Hindus in India and around the world are in the midst of celebrating Navratri, the colorful and light-laden, nine-day festival also known as Durga Puja. Dedicated to Durga, Hindus celebrate the mother goddess’ defeat of the demon Mahishasura — the triumph of good over evil.
For one woman with MS, a tree reminds her to make t'shuva — to turn inward, to return to goodness and godliness in preparation for the High Holy Days. A guest reflection for all to ponder.
In Cuban Santeria (also known as La Regla Ocha and La Regla Lucumi), orishas are revered deities who rule over different earthly elements. They are called through dance and drum rituals to interact with humans.
Oshun, for example, is an orisha associated with fresh water. She represents female sensuality and beauty. Oshun’s movement is fluid and coquettish, which is what you’d expect from a goddess of beauty. Her signature color is yellow and she typically carries a fan with her, which she sometimes wields as a weapon. When Oshun laughs, she’s preparing to punish someone. It’s only when she cries that she’s truly happy.
During the month before the High Holy Days, it's Jewish tradition to read Psalm 27, writes our guest contributor. She reflects on turning inward and the struggle of preparing for quiet reflection.
I don’t know that I have ever paid much attention to the
legend behind the Moon Festival, but I sure love moon cakes. I haven’t bought them in years, because my grandmother always sends me a box of my favorite — lotus seed paste (a thousand times yummier than the usual red bean!) with one egg yolk per cake — from a good bakery in Los Angeles.
Last September, she gave me my box in person because I was in LA for my cousin’s wedding and spent a few days with her. I brought the moon cakes back to Minnesota, ate one right away, and gobbled up the second during the Moon Festival. The other two are still in my refrigerator. I haven’t been able to eat them.
This summer, I headed to Minneapolis on a research trip, glad to be headed north after two years’ absence. I rented a tiny house on the city’s south side, and hauled books and papers and photocopies with me — the tools of my trade in glorious abundance.
And then the state government shut down. Thousands of Minnesotans were thrown out of their jobs, and services of every imaginable kind ground to a halt. I was not someone whose income suffered from the shutdown, only someone who could not access the state’s historic sites, museums, or archives. My ability to do my job was, in a tangled way, connected to my ability to do those things, but I did not face hardship, only a struggle to let go of plans and goals that I had convinced myself I must achieve.
We'd welcome any contributions that could help us understand the ceremony and ritual of the festivities better!
Ramadan this year starts Monday, August 1st. Every year it comes 11 days earlier because Muslims follow a lunar calendar. A lunar year is only 355 days long. So my Ramadan comes sometimes in super freezing Iowa winters and sometimes in hyper sizzling hot and humid summers.
When Ramadan comes in winter. It is easy to fast. Sunrise to sunset is a very short day. When it comes in summer, like this year, oh God helps us. Dawn is about 4:30 a.m. and sundown in Cedar Rapids is about 8:30 p.m. A sixteen-hour fasting day.
When I moved to Jerusalem two years ago, I thought for sure that I would continue my yoga practice, especially after having yoga present in my life in so many ways for so many years. And I thought that I would even find others in this holy city to practice with. A sangha, a space, a teacher.
The end of Easter in Prague, Czech Republic. (photo: Leonardo Sagnotti/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)
In the Czech Republic, a tradition of spanking or whipping women is carried out on Easter Monday. On Easter Monday morning, it is customary for girls and women to stay at home while the boys and men, usually dressed in nicer clothing and sometimes even in kroj — traditional costume — go door to door of female relatives and/or friends, bringing greetings, singing Easter carols, demanding the right to spank the women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka and/or splash them with cold water or perfume for good luck and fertility, and demanding “treats” (eggs, chocolate, liquor, or a peck on the cheek) as their reward.
A sign hangs on the wall of a Taizé community in Burgundy, France. (photo: forteller/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
It is Easter week. This week, we remember the events from Thursday’s meal to Friday’s torture to Saturday’s silence and Sunday’s mystery.
Years ago, 13 years ago in fact, I fell apart. I was 22 and I had already been sick for a year. It had started with a bad flu that had never gone away. After 12 months, I was bewildered and dizzy and achy, confused with a fatigue and an illness that would take a further five years to diagnose and a total of nine years to recover from.
The religious symbolism of fasting is an act of gratitude for the life you have and the time when you can eat again.
Bollywood stars took to Twitter to wish their fans Gudi Padwa, or Happy New Year. India’s vast cultural and ethnic diversity accounts for celebrations at different times and places. Grand festivals are held to celebrate the start of vasant or spring.
An explosion of color results as participants of a Holi festival in Utah throw colored chalk into the air and at each other. (photo: Jeremy Nicoll)
There’s no shortage of photos from Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, which takes place this year on Sunday, March 20th. Around the world, people celebrate the holiday by “throwing colors” at anyone who wanders by. Sometimes it’s in the form of powders, sometimes colored water, and sometimes natural dyes.
According to the BBC’s description of Holi, Ratnaval, a seventh-century Sanskrit drama, has one of the first references to the festivities:
One day last fall, just after 3 a.m, I found myself on a country road in the high Ogden Valley near Huntsville, Utah. It was the first morning of a three-day retreat at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, a Trappist-Cistercian monastery, and I was walking the half mile from the guest house to the church for Vigils, the first of seven times each day that the monks gather to chant and pray.
Screen capture of the Baha’i Faith Facebook page.
Day two of fasting this year, and the egg salad on the sesame bagel was especially delicious this morning. This is the dichotomy of the Nineteen Day Fast — that while we don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, the early morning meals feel more special and dinners more festive.
The Baha’i Faith has its own calendar of 19 months made up of 19 days. As in Islam, one of these months is set aside for fasting, just during the daylight hours. And much like the Islamic month of Ramadan, when it comes time for the sun to set, the evening meal feels like a party, a celebration, a time for truly giving thanks for our nourishment, be it a feast or bread and water.
Parading in Puerta del Sol, Spain. (photo: PepeZoom/Flickr)
One of the most important Chinese holidays is Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year. Following the lunar calendar, this year the celebration fell on Thursday, February 3rd, which is also the year of the rabbit. The rabbit is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. Images of the rabbit become part of the celebration. The theme for festivities is to spread luck and good fortune, and the rabbit (remember your lucky rabbit’s foot?) is symbolic for both.