Stephansdom: The Cathedral of Saint Stephen

The Stephansdom - St. Stephan's Cathedral in Vienna has endured through many wars and has become a symbol of Vienna's freedom. This Gothic cathedral was first built in 1147 AD and itÂ’s most impressing characteristics defines the city center and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. It is one of the most majestic and famous Viennese sights and for a long time it was uncontested as highest building in Europe measuring almost 137 meters. The diamond-patterned tile roof was added in 1952.

STEPHANSDOM: THE CATHEDRAL OF SAINT STEPHEN

The Stephansdom - St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna has endured through many wars and has become a symbol of Vienna's freedom. This Gothic cathedral was first built in 1147 AD and it’s most impressing characteristics defines the city center and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. It is one of the most majestic and famous Viennese sights and for a long time it was uncontested as highest building in Europe measuring almost 137 meters. The diamond-patterned tile roof was added in 1952.

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Stephansdom - Photo by natsu

The original church on this site of St. Stephen’s cathedral was a Romanesque church which was replaced by a much larger cathedral in 1147. In around 1258, a devastating fire damaged the cathedral and the construction of the present Gothic cathedral began in the early 14th century.

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Gothic and Modern - Photo by bundu

The cathedral suffered damage during the Turkish attacked of 1683 and again at the ending of World War II, when a fire cause by street fighting leap to the rooftop. It was reopened in 1948; the roof was repaired and decorated with ceramic tiles donated by the citizens of Vienna in 1950. Now this modern addition meets Gothic.

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Detailed of Roof and Tower - Photo by cilest

The cathedral is an impressive Gothic structure of dark stone with a colorful tiled roof with a north tower rising to 450 feet (approximately 135-137m) named Alter Steffl, meaning "Old Steve." This eminent tower was originally built between 1359 and 1433; it was reconstructed after severe war damages. A climb of 343 spiral steps provides amazing view of the landscape of the city from the top.

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Interior view from the west end - Photo by Andrea Kirkby

Another north tower (Nordturm) was never finished to match its better-half, but was given a Renaissance crown in 1529. Atop of this tower, are fine views and a look at the Pummerin bell. It can be reached by an elevator ride. The Pummerin bell is one of the largest bells in the world, cast from a cannon captured from the Turks in 1683. It rings out over the city of Vienna on New Year's Eve.

The interior contains many interesting elements to see, including artworks. One of the splendid treasures is the Wiener Neustadt altarpiece (1447) in the left chapel of the choir, richly gilded and decorated with elaborate painted featuring the Virgin Mary between the saints Catherine and Barbara.

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Interior view from the Nave - Photo by Jason Burmeister

The stone pulpit dating 1510-50, in the middle of the nave depicts the images of the four Latin Church priors: Ambrose, Gregory, Augustine and Jerome, all full of personality. Interestingly is the rare self-portrait of the artist – Anton Pilgram, located under the stairs, looking out a window with his sculpture’s compass on hand. This element marks the transition point into the Renaissance, when artists began to be famous instead of anonymous.

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Altar of the Stephansdom - Photo by Mike Reed

The railing of the pulpits is overlaid in interesting symbols: the lizards are animals of light; the toads are animals of darkness and the “Dog of the Lord” atop protect the sermon from their influence. A three parts wheel represents the Trinity rolling up, while the wheels with four parts (the four seasons, representing mortality and worldly life) roll down. A noticeable element is the unusual 17th century tomb of Emperor Frederick III in the Apostles’ choir, which features outrageous creatures trying to disturb the emperor. At the cathedral's apse one can appreciate the so-called "Zahnwehherrgott" (Lord of tooth ache), an 'ecce homo' statue once situated at the graveyard outside the cathedral.

Among the significant events that have happened at St. Stephen's cathedral are Mozart's wedding in 1782 and his funeral in December 1791

The "O5" stoned-carved outside the cathedral's massive front door has important historical significance. The number 5 stands for the fifth letter of the alphabet, E. When converted it makes OE, the abbreviation for Österreich (Austria). O5 was a covert sign of resistance to the Nazi annexation of Austria.

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Reference:

http://www.stephanskirche.at/index.jsp

http://www.aboutvienna.org/sights/stephens_cathedral.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Stephen%27s_Cathedral,_Vienna

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/austria/vienna-stephansdom

http://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/sights/st-stephens-cathedral

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Senakulo: Traditional Dramatization of the Passion of Jesus Christ

The senakulo is a traditional Filipino dramatization of the life and times of Jesus Christ. Done in singing (pasyon) and recitation, it is presented in the public squares in many towns, in houses and streets during the season of Lent.

SENAKULO: TRADITIONAL DRAMATIZATION OF THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

The senakulo is a traditional Filipino dramatization of the life and times of Jesus Christ. Done in singing (pasyon) and recitation, it is presented in the public squares in many towns, in houses and streets during the season of Lent.

The Senakulo (from the Spanish cenaculo) is a Lenten play that depicts events from the Old and New Testaments related to the life, sufferings, and death of Christ.

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Pasyon

The senakulo is traditionally performed on a proscenium-type stage with painted cloth or paper backdrops that are called telon. It takes at least eight nights - from Palm Sunday to Eastern Sunday - to present the play. Christ is presented traditionally as meek and humble, submitting lamb-like to his fate in obedience to authority.

In urban areas, there are developed versions of the senakulo that run for only one or two hours. They may be presented in different types of locale: on the traditional stage, on the streets, in a chapel, or out in the open. Comedy, courtship, and special effects may be incorporated. Furthermore, modern senakulos tend to focus not on Christ’s submissiveness, but on his reason and resolve in courageously standing up for the unfortunate against their oppressors, suggesting how current problems may be resolved.

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Street senakulos is another form of penance where the people are walking with the procession. People near the church wait eagerly to witness the reenactment. Locals act as Roman soldiers with their menacingly painted masks and armors, pounding on doors to search for Jesus. Most anticipated among the episodes are the judgment of Jesus, the Crucifixion and His Seven Last Words. Spectators may range from devotees to the merely curious or tourist alike. For some, it is the time to reflect on the life of Jesus, while others take it as a chance to spend time with family and friends.

The routine of the reenactment has not changed, but its presentation is infused with a fresh flavor to reach the modern-world absorbed consciousness of the new generation.

Senakulo in Manila is an occasion that is filled with processions in every Philippine town. The Senakulo signifies the Holy Week and is kept with great piety and pageantry.

During the Manila Senakulo one can see rituals that are derived from Christ's suffering, passion and death. During this time one can see the locals enacting the similar way the Christ was crucifixed and processions leading with one carrying the cross and culminating in nailing that is enacted to affiliate with Christ.

These interesting reenactments are the passion processions that draws large crowd that tries to identify the sufferings of Christ 2000 years ago. The reenactment is done through narrative recitation or role-playing. Everyone in the neighborhood is waiting for the procession to pass by. The street Senakulo of Manila is another form of penance where the people are walking with the procession.

In other words the Manila's Senakulo is the century’s old passion play. It is now faster paced, lively and richer in music. The procession and enactment is interesting to see as the endeavor is to know what happened in the past and keeping it contemporary.

The Holy Week is an awaited holiday in Manila as it is packed with lot of activities that are held in churches and town plaza. The foreign and the local tourists can witness the Senakulo in Manila that is held in March/ April. The tourists would find the Senakulo in Manila has been absorbed into the local culture and is practiced with great warmth and intensity.

One example is the authentic Senakulo in Marinduque. Senakulo is one of the highlights of Moriones Festival during the Lenten season. Starting from the cast, venue, stage, props, and other equipment were combined perfectly. It is like you are there witnessing the events that are happening in the present time. The realistic Senakulo of Marinduque pioneered way back in 1977. Since then, it has been passed from generation to generation and has been very consistent on making the dramatic presentation of Senakulo more astounding. Furthermore, most of the participants say that this is their way to show their abstinence before and during the Lenten season.

Note: On the whole, Senakulo is one of the MUST SEE during your holy week stay here in the Philippines. But recently the church is discouraging penitence-crucifixion just for tourism sake.

Reference:

http://festivalsinthephilippines.com/moriones-senakulo

http://estancabigas.com/faith/senakulo/

http://pakitamo.angelcities.com/senakulo.html

http://www.asiarooms.com/en/travel-guide/philippines/manila/manila-festivals-&-events/senakulo.html

http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Senakulo

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Facts About the Igorots of the Philippines

The terms Igorots and Cordilleras are used to collectively refer to a number of tribal groups including the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Apayao/Isneg, Kalinga, and Kankana-eys. The Igorots reside in the mountainous north and central Luzon areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

The terms Igorots and Cordilleras are used to collectively refer to a number of tribal groups including the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Apayao/Isneg, Kalinga, and Kankana-eys. The Igorots reside in the mountainous north and central Luzon areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The CAR covers 18,294 sq. km and includes the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Apayao.

The Igorot form two subgroups: the largest group lives in the south, central, and western areas, and is very adept at rice-terrace farming; the other group lives in the east and north. The Igorots formerly practiced headhunting.

The Igorots are an ethnic people of the Philippines, clustered in the Cordillera region of Luzon. It is true that they are famous for rice-terrace farming but saying that some of them have been known to be cannibals in the past is an exaggeration which only downgrades them.

"Igorot" is the modern term to describe the indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains located in the northern part of the Philippine island of Luzon. When first "discovered" by the Spaniards in the 16th century, they were called "Ygolotes" - later to be re-spelled "Igorrotes." The Spaniards used other names to describe Igorots based on where in the Cordilleras they were found.

As one can infer, Igorots are a highland race, and are well-adapted to life in raised altitudes. To assure themselves a steady supply of crop, they have even devised a way to carved terraces at the sides of mountain, which they plant with various grains. The Igorot people are categorized into six different ethno-linguistic groups: Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg (or Apayao), Kalinga, and Kankana-ey.

Bontoc. The Bontoc thrive on the bank of the Chico River. Famous as headhunters in the past, they have since turned their backs from the practice of head hunting. At present, a huge majority of the Bontoc have embraced Christianity. They have seamlessly transitioned into a peaceful, agricultural people.

Ibaloi. The Ibaloi too are an agrarian society. Mostly found in Southern Benguet, there are about 93,000 of them all over the Philippines. Their language is from the Austronesian family of languages.

Ifugao. The Ifugao, on the other hand, are known for their epics and their stories, such as the hudhud and the alim. Like the Bontoc Igorots, Ifugao people were headhunters in the past. Ifugao people have a total of four different dialects, and are sometimes called Amganad, Kiangan, or Mayoyao. The word Ifugao means "from the hill."

Isneg or Apayao. The Isneg or Apayao can be found living near the banks of the Apayao River. Originally slash-and-burn farmers, they have since begun to practice more sustainable forms of farming. The Isneg are also known as good fishers, and have a penchant for coffee.

Kalinga. The Kalinga tribes are perhaps the most diplomatic of all the Igorot. They put great importance on kinship and social ties, and are heralded for the peace pacts that have allowed their tribes to become strong. They are also known as the most heavily adorned of all the Igorot people.

Kankana-ey. Finally, the Kankana-ey are one of the few tribes who still practice a way of living more common in the old days, although is fast disappearing as well. In the Kankana-ey, young men and women are divided by gender and then ushered into separate dormitories. Entry into a dormitory signifies a young person's readiness to enter the stages of courtship. Courtships are carried out in the ebgan, or the "girl house."

Although Igorots are "geographically" Filipino, there are numerous things that give them their own unique identity, which has led to many debates on whether Igorots are Filipinos. Examples of their uniqueness are:

Language: Igorots speak their own languages (Ibontok, Ibaloy, Kankanaey, Isneg, Kalinga, Tuwali, etc.)

  • Government: Igorots of the Cordilleras have their own autonomous government made possible by former Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
  • Food: Igorot food is considered indigenous with little influence from other countries.
  • Clothing: Traditional clothing for men & women are clearly distinct and bears no Spanish influence. Surprisingly, it bears a strong resemblance to that of American Indians.
  • Culture & Colonization: Above all, Igorots were not conquered by Spain. For more than three centuries, their ability to keep from being colonized by Spaniards allowed their culture to stay preserved to this day. Spain's King Philip ("Philip"pines) was never able to force his name onto them.
  • Statement of Significance: Their rice terraces in the Cordillera Mountains, which are more than 2,000 years old, are evidence of their high level of knowledge of structural and hydraulic engineering. The rice terraces are the only monuments in the Philippines that show no evidence of having been influenced by any colonial cultures. For this reason, the rice terraces have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

References:

http://www.wisegeek.com/who-are-the-igorot.htm

http://www.rexcrisanto.com/ik-cause/who-are-igorots

http://answers.encyclopedia.com/question/practices-igorot-people-known-90032.html

http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/topic,463af2212,469f2ec42,469f3ac2c,0.html

Photo Credits:  Google Images

The Philippines - Superstitions and Beliefs

Philippine beliefs and superstition have grown in number throughout the various regions and provinces in the country. These beliefs have come from the different saying and superstitions of our ancestors that aim to prevent danger from happening or to make a person refrain from doing something in particular. These beliefs are part of our culture, for one derives their beliefs from the influences of what their customs, traditions and culture have dictated to explain certain phenomena or to put a scare in people.

SUPERSTITIONS AND BELIEFS OF THE PHILIPPINES

As I read the early tabloid this morning, the front page read, “This is the punishment of God to us.” According to a survey, many believe that disasters are the wrath of God and a form of punishment to man.

Many Filipinos believed about the wrath of God as punishment for the sins of man in the form of natural disasters (typhoons, floods, landslides, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions).

According to the survey of Pulse Asia;

• 21% of people at the right age believed about natural disasters are ways of God’s punishment

• 14% states that these are part of a natural process while,

• 2% do not know the reasons of these calamities

But a deceased of 23% of people are blaming God on these mayhems during the past two years.

One “sizeable majority” (63% as of last month, increased from 54% of July, 2008) who believed that the reasons of these disasters are due to man’s abuse and exploitative attitudes towards nature. A result from July 1 to July 11 interviews of 1,200 people showed an increase on numbers who are concerned and troubled by climate change. 66% agreed of climate change in their place for the past three years. In the survey last year, only 11% tells that there was minimum change on the climate, 23% has no answer and 58% recounted that there was a great change in the climate.

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Philippine beliefs and superstition have grown in number throughout the various regions and provinces in the country. These beliefs have come from the different saying and superstitions of our ancestors that aim to prevent danger from happening or to make a person refrain from doing something in particular. These beliefs are part of our culture, for one derives their beliefs from the influences of what their customs, traditions and culture have dictated to explain certain phenomena or to put a scare in people. Some are practiced primarily because Filipinos believe that there is nothing to lose if they will comply with these beliefs.

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Superstitions on Health

• Sleeping after taking a bath during daytime or at night will result in blindness.

• A menstruating woman should not eat sweets lest blood flow stop and cause illness or death.

• Let a dog lick your wounds, and the wounds will be healed.

• Sleeping with wet hair makes one crazy or blind.

• When one is wounded during high tide, much blood will ooze out.

• After circumcision, a boy should not step on a mortar or pestle; otherwise, his organ will grow as big as these.

• When one is sick with smallpox, he must be given all the things he wishes; otherwise he will die.

• The successive birth of four children of the same sex is believed to endanger the life of the parent of the same sex.

• Children are advised not to bite banana leaves, as this is believed to cause tooth decay.

• One should not eat mollusks when he has wounds, otherwise, his wounds will grow big.

• A sick person is always believed to grow worse when the moon is full. If the patient does not recover before one lunar month has elapsed and the moon once more assumes this phase, the case is considered hopeless.

• Taking a bath at night will cause anemia or low blood pressure.

• Taking a bath on New Year’s Day and/or Good Friday will cause one to get sick.

• If the family is eating and a member arrives, he is not permitted to join the others in the meal, for if this rule is violated and a member of the household becomes ill, the others may become ill too.

• Menstruating girls should not eat papaya to avoid whitish blood, nor liver or blood, as they will cause a strong flow.

• Asthma can be cured by putting a cat near the throat and the chest and at the same time reciting a prayer.

• Sore eyes can be cured by washing the eyes with the first urine early in the morning.

• A child who plays with fallen unripe coconuts will suffer body swelling.

• Parents who despise ugly children will bear an ugly child.

• Parents who despise or laugh at twins will have twins.

Superstitions on Body Marks and Shape

• A person with a mole on his foot is a born adventurer.

• A person with a mole on his face will be successful in business.

• A person with a mole on the center of her nose will be rich but unhappy.

• A person with a mole close to his eye is attractive to the opposite sex.

• A mole on the hand signifies wealth or thievery.

• A mole on one’s back is a sign of laziness.

• A person with big ears will have a long life.

• Women with wide hips will bear many children.

• People with naturally curly hair are moody or ill-tempered.

• People with eyebrows that almost meet easily get jealous.

• Men with hairy chests are playboys.

• A person with lines running from the palm of his hand to his fingers is successful in business.

• People whose teeth are spaced far apart are liars.

Superstitions on Wedding

• Brides shouldn’t try on their wedding dress before the wedding day or the wedding will not push through.

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• Knives and other sharp and pointed objects are said to be a bad choice for wedding gifts for this will lead to a broken marriage.

• Giving an arinola (chamber pot) as wedding gift is believed to bring good luck to newlyweds.

• Altar-bound couples are accident-prone and therefore must avoid long drives or traveling before their wedding day for safety.

• The groom who sits ahead of his bride during the wedding ceremony will be a hen-pecked husband.

• Rains during the wedding means prosperity and happiness for the newlyweds.

• A flame extinguished on one of the wedding candles means the one whose candle was extinguished will die ahead of the other.

• Throwing rice confetti at the newlyweds will bring them prosperity all their life.

• The groom must arrive before the bride at the church to avoid bad luck.

• Breaking something during the reception brings good luck to the newlyweds.

• The bride should step on the groom’s foot while walking towards the altar if she wants him to agree to her every whim.

• A bride who wears pearls on her wedding will be an unhappy wife experiencing many heartaches and tears.

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• Dropping the wedding ring or the veil during the ceremony spells unhappiness for the couple.

• The member of the couple stands first after the ceremony will die ahead of the other.

• A bride who cries during the wedding will bring bad luck to the marriage.

• It is bad omen for the newlywed couple if their parents cry during the wedding.

• Upon entering their new home, the couple should go up the stairs alongside each other so that neither one will dominate the other.

• An unwed girl who follows the footprints of a newlywed couple will marry soon.

• If a woman is widowed during the new moon, she will marry again.

• A person who habitually sits at the head of the table during meals will never marry.

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Superstitions on Pregnancy

• All windows and doors should be wide open for the laboring mother’s easy delivery.

• Pregnant women should avoid witnessing an eclipse, so that when born their babies would not have the habit of winking the eyes abnormally.

• An expectant mother should not act as sponsor in a baptismal ceremony to avoid difficulty in delivering her baby or to avoid the death of the fetus or of the newly baptized child.

• Sitting on the threshold of the house by a pregnant woman will result in a difficult delivery.

• Taking pictures of a pregnant woman will cause an abortion or a difficult delivery.

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• An expectant mother should have her house neither constructed nor remodeled to avoid difficulty in delivering her baby.

• Do not partake of the food being eaten by an expecting mother. If you do, you will either become sleepy or will feel drowsy or sick.

• The new mother should avoid itchy or scratchy foods like gabi, and round fruits or root crops such as citrus, ube, tugui, and coconut for three weeks so her inner organs can return to normal.

• Do not leave the ladle on top or inside of the rice kettle, but set it aside until more rice is needed. This is done so that childbirth will not be difficult.

• A visitor must not sit or stand on the ladder or at the door, but come inside so that delivery will not be hard.

• The mother should not eat shellfish. These are slippery and if they are taken from the brook, the baby may be expelled from the womb.

• An expectant mother should not eat fish from pointed shells lest the baby have too much mucus or drool too much.

• A pregnant woman is not allowed to cut her hair; she will give birth to a bald baby.

• Pregnant women should not cry because they will suffer a difficult birth, and the baby will become sensitive and a crybaby.

• Miscarriages only occur during the odd-numbered months of pregnancy.

• Taking a bath before delivery will hasten the birth of the baby, as well as of the placenta.

• An expectant mother should not participate in funeral activities. Doing so would endanger the mother and the baby during delivery. If a pregnant woman wears clothes which were hung overnight, the fetus will be affected.

• It is believed that when denied the food a pregnant mother likes, her child will salivate profusely and will be prone to vomiting.

• A pregnant woman should eat all the food on her plate, so that when she delivers, everything will come out, leaving her womb clean.

• A comb is submerged in coconut milk with sugar to make the mother's breast full of milk.

Superstitions on Death

• A lingering black butterfly is a sign that one of your relatives just died.

• A falling spider that lands on you is an omen that someone close to you will die.

• Do not form groups of three or thirteen, or one of you will die.

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• If a person dream of having his teeth pulled out, this mean that family member will die.

• Sometimes the soul temporarily leaves the body while in a deep sleep. Rousing a person at this time might kill him.

• When a tree that was planted upon the birth of a child dies, the child will also die.

• It is said that the soul of the deceased returns on the third, the fifth, and the seventh days after death.

• A coffin should be built to fit the corpse; otherwise, a family member of the deceased will soon die.

• Tears must not fall on the dead or on the coffin; this will make the dead person’s journey to the next world a difficult one.

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• If someone sneezes at a wake, pinch him lest he join the dead.

• During a wake, never see your visitors off at the door of the chapel or funeral parlor.

• A widow who caresses her dead husband’s face will surely remarry.

• Do not sweep the house until after the burial.

• Always carry the coffin out of the house, church or funeral parlor head first. This prevents the soul of the dead from coming back.

• During the funeral march, a man whose wife is pregnant should not carry the casket. Before going home, he should light up a cigarette from a fire at the cemetery gate in order to shake off the spirits of the dead.

• Digging a hole larger than the coffin will cause an immediate relative to join the deceased in the grave.

• After the coffin has been lowered to the grave, all family members should take a handful of soil, spit on it and throw it in the grave. Doing so will not only bury any evil let behind by the deceased, but also lessen the burden of grief on the family as well.

• After the funeral service, do not go home directly so that the spirit of the dead person will not follow you to your house.

• Never let a child step over an open grave lest the spirit of the dead visit that child.

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• Give away your black dresses after one year of mourning to prevent another death in the family.

SOURCE / REFERENCE

http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Philippine_Beliefs_and_Superstitions

• UP-ISMED. Philippine Folk Science, Katutubong Agham ng Pilipinas. Quezon City: Pundasyon sa Pagpapaunlad Kaalaman sa Pagturo ng Agham, Ink., 2000.

• Sta. Romana–Cruz, Neni. Don’t Take a Bath on a Friday: Philippine Superstitions and Folk Beliefs. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1996.

• Filipino Superstitions. Filipino-dating. http://www.filipino-datng.com/filipino-wedding-superstitions.htm (accessed 6 November 2007).

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Witches and Witchcraft: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

While most everyone has their idea of what "witchcraft" is, you may be surprised to learn how that idea differs individual to individual, culture to culture throughout the world.

Archetypes

Whenever the word “witch” is used in everyday conversation, any number of images may come to mind.

Some may relate the word to the “Wicked Witch of the West,” while others to the modern Wiccan image associated with the likes of Sybil Leek

Some may harken the image long held of the Salem witches, while still others may imagine a curandera, the wise woman found in Hispanic communities throughout North, Central, and South America (and Europe as well). 

In fact, depending on one’s place of origin, age, sex, spiritual persuasion, life experience, education, and worldview, any number of archetypes are possible.

Historically, the study of witches and their “craft” has fascinated humankind for thousands of years--and probably much longer. 

References can be found in all major sacred texts around the world including the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, the Judaic Bible, the Islamic Qur’an, as well as in the ancient writings of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Sumer, and Persia. 

In fact, most social scientists recognize the belief in witchcraft as culturally universal--rooted in the fundamental fabric of human thought, and manifested in basic human behavior in a number of obvious and subtle ways.

But, if one examines ancient texts, it quickly becomes evident that although witchcraft in its many guises shares numerous cross-cultural similarities, it would be short-sighted and demeaning to assume that it is a single, homogenized concept.  Because even though many superficial parallels can be readily observed, in reality, “witchcraft” refers to a wide range of religious and spiritual practices varying in perspective, purpose, approach, emphasis, and cultural significance.

By Definition

The word witchcraft in its most popular connotation refers to “the use of supernatural forces--most often employing magic(k)--to bend the world to one’s own will.” 

For nearly three-quarters of a century now, scholars have relied on this definition first presented by cultural anthropologist Edward Evans-Prichard following his now famous ethnographic studies of the Azande of Sudan, Africa, culminating in Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande.

Azande Witch

But while an ethnographic perspective may be helpful in assessing the fundamental beliefs underlying cultural behavior, to acquire a true understanding of the craft of witches, a knowledge of religion (philosophy and mythology), history (both oral and written), natural environment, socio-cultural relationships, as well as a basic understanding of the forces driving the human psyche must also be factored-in.  For while a belief in the ability of individuals to bend reality to their liking may indeed underlie human reasoning and behavior, how that ability manifests culture to culture is as varied as the cultures themselves.

Context

For example: What constitutes witchcraft in an Azande village in Sudan is much different from that of a Buddhist community in Sri Lanka or a Wiccan community in Highland Ireland.

While the Azande see witchcraft as an ability physically inherited by individuals that can be used for good or evil--a tangible “witch-substance” that can be found in the pit of the stomach, one Buddhist sect relates it to the demon god of darkness Huniyam, whose shrine imbues pilgrims with the power to curse enemies, while Wiccans see it as a beneficial birthright available to anyone who learns how to commune with the forces of nature.  And true to this varying form, the many Native American tribes of North America have their own individual perspectives on witchcraft as well. 

Thus, when referring to “Witches” or their “craft,” it is essential to first place it within the appropriate cultural framework.  Because while witches are a universal, cross-cultural phenomenon, they are not interchangable nor do they serve the same cultural function.

References:

Witch Craze, L. Roper

Paganism, J. & R. Higginbotham

A Witches Bible Compleat, J & S. Farrar

Religion, Magic, Witchcraft, Stein and Stein

Many Peoples, Many Faiths, Ellwood

 

Images via Wikipedia.org

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Allahu Akbar and Other Things Muslims Say

Allahu akbar has become a term that invokes fear among non-Muslims due to Islamic extremism and media sensationalism. Hearing a Muslim say this or other Arabic phrases should not make anyone afraid, and this Factoid will provide common terms and meanings.

The words Allahu akbar have come to strike hatred and fear in the hearts and minds of many non-Muslims around the world. Media stories and movies about Islamic extremism play a clip of someone saying the words on camera, or it is reported that it was said before a mass shooting or suicide bombing.

Allahu akbar means "God is the greatest", and Muslims say it countless times a day. The first words during the adhan (call to prayer) are Allahu akbar, and it’s repeated several times during prayer. Muslims may utter the words when they feel something bad is about to happen, as well as when something good happens.

The words are simply meant to glorify the greatness of Allah. Hearing a Muslim say these words does not make them an extremist or mean they are about to commit any crime. These words should not make anyone fearful of Muslims. 

In the religion of Islam, there are several other words and phrases that are ingrained in a Muslim’s vocabulary from birth or upon conversion. The phrases are learned and repeated in Arabic, even when it is not a person’s first language. This Factoid will provide common Arabic phrases in a Muslim's vocabulary, provide English translation, and context for each.

Key Terms and Phrases in Islam

Anna ash-hadu an la ilaha ill’Allah, wa anna ashu an Mohammed rasull’Allah: I witness there is no god but Allah, and I witness Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

This is the affirming statement of belief in Allah and Muhammad as his final messenger that all Muslims say several times a day, during prayer and in making wudu (ritual cleansing before prayer). This is the testimony of faith that one must say in order to become a Muslim.

B’smillah: In the name of God

Muslims say this before they do almost anything from putting food in their mouth to entering a house or starting a new project or activity.

Alhamdulillah: Praise be to Allah

Whenever a Muslim feels thankful towards Allah this praise is mentioned. It might be said when waking up in the morning, after eating a meal and on major occasions such as the birth of a child.

Asalamu alaikum: Peace be upon you

This is the traditional greeting among Muslims, and in response one would say Wa’laikum asalam meaning “upon you be peace”. Sometimes, the greeting is extended with wa rahmattullah wa barakatuhu, adding a wish for Allah’s peace and blessings upon the person. It is also said when leaving a place or saying goodbye to someone.

Insha’Allah: Allah willing or if it is Allah’s will

Muslims believe that nothing happens unless it is by the will of Allah. A Muslim will always say this whenever they are referencing the future since only Allah knows if it will happen or not, and it will only happen by His will.  They even use this phrase if it is something to be done in the next moment.

Masha’Allah: It is Allah’s will

This phrase is used when appreciating something or someone about something good they did or happened to them. For example, Muslims might say masha’Allah to the cook of a very delicious meal or to a child bringing home good grades.

Subhan’Allah: Glory be to Allah

Simply, this is another term used to glorify Allah when praising someone or something or when hearing something unexpected. It is also repeated several times in prayer.

Jazak’Allah khair: May Allah reward you

This term is used to thank someone for a favor they have done. Similarly, Barak'Allah fikum, meaning “may Allah bless you” could also be said to someone who has done a good deed.

Astaghfirullah: May Allah forgive me

Muslims say this when they are aware of committing a sin or when they remember a sin they’ve committed before.

Common Superstitious Beliefs In Nigerian Traditional Society

Superstitious beliefs are always a part of the culture of every society. While some superstitious beliefs might be erroneously held, it nevertheless makes the survival of the culture of the said society to thrive from one generation to the other. This article highlights some of the superstitious beliefs held by the traditionalists in the Nigerian society.

Nigeria is a country rich in cultural heritage; and like most other cultures it does harbor its own superstitious belief. The issue of superstitious beliefs is not a trifling matter in the Nigerian traditional society and every Nigerian man holds such beliefs tenacious and looks out with forebodings on some omens; whether bad or good that comes with such superstitious beliefs.

In this article, I will examine some of the more common superstitious beliefs that reside in the heart of the average traditional Nigeria man.

Common Superstitious Beliefs In Nigerian Traditional Society

  • Hitting your left leg on a stone

The hitting of your left leg on a stone or stump in the traditional Nigeria society is seen as an evil omen or warning to turn back from where ever the person might be going. This omen is taken seriously and the journey is usually forfeited for the future. Failure to heed the warning could lead to possibly loss of life.

  • Eating in the dark

Eating in the dark is forbidden in the traditional Nigerian society. It is believed that such act could give room to the dead or ghosts to eat with you and this could lead to your death or grave ailments.

  • Whistling at night

It is not a good idea to whistle at night in the traditional Nigerian society. There is this belief that such whistling attracts snakes to the whistler.

  • Lending morning in the morning

If you expect the traditional Nigerian man to lend you morning in the early hours of the morning or to pay up its debts, then you have got the wrong think coming. There is this strong belief in the traditional Nigerian society that giving morning out in the early hours of the morning could bring a whole lot of bad luck across your way.

  • Eating the food of a woman seeing her messes

Perhaps this belief came from the biblical perspective that women on their monthly periods are unclean. Eating the food of women seeing their periods is generally believed to reduce sexual potency and weaken any talisman used by the male. This belief is strongly held by the traditionalists in the Nigerian society.

  • Owl crying on the roof of your house

Owls hooting on rooftop or on a nearby tree is a bad omen in the traditional Nigeria society as it is believed that someone in that house will soon die. In Nigerian and some other culture, owls are symbolism of witchcraft and its cries are taken with tenacity.

  • Your hands itching you without reason

If your hands are itching without reason, then it is believed that some kind of fortune is about to come your way. Whenever such itching occur, you see the traditional Nigeria man filled with smiles and happiness as he believes that some form of good fortune is about to come his way.

The above superstitious beliefs are just some of the beliefs that you would observe in the traditional Nigerian society.

References:

http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-120198.0.html

http://www.nigerianelitesforum.com/ng/my-nigeria/1192-nigerian-and-african-superstitions.html

http://www.nigerianelitesforum.com/ng/my-nigeria/1192-nigerian-and-african-superstitions.html

The Top 10 Countries With the Largest Christian Population

Christianity is the largest religion in the world. It originated in Israel and spread widely in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia and Africa. Christianity is composed of several sects and sub-sects with the Catholic Church being the largest. Beliefs, teachings and worship of this monotheistic religion are focus on Christ the Redeemer and the Savior.

Here are the top 10 countries in the world where the population of Christians are the largest.

1. USA – 245+ million

USA, the so-called “defender of democracy”, has the largest population of Christians of all the countries in the world. In the late 1400s and 1500s, Europeans who immigrated to the “New World” brought with them their religion and spread it all over the United States. Colonizers, such as Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and France, converted majority, if not all, the native inhabitants of both North and South America.

2. Brazil -170+ million

Brazil is the largest country in South America. It is the 2nd country in the world with the largest Christian population. Native inhabitants of Brazil were converted into Christianity by the Portuguese when they colonized it in the 1500s. Majority of the Brazilian Christians are Catholic and the others are Protestants.

Brazil / Pixabay

3. Russia – 114+ million

Russia, the world’s largest country in terms of land area, is the 3rd largest country in the world with the largest population of Christians. Most Russian Christians are orthodox Christian but there is also a considerably large population of Catholics.

4. China – 110+ million

China, with more than 1.3 billion people and is the most populous country in the world, is the 4th largest country in the world with the largest population of Christians. Much larger percentage of China’s population belongs to Buddhism and Confucianism.

5. Mexico – 100+ million

Mexico was once a colony of the mighty Spain. Its native inhabitants, which were the Aztecs, where converted into Christianity when they were conquered in the 1500s. Most Mexican Christians are Catholics.

6. Philippines – 95+ million

The Philippines, tagged as the only Christian country in Asia, is the 6th largest country in the world with the largest population of Christians. With a population of about 100 million, 95 percent or more are Christians with Catholics having the largest percentage with a few Protestants.

7. India – 66+ million

Although India is predominantly composed of Hindus, it has also a considerable number of Christians. With a Christian population of more than 66 million, India is the 7th largest country in the world with the largest Christian population.

Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India / Pixabay

8. Nigeria – 65+ million

Nigeria, an African country, is the 8th country in the world with the largest Christian population. Although Christianity is relatively young in Nigeria, more and more Nigerian people are embracing the religion.

9. Germany – 60+ million

Germany is the native land of the person who started Protestantism – Martin Luther. This country is the 9th country in the world with the largest Christian population.

10. Democratic Republic of Congo – 56+ million

The 10th country with the largest Christian population is another African country – the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has more than 56 million Christians.

Another African country with a large Christian population is Ethiopia with 52 million Christians.

In addition, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has about 49 million Christians; majority of them belongs to the Church of England.

The Pentagram: A Symbol for Good or Evil?

What is the meaning of the Pentagram? Can the Pentagram symbolise good and evil?

The Pentagram is the symbol of a five pointed star and has had a few different names over the centuries. It has been known as a pentalpha, a star pentagon, pentancle, petagle and also as a pentangle. The word itself comes from the Greek ‘pentagrammon’ meaning ‘five lines’.

What is the Pentagram?

Today it is a symbol of the Wiccan faith and rightly so, as it has associations with magic. The Wiccans weren’t the first to honour their faith with this symbol, however, and its roots can be found as far back as the times of Babylonia, Mesapotamia, Sumeria and ancient Greece and China. Nowadays many neopagan faiths have adopted this symbol for their cult, Christians have used it to represent the five wounds of Jesus Christ and it appears on the Masonic regalia of the Freemasons.

Note that the simple five pointed star is not a pentagram. The pentagram is drawn with a continuous line and has strokes through the centre of the star.

Wiccans will define the pentagram as inside a pentagon or circle. In the past the term ‘Pentagram’ has been used to describe amulets, often with a hexagram inside (Star of David). The term is thought to have come from an old French word meaning ‘to hang’ and the symbol would have been used as a talisman or as a symbol of magic.

What is the meaning of the Pentagram?

The symbol itself may have originated as the symbol of the Goddess Kore, who was worshipped over an area which extends from England to Egypt and beyond. She was believed to have invented the Roman alphabet. Kore’s sacred fruit was the apple and when cut through its centre, the apple will often reveal a near pentagram shape at its heart with each point of the star represented by a seed of the apple.

In Babylonian times the points of the star were probably astrological markers and they are thought to have represented the five planets Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn and Venus. Venus would have been the top most point as she was revered as the Queen of Heaven (Ishtar).

The Pythagoreans worshiped the Pentagram as the symbol of the Greek Goddess of health.

In China it was referred to as ‘Wu Xing’ and its points represented the five elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.

Christians have used the pentagram in connection with the five senses and it also been used as a symbol of health if you see the letters S, A, L, V, S inscribed upon the five points. It has also been believed to represent the five wounds of Christ and was thought to be a symbol to ward off all evil.

The Celts thought that the pentagram was a symbol of the Goddess of the Underground, whom they named Morgan (Morrigan). The five points related to the fact that Ireland had five great roads, five provinces and five paths of the law.

A reversed pentagram, with two of its points facing upward is thought to be a symbol of evil because it overturns the natural order of things. With the single point facing upwards it is thought to be a symbol of good due to the interpretation of a spirit residing over all the other elements.

Satanists have given the pentagram a bad name since they reversed the symbol and placed a goat’s head inside it. This is called the ‘Sigil of Baphomet’. They use it as a sign of rebellion and to reject the symbol of the holy Trinity.

The circle surrounding the pentagram is thought to be a symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity and protection. Religions throughout history and some of the more contemporary ones today, use it to represent the female deity or feminine spirit and force.

The Number 5

The number 5 has always been much respected as mystical and magical. Humans have five fingers and five toes. We have five senses, sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. There are essentially five rites of passage in our lives, birth, adulthood, coitus, parenthood and death. Medieval Knights were said to have five virtues, courtesy, generosity, chivalry, chastity and piety. The Wiccan kiss is a fivefold one, feet, knees, womb, breast and lips. The number 5 is a prime number. The pentagram is made up of 5 lines and it is unicursal.

How is the Pentagram Used Today?

The five pointed star is often used on medals representing bravery and honour. It can also be found today on police badges, military vehicles, national flags, corporate logos, rock music branding, and commercial advertising and on many graphic designs. Whilst its image remains somewhat tarnished due to the misbelief that it is used only to represent devil worship and Satanists, it will continue to abound in our society for many years to come.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagram, http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/pentagram.html, http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_pent.htm

Interesting Facts About the Most Sacred Place for Muslims on Earth - Kaaba

This post is about interesting facts about Kaaba, the most sacred, and may be the most visited place on earth. Mecca is probably the most visited city in the world where the Kaaba is situated. At present only during the hajj Mecca is visited by 2 million people. Therefore, virtually all life in Mecca associated with servicing the pilgrims visiting the city. According to many researches, the Kaaba (called House of ALLAH) is the most peaceful place on earth. it holds an enormous amount of people throughout the year which makes this place on the top of the most visited places on earth.

This post is about interesting facts about Kaaba, the most sacred, and may be the most visited place on earth.

Mecca is probably the most visited city in the world where the Kaaba is situated. At present only during the hajj Mecca is visited by 2 million people. Therefore, virtually all life in Mecca associated with servicing the pilgrims visiting the city. According to many researches, the Kaaba (called House of ALLAH) is the most peaceful place on earth. it holds an enormous amount of people throughout the year which makes this place on the top of the most visited places on earth.

For followers of Islam, the Kaaba is the most sacred place on Earth. Kaaba is the center of the circumambulations performed during the pilgrimage (hajj), and it is toward the Kaaba that Muslims face in their prayers (salat). Kaaba is located in the city of Mecca (Makkah) in the Arabian Desert in the Arabian peninsula of what is known as Saudi Arabia.

It is also called the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, Al Masjid Al-Haram. Its name is an Arabic word that means a home or a room that looks like a cube.. It is a cube shaped stone structure built in the middle of the Sacred Mosque.

The other names of the Kaaba, are Bait ul Ateeq - which means, according to one meaning, the earliest and ancient. According to the second meaning, it means independent and liberating. Both meanings could be taken. Bait ul Haram - the honorable house. Scholars and historians say that the Kaaba has been reconstructed between five to 12 times.

When was the Kaaba built?

The very first construction of the Ka`bah was done by ProphetAdam (raa). Allah says in the Quran that this was the first house that was built for humanity to worship All.

Tradition goes that the Kaaba was ordained by Allah to be built in the shape of the House in Heaven called Baitul Ma'amoor. Allah in his infinite Mercy ordained a similar place on earth and Prophet Adam (p.b.u.h.) was the first to build this place.  This holy building has been built and rebuilt by Prophet Adam A.S, Prophet Ibrahim A.S, Prophet Ismail A.S, and Prophet Muhammad SAAW. No other building of the world has had this honor.                                       

Kaaba in other holy books:

The Bible, in the chapter of Genesis describes its building when God ordained Abraham (p.b.u.h.) to erect a Shrine for worship when Abraham (p.b.u.h.) was ordered to go to the southern desert with his wife Hager (p.b.u.h.) and infant son Ishmael (p.b.u.h.).

The Old Testament describes this building as the Shrine of God at several places, but the one built at Ma'amoor is very much similar to the one at Makkah. There is no doubt that it was referring to the stone built house at Makkah.

Historically when Abraham (p.b.u.h.) was ordered by Allah to build the Shrine for worship, he uncovered the original foundations of the Kaaba built by Adam (p.b.u.h.). Abraham (p.b.u.h.) with the help of his son Ishmael (p.b.u.h.) erected the new shrine on the same foundations.

When Prophet Abraham (p.b.u.h.) built the Holy Shrine in Makka, his prayers were that this place should remain a center of worship for all good and pious people; that Allah should keep his family the custodians of the Holy place.

The Black Stone (called Hajr e Aswad in Arabic) is a Muslim relic, which according to Islamic tradition dates back to the time of Adam and Eve. Historical research claims that the Black Stone marked the Kaaba as a place of worship during pre-Islamic pagan times. The Stone is a dark rock, polished smooth by the hands of millions of pilgrims, that has been broken into a number of fragments cemented into a silver frame in the side of the Kaaba.

According to the Hadith, "it descended from Paradise whiter than milk, but the sins of the sons of Adam made it black". According to belief, an angel spoke to the great prophet Abraham, and told him to institute the rite of the stone in the Pilgrimage at Mecca.

The whole building of Kaaba is built of the layers of gray blue stone from the hills surrounding Makka. The four corners roughly face the four points of the compass.

The Kaaba is covered by a black silk and gold curtain known as the kiswah, which is replaced annually. About two-thirds of the way up runs a band of gold-embroidered calligraphy with Qur'anic text, including the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada.

In modern times, entry to the Kaaba's interior is generally not permitted except for certain rare occasions and for a limited number of guests.

Muslims throughout the world face the Kaaba during prayers, which occur five times a day. For most places around the world, coordinates for Mecca suffice. Worshippers in the Sacred Mosque pray in concentric circles around the Kaaba.

It should be noted that Muslims do not worship the Ka'aba and its environs. Rather, it serves as a focal and unifying point among the Muslim people. During the annual pilgrimage ("Hajj"), Muslims walk around around the Ka'aba in a counter-clockwise direction (a ritual known as "tawaf").

An amazing fact about Kaaba:

Most exceptional thing for all human being to think about it is that the only building in the world, from where no bird passes over Khana Kaaba and no aero-plane in the world history is who did fly over this building.

One of the important aspects is that sun and moon can not stand on this Holy building. It’s all from Allah Almighty, for human being to think this natural respect of Khana Kaaba.

YouTube 'Amazing Facts 'Secret of Kaaba

Useful links:

* The Kaaba

* Ka’aba The House Of Allah

Ritual Cannibalism: Past and Present

Why does the ancient and "primitive" act of cannibalism continue in these modern times? What is the connection between human perception, eating the dead, and spirituality? This article explores this fascinating subject.

Most anthropologists today believe the practice of cannibalism has been part of human behavior since long before recorded history. 

Oral traditions and world literature are brimming with fascinating accounts of headhunting cannibals of the African jungles, heart-devouring tribes of the Amazonian rainforest, highly elaborate ceremonies surrounding the consumption of human flesh among Papua New Guinea aborigine, and dining on the dead among the Anasazi of Chaco Canyon in the Four Corners region of the U. S. Southwest. 

Cannibalism is, in fact, deeply embedded in the romantic lore of mankind’s evolution--tied to mythology, religion, witchcraft, vampirism, and strangely perhaps, to heroism.

Still, the very thought of one human eating another--regardless of the circumstances--sends cold chills up and down the spines of most “civilized” people today.

Even so, it compels us to ponder why the flesh of the dead can provoke such overpowering cannibalistic urges; why many believe the dead can be transformed literally and symbolically into ritual gifts for the living, and why a cannibalistic equation seems to characterize many death rituals around the world--both past and present-day.

Ritual cannibalism has been ethnographically documented among numerous modern-day tribes including the Gimi of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, the Wari tribesmen of western Brazil, and several indigenous groups of the Congo, Indonesia, and even certain sects of Japan. The perpetuation of this ancient practice has spawned a number of theories as to why it persists.

The Gimi

Among the Gimi of Papua New Guinea, for example, cannibalism is rooted in ancient mythology where the “mother” figure is depicted as a punishing deity.

The Gimi commonly attribute such problems as male impotence, lack of milk in new mothers, and female infertility to the “mother” robbing vital energy from the dead--thus leaving less for the living.  Accordingly, Gimi cannibalism is primarily a female ritual whereby women eat the bodies of their own children, husbands, and parents as a way to counteract the life-draining powers of the mother deity.

The Wari

Similarly, following the death of a Wari tribesman of Brazil, family members will mourn and wail inconsolably over the corpse for several days until it begins to putrefy. 

Then it is ritualistically cut into small pieces--initially, the brains, heart, and liver--then roasted, placed on clean ceremonial mats, then distributed among the relatives--the choicest pieces going to the parents and elders.  The Wari believe they consume the animal essence of their loved ones which in turn contributes to their own inner strength.

The Aghori

One of the more striking modern examples of ritual cannibalism occurs among a Hindu sect of India known as the Aghori, a group of ascetics believed to have existed for at least 1,000 years. 

Occasionally glimpsed wandering the Indian countryside nearly-naked either alone or in pairs, this highly reclusive mystical sect has been the subject of many speculative accounts over the past century, but was most conclusively documented by British anthropologist Henry Balfour in the late 19th century in his remarkable primer, Life History of an Aghori Fakir.

Known for their ritual habit of eating the physical remains of dead animals and human flesh, drinking human blood and urine, and for the human skull they use for ritual practices, they are considered primitive scavengers, lower than the lowest caste, and are loathed by most modern Indians.

Unlike most Hindu sects which are vegetarians and never partake of alcohol, the Aghori frequently consume meat and routinely include alcohol in their daily rituals. It is their belief that eating the dead will give them a direct pathway to god, avoiding reincarnation.

Perspective

Many psychologists explain cannibalism as the human perception that human flesh is life-generating food, thus consuming it reaffirms the meaning of existence for those who partake of it. 

Another view suggests that cannibalism exemplifies the instinctive human desire to gain control over death--to get the better of it--and ultimately, triumph over it. 

And as it is apparently regarded in some remote areas of current-day Mexico, eating an enemy is still seen as a viable strategy to acquire that individual’s charisma--that indefinable quality that separates leaders from followers. 

But while no single theory seems to satisfactorily explain the continuation of this seemingly "barbaric" behavior, a common thread does seem to pass culture to culture, belief system to belief system, keeping this practice alive.

References:

•CAMPOS, Mônica Soares de. Estudo da correlação mercúrio-selênio em amostras de cabelos de índios Wari. São Paulo

Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft, Stein and Stein

Hunting the Ancestors: Death and Alliance in Wari'cannibalism

"Perimortem Damage to Human Skeletal Remains from Wupatki National Monument, Northern Arizona," The Kiva, Turner, C. G. and J. Turner

Puebloan Witchcraft and the Archaeology of Violence, Walker, W. H.

images via www.uh.edu and Wikipedia.org

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