Washington, DC – Holy Times 2

Over the past weeks, much of the world has been celebrating Holy Times. I believe that it is important to learn about other cultures. As your visit to Washington, DC will reflect, all the world comes here, so it’s a perfect place to connect with people from everywhere!

So in these December 2010 articles, I’ll mention Devali (Hindu New Year), Ramadan (Muslim), Chanukah (Jewish), Las Posadas (Christian, December 16 – December 24 in 2010)(not described), the First Nations tradition of the Winter Solstice  (Solstice is 3:38pm, Pacific Standard Time, December 21, 2010), Santa Lucia (a Scandinavian Yule ceremony now connected to Xmas)(not described), Christmas (Christian) and Kwanzaa (a compilation of African Traditions).

___ December 21 — The Solstice. This is the first, official day of a new season because The Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere, longest night) and Summer Solstice (Southern Hemisphere, longest day) are the start of winter and summer, respectively.

This is a very important time for Druids, Wiccans and other nature-based religions and many major religions also reflect this longer tradition, too, by emphasizing this same time-frame for celebrations of “Light” and the “Light of the World” in the longest time of darkness. All of this is evidence of communality, instead of a seeming diversity of belief, within our common humanity.

This year, there was an important lunar eclipse on the solstice. This is the first time this has happened since 1638. So it is a very eventful time.

In Celtic culture, which spanned from India to Ireland, Druids and Druidesses formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They were the: priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, poets and even judges.

Druids led all their people’s public rituals, which were normally held within fenced groves of sacred trees or at a powerful natural energy source, like the ring of stones at Stonehenge, in England.

For the Druids, The Solstice is the time of the death of the old sun and the birth of the dark of the year. It was called “Alban Arthuan” by the ancient Druids, and it is the end of month of the Elder Tree and the start of the month of the Birch Tree.

The three days before Yule is a magical time, when the Serpent Days or Transformation occur. The Elder and Birch trees stand as guardians at the entrance to Annwn or the Celtic underworld (where all life was formed). And, this is the time for the Sun God journey’s through the underworld, to learn the secrets of death and of life and bring out those souls to be reincarnated.

In prehistoric times, and in times of modern turmoil, winter was a very difficult time for people, as the growing season has ended and everyone had to live off of stored food and whatever animals they could catch.

In earlier times, the people would be troubled as the life-giving sun sank lower in the sky each day, and it’s easy to understand their fear that it would eventually disappear and leave them in permanent darkness and extreme cold.

Only after The Winter Solstice, could they have a reason to celebrate, as they saw the sun rising and strengthening once more. Although many months of cold weather still remained before spring, they were encouraged that the return of the warm season was inevitable.

Even the equitorial-based Inca Empire realized the special time, as it moved southward. The ancient Incas celebrated a festival of Inti Raymi at the time of the Winter Solstice. Since the Inca Empire was mainly south of the equator, the festival was held in June, their winter.

It celebrates “The Festival of the Sun” where the god of the Sun, Wiracocha, is honored. These ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholic conquistadores in 1572, when the Conquistadors forced conversions of the Inca people to Christianity. But, a local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru revived the festival in 1944 and it is now celebrated in an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.

In North America, 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, purification and prayers for plenty.

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 celebratory rabbit hunt, feast and blessing.

In Iran, site of the ancient Persian Empire,  Shabe-Yalda (Shab-e Yaldaa) is celebrated 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, and Iranians gather at home, all night, around a korsee (a low square table). There, they tell stories and read poetry, eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Bonfires are lit outside which illuminate the darkened world.

So, it’s logical that all around the world, the concept of birth and or death/rebirth became associated with The Winter Solstice. Ancient India, Egypt, Iran (Persia), Brazil, Peru, Greece and the Roman Empire all had these festivals at this time.

And the sophisticated civilizations developed astronomy, over time, and so we have Egyptian, Celtic, Irish, American, Mayan, Incan and Brazilian tribal architecture to determine when the Solstice would happen.

There are countless stone structures created by early peoples in the past to detect the solstices and equinoxes. One was called Calendar One by its modern-day finder. It is in a natural amphitheater of about 20 acres in Vermont.

From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, you see a number of vertical rocks and natural features on the horizon, which formed the edge of the bowl. At the Solstices and Equinoxes, the sun then rises and sets at either notches or peaks in the ridge, which make it a calendar.

But most Prehistoric Aboriginal peoples had no elaborate instruments to detect The Winter Solstice. Yet they were still able to notice a slight elevation of the sun’s path within a few days after the solstice — perhaps by December 25th — and this is why celebrations were often timed around the 25th — which is significant to the “chosen” day for Xmas.

___ For Christians, December 25 is an officially agreed-upon time for Christmas, to celebrate the birth of the Jewish rabbi, Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth. There is sufficient evidence in the Gospels to indicate Yeshua was actually born in the fall, but this seems to have been unknown by the bulk of early Christians.

By the third century CE, there were many religions and spiritual mysteries being followed within the all-encompassing Roman Empire. Most, celebrated the birth of their god-man near the time of The Solstice; it was a common, ancient religious theme.

Roman Emperor Aurelian (270 to 275 CE) blended a number of the solstice celebrations of the nativity of such god-men/saviors as: Apollo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus and Theseus into a single festival. It was called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” also known as Sol Invictus and it was held on December 25.

Learn more here:
Origin of Christmas

At the time, Persian Mithraism and Christianity were fierce competitors.

Aurelian had even declared Mithraism to be the official religion of the Roman Empire in 274 CE. But, Christianity won out finally, by becoming the new official religion in the 4th century CE from a different Emperor’s edict, just before his death.

So, with new stature, Christianity, at the beginning of the 4th century CE, found intense interest in actually choosing a day to celebrate Yeshua’s birthday. The western church leaders of the time selected December 25th because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various Pagan gods; it was a way to be able to celebrate unfettered and to bring new people into the fold.

That boot-strapping is why many symbols and practices associated with Christmas are really of Pagan-Nature Religion origin: holly, ivy, mistletoe, yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen tree, magical reindeer and more.

Since there was no central Christian authority at the time, it took centuries before the tradition of December 25th was universally accepted: Eastern churches began to celebrate Christmas on December 25th after 375 CE. The church in Ireland only in the 5th century; Jerusalem started in the 7th century. Austria, England and Switzerland began celebrating it then the 8th century and in Slavic lands in the 9th and 10th centuries.

This must seem incomprehensible for modern Christians unschooled in church history, but even now, not all Christians acknowledge December 25 or celebrate it. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. And, the English Parliament even abolished Christmas in 1647.

___ Kwanzaa – honoring universal African-American heritage and culture, it is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. The festival features activities such as: the lighting of a kinara, libations and feast and  gift giving.

It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated on December 26, 1966 when his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history”.

The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest.

Wikipedia reports that Kwanzaa celebrates the seven principles of Nguzo Saba, which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.”

These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili for “tradition and reason”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles:

* Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

* Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

* Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

* Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

* Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

* Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

* Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

And, so my hope: May all of us be Blessed with Peace and Health and Understanding and Compassion as we follow and work in the light of the Sun, each new day. Make it all count!

Washington, DC Travel – Archived Articles

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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