  2. It is the set up to restrict the freedom of speech by declaring any words spoken against Christians or Christianity as being "persecuting toward Christians" because the declaration "rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide"

Either way, it's a pretty nasty subversion of the principles of the Constitution of the United States of America. By declaring reverence for Christians and Christianity, they have subverted the intent of Jefferson and the writers of the Constitution by elevating one religion to a status above all others, and in doing so, silently stated that it is ok to be bigoted toward and to persecute people of other religions not only in the U.S., but worldwide.

The next logical step is all too obvious: declare Christianity the state religion, and to support the prosecution of anyone who speaks out against Christians and Christianity. As a believer in the religious rights of all people, not to mention the freedom of speech, I would not want to put this ability to prosecute into the hands of an administration that isn't sure "water-boarding" is really torture. Would you?

Below is a commentary on this Bill. Below that is the complete wording of HR847 and the list of Representatives who voted for it, voted against it, and didn't vote.

I hope that if you find this Bill as disturbing to religious tolerance and as threatening as I do to the freedom of speech and the freedom to practice your chosen religion, you will visit the website for the U. S. House of Representatives at , locate your Representative – they have a very easy search-by-zip-code option near the top of the page – and call or write to tell your Rep how you feel about the erosion of religious freedom in the United States.


The following post is from The Crypt Mysteries, a website of political commentary on Capitol Hill.

December 10, 2007
Congress to say Christmas is important. Sun and Moon declared good too

This is one straight from the headlines of the Onion. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) saying, and I am not making this up, that Christmas and Christians are important. The House is scheduled to vote on this groundbreaking resolution on Tuesday.

As someone with a Christian background, I can safely say this may be the silliest resolution ever introduced by, or voted upon, by Congress, although I am a little curious to see if anyone will vote against it.

Do we really need Congress to say Christmas and the Christian faith are important? Isn't that pretty self evident by now? Don't Christians already pretty much run everything in this country, except for the mainstream media, which is of course controlled by a Jewish-Illuminati-Bill Gates cabal? Don't we already get Dec. 25 off? Wasn't I forced to shell out $65 for a scrawny Christmas tree this weekend? Won't I have to go to Pentagon City or some other godforsaken place and spend more money in the next couple weeks as part of this strange ritual? What about the terrible songs that get endlessly recycled year after stinking year? And the useless catalogs that clog my mailbox, despite my efforts to get off mailing lists? Where will the horror end?

So, in the war on Christmas, I must declare myself a warrior for the anti-Xmas side. Bill O'Reilly, please take note. You too, Mr. King.

Update - The House passed this bill today. The vote, surprisingly, was 372-9, with 10 members also voting "Present," meaning they took no position on the legislation, and 40 not voting. One of the "Present" votes was cast by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). More Democrats -195 - voted for the bill than Republicans, 177.

The nine members who voted against the bill - God bless them! - are Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Here's the text of H.Res. 847, just so you know how important Christianity and Xmas are:

"Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world."


Here is how the voting went, from the official voting results page:


(Democrats in roman; Republicans in italic; Independents underlined)

H RES 847 2/3 YEA-AND-NAY 11-Dec-2007 7:02 PM

QUESTION: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Agree, as Amended

BLL TITLE: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

-- YEAS 372 ---

Barrett (SC)
Bartlett (MD)
Barton (TX)
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Bishop (UT)
Boyd (FL)
Boyda (KS)
Brady (PA)
Brady (TX)
Braley (IA)
Broun (GA)
Brown (SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burton (IN)
Camp (MI)
Campbell (CA)
Cole (OK)
Davis (AL)
Davis (CA)
Davis (KY)
Davis, David
Davis, Lincoln
Davis, Tom
Deal (GA)
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
English (PA)
Franks (AZ)

Garrett (NJ)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Hall (NY)
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Herseth Sandlin
Inglis (SC)
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson, E. B.
Johnson, Sam
Jones (NC)
Jones (OH)
King (NY)
Klein (FL)
Kline (MN)
Kuhl (NY)
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lewis (CA)
Lewis (GA)
Lewis (KY)
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mahoney (FL)
Maloney (NY)
McCarthy (CA)
McCarthy (NY)
McCaul (TX)
McCollum (MN)
McMorris Rodgers
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (MI)
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore (KS)
Moran (KS)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Murphy, Patrick
Murphy, Tim

Neal (MA)
Peterson (MN)
Peterson (PA)
Price (GA)
Price (NC)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (GA)
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Smith (WA)
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Udall (CO)
Udall (NM)
Van Hollen
Walden (OR)
Walsh (NY)
Walz (MN)
Weldon (FL)
Wilson (NM)
Wilson (OH)
Wilson (SC)
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

---- NAYS 9 ---


Hastings (FL)

Scott (VA)



10 ---

Frank (MA)

Wasserman Schultz

Welch (VT)

---- NOT

VOTING 40---

Brown, Corrine
Davis (IL)

Johnson (IL)
King (IA)
Lofgren, Zoe
Miller (FL)
Miller, Gary

Moore (WI)
Pryce (OH)
Ryan (OH)
Ryan (WI)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Winter Solstice Celebrations

December 22, 2007 at 06:12 Universal Time is the Winter Solstice, often symbolic of the moment of the rebirth of the sun, and a number of other things!

Sun Halo at Winter Solstice
Credit & Copyright: Philip Appleton (SIRTF Science Center), Caltech

Explanation: Sometimes it looks like the Sun is being viewed through a large lens. In the above case, however, there are actually millions of lenses: ice crystals. As water freezes in the upper atmosphere, small, flat, six-sided, ice crystals might be formed. As these crystals flutter to the ground, much time is spent with their faces flat, parallel to the ground. An observer may pass through the same plane as many of the falling ice crystals near sunrise or sunset. During this alignment, each crystal can act like a miniature lens, refracting sunlight into our view and creating phenomena like parhelia, the technical term for sundogs. The above image was taken in the morning of the 2000 Winter Solstice near Ames, Iowa, USA. Visible in the image center is the Sun, while two bright sundogs glow prominently from both the left and the right. Also visible behind neighborhood houses and trees are the 22 degree halo, three sun pillars, and the upper tangent arc, all created by sunlight reflecting off of atmospheric ice crystals.


The following is an excerpt from WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATIONS :

a.k.a. Christmas, Saturnalia, Yule, the Long Night, etc. from the pages of Religious

(At the end of this article is a link to an article about the symbolism of winter solstice, rebirth, and gods on Phoenix Qi's fact and folklore blog.)

December celebrations in many faiths and locations - ancient and modern

ANCIENT BRAZIL: Brazilian archeologists have found an assembly of 127 granite blocks arranged equidistant from each other. They apparently form an ancient astronomical observatory. One of the stones marked the position of the sun at the time of the winter solstice and were probably used in religious rituals. 20

ANCIENT EGYPT: The god-man/savior Osiris died and was entombed on DEC-21. "At midnight, the priests emerged from an inner shrine crying 'The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing" and showing the image of a baby to the worshipers." 1

ANCIENT GREECE: The winter solstice ritual was called Lenaea, the Festival of the Wild Women. In very ancient times, a man representing the harvest god Dionysos was torn to pieces and eaten by a gang of women on this day. Later in the ritual, Dionysos would be reborn as a baby. By classical times, the human sacrifice had been replaced by the killing of a goat. The women's role had changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth.

ANCIENT ROME: Saturnalia began as a feast day for Saturn on DEC-17 and of Ops (DEC-19). About 50 BCE, both were later converted into two day celebrations. During the Empire, the festivals were combined to cover a full week: DEC-17 to 23.

By the third century CE, there were many religions and spiritual mysteries being followed within the Roman Empire. Many, if not most, celebrated the birth of their god-man near the time of the solstice. Emperor Aurelian (270 to 275 CE) blended a number of Pagan solstice celebrations of the nativity of such god-men/saviors as Appolo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus into a single festival called the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on DEC-25. At the time, Mithraism and Christianity were fierce competitors. Aurelian had even declared Mithraism the official religion of the Roman Empire in 274 CE. Christianity won out by becoming the new official religion in the 4th century CE.

ATHEISTS: There has been a recent increase in solstice observances by Atheists in the U.S. For example, The American Atheists and local Atheist groups have organized celebrations for 2000-DEC, including the Great North Texas Infidel Bash in Weatherford TX; Winter Solstice bash in Roselle NJ; Winter Solstice Parties in York PA, Boise ID, North Bethesda MD, and Des Moines IA; Winter Solstice Gatherings in Phoenix AZ and Denver CO: a Year End Awards and Review Dinner (YEAR) in San Francisco, CA.

BUDDHISM: On DEC-8, or on the Sunday immediately preceding, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day (a.k.a. Rohatsu). It recalls the day in 596 BCE, when the Buddha achieved enlightenment. He had left his family and possessions behind at the age of 29, and sought the meaning of life -- particularly the reasons for its hardships. He studied under many spiritual teachers without success. Finally, he sat under a pipal tree and vowed that he would stay there until he found what he was seeking. On the morning of the eighth day, he realized that everyone suffers due to ignorance. But ignorance can be overcome through the Eightfold Path that he advocated. This day is generally regarded as the birth day of Buddhism. Being an Eastern tradition, Bodhi Day has none of the associations with the solstice and seasonal changes found in other religious observances at this time of year. However, it does signify the point in time when the Buddha achieved enlightenment and escaped the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth through reincarnation -- themes that are observed in other religions in December.

CHRISTIANITY: Any record of the date of birth of Yeshua of Nazareth (later known as Jesus Christ) has been lost. There is sufficient evidence in the Gospels to indicate that Yeshua was born in the fall, but this seems to have been unknown to early Christians. By the beginning of the 4th century CE, there was intense interest in choosing a day to celebrate Yeshua's birthday. The western church leaders selected DEC-25 because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various Pagan gods. 1,2 Since there was no central Christian authority at the time, it took centuries before the tradition was universally accepted:

  1. Eastern churches began to celebrate Christmas after 375 CE.
  2. The church in Jerusalem started in the 7th century.
  3. Ireland started in the 5th century
  4. Austria, England and Switzerland in the 8th
  5. Slavic lands in the 9th and 10th centuries. 3

Many symbols and practices associated with Christmas are of Pagan origin: holly, ivy, mistletoe, yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen tree, magical reindeer, etc. Polydor Virgil, an early British Christian, said "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stageplays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them." In Massachusetts, Puritans unsuccessfully tried to ban Christmas entirely during the 17th century, because of its heathenism. The English Parliament abolished Christmas in 1647. Some contemporary Christian faith groups do not celebrate Christmas. Included among these was the Worldwide Church of God (before its recent conversion to Evangelical Christianity) and the Jehovah's Witnesses

DRUIDISM: Druids and Druidesses formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, poets and judges. Druids led all public rituals, which were normally held within fenced groves of sacred trees. The solstice is the time of the death of the old sun and the birth of the dark-half of the year. It was called "Alban Arthuan by the ancient Druids. It is the end of month of the Elder Tree and the start of the month of the Birch. The three days before Yule is a magical time. This is the time of the Serpent Days or transformation...The Elder and Birch stand at the entrance to Annwn or Celtic underworld where all life was formed. Like several other myths they guard the entrance to the underworld. This is the time the Sun God journey's thru the underworld to learn the secrets of death and life. And bring out those souls to be reincarnated." 14 A modern-day Druid, Amergin Aryson, has composed a Druidic ritual for the Winter Solstice. 15

INCA RELIGION: The ancient Incas celebrated a festival if Inti Raymi at the time of the Winter Solstice. It celebrates "the Festival of the Sun where the god of the Sun, Wiracocha, is honored." 16 Ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholic conquistadores in the 16th century as part of their forced conversions of the Inca people to Christianity. A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru revived the festival about 1950. It is now a major festival which begins in Cusco and proceeds to an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.

IRAN: Shabe-Yalda (a.k.a. Shab-e Yaldaa) is celebrated in Iran by followers of many religions. It originated in Zoroastrianism, the state religion which preceded Islam. The name refers to the birthday or rebirth of the sun. People gather at home around a korsee -- a low square table -- all night. They tell stories and read poetry. They eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Bonfires are lit outside. 17

ISLAM: During the period 1997 to 1999, the first day of the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan occurred in December. The nominal dates were 1997-DEC-31, 1998-DEC-20 and 1999-DEC-9. The actual date for the start of Ramadan depends upon the sighting of the crescent moon, and thus can be delayed by a few days from the nominal date. This is the holiest period in the Islamic year. It honors the lunar month in which the Qura'n was revealed by God to humanity. "It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Lasting for the entire month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals and visit with friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation. A time to strengthen family and community ties." 4

Because Ramadan is part of a lunar-based calendar, it starts about 11 days earlier each year. In the year 2000, the nominal date will be NOV-27. Ramadan is thus not associated with the winter solstice as are other religious celebrations. It is just by coincidence that it has occurred during December in recent years.

JUDAISM: Jews celebrate an 8 day festival of Hanukkah, (a.k.a. Feast of Lights, Festival of lights, Feast of Dedication, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukah). It recalls the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. Antiochus, the king of Syria, conquered Judea in the 2nd century BCE. He terminated worship in the Temple and stole the sacred lamp, the menorah, from before the altar. At the time of the solstice, they rededicated the Temple to a Pagan deity. Judah the Maccabee lead a band of rebels, and succeeding in retaking Jerusalem. They restored the temple and lit the menorah. It was exactly three years after the flame had been extinguished -- at the time of the Pagan rite.

Although they had found only sufficient consecrated oil to last for 24 hours, the flames burned steadily for eight days. "Today's menorahs have nine branches; the ninth branch is for the shamash, or servant light, which is used to light the other eight candles. People eat potato latkes, exchange gifts, and play dreidel games. And as they gaze at the light of the menorah, they give thanks for the miracle in the Temple long ago." 5

Modern-day Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting one candle for each of the eight days of the festival. Once a minor festival, it has been growing in importance in recent years, perhaps because of the pressure of Christmas.


  1. The Pueblo tribe observe both the summer and winter solstices. Although the specific details of the rituals differ from pueblo to pueblo, "the rites are built around the sun, the coming new year and the rebirth of vegetation in the spring....Winter solstice rites include...prayerstick making, retreats, altars, emesis and prayers for increase." 6
  2. The Hopi tribe "is dedicated to giving aid and direction to the sun which is ready to 'return' and give strength to budding life." Their ceremony is called "Soyal." It lasts for 20 days and includes "prayerstick making, purification, rituals and a concluding rabbit hunt, feast and blessing..." 6
  3. There are countless stone structures created by Natives in the past to detect the solstices and equinoxes. One was called Calendar One by its modern-day finder. It is in a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and natural features in the horizon which formed the edge of the bowl. At the solstices and equinoxes, the sun rises and sets at notches or peaks in the ridge which surrounded the calendar. 7

NEOPAGANISM: This is a group of religions which are attempted re-creations of ancient Pagan religions. Of these, Wicca is the most common; it is loosely based on ancient Celtic beliefs and practices. Wiccans recognize eight seasonal days of celebration. Four are minor sabbats and occur at the two solstices and the two equinoxes. The other are major sabbats which happen approximately halfway between an equinox and solstice. The winter solstice sabbat is often called Yule. It is a time for introspection, and planning for the future. Wiccans may celebrate the Sabbat on the evening before the time of the actual solstice, at sunrise on the morning of the solstice, or at the exact time of the astronomical event.

Monotheistic religions, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, tend to view time as linear. It started with creation; the world as we know it will end at some time in the future. Aboriginal and Neopagan religions see time as circular and repetitive, with lunar (monthly) and solar (yearly) cycles. Their "...rituals guarantee the continuity of nature's cycles, which traditional human societies depend on for their sustenance." 8

Prehistoric Europe: Many remains of ancient stone structures can be found in Europe. Some date back many millennia BCE. Some appear to have religious/astronomical purposes; others are burial tombs. These structures were built before writing was developed. One can only speculate on the significance of the winter solstice to the builders. Two examples are:

  1. In Maeshowe, (Orkneys, Scotland) there is a chambered cairn built on a leveled area with a surrounding bank and ditch. It has been carbon dated at 2750 BCE. Inside the cairn is a stone structure with a long entry tunnel. The structure is aligned so that sunlight can shine along the entry passage into the interior of the megalith, and illuminate the back of the structure. This happens at sunrise at the winter solstice. Starting in the late 1990's, live video and still images have been broadcast to the world via the Internet. 9
  2. One of the most impressive prehistoric monuments in Europe is at Newgrange, in Brugh-na-Boyne, County Meath, in eastern Ireland. It covers an area of one acre, and has an entrance passage that is almost 60 feet (18 m) long. Above the entrance way is a stone box that allows the light from the sun to penetrate to the back of the cairn at sunrise on the winter solstice. Live video and stills from this site are also available on the Internet. It has been dated at about 3,300 BCE; it is one of the oldest structures in the world. 10

The back of the


cairn on the

Winter Solstice

Vampyres: We use the term "vampyres" to refer to real individuals who have a need to ingest small quantities of blood in order to maintain their strength. They are often confused with those to which we refer as vampires -- imaginary beings who exist only in religious legends, creative fiction and horror movies. Vampyres celebrate "the Long Night," a festival at the Winter Solstice. Many groups of vampyres gather together at this time to celebrate. "It is a festival of community where everyone relaxes and socializes. It is also the traditional night to recognize new members of the community or a coven, or to perform rites of passage." 18

References used in the preparation of this essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Charles Panati, "Sacred origins of profound things: The stories behind the rites and rituals of the world's religions," Penguin Arkana, (1996), Page 215 to 217.
  2. B.G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets," Harper & Row, (1983), Page 166 to 167.
  3. Mike Nichols, "Yule: Circa December 21," at:
  4. Ramadan on the Net, at:
  5. "Hanukkah: The festival of lights," at:
  6. A. Hirschfelder & P. Molin, "The encyclopedia of Native American religions," Facts on File, (1992).
  7. J.W. Mavor & B.E. Dix, "Manitou: The sacred landscape of New England's Native Civilization." Inner Traditions (1989).
  8. Stephen M. Wylen, "Holidays mark victory of light over darkness," The Bergen Record, 1999-DEC-2. The essay is online at:
  9. Newgrange images are at:
  10. Maeshowe images are available at:
  11. "Find the equinoxes and solstices for a particular year," at
  12. Robert Burns, "Paying Homage to the Return of the Sun," LA Times, 2001-DEC-6, at:
  13. Eric Weisstein, "Treasure Trove of Astronomy," at:
  14. Celli Laughing Coyote, "Yule - Winter Solstice: The longest night of the year," at:
  15. Amergub Aryson, "Winter Solstice," at:
  16. "Inti Raymi '98," at:
  17. "Shab-e Yalda," at:
  18. Sanguinarius, "Terminology & Lingo," at: This is a very extensive glossary of terms related to vampyrism.
  19. "Dates and Times of Equinoxes and Solstices," Hermetic Systems, at:
  20. "Amazon 'Stonehenge' found in Brazil," Itar-Tass News Agency, 2006-MAY-15, at:

Copyright © 1999 to 2006, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-3
Latest update: 2006-MAY-14
Author: B.A. Robinson


There is a very interesting post on the Phoenix Qi blog about the origins of God(s) and Sun symbolism. See "All Gods Are Sun Gods."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Holy Day observances October 31 and November 1

Whatever you think of Halloween (which is a contraction of Eve of All Saints) there are a surprising number of diverse celebrations of different spiritual traditions on the dates of October 31 and November 1. Here are a few of them.

Holidays and observances October 31

Holidays and observances October 31

Halloween or All Hallows Eve (Eve of All Saints)

1. R.C. Saints - October 31 is the feast day of the following Roman Catholic Saints:

2. Orthodox Church

3. Protestant Church, Slovenia - Reformation Day: Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg church on this day in 1517

Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31 in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and some Reformed church communities. It is a civic holiday in Slovenia (since the Reformation contributed to its cultural development profoundly, although Slovenians are mainly Roman Catholics) and in the German states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia.

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted a proposal at the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences. This proposal is popularly known as the 95 Theses, which he nailed to the Castle Church doors. This was not an act of defiance or provocation as is sometimes thought. Since the Castle Church faced Wittenberg's main thoroughfare, the church door functioned as a public bulletin board and was therefore the logical place for posting important notices. Also, the theses were written in Latin, the language of the church, and not in the vernacular. Nonetheless, the event created a controversy between Luther and those allied with the Pope over a variety of doctrines and practices. When Luther and his supporters were excommunicated in 1520, the Lutheran tradition was born.

4. Cornwall - Allantide Allantide (Cornish Calan Gwaf or Nos Calan Gwaf) is a Cornish festival that was traditionally celebrated on 31 October elsewhere known as Hallowe'en. The festival itself seems to have pre-Christian origins similar to most celebrations on this date, however in Cornwall it was popularly linked to St Allen or Arlan a little known Cornish Saint. Because of the this Allantide is also known as Allan day. The origins of the name Allantide are actually likely to stem from the same old English sources as Hollantide (Wales and the Isle of Man) and Hallowe'en itself.

The following is a description of the festival as it was celebrated in Penzance at the turn of the 19th century:

"The shops in Penzance would display Allan apples, which were highly polished large apples. On the day itself, these apples were given as gifts to each member of the family as a token of good luck. Older girls would place these apples under their pillows and hope to dream of the person whom they would one day marry. A local game is also recorded where two pieces of wood were nailed together in the shape of a cross. It was then suspended with 4 candles on each outcrop of the cross shape. Allan apples would then be suspended under the cross. The goal of the game was to catch the apples in your mouth, with hot wax being the penalty for slowness or inaccuracy."

Holidays and observances November 1

All Saints Day

5. Mexico- Day of the Dead celebrations begin. Though the subject matter may be considered morbid from the perspective of some other cultures, celebrants typically approach the Day of the Dead joyfully, and though it occurs roughly at the same time as Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls Day, the traditional mood is much brighter with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, and celebrating the continuation of life; the belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life. In Mexico and Mexican immigrant communities in the United States and Europe, the Day of the Dead is of particular cultural importance.

6. Roman festivals - last day of the Ludi Victoriae Sullanae. November 1 - Pomonia in honor of the orchard goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards.

7. Catholicism - Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day.

8. Also see November 1 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

9. Ireland - Samhain the traditional first day of Winter

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Numbers of Believers in the Major Religions of the World

This post is a reprint of part of a page at on the distribution of believers among the major religious groups of the world.

Click on the name of the religious group to go to the description and brief explanation of that group and their beliefs at

(Please note: All religions are pieces of One Pie. See this chart on the picture of the religious tolerance collage I made.)

(Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)

  1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
  2. Islam: 1.5 billion
  3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
  4. Hinduism: 900 million
  5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
  6. Buddhism: 376 million
  7. primal-indigenous: 300 million
  8. African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
  9. Sikhism: 23 million
  10. Juche: 19 million
  11. Spiritism: 15 million
  12. Judaism: 14 million
  13. Baha'i: 7 million
  14. Jainism: 4.2 million
  15. Shinto: 4 million
  16. Cao Dai: 4 million
  17. Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
  18. Tenrikyo: 2 million
  19. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
  20. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
  21. Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
  22. Scientology: 500 thousand

Monday, October 1, 2007

Personification of the Earth

The Story of She Who Watches, a Wishram legend.

She said, "I'm Sagalala, She Who Watches. I like to watch over my people to see that they have enough food. I like to watch over my people to see that they have enough fire wood. I like to watch my people to see that they have good shelter. I like to watch my people to see that they live in peace."

This particular article was a bit of a challenge. There are plenty of Earth Gods and Goddesses, but personifications for Earth are a little harder to come by. However, I did manage to find quite a few after a morning's search.

It is interesting to note that all of the traditions who have personified the Earth have polytheistic or animistic leanings. Their reverence for the Earth leads them to respect and care for it.

The Angles are said to be a tribe that were protected by forests and rivers, and a tribe that along with six others took part in the worship of an Earth Mother goddess called Nerthus.

Cailleach is the Celtic earth goddess who ruled the imaginations of ancient Ireland's and Scotland's Druids. Her name came to mean "Old Wife," but literally means "The Veiled One," referring to her mysterious and transformative power.
Ériu: 'Noble/High One'. A daughter of the Dagda, this goddess is Sovereignty, and a personification of Ireland itself. It is from her name that Éire, 'Ireland' is derived.

Daoist (Chinese Folk Religion)
Hu Tu-" Empress Earth" in Chinese mythology, this Goddess embodies and personifies the earth and in the spring and its fertility. She teaches us how to live abundantly while maintaining a reciprocity with nature. She also teaches us how to see and incorporate nature's lessons.

[One of the few who considered the land male and the sky female] …Geb, god of the earth, and his wife and sister, Nut, goddess of the sky. Geb and Nut, in turn, were the parents of Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, and Set.

Demeter, goddess of the harvest, whose name originally meant 'earth mother,'
In this Greek myth [Demeter and Persephone], Demeter, the earth mother, has the power to deny humankind fruits of the harvest. A mother so powerful and so vengeful is an ambivalent figure in myth and history. The metaphor of mother nature continues to permeate the imagination of painters and writers, whose perceptions shape their audiences' images of, and beliefs about, mother, nature and women in general.
Gaia or Gaea derives from the Greek words Ge (γη) = Earth (Pelasgian), and *aia = grandmother (PIE).

In the Hindu context, the worship of the Mother entity can be traced back to early Vedic culture, and perhaps even before. The Rigveda calls the divine female power Mahimata (R.V. 1.164.33), a term which literally means Mother Earth.
Prithvi is the Hindu earth and mother goddess. According to one tradition, she is the personification of the Earth, and to another its Mother, being prithivi tattwa, the essence of the element earth.

In both Latvian and Lithuanian religions the earth is personified and called Earth Mother (Latvian Zemes mate, Lithuanian Zemyna).

Native American
Algonquin legend says that "[b]eneath the clouds [lives] the Earth-Mother from whom is derived the Water of Life, who at her bosom feeds plants, animals and men" (Larousse 428). She is known as Nakomis, the Grandmother.
Chehooit - started life as a barren formless planet, but it wasn't long before a huge helpful frog, along with certain other Godly Animals, tunneled and burrowed within her and gave rise to hills and valleys, fields and rivers.

Terra Mater/Tellus, ancient Roman earth goddess. Probably of great antiquity, she was concerned with the productivity of the earth and was later identified with the mother-goddess Cybele. Her temple on the Esquiline Hill dated from about 268 BC. Though she had no special priest, she was honoured in the Fordicidia and Sementivae festivals, both of which centred on fertility and good crops.

In Norse mythology, Jörð (or Jarð in Old East Norse; Earth, sometimes Anglicized Jord or Jorth) is a goddess and the personification of the Earth. She is identified with Fjörgyn and Hlôdyn (Bellinger 1997:235).

Jörð is the everyday word for earth in Old Norse and so are its descendants in the modern Scandinavian languages (Icelandic: jörð, Faroese: jørð, Danish/Swedish/Norwegian: jord). It's a cognate to English earth. [The J is often pronounced as a long-e sound, equivalent to a Y; as such, "jard" is the equivalent of "yard" as in the earth/plot of land/yard around your house; backyard, front yard, etc.]

All you under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta

Slavic Myth and Religion
Mokosh is an earth goddess. She rules over fertility and midwifery. She is commonly called Mati-Syra-Zemlya, or "Moist Mother Earth." … Mokosh is dark, like good, black soil. She is portrayed with uplifted hands, flanked by two horsemen. … One prayer to Mokosh involves going to the fields at dawn in August with jars filled with hemp oil. Turn East and say: "Moist Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm." Turn West and say: "Moist Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in your boiling pits, in your burning fires." Turn South and say: "Moist Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the south and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds." Turn North and say: "Moist Mother Earth, calm the north winds and the clouds, subdue the snowstorms and the cold." Oil is poured out after each invocation, and finally, the jar is thrown to the ground.

… goddess Ki was the personification of earth.
Babylonians replaced the earth-mother Sumerian “Ki” with “Ea.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Greenland, an interfaith rally for climate change

An iceberg in Ilulissat
Photo courtesy Uta Wollf on Wikimedia

In Greenland, an interfaith rally for climate change

By Colin Woodard

September 12, 2007

Ilulissat, Greenland - Standing on the bow of a passenger ship before the fast-melting Ilulissat glacier, religious leaders from around the world lowered their heads in a silent prayer for the future of the planet.

Surrounded by icebergs, Sunni, Shiite, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and Shinto leaders committed themselves last Friday to leave the planet "in all its wisdom and beauty to the generations to come." They included the Grand Rabbi of Paris, René-Samuel Sirat, Bishop Sofie Petersen of Greenland, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, and the Rev. Jim Ball, founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network.

They are in Greenland for a six-day tour on the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the senior-most figure in Orthodox Christianity, widely known as the Green Patriarch for his efforts to mobilize religious leaders to protect the environment.

Patriarch Bartholomew, who is based in Istanbul, Turkey, has traveled to many of the world's environmental hotspots including the Black Sea, the Danube, and the Amazon, usually as part of a series of shipboard symposiums between religious, scientific, and political leaders.

Now he is taking on climate change, traveling down the Greenland coast by ship in the company of Princess Irene of Denmark, Greenland foreign minister Aleqa Hammond, and over 100 dignitaries, scientists, clergy, and journalists. The onboard forum is designed to focus global attention on climate change, whose effects can be seen most dramatically in Greenland, most scientists agree.

"Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development, and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family," said Bartholomew at the conference's opening.

Mending schisms
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, says the event was indicative of the progress that was being made bridging the divide between environmentalism and faith. "Environmentalism is really the intersection of science and ethical principles," he says. "I was part of the generation that made the choice – the horrendous strategic blunder – of situating ourselves outside the institutions of faith. Now we have a chance to repent for and reform from that error."

Religious leaders also signaled the need to work together.

"It is very, very key for as many voices from as many fields as possible to come together to present a common effort," Cardinal McCarrick, Pope Benedict XVI's official representative, told the Monitor. Failure to address climate change, he said, "will mean the terrible suffering of millions of people."

Mr. Ball, an influential Baptist minister, said the event had considerable symbolic importance. "The image of all the religious leaders on the boat with the Ecumenical Patriarch says that we recognize this and that it's time for us to get busy, and for all hands to get on deck," he said.

Bartholomew, the head of the ancient "mother church" in Constantinople (now Istanbul), is the leader of a faith with a centuries-old reputation for avoiding involvement in politics and other worldly affairs. But over the past decade, he has led his sometimes reluctant church back onto the world stage.

He has declared the destruction of nature a sin, and built relationships with other religious and political leaders engaged in environmental causes. In 2002, he signed a joint declaration on the environment with the late Pope John Paul II, helping ease centuries of tension between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches since the Great Schism of 1054.

Glacial melting triple that of '02
The Ilulissat glacier in west-central Greenland, 155 miles above the Arctic Circle, was a poignant choice of settings. The glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is massive: three miles wide and nearly one mile tall. It is also disappearing at a remarkable rate, having receded by nine miles over the past four years. Its ice is flowing at a rate of nearly seven feet an hour, nearly three times the rate of just five years ago.

"The amount of ice that comes into the ocean in a day could provide the water supply for any of the largest cities in the world for an entire year," says Robert Corell, director of the global change program at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment in Washington who has studied Greenland's glaciers for decades.

Some scientists argue that increased snowfall over parts of Greenland could compensate for the melting, but Dr. Corell, the head of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, says that data show Greenland's overall ice mass to be shrinking rapidly.

Global sea-level rise estimates in the latest report of the International Panel on Climate Change were based on data from 2005 and predicted a rise of eight to 24 inches over the century, says Corell. But more recent data has made it clear that Greenland's massive ice cap is collapsing much faster, and that sea levels will rise roughly three feet as a result. "The rate of melting is just phenomenal," he says.

Greenland is a self-governing territory of Denmark whose indigenous Inuit inhabitants aspire to independence. The Patriarch's ship sailed to the capital, Nuuk, over the weekend. Today he is at sea en route to southern Greenland, where he plans to conduct a Byzantine prayer service on the site of the first Christian church in the New World, built in AD 1000.

(c) Copyright 2007. The Christian Science Monitor

Wednesday, August 29, 2007



In practice, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective.

Anglo-Saxon & Ancient Scandinavian

The characters of the Anglo-Saxon alphabet (called Runes) were often carved into geometric designs. These were occasionally created to represent the universe, but most often was used in creating magic spells or designs of protection. Similar designs are called Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs which once were painted onto barns and houses for good luck and protection

Buddhist and Hindu

In Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism (see Vajrayana), a diagram representing the universe, used in sacred rites and as an instrument of meditation. The mandala serves as a collection point for universal forces. By mentally "entering" the mandala and moving toward its centre, one is guided through the cosmic processes of disintegration and reintegration. Mandalas may be painted on paper or cloth, drawn on the ground, or fashioned of bronze or stone. Two types of mandalas represent different aspects of the universe: the garbha-dhatu ("womb world"), in which the movement is from one to the many, and the vajra-dhatu ("diamond world"), from the many into one.


What is the meaning behind a rose window? Many contemporary authors wax on about Jungian psychology and the rose window as a mandala, which represents the "expression of human aspiration towards wholeness and coherence." Mandalas have existed in Eastern religion and philosophy for centuries, and in modern thinking, the medieval rose window serves much the same purpose. The rose window operates on many levels: spiritual, meditative, and emotional. Abbot Suger's observations underscore how deep an emotional and spiritual chord is struck by the play of light that passes through the glass. The instructional aspect of rose windows is plainly visible by the subjects chosen for display in each petal--the medieval calendar year, the virtues and vices, the saints, etc.

In much the same way the center of Eastern mandalas depict the "godhead" or divine aspect of the world, so do rose windows. Typically Christ or the Virgin and Christ are found in the central rosette of most windows. In eastern philosophy, there are many paths to reach the divine, and these are represented by "gates" at the cardinal points of the mandala. By the same token, saints depicted in the petals of a rose window can be seen as intermediaries (or paths) to Christ.


I suppose the taiji symbol (yin/yang) could be considered a Daoist mandala since on one level it represents heaven (yang) and earth (yin). However, the He Tu (or Ho Tu) diagram might serve as a mandala as well. The five white center dots that form a circle represent heaven, the ten black center dots that form a square represent earth, and the sets of black and white dots around the outside represent the five energy phases that create all things that exist between heaven and earth.

Greek Ancient

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. It represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools. A labyrinth is an archetype with which we can have a direct experience.

A labyrinth contains non-verbal, implicate geometric and numerological prompts that create a multi-dimensional holographic field. These unseen patterns are referred to as sacred geometry. They allegedly reveal the presence of a cosmic order as they interface the world of material form and the subtler realms of higher consciousness.


See Buddhist above.


"Shiviti" comes from the sentence, "I have set (shiviti) the Lord before me always." Looking at a Shiviti is Name-gazing; it is akin to ikon-gazing: concentrating on the symbol of the Deity with a focused gaze, until the distance between inside and outside becomes obliterated, and what was on the outside (the shiviti) becomes internalized. Looking at the Shiviti we view the world from God's vantage point. Chesed, God's right hand, as it were, is on our right, not opposite our left hand, as it would be if we were facing God. This is connected to God's words to Moses, "You shall see my back, but my face is not to be seen." So one walks, as it were, into the YHVH, facing in the same direction, becoming one with it.

The Name is written in such a way, top to bottom, rather than right to left, to create a hierarchy and also a figure: Yud is the head; the upper Heh, the arms and shoulders; Vav, the heart, spine and genitals; and the lower Heh, the legs, and pelvis. These are the four levels: The top of the Yud is Keter and the rest of it is Chochmah, the two Heh's are Binah and Malkhut. The Vav contains the sephirot Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod.

In prayer, one sits in front of the Shiviti, and stares at it to ascend to God's Presence, and then to descend. The four letters represent the parts of the prayer service: In the morning prayer, one looks at the lower Heh during the Birkhat HaShachar, the pening blessings which address the world of Assiyah, the world of our bodies, our environment; getting ready in Assiyah requires doing an inventory of the body: What tensions are my muscles holding on to, what messages is my body telling me that I have been too busy to pay attention to? To place oneself in the presence of God is to let the body out from any compulsion that it is under.


Some fundamentals that were brought about by the Holy Qur'an similarly gave rise to the form of the mosque. Of these fundamentals, the most important one is "Arsh", namely "the Throne."

The literal meaning of the Throne is: altitude, high place, ceiling, cover, the tent and it is used in the Qur'an and in the Hadiths (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) as "Divine Sovereignty, Dignity and the Throne" (Devellioglu 1970: Ars.; Golpinarli 1977: Ars, 1989:101; Akay 1991: Ars; DIA: Ars; IA: Kursu).

Alone with the concept of the Throne, it is necessary to mention the iconographical concept of "mandala" which is used in various ways in Turkish architecture and which I suppose to have a close relationship with the Throne.

The shape of the cosmogram called mandala in architecture and handcrafts, consists of a circle and a square, one within the other. While the circle represents God, cosmos, mystical life, eternity, the world of eternity and esoterical concepts; the square represents the world, material life, worldly life and all exoterical concepts. This was commonly used in Central Asia in the pre-Islamic life of Turks as well as in India and Far East. However, we are not concerned here with the origin and the development of the mandala but only with its parallelism with the concept of the Throne.

The full meanings that the square and the circle of the mandala include, both separately and together, is in accordance with the philosophy of Islam. The plan with four iwans and a central courtyard has been interpreted as an image of the cosmos. This plan has a very long past; it has been identified with the diagram of mandala and has been extensively applied in architecture for centuries (Ogel 1986: 59-84; 1994: 63-115). The concept of mandala which takes place in pre-Islamic Turkic beliefs and traditions, has been united and integrated with the concept of the Throne, which has played a significant role in the formation of religious architecture after Islam.

Native American


The Navajo word for sandpaintings means "place where the gods come and go." The sandpainting has been used for centuries in religious rituals, including healing ceremonies performed by Navajo medicine men. A sandpainting for a ceremony is made on the ground in the ceremonial hogan and destroyed at the end of the ritual. In order to preserve this long-standing tradition, in the late 1940's Navajos began to create permanent sandpaintings, changing the design slightly to protect the religious significance when these paintings were shown publicly. Pictorial sandpaintings which reflect the Navajo environment and lifestyle are also made. Today sandpaintings are made by slowly trickling sand through the hand onto epoxy-covered particle boards, using sand made from naturally colored crushed rock, stone, and minerals for the different shades and colors. The sandpainting is intended to be hung within a frame or by attaching picture hangers to the back of the board. [These sandpaintings are often of a mandala-type design in which the shapes and colors in each quadrant are mirror-images of the others. ~M~]

Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of all creation, of all races of human beings, birds, fish, animals, trees, and stones. It's in the shape of a wheel. The circle shape represents the earth, the sun, the moon, the cycles of life, the seasons, and day to night. Movement around the outside of the Medicine Wheel is in a clockwise direction, the rotation path of mother earth. At the center of the wheel (the hub) is the Creator, who sits in perfect balance. Outside the center, there is an inner circle representing the Old Woman (the earth), Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, and the four elements. Four distinct colors, set in the four directions, lay on the perimeter, separated by beads representing the moon's cycles. Leather, laid from the perimeter, in straight lines, to the center (the spokes of the wheel) represent spiritual paths leading us to the center, to perfect balance, to the Creator. The meaning of the number four, as it is in Native American life, is evident in the Medicine Wheel. 4 = four directions + four seasons + four elements (earth, air, water and fire) + the four races of human being.

Scandinavian Ancient

See Anglo-Saxon above.


(Visit link to see picture.)

This simple composition of figures placed against a dark ground is an outstanding example of medieval Japanese Shinto mandala. The top part of the scroll contains small figures of a thunder god, a Buddhist priest, a deer, and a pagoda; the bottom register contains two lion dogs facing each other; and the center section contains four figures. The large central figure of a non-Japanese male dressed in secular costume is identified as an Indian, Vimalakirti, called Yuima in Japanese. Below him, a male in court robes is flanked by a secondary nobleman and a Buddhist priest. Vimalakirti was a layman who is said to have lived in north central India during the lifetime of the historical Buddha in the sixth century B.C. As a devotee of Buddhism, Vimalakirti reached the height of spiritual understanding, but he remained a layman and never became a monk.

The combination of Buddhist and Shinto figures in the same scene is an established convention for a Shinto mandala. When the native Shinto faith reached an accommodation with Buddhism, a foreign religion, the two faiths united Buddhas with native gods in a syncretic whole; indigenous Japanese gods were identified with Buddhist counterparts. In this painting, the figure dressed in court robes below Vimalakirti is thought to be his Shinto counterpart.


Take, for example, the pentacle, the encircled five-pointed star. This is a neopagan mandala that expresses the wisdom of the elements and their relationship to one another. In this way, the pentacle is not only a magical tool, but a teacher.


Here are some mandalas for you: World Mandalas book

Book Description

Beautiful and enlightening, these classical mandalas include rose window designs from the cathedrals of Europe, Navajo sand paintings, Hindu yantras, traditional Buddhist thangka scroll designs, and motifs from illuminated Celtic manuscripts.