Wednesday, August 29, 2007



In practice, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective.

Anglo-Saxon & Ancient Scandinavian

The characters of the Anglo-Saxon alphabet (called Runes) were often carved into geometric designs. These were occasionally created to represent the universe, but most often was used in creating magic spells or designs of protection. Similar designs are called Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs which once were painted onto barns and houses for good luck and protection

Buddhist and Hindu

In Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism (see Vajrayana), a diagram representing the universe, used in sacred rites and as an instrument of meditation. The mandala serves as a collection point for universal forces. By mentally "entering" the mandala and moving toward its centre, one is guided through the cosmic processes of disintegration and reintegration. Mandalas may be painted on paper or cloth, drawn on the ground, or fashioned of bronze or stone. Two types of mandalas represent different aspects of the universe: the garbha-dhatu ("womb world"), in which the movement is from one to the many, and the vajra-dhatu ("diamond world"), from the many into one.


What is the meaning behind a rose window? Many contemporary authors wax on about Jungian psychology and the rose window as a mandala, which represents the "expression of human aspiration towards wholeness and coherence." Mandalas have existed in Eastern religion and philosophy for centuries, and in modern thinking, the medieval rose window serves much the same purpose. The rose window operates on many levels: spiritual, meditative, and emotional. Abbot Suger's observations underscore how deep an emotional and spiritual chord is struck by the play of light that passes through the glass. The instructional aspect of rose windows is plainly visible by the subjects chosen for display in each petal--the medieval calendar year, the virtues and vices, the saints, etc.

In much the same way the center of Eastern mandalas depict the "godhead" or divine aspect of the world, so do rose windows. Typically Christ or the Virgin and Christ are found in the central rosette of most windows. In eastern philosophy, there are many paths to reach the divine, and these are represented by "gates" at the cardinal points of the mandala. By the same token, saints depicted in the petals of a rose window can be seen as intermediaries (or paths) to Christ.


I suppose the taiji symbol (yin/yang) could be considered a Daoist mandala since on one level it represents heaven (yang) and earth (yin). However, the He Tu (or Ho Tu) diagram might serve as a mandala as well. The five white center dots that form a circle represent heaven, the ten black center dots that form a square represent earth, and the sets of black and white dots around the outside represent the five energy phases that create all things that exist between heaven and earth.

Greek Ancient

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. It represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools. A labyrinth is an archetype with which we can have a direct experience.

A labyrinth contains non-verbal, implicate geometric and numerological prompts that create a multi-dimensional holographic field. These unseen patterns are referred to as sacred geometry. They allegedly reveal the presence of a cosmic order as they interface the world of material form and the subtler realms of higher consciousness.


See Buddhist above.


"Shiviti" comes from the sentence, "I have set (shiviti) the Lord before me always." Looking at a Shiviti is Name-gazing; it is akin to ikon-gazing: concentrating on the symbol of the Deity with a focused gaze, until the distance between inside and outside becomes obliterated, and what was on the outside (the shiviti) becomes internalized. Looking at the Shiviti we view the world from God's vantage point. Chesed, God's right hand, as it were, is on our right, not opposite our left hand, as it would be if we were facing God. This is connected to God's words to Moses, "You shall see my back, but my face is not to be seen." So one walks, as it were, into the YHVH, facing in the same direction, becoming one with it.

The Name is written in such a way, top to bottom, rather than right to left, to create a hierarchy and also a figure: Yud is the head; the upper Heh, the arms and shoulders; Vav, the heart, spine and genitals; and the lower Heh, the legs, and pelvis. These are the four levels: The top of the Yud is Keter and the rest of it is Chochmah, the two Heh's are Binah and Malkhut. The Vav contains the sephirot Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod.

In prayer, one sits in front of the Shiviti, and stares at it to ascend to God's Presence, and then to descend. The four letters represent the parts of the prayer service: In the morning prayer, one looks at the lower Heh during the Birkhat HaShachar, the pening blessings which address the world of Assiyah, the world of our bodies, our environment; getting ready in Assiyah requires doing an inventory of the body: What tensions are my muscles holding on to, what messages is my body telling me that I have been too busy to pay attention to? To place oneself in the presence of God is to let the body out from any compulsion that it is under.


Some fundamentals that were brought about by the Holy Qur'an similarly gave rise to the form of the mosque. Of these fundamentals, the most important one is "Arsh", namely "the Throne."

The literal meaning of the Throne is: altitude, high place, ceiling, cover, the tent and it is used in the Qur'an and in the Hadiths (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) as "Divine Sovereignty, Dignity and the Throne" (Devellioglu 1970: Ars.; Golpinarli 1977: Ars, 1989:101; Akay 1991: Ars; DIA: Ars; IA: Kursu).

Alone with the concept of the Throne, it is necessary to mention the iconographical concept of "mandala" which is used in various ways in Turkish architecture and which I suppose to have a close relationship with the Throne.

The shape of the cosmogram called mandala in architecture and handcrafts, consists of a circle and a square, one within the other. While the circle represents God, cosmos, mystical life, eternity, the world of eternity and esoterical concepts; the square represents the world, material life, worldly life and all exoterical concepts. This was commonly used in Central Asia in the pre-Islamic life of Turks as well as in India and Far East. However, we are not concerned here with the origin and the development of the mandala but only with its parallelism with the concept of the Throne.

The full meanings that the square and the circle of the mandala include, both separately and together, is in accordance with the philosophy of Islam. The plan with four iwans and a central courtyard has been interpreted as an image of the cosmos. This plan has a very long past; it has been identified with the diagram of mandala and has been extensively applied in architecture for centuries (Ogel 1986: 59-84; 1994: 63-115). The concept of mandala which takes place in pre-Islamic Turkic beliefs and traditions, has been united and integrated with the concept of the Throne, which has played a significant role in the formation of religious architecture after Islam.

Native American


The Navajo word for sandpaintings means "place where the gods come and go." The sandpainting has been used for centuries in religious rituals, including healing ceremonies performed by Navajo medicine men. A sandpainting for a ceremony is made on the ground in the ceremonial hogan and destroyed at the end of the ritual. In order to preserve this long-standing tradition, in the late 1940's Navajos began to create permanent sandpaintings, changing the design slightly to protect the religious significance when these paintings were shown publicly. Pictorial sandpaintings which reflect the Navajo environment and lifestyle are also made. Today sandpaintings are made by slowly trickling sand through the hand onto epoxy-covered particle boards, using sand made from naturally colored crushed rock, stone, and minerals for the different shades and colors. The sandpainting is intended to be hung within a frame or by attaching picture hangers to the back of the board. [These sandpaintings are often of a mandala-type design in which the shapes and colors in each quadrant are mirror-images of the others. ~M~]

Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of all creation, of all races of human beings, birds, fish, animals, trees, and stones. It's in the shape of a wheel. The circle shape represents the earth, the sun, the moon, the cycles of life, the seasons, and day to night. Movement around the outside of the Medicine Wheel is in a clockwise direction, the rotation path of mother earth. At the center of the wheel (the hub) is the Creator, who sits in perfect balance. Outside the center, there is an inner circle representing the Old Woman (the earth), Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, and the four elements. Four distinct colors, set in the four directions, lay on the perimeter, separated by beads representing the moon's cycles. Leather, laid from the perimeter, in straight lines, to the center (the spokes of the wheel) represent spiritual paths leading us to the center, to perfect balance, to the Creator. The meaning of the number four, as it is in Native American life, is evident in the Medicine Wheel. 4 = four directions + four seasons + four elements (earth, air, water and fire) + the four races of human being.

Scandinavian Ancient

See Anglo-Saxon above.


(Visit link to see picture.)

This simple composition of figures placed against a dark ground is an outstanding example of medieval Japanese Shinto mandala. The top part of the scroll contains small figures of a thunder god, a Buddhist priest, a deer, and a pagoda; the bottom register contains two lion dogs facing each other; and the center section contains four figures. The large central figure of a non-Japanese male dressed in secular costume is identified as an Indian, Vimalakirti, called Yuima in Japanese. Below him, a male in court robes is flanked by a secondary nobleman and a Buddhist priest. Vimalakirti was a layman who is said to have lived in north central India during the lifetime of the historical Buddha in the sixth century B.C. As a devotee of Buddhism, Vimalakirti reached the height of spiritual understanding, but he remained a layman and never became a monk.

The combination of Buddhist and Shinto figures in the same scene is an established convention for a Shinto mandala. When the native Shinto faith reached an accommodation with Buddhism, a foreign religion, the two faiths united Buddhas with native gods in a syncretic whole; indigenous Japanese gods were identified with Buddhist counterparts. In this painting, the figure dressed in court robes below Vimalakirti is thought to be his Shinto counterpart.


Take, for example, the pentacle, the encircled five-pointed star. This is a neopagan mandala that expresses the wisdom of the elements and their relationship to one another. In this way, the pentacle is not only a magical tool, but a teacher.


Here are some mandalas for you: World Mandalas book

Book Description

Beautiful and enlightening, these classical mandalas include rose window designs from the cathedrals of Europe, Navajo sand paintings, Hindu yantras, traditional Buddhist thangka scroll designs, and motifs from illuminated Celtic manuscripts.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Heaven in many cultures

Halloween Postcard published by Woodruff House in Ohio, 1901. Courtesy Wikimedia



This is the afterlife of the Ashanti people of Africa. They say it is just like an Ashanti village on earth, only better. No drought, famine or the like. Though the dead still have to farm and tend animals.

City In The Sky: A common belief among a number of African tribes is that the dead go to a great city in the sky, it is like regular village life only in reverse. People rise as the sun sets, and sleep during the day, men to women's work and women do men's work etc. The City is connected to earth by rainbows.


If we examine surviving Anglo-Saxon literary evidence we can speculate and piece together a possible Anglo-Saxon cosmology, which although can not be confirmed historically as a genuine ancient Anglo-Saxon view, can be viewed as a genuine attempt to reconstruct, in modern Heathen terms, an outlook on life and the universe which is true to the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants.

But if the Anglo-Saxons did have a belief in seven worlds, what could these worlds be? Again we can look to Anglo-Saxon evidence to find possible answers.

The first two possible worlds are Heaven and Hell, these two words are found in many ancient Germanic languages. In Old English we have Heofen and Hel, in old Norse we find Himinn and Hel, plus other variants such as Halja (Gothic) and Helle (old Frisian). And as Brian Branston points out, common tradition shows that Heaven was always up, and hell was always down. And as we already know, one of the worlds of which the Norse peoples believed in was Hel, and like our English Hell, this was a place of the dead.


In the final analysis, heaven can be seen partly as a state of nearness to God; hell is a state of remoteness from God. Each state follows as a natural consequence of individual efforts, or the lack thereof, to develop spiritually. The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the Manifestations of God.

Beyond this, the exact nature of the afterlife remains a mystery. "The nature of the soul after death can never be described," Bahá'u'lláh writes.

British/Celtic Ancient

In Irish mythology, Mag Mell ("plain of joy") was a mythical realm achievable through death and/or glory (see also Tír na nÓg and Ablach). Unlike the underworld in some mythologies, Mag Mell was a pleasurable paradise, identified as either an island far to the west of Ireland or a kingdom beneath the ocean. In its island guise it was visited by various Irish heroes and monks forming the basis of the Adventure Myth or "echtrae" as defined by Myles Dillon in his book Early Irish Literature. This otherworld is a place where sickness and death do not exist. It is a place of eternal youth and beauty. Here, music, strength, life and all pleasurable pursuits come together in a single place. Here happiness lasts forever, no one wants for food or drink. It is the Celtic equivalent of the Greek Elysium or the Valhalla of the Norse.


Many non-Buddhists think that the Pure Land is akin to Heaven or Paradise where one receives their wings and halo or where young virgins await the faithful. Ultimate reality in Buddhism has nothing to do with these fanciful notions. The Pure Land, which is called Sukhavati in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, means Land of Utmost Bliss; in most countries, it is most commonly referred to as the Pure Land. The prefix sukha means the highest bliss and is the opposite from the Sanskrit world dukkha, which means suffering or unsatisfactoriness. Dukkha is well explained in our Buddha’s teaching of the First Noble Truth.

In Shin Buddhism, the Pure Land is the realm of supreme enlightenment and the ultimate dimension. In addition, it is synonymous with Nirvana which is defined as the formless realm of peace, devoid of ignorance, hatred and greed, beyond any conventional understanding. As for the location of the transcendent Pure Land, it is described as being everywhere, in everything, in everyone yet it can not be found in any specific place.


Historically, Christianity has taught "Heaven" as a generalized concept, a place of eternal life, in that it is a shared plane to be attained by all the pious and elect (rather than an abstract experience related to individual concepts of the ideal). The Christian Church has been divided over how people gain this eternal life. From the 16th to the late 19th century, Christendom was divided between the Roman Catholic view, the Orthodox view, the Coptic view, the Jacobite view, the Abyssinian view and Protestant views.

Egyptian Ancient

In Egyptian mythology, the fields of Aaru (alternatives: Yaaru, Iaru, Aalu), are the heavenly underworld where Osiris ruled.

Only souls which weighed the same as Ma'at (symbolically represented as a feather) were allowed to start a long and perilous journey to Aaru to exist in pleasure for all eternity.

Aaru was usually placed in the east, where the sun rises, and is described as eternal reed fields, very much like those of the earthly Nile delta: an ideal hunting and fishing ground, and hence those deceased who after judgement were allowed to reside there were often called the [eternally] living, those excluded for the weight of their sins said to suffer a second death. More precisely Aaru was envisaged as a series of islands, covered in Fields of rushes (Sekhet Aaru), Aaru being the Egyptian word for rushes. The part where Osiris himself dwelt was sometimes known as the field of offerings, Sekhet Hetepet in Egyptian.

Greek Ancient


Elysium (also called Elysian Fields or Elysian Plain) was a paradise inhabited at first only by the very distinguished, but later by the good. Elysium first appears in Homer's Odyssey as the destination of Menelaus. It is located at the western ends of the earth and is characterized by gentle breezes and an easy life like that of the gods. Closely related to Elysium is Hesiod's Isles of the Blessed, mentioned in his Works and Days, which was located in the western ocean.


The early Hindus never believed in heaven, and never prayed to attain a permanent place there. The earliest concept of afterlife, say Vedic scholars, was that the dead reunite with Mother Nature and live in some other form on this earth — just as Wordsworth wrote, "with rocks and stones and trees." Going back to the early Vedic hymns, we find an eloquent invocation to the fire god, where the prayer is to assimilate the dead with the natural world:

"Burn him not, scorch him not, O Agni,
Consume him not entirely; afflict him not…
May your eye go to the Sun,
To the wind your soul…
Or go to the waters if it suits thee there,
Or abide with thy members in the plants..."
~ The Rig Veda

The concept of heaven and hell evolved at a later stage when we find such amendments in the Veda as "Go thou to the heaven or to the earth, according to thy merit…"

In Hinduism, Svarga (or Swarga) is set of heavenly worlds located on and above Mt. Meru. It is a Heaven where the righteous live in paradise before their next reincarnation. Svarga is seen as a transitory place for righteous souls who have performed good deeds in their lives but are not yet ready to attain moksha, or union with God which requires punya (virtuous deeds) as well as abstinence from pāpa (sin). The capital is Amaravati and the entrance is guarded by Airavata. Svarga is presided over by Indra, a chief deva.

In Slavic religion Svarga is Heaven, the residence of god Svarog.


The central god of the Incan religion was the sun-god, the only god that had temples built for him. The sun-god was the father of the royal family. There were many gods among the Incas, but the sun-god outshone them all. The Incas also believed that there was a heaven, a hell, and a resurrection of the body after death. Yes they did!!


There are seven levels of heaven in Jain cosmology. The top level, "the Realm of the Jinas" is reserved for liberated souls. The next level down is the realm of the gods.

The Jain heaven consists of a safe quite happy place, no ageing, no pain, no disease or death.


While the concept of heaven (malkuth hashamaim מלכות השמים—The Kingdom of Heaven) is well-defined within the Christian and Islamic religions, the Jewish concept of the afterlife, sometimes known as "olam haba", the world to come, seems to have been disputed between various early sects such as the Sadducees, and thus never set forth in a systematic or official fashion as was done in Christianity and Islam.[citation needed] Jewish writings refer to a "new earth" as the abode of mankind following the resurrection of the dead. Judaism does, however, have a belief in Heaven, not as a future abode for "good souls", but as the "place" where God "resides".


Islam is similar to that found in Judaism and Christianity. The Qur'an contains many references to an afterlife in Eden for those who do good deeds. Heaven itself is commonly described in the Qu'ran in verse 35 of Surah Al-Ra’d: "The parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised! Beneath it flow rivers. Perpetual is the fruits thereof and the shade therein. Such is the End of the Righteous; and the end of the unbelievers is the Fire, wherein a person dwells forever." Since Islam rejects the concept of original sin, Muslims believe that all human beings are born pure and will naturally turn to God, but it is their environment and lack of will power which influences them to choose ungodly ways of life. In Islam, therefore, a child who dies automatically goes to heaven, regardless of the religion of his or her parents. The highest level of heaven is Firdaws (فردوس)- Pardis (پردیس), which is where the prophets, the martyrs and the most truthful and pious people will dwell.[12]

Native American

It's possible that [James Fenimore] Cooper's happy hunting grounds is a real Indianism, but the fact that it first appears in a fictional work inspires some doubt. Cooper's use of other Indianisms and supposed Indianisms in The Last of the Mohicans and other installments of The Leatherstocking Tales doesn't offer much clue one way or the other. He indiscriminately uses both genuine Indianisms like Great Spirit and terms like paleface that are probably spurious.

Regardless of the authenticity of the term, was Chingachgook accurately portraying how real Indians thought of the afterlife when he called it the "happy hunting-grounds"? Whether Mahican or Mohegan, Cooper's fictional Indian would have been part of the Algonquian culture, to which most tribes in what is now the northeastern U.S. belonged. The Algonquians believed in an afterlife, but their ideas about it were not well defined. In general, they believed every person (and animal) had two souls. The body soul or shadow was associated with the heart and provided the person with his memory and intelligence in life. It remained with the body after death forever, usually resting quietly. On the other hand, the free soul or "real" soul was associated with the brain and in life provided the person with his sensations and experiences. The Algonquians believed that the free soul wandered during sleep or while in trance and that after death it made the long journey to the afterlife.

The land of the dead, away to the south or west and sometimes called the "Big Sand," was universally believed to be a pleasant place, but the souls there carried no memories of their previous existence. The Algonquians did not concern themselves too much with what it was like. Some believed the souls there didn't need to eat, others believed they ate rotten wood (which doesn't strike me as very conducive to happiness). And, yes, some believed the souls ate meat, which they got from hunting the spirits of animals that also went there after death.

So at least some Algonquians believed in what might accurately be called the "happy hunting grounds." But I find no evidence that the Algonquians, or any other Indians, actually called it that before Cooper put it in his book. It's as if I, a godless heathen, were to call the Christian heaven the "happy harping grounds." It's not totally out of tune with the general idea of what heaven is supposed to be like, but there's no evidence any real Christian ever called it that.

Scandinavian Ancient

Valhalla (also Valhall, Walhalla, Valhöll, meaning "Hall of the Slain")

Valhalla is the great hall of the Einherjar - the heroic dead. Warriors who died in glorious battle were chosen by Odin to wait in Valhalla until Ragnarok.

The large strucure, built by Odin himself in Asgard, had over five hundred doors, each large enough for eight hundred warriors to march out of at the time of Ragnarok so that they could fight the futile battle with the gods.

Valhalla was the heaven of the Vikings - a large hall where wounds healed quickly and meat was readily available. A constant routine of fighting and feasting ensured that the warriors were at their physical peak when Ragnarok came.

[Note that Valhalla was the destination of only the slain warriors. Everyone else who died, went to the realm of Hel, the name of both the goddess who ruled there and the Norse underworld, a mild and twilight place where everyone lived in peace. ~M~]


Chinvato Peretav

According to Zoroastrianism after a person dies the soul stays with the body for 3 days. On the forth day angles of protection accompany it to the north to Chinvato Peretav, or as it is also called Al-sirat, or the Bridge of the Separator.

The bridge in question is as thin as a hair and as sharp as a razor and spans a chasm filled with monsters. At the foot to the bridge the angels and some demons debated the worth of the dead soul. You can guess the rest.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Astronomy in Religion

Picture courtesy Wikimedia

Astronomical occurrences and calculations are important in determining Holy Days in many religious traditions.

Baha'i: Naw Ruz

The Baha'i New Year's Day (Naw Ruz) falls on the Spring Equinox. This usually occurs on 21 March but if the Equinox falls after sunset on 21 March, Naw Ruz is to be celebrated on 22 March because the Baha'i day begins at sunset.

British/Celtic Ancient (also often celebrated by Wiccans)

Crossquarter days were the markers of the changing seasons, and the solstices and equinoxes that we use now were then considered the midpoints of each season (hence midwinter's and midsummer's days). The crossquarter days are the halfway points between a solstice and equinox, if you see what I mean. A good series of articles outlining solar festivals in many different cultures can be found here under "Seasonal Markers". Meanwhile, here is a simple list of the Celtic seasonal holidays according to my current understanding:

Samhain (crossquarter day) - christianized as All Hallows' Eve/All Saints' Day, aka Halloween. Beginning of winter.

Yule - aka Midwinter's day - winter solstice. By the Roman calendar in use at the time Christmas became established, the winter solstice fell on December 25.

Imbolc (crossquarter day) - persists as Groundhog Day. First day of spring.

Ostara - spring equinox - Easter. Eggs and rabbits = fertility symbols.

Beltane (crossquarter day) - May Day. First day of summer.

Midsummer's day - summer solstice.

Lughnasad (crossquarter day) - christianized as Lammas, "loaf-mass" (first harvest), but now the least remembered of the four crossquarter days. Would be around the beginning of August. First day of autumn.

Autumn equinox.

Christian: Easter

The usual statement, that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox, is not a precise statement of the actual ecclesiastical rules. The full moon involved is not the astronomical Full Moon but an ecclesiastical moon (determined from tables) that keeps, more or less, in step with the astronomical Moon.

The ecclesiastical rules are:

  • Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox;
  • this particular ecclesiastical full moon is the 14th day of a tabular lunation (new moon); and
  • the vernal equinox is fixed as March 21.

resulting in that Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25. The Gregorian dates for the ecclesiastical full moon come from the Gregorian tables. Therefore, the civil date of Easter depends upon which tables - Gregorian or pre-Gregorian - are used. The western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) Christian churches use the Gregorian tables; many eastern (Orthodox) Christian churches use the older tables based on the Julian Calendar.

In a congress held in 1923, the eastern churches adopted a modified Gregorian Calendar and decided to set the date of Easter according to the astronomical Full Moon for the meridian of Jerusalem. However, a variety of practices remain among the eastern churches.

There are three major differences between the ecclesiastical system and the astronomical system.

  • The times of the ecclesiastical full moons are not necessarily identical to the times of astronomical Full Moons. The ecclesiastical tables did not account for the full complexity of the lunar motion.
  • The vernal equinox has a precise astronomical definition determined by the actual apparent motion of the Sun as seen from the Earth. It is the precise time at which the apparent ecliptic longitude of the Sun is zero. (Yes, the Sun's ecliptic longitude, not its declination, is used for the astronomical definition.) This precise time shifts within the civil calendar very slightly from year to year. In the ecclesiastical system the vernal equinox does not shift; it is fixed at March 21 regardless of the actual motion of the Sun.
  • The date of Easter is a specific calendar date. Easter starts when that date starts for your local time zone. The vernal equinox occurs at a specific date and time all over the Earth at once.

Inevitably, then, the date of Easter occasionally differs from a date that depends on the astronomical Full Moon and vernal equinox. In some cases this difference may occur in some parts of the world and not in others because two dates separated by the International Date Line are always simultaneously in progress on the Earth.

For example, take the year 1962. In 1962, the astronomical Full Moon occurred on March 21, UT=7h 55m - about six hours after astronomical equinox. The ecclesiastical full moon (taken from the tables), however, occurred on March 20, before the fixed ecclesiastical equinox at March 21. In the astronomical case, the Full Moon followed its equinox; in the ecclesiastical case, it preceded its equinox. Following the rules, Easter, therefore, was not until the Sunday that followed the next ecclesiastical full moon (Wednesday, April 18) making Easter Sunday, April 22.

Similarly, in 1954 the first ecclesiastical full moon after March 21 fell on Saturday, April 17. Thus, Easter was Sunday, April 18. The astronomical equinox also occurred on March 21. The next astronomical Full Moon occurred on April 18 at UT=5h. So in some places in the world Easter was on the same Sunday as the astronomical Full Moon.

Egyptian Ancient: Coming of Sopdet.

The Egyptians had a calendar of 365 days; three seasons of 120 days each, and a 5-day period of feasting. The season that interests us is Akhet, the summer growing season. The first day of Akhet which, in 3000 BCE, was at the time of the Summer Solstice, heralded the yearly flooding of the Nile and meant the first day of the agricultural year, the growing season

There is another astronomical event which takes places at that time; the heliacal rising of Sirius, the star we call the Dog Star, one of the most important astronomical bodies to the ancient Egyptians. (A heliacal rising is the appearance of a star above the horizon just before the sun rises.)

While we, today, call Sirius the Dog star because it is the brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major, the Ancient Egyptians called it Sothis or Sopdet/Sepdet. Sopdet, sometimes identified with Isis, was a fertility goddess associated with the star Sirius and the agricultural year. When Sirius/Sothis/Sopdet became visible in the morning sky just before the sunrise, the sighting was celebrated with a festival called "The Coming of Sopdet" because it was the time of year for the waters of the Nile to rise; she brought with her the waters that would bring fertility to the land.

Hindu & Sikh: Karwa Chauth festival

Karwa Chauth is a traditional Hindu festival and also a Sikh Festivals for married women (Suhagans), and is celebrated in some parts of India. Married women fast one whole day without food or water for the long life of their husbands. The ritual signifies extreme love and devotion to the husband, as evidenced by the wife's willingness to suffer for his well being.

It is celebrated on the fourth night after the full Moon in the month of kartik in the Hindu calendar. Karwa means clay pot and chauth means fourth night after the full moon. It has great social and cultural significance and is mostly practiced in northern India. Wives start their fast at night just after the appearance of the moon, within sight of their husbands. They then wait until the next night's moonrise to begin the fast breaking ceremonies, without consuming any food or drink. In the evening women dress in their best clothing, and adorn themselves with jewellery and henna. On sighting the moon, they look and offer prayers and worship to it, and then receive their first bite of food and water from their husbands. Thereafter, women consume their special meal prepared for the occasion.

Worshipping the moon involves filling up the karwa with specially prepared food and jewellery and offering it to the god. Karwas are also exchanged with other women after that. Further practices involve telling and listening to stories regarding origin of Karwa Chauth.

There are variations within regions, groups, and communities in India about rituals of starting and breaking the fast, and worshipping the moon. In Punjab, for example, women start their fast by consuming food called sergi sent or given by her mother-in-law before the dawn. The fast breaking ceremony involves looking at the moon through a sieve, and then looking at her husband's face. They often close their eyes in the process and do not see anyone but their husbands just after seeing the moon. In other parts of India, there is no provision of sergi.

Jainist and Hindu

Ekadasi is the eleventh lunar day (Tithi) of the shukla (bright) or krishna (dark) paksha (fortnight) respectively, of every lunar month in the Hindu calendar (Panchang). In Hinduism and Jainism, it is considered spiritually beneficial day. Scriptures recommend to observe an (ideally waterless) fast from sunset on the day prior to ekadasi until 48 minutes after sunrise on the day following ekadasi.

Meaning of Ekadasi

Ekadasi is a Sanskrit word, which means 'the eleventh'. It refers to the eleventh day of a fortnight belonging to a lunar month. There are two fortnights in a lunar month—the bright and the dark. So, Ekadasi occurs twice in a month, in the bright fortnight and the dark fortnight.

The special feature of Ekadasi, as most people know it, is a fast, abstinence from food. This is how it is usually understood. In fact, the fast is only a practical expression and a symbol of something else that we are expected to do, which is of special significance to our personality.

Astronomy and astrology

We belong to the solar system — a huge family of which the sun is the head and the planets are the members. The sun guides the activities of this family including us. We are involved in the laws operating in this system. This is used in astrology. Astronomy studies the movements of planets and stars and astrology the effects on the contents of the system. The Ekadasi observance is an astrological phenomenon and it is observed due to this relation we have with some of the planets in the system. Ultimately to assist in purifying our consciousness to assist in re-establishing our awareness of the creator of the solar system By fasting one gives chance to give rest to the digest system, instead of regular heavy meals three times a day more fruits & light food is consumed by doing so person goes more for spiritual life moreover have better control over body & mind biggest gain is keeping healthy. Giving rest to intestine.

Jewish: Rosh Hashanah

Special holiday rules

Day of Week

Number of Days



















Although simple math would calculate 21 patterns for calendar years, there are other limitations which mean that Rosh Hashanah may only occur on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (the "four gates"), according to the following table:

The lengths are described in the section Names and lengths of the months.

In leap years, a 30 day month called Adar I is inserted immediately after the month of Shevat, and the regular 29 day month of Adar is called Adar II. This is done to ensure that the months of the Jewish calendar always fall in roughly the same seasons of the solar year, and in particular that Nisan is always in spring. Whether either Chesvan or Kislev both have 29 days, or both have 30 days, or one has 29 days and the other 30 days depends upon the number of days needed in each year. Thus a leap year of 13 months has an average length of 383½ days, so for this reason alone sometimes a leap year needs 383 and sometimes 384 days. Additionally, adjustments are needed to ensure certain holy days and festivals do or do not fall on certain days of the week in the coming year. For example, Yom Kippur, on which no work can be done, can never fall on Friday (the day prior to the Sabbath), to avoid having two consecutive days on which no work can be done. Thus some flexibility has been built in.

The 265 days from the first day of the 29 day month of Adar (i.e. the twelfth month, but the thirteenth month, Adar II, in leap years) and ending with the 29th day of Heshvan forms a fixed length period that has all of the festivals specified in the Bible, such as Pesach (Nisan 15), Shavuot (Sivan 6), Rosh Hashana (Tishri 1), Yom Kippur (Tishri 10), Sukkot (Tishri 15), and Shemini Atzeret (Tishri 22).

The festival period from Pesach up to and including Shemini Atzeret is exactly 185 days long. The time from the traditional day of the vernal equinox up to and including the traditional day of the autumnal equinox is also exactly 185 days long. This has caused some unfounded speculation that Pesach should be March 21, and Shemini Atzeret should be September 21, which are the traditional days for the equinoxes. Just as the Hebrew day starts at sunset, the Hebrew year starts in the Autumn (Rosh Hashanah), although the mismatch of solar and lunar years will eventually move it to another season if the modern fixed calendar isn't moved back to its original form of being judged by the Sanhedrin (which requires the Beit Hamikdash)

Karaite interpretation

Karaites use the lunar month and the solar year, but the Karaite calendar differs from the Rabbinical calendar in a few ways: Determination of the first month of the year - (called aviv), which is the month Passover falls out and determination of the first day of each month (Rosh Chodesh).

The 4 rules of postponement are not applied, as they are not found in the Tanakh. It is determined when to add a 13th month by observing the ripening of barley (called abib) in Israel, rather than the calculated and fixed calendar of Rabbinic Judaism. This puts Karaites in sync with the Written Torah, while other Jews are often a month later.

The beginning of each month is determined by the Rosh Chodesh - which can be calculated, but is confirmed by observation of the first sightings of the new moon in Israel.

For several centuries, many Karaites, especially those outside Israel, have just followed the calculated dates of the Oral Law (the Mishnah and the Talmud) with other Jews for the sake of simplicity. However, in recent years most Karaites have chosen to again follow the Written Torah practice.

Muslim: Ramadan

Ramadan or Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the holiest month in Islam.

The word Ramadan is derived from the word ramd "to burn". The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. The name came from the time before the Islamic calendar, when the month of Ramadan fell in the summer. Fasting during this month is often thought to figuratively burn away all sins. Muslims believe that the Qur'an was sent down to the earth during this month. Furthermore, Muhammad told his followers that the gates of Heaven would be open all the month and the gates of Hell would be closed. The first day of the next month is spent in great celebrations and rejoicings and is observed as the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’ or `Eid ul-Fitr.


The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons. The actual and estimated start and end dates for Ramadan in 2005-2008 were and are as follows:

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Most Muslims insist on the local physical sighting of the moon to mark the beginning of Ramadan, but some insist on using the calculated time of the new moon or the Saudi Arabian declaration to determine the start of the month. As a result, Ramadan dates vary in different countries, but usually only by a day or two.

Native American: Vernal Equinox – Lakota

The Lakota were nomadic and didn't always camp at the same spots. The angle of direction and length of the sun's noon shadow can be determined, and provides a simple way to identify these 4 key days that mark the earth's seasons. There are painted hides usually identified in museums as "war bonnet" or "feather circles". These resemble elaborate compass roses used by mariners, and would be handy and portable for making solar shadow time measurements, if a stick with a plumb-bob (an arrowhead, say) were placed upright in the center of the pattern.

Of course there are stars in the sky in daytime; we can't see them because of the sun. This brings us to where we can explain timing of the start of the Lakota sacred spring ceremonial round. It begins, the elders say, when the sun enters the Lakota constellation Dried Willow. This includes Triangulum (which isn't too bright) and the brighter stars in Aries, the Ram. This was traditional in Western ancient astronomy too; spring, the vernal equinox, began when the sun was in Aries, and that was the start of the astronomical year for star-watchers. An easy way to tell when this has happened is by the first-magnitude star Antares ("the opposite of Aries").

So early evening rising just south of the ecliptic (sunpath horizon point) of first magnitude Antares (I don't know its Lakota name) indicates the sun has entered the Dried Willow constellation. Some time ago, this happened around March 20-21, the spring equinox, and was the signal for the Pipe Ceremony at winter camps that heralded a ceremonial round in the Black Hills, ending with a Solstice Sun Dance at Devil's Tower, (Grey Buffalo Horn) when the sun entered the Bear's Tipi constellation (part of Gemini) that represents it.

Now, though, everything in the skies happens about a month later than when these ancient observational calendars -- Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, as well as Lakota -- were drawn up. This happens because the earth's north-south axis revolves around the center of the earth, so the poles slowly sweep out 2 cones in the sky, joined at their tips in the earth's center. This cycle is called the precession of the equinoxes or precessional cycle. (Its cause is a gyroscopic effect of the moon's gravitational attraction to the earth's tidal bulge.) It takes about 26,000 years for one complete revolution to sweep out the double cone. During this time, the pole star changes, to whatever stars lie on the circle swept by the north-pointing end of the earth's axis. The Pole Star -- Wichahpi Owanjila, star that always stands in one place -- was Thuban (Alpha Draconis) in 3000 B.C. Around 7500 AD, Alpha Ceiphei will be the pole star, then Deneb, then bright Vega (14000 AD), then it'll swing around to Thuban again. For many centuries there has been and will be no bright star close enogh to where the pole is to serve as pole star; the bright northern stars and constellations then seem to revolve through the night about an empty center.

Shinto: Winter Solstice

In the Japanese Shinto calendar this day is sacred to the Sun Goddess Amataseru-no-Mikuni, heroine of one of the world's great and typical festivals of the retreat and return of the Sun. When her brother, the raucous storm god and trickster Susanoo-no-Mikuni, insulted and ridiculed her, she withdrew into a cave and caused Earth to suffer in cold and darkness until other gods gathered to sing and dance outside Amaterasu's cave until they charmed her back out. Among the universal symbolisms of such stories is the principle that light avoids wild and violent action, and can tame it only by limiting it in patterns of order, symbolized by the music and the dance.

Sikh: see Hindu above

Sumerian: Moon phases

Holy days, time off from work, were usually celebrated on the first, seventh and fifteenth of each month. [i.e. New Moon, First Quarter Moon, and Full Moon] In addition to these holy days, there were also feast days which varied from city to city.

Wiccan: see British/Celtic Ancient above.