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Letter from James
Of This and That: On
Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh)
Martyrs of New Guinea (Anglican)
Mahasankadahara Chaturthi (India)
Gregory the Great (Catholic)
Sashti Thithi (India)
Karthigai Vratham (India)
Lord Krishna born (India)
Labor Day (U.S.)
Virgin Mary born (Catholic)
Martyrs of Memphis (Anglican)
Alexander Crummell (Anglican)
Sarva Ekadesi (India)
Laylat al-Mi'raj (Muslim)
Spenta Armaiti (Zoroastrian)
Rosh Hashanah (Jewish)
Our Lady of Sorrows
Rosh Hashanah begins (Jewish)
Cornelius & Cyprian
Plough God Descends and Kitchen God born (Taoist)
Rosh Hashanah ends (Jewish)
Hildegard von Bingen born
Ganesha Chaturthi starts (Hindu)
|19 8月6日||20 8月7日||21
Bei Yue Da Di born (Taoist)
Yom Kippur starts (Jewish)
Yom Kippur ends (Jewish)
Chang E Festival (Taoist)
Mid-Autumn Festival (China)
Ganesha Chaturthi ends and Saradhas begins (Hindu)
Michael & All Angels
Shango ( Santeria)
Monkey God Festival
Nisfu Sha'ban/Lailat al Bara'ah (Muslim)
Sukkoth begins (Jewish)
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Ahhh, September! As a man who has spent most of his life in school--whether as a student or as a teacher--the Temple Guy sees this as New Year's! It seems that after the "dog days" of August, September is the time that everything revs up again. Even in Japan, where the school year starts in April (shortly after the Spring Equinox), September sees a new buzz of activity. In a nice synchronicity, Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) generally falls in this month as well.
Happy New Year!
The Fine Print:
A truly amazing resource: go here and enter any date for a huge list of events, including birthdays, death anniversaries, religious celebrations, and "this day in history."
Called "God's warrior," his Indian name was O-kuh-ha-tah, or "Making Medicine." He was a Cheyenne warrior who was taken prisoner with others in 1875 while leading his people in a fight against the United States government. He was sent to Florida, where he learned English and, later, Christianity. After being ordained a deacon of the Episcopal Church in New York in 1881, he returned to Oklahoma, where he founded and operated schools and missions among his people until his death.
"Making Medicine" appears here because he reminds me of another famous Native American, Nicholas Black Elk. Although Black Elk Speaks has become trendy among New Agers, few realize that Black Elk became a trained catechist in the Catholic Church, calling Christianity "The True Red Road" and aggressively seeking converts to The Faith. He defended his belief with vigor:
Those who continue to idealize "The Noble Savage" unthinkingly should realize that many native peoples, once exposed to outside influences, end up "walking the fence." Black Elk spoke the text of Black Elk Speaks--centered largely around the visions of his youth--years after his conversion. The book is controversial: many believe that it reflects the ideas of his "listener," John Neihardt, more than his own. The subtitle, "Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux," is at odds with Nicholas Black Elk's Christian activities; you can read more about this at the Annenberg "American Passages" site.
1 First Parkash of the Guru Granth Sahib (1604) (Sikh)
Commemoration of the installation of the Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth, in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. This is in fact the 400th anniversary of that event.
This scripture holds an interesting place in Sikhism. Just as the Buddha said that, after him, the Dharma (his teaching) would take his place (effectively eliminating the evolution of a Buddhist "Pope"), so the Adi Granth is considered to be the current Guru of the Sikhs. Sikhism was founded by the first Guru, Nanak, who was followed by nine human successors. The last, Guru Gobind Singh in 1708, declared before his death that thenceforth the Guru Granth Sahib would be "The 11th [and final] Guru."
There is some confusion over the exact nature of the text celebrated today. The book elevated and installed in 1604 was compiled by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev; the book declared "The 11th" was modified by the 10th, Guru Gobind Singh. So some say what was installed 400 years ago was the "Adi Granth," an incomplete text, not the "Guru Granth Sahib" revered today.
Such distinctions are lost on the faithful: as many as 3.5 million Sikh faithful are expected to converge on Amritar, from as far as Vancouver and Birmingham." (source)
More on the 10 gurus, including links to pictures and biographies
more on the Guru Granth Sahib, including links to a full text translation
1 Feast of Saint Giles, Hermit and Abbot of Provence (died c.710) (Anglican) (Fixed date)
Also called Aegidius, little is known of Giles, so, characteristically, we made a lot up.
Certainly he was born in the seventh century in Provence, where he founded a monastery on land granted by a king named Wamba (great name!). This place became an important stop for later pilgrims bound for both Compostela and the Holy Land. It is likely Crusaders spread his "fame" to other parts of Europe, notably England:
A 10th-century legend says King Wamba was pursuing a deer, who wisely tried to hide with (behind?) Giles. Wamba shot, and hit Giles instead of the deer. (Maybe that's why he gave the land: to settle a suit out of court.) Giles was "crippled" by the incident, and thus became a patron of "cripples, lepers, and nursing mothers." (One of the well-known churches dedicated to him is at Cripplegate, London. How terribly un-PC!)
Further legend makes him an Athenian whose learning made him so conspicuous that, in humility, he retired to the wilds of Provence, where he spent his time talking with God. After founding a monastery, he went to Rome and offered his abbey to the Pope. The Pope gave Giles two cypress-wood doors for his church. Giles threw these into the sea at Rome, and they washed up near his abbey in France. (There are many such stories in Japanese Buddhism, of carved statues thrown into the sea.)
It should be noted that Giles is on the Anglican calendar of the Church of England, but not in America.
1 This day is also the National Day for
Somewhere over 230 Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic missionaries and their charges were killed by the Japanese in Papua New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon Islands during the Second World War. They had stayed on despite the threat of the well-known advance of the Japanese troops. One Anglican bishop inspired his people with these words: "We could never hold up our faces again, if for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled when the shadows of the Passion began to gather round Him in His Spiritual and Mystical Body, the Church in Papua."
My question: Were these "martyrs" in the classical sense? True, they died because they were doing God's work in a dangerous place. But the weren't killed because of their faith. When I think of what a Christian martyr was in the early days--one who, like Christ, refused to bend to the demands of a non-Christian authority--I just wonder if there isn't a better word to describe these "martyrs." Sacrifices, yes. Martyrs--I don't know.
Another PC note: several sites that I consulted mentioned that these people died during WWII, but never mentioned that it was the Japanese who killed them. Seems the Japanese aren't the only ones who "sanitize" history.
2 Mahasankadahara Chaturthi (Indian) (Indian date)
Also called Chaturthi Maha Sankata Hara, or Sankatahara all meaning the fourth day after the Full Moon
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when, following some leads on Prince Roy's site, I found a page of Tamil holidays. These are basically "Hindu" (a poorly-defined term at best) but according to the more southerly tradition. The site is actually connected to a magazine run by a particular ashram in the Tamil Nadu region.
Laugh=I love this stuff. There is a whole world of ritual observance that I am just beginning to explore.
Cry=It's huge, and the names change from region to region. There seems to be no way to wrap myself around it.
Anyway, the yearly observances will be detailed here within the calendar. The frequently-repeated ones (12 or 24 times a years) will have a page of their own, now in its nascent form.
This day is a Chaturthi (chatur=four, thithi=day-of-the-half-month: more here, though the dates given are for 2000). This day, which occurs 24 or 25 times a year, four days after each New and Full Moon, is sacred to Ganesh, the elephant headed god. (I found a lot of great stuff about him.) As this day is in the waning cycle (after a Full Moon) it is called a Sankatahara Chaturthi; waxing fourths are Vinayaki Chaturthi. But this is a Mahasankadahara Chaturthi, Maha meaning "big" or "great" (cognate to the prefix "mega"). That's because this one, in the Tamil month Avani, is singled out for special devotions. From an on-line book about Ganesh (or Ganesha):
Notice that number 108; it will be explored sometime in the future.
Ten days from now (in some regions sooner), the statues of Ganesha set up on this day will be taken to the nearest river: In the evening, the Ganesha image is carried by the boys, along with the flowers, and consigned to a running stream or to a good water pool or tank. So, Ganesha who was shaped out of the earth, is now returned to the same earth." And:
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I envision India as my next country, and can almost taste it already. Check out this page, an effort this Temple Guy can only aspire to.
Anyway, on this day remember Ganesha, who helps us overcome all obstacles!
2 This day is also the National Day for:
It seems fitting that one of the first dates recognized in my new calendar should be dedicated to Gregory. He is, after all, the man who authorized the Gregorian Calendar (hence the name). He was also a major liturgical reformer, even lending his name to the well-known form of church song, Gregorian chant. For this sublime contribution alone he earns a place on this calendar.
3 This day is also the National Day for:
"In honor of Lord Skanda Muruga."
As I said, tip of the iceberg. As the fourth day (Chaturthi) is sacred to Ganesha, so the sixth day (Sashti Thithi) is sacred to a deity known as Karthikeya, who has six more names: Subramanya, Muruga, Kumara, Skandha, Shanmuga and Guha. That's because he was born from six sparks from the eye of Lord Shiva, and was originally six little babies cared for by six heavenly maidens. Tomorrow is Karthigai Vratham, which commemorates the day Parvati, Shiva's consort, hugged the six babies together and they merged into a single deity with six faces (and six names, who is honored on the sixth day--it's all coming together now...) Devotees attribute the significance of the sixth day to this: Shiva created Karthikeya to destroy a demon, Soorapadman, that no one else could handle. And Karthikeya succeeded on--you guessed it--the sixth day. So, naturally, "every sashti is devoted to Lord karthikeya."
Read the story of his birth and demon-battle (a common mythic motif regarding creation--bringing order out of chaos) here.
See Sashti Thithi on Sept. 4 for the story.
Note that Karthigai is observed on the "Krittika Star" every month; it is a "star date," when the moon moves through the domain of a particular star (though there seems to be some confusion as to which modern stars are signified by these Vedic star names).
One of the most popular of the Hindu gods, and definitely the most fun! Avoid theology and read some stories, or go for his supreme teaching, the Bhagavad Gita. Here is my favorite story of Krishna as a young boy:
Mercifully, the boy wiped his mother's mind free from the memory, and became once again "just her little Boy."
A note on names: "Sri Krishna Jayanti" simply means "Lord Krishna's Birth." As for Gokula Ashtami:
Gokula=cow village; ashtami=eighth day. Krishna was born in "Cow village" (hence his delight in the Gopis=females keepers of cows) on the eighth day of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Bhadrapad. That he was born to (or raised by) a cow-keeper, in order to hide his true identity from the wicked king (his maternal uncle) who wanted to kill him, is anpther perennial connection: think of all the "Saviors" of humble birth, or who don't know their "true identities." Read a great version of the story emphasizing this aspect.
6 Labor Day (U.S.) (Secular date)
Though certainly a "secular" holiday, Labor Day has an interesting cultural significance. For much of the 20th century, summer was considered to begin on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and end on Labor Day (the first Monday in September). So this day served as a seasonal marker, which manifested itself in a most unusual arena: fashion. Gentlemen were to wear straw hats only in "summer," and ladies...well, here's a scene from John Waters' brilliant Serial Mom, with Kathleen Turner as psycho-mom Beverly Sutphin and Patricia Hearst as Juror #8:
Happy end of summer!
6 This day is also the National Day for:
In many branches of Buddhism, all four moon phases are kept as special days of obligation. (The Temple Guy recognizes the new and full moons by shaving his head on those days.) You can read more about Uposatha practice; although it has been widely adapted to modern life (becoming simply "Sunday" in, for example, Thai temples ion America), it is worth contemplating. How about giving up meat on those four days every month?
Here are the "eight precepts" for Uposatha days; they are explained more fully at the link above:
You can also read the sutta in which the Buddha originally laid out these practices.
7 Feast of Yemaya (Santeria) (Fixed date)
Also known as Olocum or Ocute.
The true and proper name of this faith is Regla de Ocha: "The Rule of the Orisha." Santeria ("The Way of the Saints") is merely its popular name. It is a great example of what happens when cultures collide. Composed of unequal portions of "Western African Yoruba Religion and Iberian Catholicism," it has a highly-developed system of deities and associated practices, yet maintains its roots in shamanism. According to the UVA "Religious Movements" site (which also contains a large number of Santeria links):
In fact, adherents of Santeria consider the saints and the Orisha to be interchangeable, unlike the closely-related Voodoo, which worships the same deities but keeps them distinct from the Catholic saints. The one supreme god, Olorun, communicates with the world through the Orisha, each of which has a particular interest, like the "patron saints" of Catholicism, or the various gods of the classical world, all of whom were subject to the monad Fate. Thus the one manifests through the many. Although there are thousands of Orishas, the significant ones number around twenty.
As for Yemaya:
7 This day is also the National Day for:
In The Temple Guy's opinion, the Protestant Reformation was a big mistake. If the Church could have been reformed from within, what a Church it could be! Protestant Christianity seems a cold, sterile environment when held up against the candles and incense, the statues and beads, the pomp and circumstance of Rome. Kind of like Mahayana Christianity.
Truthfully, I'm not much on the Church of priests, popes, etc. I think the Peoples' Church is much more vital. Case in point: in the past few decades, feminist scholars have spent a lot of energy trying to recover the "goddess tradition." Guess what? The Catholics never lost it! As Christianity moved out of Palestine and into Asia Minor, it adopted the gods and goddesses of the locals and turned them into saints.
And none more prominently than the Great Mother herself, now known as The Blessed Virgin Mary. Like Guan Yin in China, Mary is the peoples' Mother. I'll have a lot more to say on this when The Feast of Guadalupe comes (December 12), but for now: "Happy Birthday, Mom!"
Note: In running down those Tamil dates, I found a real puzzler: "Devamadha's Birthday." But I couldn't find this celebration on any of the Hindu lists. It turns out this is another name for the Virgin Mary!
8 Feast of 'Izzat ("Might") (Baha'i) (Fixed date)
Actually, the first day in the tenth month (out of nineteen, each with nineteen days) in the Baha'i calendar (taken from a good general reference on Baha'i Faith). 'Izzat means "Might." Baha'i months are named (in Arabic) for various qualities and attributes, commencing with Splendor at the Vernal Equinox (March 21) and continuing with Glory, Beauty, Grandeur, Light, Mercy, Words, Perfection, Names, Might, Will, Knowledge, Power, Speech, Questions, Honor, Sovereignty, and Dominion. Each one is worthy of contemplation as they arrive. This website gathers passages from Baha'i writings that concentrate on each quality. For this feast, for example, from the Baha'i Prayers of `Abdu'l-Bahá (pp.20-21):
It certainly puts things in perspective!
8 Feast of Oshun (Santeria) (Fixed date)
See September 7 Feast of Yemaya" for Background.
As for Oshun:
8 This day is also the National Day for:
More "martyrs." Constance was an Episcopal nun who stayed in Memphis, Tennessee, during the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic to nurse the sick.
This epidemic was no joke. Sixty percent of the city's population of 50,000 simply left. The city actually lost its charter, not to be reorganized for fourteen years. Of the 20,000 who stayed, fully 90% had the disease, and over 5,000 died, at a rate of 200 a day.
A total of 38 of these were brave Anglican and Roman Catholic religious who had stayed to help.
Admirable, yes. But can you call someone a "martyr" if they're killed by a mosquito?
I prefer to think of such commemorations as testament to the extraordinary things that can be done by ordinary people.
9 This day is also the National Day for:
Also on this date, California became the 31st state in 1850, providing a place for America to dump every weird religion that didn't fit in anywhere else.
Syncretism as in Santeria, deity-borrowing as with the Virgin Mary. What I'm getting at here is that Cernunnos, the "Horned God" of the pre-Christian Europeans, has suffered badly from both of these otherwise-positive trends.
Joseph Campbell said it best: "The God of the old religion becomes the devil of the new." Rather than absorb Cernunnos, as they did with the Great Mother and others, the Church had a different plan for him.
They needed a devil. So rather than try to preach the Devil as depicted in scripture, they just used a "picture" of Cernunnos instead. Everyone knows the Devil has horns, right? Nope, that's Cernunnos. And cloven hooves? Pan, a Greek relative of the Celtic Horned One. What about the pitchfork? Neptune's trident. (How did that get in there? As a barbecue implement?) The fact is, the Bible says nothing about Satan's appearance, except references to "light," and the vague idea that he was somehow attractive--nothing like this:
So the Horned God, consort of the Mother, who dies at Halloween and is born again at Winter Solstice, becomes the Devil, just like that. I'll give you more on Him and His life cycle at Halloween.
This date, and many of the references to religions other than the "major world" ones, comes from a fascinating website, the Universal Festival Calendar. Dan Furst lists a lot of holidays related to religions once thought "dead," including the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Celtic, and Assyro-Babylonian traditions. (There's a lot of astrological information, too.) As a rule, I will not be including those dates in this calendar, but when they coincide with other interests (such as how the Church used/abused other peoples' gods) I'll throw them in.
10 Alexander Crummell (Anglican) (Fixed date)
Script-writers take note: An extraordinary unsung hero in the progress of civil rights for Black Americans. Also--if you read between the lines--maybe a bit of a crackpot. A good article on his accomplishments; and an all-too-subtle clue to his eccentric side.
I'd have loved to have known this guy!
10 Sarva Ekadesi
(Indian) (Fixed date)
10 This day is also the National Day for:
Still to Come:
11 Laylat al-Mi'raj (Muslim) (Muslim date)12 Spenta Armaiti (Zoroastrian)
13 Feast of St. Cyprian (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
13 Feast of St. John Chrysostom (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
13 Birth of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (7月29日) (Lunar date)
14 New Moon (8月1日)--Ulambana begins (Lunar date)
14 Holy Cross (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
15 Rosh Hashanah ends (Jewish) (Jewish date)
15 Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
16 Rosh Hashanah begins (Jewish) (Jewish date)
16 Feast of St. Ninian (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
16 Feast of Sts. Cornelius & Cyprian (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
16 Plough God Descends (8月3日) (Taoist) (Lunar date)
16 Birth of Kitchen God (8月3日) (Taoist) (Lunar date)
17 Rosh Hashanah ends (Jewish) (Jewish date)
17 Hildegard von Bingen born
18 Ganesha Chaturthi starts (Hindu)
21 Feast of St. Matthew (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
22 Autumn Equinox (Solar date)
22 Moon in first quarter (8月9日) (Lunar date)
23 Bei Yue Da Di born (8月10日) (Taoist)
24 Yom Kippur starts (Jewish) (Jewish date)
24 Obatala (Santeria) (Fixed date)
25 Yom Kippur ends (Jewish) (Jewish date)
26 Feast of Lancelot Andrewes (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
27 Feast of Mashiyyat ("will") (Baha'i) (Fixed date)
27 Chang E Festival (8月14日) (China) (Lunar date)
28 Full Moon (8月15日) Ulambana ends (China) (Lunar date)
28 Mid-Autumn Festival (8月15日) (China) (Lunar date)
28 Ganesha Chaturthi ends and Saradhas begins (Hindu)
28 Feast of St. Wenceslaus (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
29 Feast of St. Michael & All Angels (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
29 Feast of Shango (Santeria) (Fixed date)
29 Monkey God Festival (8月16日) (Taoist) (Lunar date)
30 Birth of Rumi
30 Nisfu Sha'ban/Lailat al Bara'ah (Muslim) (Muslim date)
30 Sukkoth begins (Jewish) (Jewish date)
30 Feast of St. Jerome (Roman Catholic Christian) (Fixed date)
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