Another festival of Light to illuminate the darkness and warm the heart of Winter: KWANZAA
The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili word meaning “first” or “first fruits of the harvest.”
Kwanzaa is an African-American 7-day festival celebrated mainly in the U.S. for the week between 26th December and 1st January each year. The festival itself is neither religious nor political. That being said, increasingly many faith-based communities throughout the country are celebrating Kwanzaa as part of their winter holiday rituals to teach tolerance, foster diversity and practice inclusion. I honor this new tradition reflective of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa. Namaste!
“The holiday was established in 1966 to help African Americans remember and celebrate their heritage. The word “Kwanzaa” comes from the Swahili language and means “first fruits”. Each day of the seven days is dedicated to one of “The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa”, which are:
umoja – to maintain unity in the family and community
kujichagulia – self-determination, to be responsible and speak for oneself
ujima – collective work and responsibility, to build and maintain a community together
ujamaa – economic cooperation, to help and profit one another
nia – purpose, to build and develop the community for the benefit of the people
kuumba – creativity, to do everything possible to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial for future generations
imani – faith, to believe in parents, elders, teachers and leaders
A candle is lit each day on the special candlestick, the “kimara”, to represent these principles. The kimara is placed on a mkeka, a traditional straw mat, and one ear of corn is also placed on the mat for each child in the family. A fruit basket, called a “mazao”, is also displayed, along with a special “unity” cup, out of which everyone drinks. Families decorate their homes with traditional African crafts. The colors red, green and black – representing the African flag – are used. Gifts, known as “zawadi”, are given on the last day of Kwanzaa.” *http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/kwanzaa
Do you have Kwanzaa traditions or festival dish recipes to share?
Animal totems are symbols used throughout Aboriginal/Indigenous and Native American religious traditions. These cultures are deeply rooted in the sights and sounds; visions and voices of Nature. Their Pantheistic subtleties shape an ethics of living in harmony with the Sacred. Animal totems suggest a dimension of reality where people and animals, rocks and plants, rivers and fish, seasons and weather exist in synergy as one integrated whole. Indeed, animal totems are one piece in the mosaic of the emerging signs and symbols of ecospirituality.
I respect comparative religions as a foundation of interfaith theology and my ministry. The beliefs of a culture as reflected in it’s collective psyche and ethics are transmitted and sustained within myths, legends, signs and symbols. Totems offer glimpses and sometimes just shadows of another way or the other worldly.
To that end, consider the deer totem which has taken on significant meaning for me since the sudden death of my best friend several weeks ago. The deer is one symbol representing the profound transformation of our 27 year friendship from life through death to legacy.
Deer represent the spiritual realm.
The symbolic meanings of the deer honor a synergy of soft, gentle qualities with strength, determination and perseverance.
Deer have the flexibility to move through life’s obstacles with grace.
They understand both innocence and threat. Sensitive and intuitive with a keen sixth sense, deer are ever vigilant with the ability to change directions quickly.
Deer blend in with ease. They are humble. Deer help discern what actions should be taken with speed and agility.
They have special connections with children and persons with special needs.
They can touch the hearts and minds of the wounded without pushing change… rather gently nudging toward the better direction.
They are excellent mothers as they innately nurture yet benevolently defend with watchfulness. Deer are keenly sensitive to outside influences and often direct what happens behind the scenes with ease and serenity in chaos.
Deer are associated with the magical abilities to regenerate and are said to be in touch with life’s mysteries.
Their tranquility calms, soothes and satisfies.
*This post is dedicated to the spirit and memory of Sharon L. DeLuca. Rest in peace, my friend, until we meet again.
Aboriginal/Indigenous and Native American religious traditions embrace the power and cycles of nature. In fact, their beliefs are inseparable from their understanding of nature and the roles they play in a unified cosmos.
A “totem” is a symbol, emblem, logo, trademark – usually a person or thing that represents something else. Anthropology teaches that totems are representative of individuals, groups, families, clans, sects and tribes.
Frequently, but not always, totems are animals. Some totems are deeply personal… while others are collective or universal. Animal totems are also called “spirit animals.”
Some Christians and Jews and Muslims believe in guardian angels. Indigenous peoples believe in totems. Totems are outward signs. Some are messengers; some are heroes; all are symbols that have purpose and meaning. Understanding totems presents the possibility of understanding the subtle communication between totems, their meanings and the people that honor them.
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about the purpose of totems, their messages and their powerful contribution to the development of a culture people to people, generation to generation, place to place. Totems exists to remind us of something else.
Look around. Indeed, totems surround us:
tattoos, body art, jewelry, T shirts, dollar bills, billboards, wedding rings, the American flag, the Christian sign of the cross, Chevron’s logo, the Jewish Star of David, the peace sign, the Nike swoosh, NBC’s peacock, Wells Fargo stagecoach, Twitter’s bird, the Buddhist man with the fat belly sitting in the lotus position – all totems. Totems are simple ways to communicate complex meanings.
I have come to appreciate and especially honor animal totems – particularly having lived in the desert Southwest – New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada for many years. Native signs and symbols permeate the history, the land and the local culture here. They are part of our story.
Personal totems are things personified with special personal meaning and significance beyond the ordinary. Totems are usually cherished and sometimes revered.
At particularly intense moments in my life, hummingbirds show up. I have no logical reason to explain why. They just do. And sometimes, they seem to show up repeatedly until I “get the message.” I have learned to stop analyzing the synchronicity… and simply cherish the moments they visit my experience.
Hummingbirds represent life’s enjoyment literally while seemingly appearing completely out of no where…hovering for a moment and then vanishing just as fast as they appeared. Their essence is joy.
They are innately attracted to the sweetness of life which sustains them.
Hummingbirds symbolize fearlessness, ceaseless efforts and the reminder of a jeweled iridescent tiny dancer filled with grace and beauty.
“Myths suggest this extraordinary bird has the ability to float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration.
Hummingbirds are capable of amazing feats despite their small size. They are known to travel great distances and are the only bird that can fly backwards. Their delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”
They working really hard – biologically, a hummingbird’s tiny heart can beat 1,260 times a minute while breathing up to 250 times per minute. They are extraordinarily efficient with their use of energy.
They can lick up to 15 times a second while feeding and drinking.
They cannot smell but they have excellent eyesight.
Hummingbirds can fly up to 30 miles per hour while being able to to reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive.
They are truly aviary acrobats and gymnasts.
Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all the birds.
They are native only to the Western Hemisphere.
They need to consume 1/2 of their weight in sugar every day.
Most hummingbirds eat 5-8 times an hour.
My connection with hummingbirds has proven them to be messengers… reminding me to take lessons from their extraordinary adaptability and enchanting resiliency while staying playful, optimistic and joyful.
While studying Interfaith Theology during my ministry training, I took a course in Aboriginal, Indigenous and Native Religious Texts. The course taught me a great deal about their primal beliefs, ancient world views, Native traditions and the history of the inhabitants of lands before European invasion.
I particularly honor the legacy of Native American spirituality. Where ever I have lived, I’ve tried to connect in some way with the spirit of the indegenous people whose bones, blood, sweat and tears are literally part of the land. I often reflect on the heritage they provide for our contemporary contexts of interfaith and of ecospirituality. I believe Native peoples have much to teach us about the Sacred, our relationship with Nature and our interconnectedness across the globe as one people with the gods and goddesses.
Pray with me:
Navajo Chant The mountains, I become a part of it…
The herbs, the fir tree, I become a part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters,
I become a part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen…
I become a part of it.
Apache Blessing May the sun bring you new energy by day,
may the moon softly restore you by night,
may the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being,
may you walk gently through the world and
know it’s beauty all the days of your life.
Lakota Prayer Oh Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the wind,
Whose breath gives life to the world,
I come to you as one of your many children.
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.
May I walk in beauty.
Make my eyes behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things that you have made,
And my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may know the things
That you have taught your children–
The lessons that you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Make me strong, not to be superior to my brothers, but to be
able to fight my greatest enemy: myself.
Make me ever ready to come to you with straight eyes, so that
When life fades as the faded sunset
My spirit will come to you without shame.
Ute Prayer Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth Teach me caring
as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation
as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
as dry fields weep in the rain.
Mohawk Prayer Oh Great Spirit, Creator of all things;
Human Beings, trees, grass, berries.
Help us, be kind to us.
Let us be happy on earth.
Let us lead our children
To a good life and old age.
These our people; give them good minds
To love one another.
Oh Great Spirit,
Be kind to us
Give these people the favor
To see green trees,
Green grass, flowers, and berries
This next spring;
So we all meet again
Oh Great Spirit,
We ask of you.
Hopi Prayer for Peace Great Spirit and all unseen, this day we pray and ask You for guidance,
humbly we ask You to help us and fellow men to have recourse to peaceful ways of life,
because of uncontrolled deceitfulness by human- kind.
Help us all to love, not hate one another.
We ask you to be seen in an image of Love and Peace.
Let us be seen in beauty, the colors of the rainbow. We respect our Mother,
the planet, with our loving care, for from Her breast we receive our nourishment.
Let us not listen to the voices of the two-hearted, the destroyers of mind,
the haters and self-made leaders, whose lusts for power and wealth will lead us into confusion and darkness.
Seek visions always of world beauty, not violence nor battlefields.
It is our duty to pray always for harmony between man and earth, so that the earth will bloom once more. Let us show our emblem of love and goodwill for all life and land.
Pray for the House of Glass, for within it are minds clear and pure as ice and mountain streams. Pray for the great leaders of nations in the House of Mica who in their own quiet ways help the earth in balance.
We pray the Great Spirit that one day our Mother Earth will be purified into a healthy peaceful one. Let us sing for strength of wisdom with all nations for the good of all people.
Our hope is not yet lost, purification must be to restore the health of our Mother Earth for lasting peace and happiness.
I welcome your submissions and will be happy to add them.
Ubuntu is an ancient African tribal word meaning human-ness; human kindness; humanity toward others; “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Ubuntu is our “interconnectedness.” Its the glue that holds us all together.
Ubuntu has evolved as a kind of philosophy…a way of life embracing “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”
Ubuntu was introduced to the West by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, President Bill Clinton. Ubuntu has implications for interfaith approaches to spirituality, ecospirituality tolerance, peace and environmental stewardship.
“My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours… We belong in a bundle of life.” (Desmond Tutu)
“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he/she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” (Desmond Tutu)
“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” (Desmond Tutu)
“So Ubuntu — for us it means that the world is too small, our wisdom too limited, our time here too short, to waste any more of it in winning fleeting victories at other people’s expense. We have to now find a way to triumph together.” (Bill Clinton)
On October 27, 1986, world religious leaders gathered in Assisi, Italy for the Day of Prayer for World Peace. The 12 prayers for peace offered have become known as the Peace Seeds.
“Like the bee gathering honey from the different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of the different scripture and sees only the good in all religions.” – Mahatma Gandhi
HINDU PRAYER FOR PEACE
Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real. Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.
Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all. Oh Lord God Almighty,
May there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome.
And may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.
May they Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to us. And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all,
And may that peace come to me also.
BUDDHIST PRAYER FOR PEACE
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
Quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid,
And may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness –
the children, the aged, the unprotected –
Be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.
JAINIST PRAYER FOR PEACE
Peace and Universal Love is the essence of the Gospel
preached by all the Enlightened Ones.
The Lord has preached that equanimity is the Dharma.
Forgive do I creature all and let all creatures forgive me.
Unto all have I amity and unto none enmity.
Know that violence is the root cause of all miseries in the world.
Violence, in fact, is the knot of bondage.
“Do not injure any living being.”
This is the eternal , perennial and unalterable way of spiritual life.
Any weapon, howsoever powerful it may be,
can always be superseded by a superior one;
But no weapon can, however, be superior to non-violence and love.
MUSLIM PRAYER FOR PEACE
In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful.
Praise be to the Lord of the Universe.
Who had created us and made us into tribes and nations,
That we may know each other, not that we may despise each other.
If the enemy inclines towards peace, Do thous also incline towards peace,
And trust in God, For the Lord is the one that hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God, Most Gracious, are those who walk on the earth
in humility, and when we address them, we say “Peace.”
SIKH PRAYER FOR PEACE
God judges us according to our deeds, not the coat we wear.
That Truth is above everything, but higher still is truthful living.
Know that we attain God when we love,
And only that victory endures in consequence of which no one is defeated.
BAHAI’ PRAYER FOR PEACE
Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity.
Be fair in judgement and guarded in speech.
Be a lamp for those who walk in darkness and a home to the stranger.
Be eyes to the blind and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring.
Be a breathe of life to the body of humankind,
A dew to the soil of the human heart,
And a fruit upon the tree of humility.
SHINTO PRAYER FOR PEACE
Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us,
I believe are all brothers and sisters,
Why are there constant troubles in this world?
Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us?
I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away all the clouds
Which are hanging over the tops of the mountains.
NATIVE AFRICAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
Almighty God, the Great Thumb cannot evade to tie any knot;
The Roaring Thunder that splits mighty trees;
The All Seeing Lord up on high who sees even the footprints of an antelope
on a rock mass here on Earth.
You are the One who does not hesitate to respond to our call.
You are the cornerstone of peace.
NATIVE AMERICAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you.
To your messengers the four winds and to Mother Earth who provides for your children.
Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love,
to respect and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace in mind.
Let us learn to share all the good things that you provide for us on this Earth.
ZOROASTRIAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
We pray to God to eradicate all the misery in the world;
That understanding triumph over ignorance, that generosity triumph over indifference,
That trust triumph over contempt and that truth triumph over falsehood.
JEWISH PRAYER FOR PEACE
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
that we may walk the paths of the Most High.
And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks.
National shall not life us sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
And none shall be afraid for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.
CHRISTIAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be known as Children of God.
But I say to you that hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you.
To those who strike you on the cheek offer the other also.
And from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well.
Give to everyone who begs from you
And of those who take away your goods do not ask them again.
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
*Thanks to the Chaplaincy Institute (www.ChaplaincyInstitute.Org/library).