Monthly Archives: July 2017

SHINTOISM | O-Bon

13 to 15 July

Bon is the Japanese word for lantern, but the O-Bon* or Bon festival is known both as the ‘Festival of Lanterns’ and the ‘Festival of Souls’. Taking place across three days, it is a time for spirits of the dead to make a brief return to their earthly homes. Many people return to their hometowns to tend family graves and to festoon the graveyard with paper lanterns and incense to guide the spirits of their ancestors. Homes are cleaned and illuminated inside and out with lanterns too. On the final evening of celebrations, Bon Odori (lantern dances) are performed and okuri-dango (farewell rice dumplings) are offered to the spirits. Celebrations end when the paper lanterns are taken to the nearest river or ocean where they float away, guiding the spirits back to Meidu, the celestial world of the dead.

* The ‘O’ is often attached to ‘Bon’ as an honorific prefix

For more information about O-Bon please click here

SHINTOISM | O-Bon 2017-09-12T10:35:13+00:00

BAHÁ’Í | Martyrdom of The Báb

10 July

This day commemorates the death of The Báb, Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. While The Báb (1819 – 1850) had many followers, his beliefs were not condoned by the leaders of Persia’s state religion. First they had him imprisoned but later they decided upon a harsher punishment, death. One of the Báb’s young followers begged to share his fate. The firing squad lined up and fired shots at The Báb and his follower. Yet, when the smoke cleared the young follower stood alone and unharmed, while The Báb appeared to have vanished. The guards found him later, sitting calmly and very much alive in his prison cell. Alarmed by the apparent ‘miracle’, the firing squad refused to fire at the men a second time. A new regiment was called for. The Báb and his follower were shot dead and their bodies thrown into a nearby moat, later to be rescued by supporters and buried in a dedicated shrine on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.

Today the Martyrdom of The Báb is a day of rest. To commemorate the executions, Bahá’í’s recite prayers at midday – the precise time at which the executions are believed to have taken place.

For more information about the Martyrdom of The Báb please click here

BAHÁ’Í | Martyrdom of The Báb 2017-09-12T10:35:19+00:00

BUDDHISM [THERAVADIN] | Dharma Day

9 July

On Dharma day Buddhists around the world celebrate the day when Buddha began his teaching. Siddhartha Gautama was a wealthy prince who became disillusioned when he discovered the harsh realities of the world beyond the palace walls and chose to renounced his wealth and family. Determined to understand the truth of life, he decided one day to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree* (the tree of awakening). After meditating deeply on the subject, he achieved Enlightenment and became Buddha.

The Buddha taught that the idea that we exist as isolated entities is an illusion. All living things are interrelated; and we are part of that interconnectedness and do not have autonomous existence. Buddha taught a path from selfishness to generosity, from ignorance to wisdom, from hatred to loving-kindness. Openness, mindfulness, compassion and wisdom are the very heart of the Buddha’s teachings.

* Bodhi is the name for the tree under which Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment; it is a type of fig tree, scientifically known as Ficus religiosa.

For more information about Dharma Day please click here

BUDDHISM [THERAVADIN] | Dharma Day 2017-09-12T10:35:25+00:00

SHINTOISM | Tanabata Matsuri

07 July

Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival) is devoted to two stars who are in love but only allowed to meet just once a year. According to Japanese legend, Kenoyu (Altair, or the cowherd star) and Shokujo (Vega, or the weaver star) fell deeply in love only to be torn apart by the vast expanse of the Milky Way. One day, a tiding of magpies forms a bridge across the Milky Way and the two stars are reunited once more. Although they cannot stay together for ever, they are allowed to meet for one day each year, on Tanabata Matsuri.

The custom of offering prayers to the cowherd star for a fruitful harvest and to the weaver star for skill in weaving has given rise to the festival’s other alternative name, ‘Weaver Festival’. Young people celebrate by writing their hopes and wishes for the coming year onto strips of paper which they then hang on makeshift bamboo constructions in their gardens. At school, children write prayers to the stars for success in their studies. The festival has been celebrated in Japan for centuries, originating from an earlier Chinese custom.

For more information about Tanabata Matsuri please click here

SHINTOISM | Tanabata Matsuri 2017-09-12T10:35:32+00:00