Friday, October 26, 2007

Holy Day observances October 31 and November 1

Whatever you think of Halloween (which is a contraction of Eve of All Saints) there are a surprising number of diverse celebrations of different spiritual traditions on the dates of October 31 and November 1. Here are a few of them.

Holidays and observances October 31

Holidays and observances October 31

Halloween or All Hallows Eve (Eve of All Saints)

1. R.C. Saints - October 31 is the feast day of the following Roman Catholic Saints:

2. Orthodox Church

3. Protestant Church, Slovenia - Reformation Day: Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg church on this day in 1517

Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31 in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and some Reformed church communities. It is a civic holiday in Slovenia (since the Reformation contributed to its cultural development profoundly, although Slovenians are mainly Roman Catholics) and in the German states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia.

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted a proposal at the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences. This proposal is popularly known as the 95 Theses, which he nailed to the Castle Church doors. This was not an act of defiance or provocation as is sometimes thought. Since the Castle Church faced Wittenberg's main thoroughfare, the church door functioned as a public bulletin board and was therefore the logical place for posting important notices. Also, the theses were written in Latin, the language of the church, and not in the vernacular. Nonetheless, the event created a controversy between Luther and those allied with the Pope over a variety of doctrines and practices. When Luther and his supporters were excommunicated in 1520, the Lutheran tradition was born.

4. Cornwall - Allantide Allantide (Cornish Calan Gwaf or Nos Calan Gwaf) is a Cornish festival that was traditionally celebrated on 31 October elsewhere known as Hallowe'en. The festival itself seems to have pre-Christian origins similar to most celebrations on this date, however in Cornwall it was popularly linked to St Allen or Arlan a little known Cornish Saint. Because of the this Allantide is also known as Allan day. The origins of the name Allantide are actually likely to stem from the same old English sources as Hollantide (Wales and the Isle of Man) and Hallowe'en itself.

The following is a description of the festival as it was celebrated in Penzance at the turn of the 19th century:

"The shops in Penzance would display Allan apples, which were highly polished large apples. On the day itself, these apples were given as gifts to each member of the family as a token of good luck. Older girls would place these apples under their pillows and hope to dream of the person whom they would one day marry. A local game is also recorded where two pieces of wood were nailed together in the shape of a cross. It was then suspended with 4 candles on each outcrop of the cross shape. Allan apples would then be suspended under the cross. The goal of the game was to catch the apples in your mouth, with hot wax being the penalty for slowness or inaccuracy."

Holidays and observances November 1

All Saints Day

5. Mexico- Day of the Dead celebrations begin. Though the subject matter may be considered morbid from the perspective of some other cultures, celebrants typically approach the Day of the Dead joyfully, and though it occurs roughly at the same time as Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls Day, the traditional mood is much brighter with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, and celebrating the continuation of life; the belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life. In Mexico and Mexican immigrant communities in the United States and Europe, the Day of the Dead is of particular cultural importance.

6. Roman festivals - last day of the Ludi Victoriae Sullanae. November 1 - Pomonia in honor of the orchard goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards.

7. Catholicism - Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day.

8. Also see November 1 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

9. Ireland - Samhain the traditional first day of Winter

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Numbers of Believers in the Major Religions of the World

This post is a reprint of part of a page at on the distribution of believers among the major religious groups of the world.

Click on the name of the religious group to go to the description and brief explanation of that group and their beliefs at

(Please note: All religions are pieces of One Pie. See this chart on the picture of the religious tolerance collage I made.)

(Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)

  1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
  2. Islam: 1.5 billion
  3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
  4. Hinduism: 900 million
  5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
  6. Buddhism: 376 million
  7. primal-indigenous: 300 million
  8. African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
  9. Sikhism: 23 million
  10. Juche: 19 million
  11. Spiritism: 15 million
  12. Judaism: 14 million
  13. Baha'i: 7 million
  14. Jainism: 4.2 million
  15. Shinto: 4 million
  16. Cao Dai: 4 million
  17. Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
  18. Tenrikyo: 2 million
  19. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
  20. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
  21. Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
  22. Scientology: 500 thousand

Monday, October 1, 2007

Personification of the Earth

The Story of She Who Watches, a Wishram legend.

She said, "I'm Sagalala, She Who Watches. I like to watch over my people to see that they have enough food. I like to watch over my people to see that they have enough fire wood. I like to watch my people to see that they have good shelter. I like to watch my people to see that they live in peace."

This particular article was a bit of a challenge. There are plenty of Earth Gods and Goddesses, but personifications for Earth are a little harder to come by. However, I did manage to find quite a few after a morning's search.

It is interesting to note that all of the traditions who have personified the Earth have polytheistic or animistic leanings. Their reverence for the Earth leads them to respect and care for it.

The Angles are said to be a tribe that were protected by forests and rivers, and a tribe that along with six others took part in the worship of an Earth Mother goddess called Nerthus.

Cailleach is the Celtic earth goddess who ruled the imaginations of ancient Ireland's and Scotland's Druids. Her name came to mean "Old Wife," but literally means "The Veiled One," referring to her mysterious and transformative power.
Ériu: 'Noble/High One'. A daughter of the Dagda, this goddess is Sovereignty, and a personification of Ireland itself. It is from her name that Éire, 'Ireland' is derived.

Daoist (Chinese Folk Religion)
Hu Tu-" Empress Earth" in Chinese mythology, this Goddess embodies and personifies the earth and in the spring and its fertility. She teaches us how to live abundantly while maintaining a reciprocity with nature. She also teaches us how to see and incorporate nature's lessons.

[One of the few who considered the land male and the sky female] …Geb, god of the earth, and his wife and sister, Nut, goddess of the sky. Geb and Nut, in turn, were the parents of Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, and Set.

Demeter, goddess of the harvest, whose name originally meant 'earth mother,'
In this Greek myth [Demeter and Persephone], Demeter, the earth mother, has the power to deny humankind fruits of the harvest. A mother so powerful and so vengeful is an ambivalent figure in myth and history. The metaphor of mother nature continues to permeate the imagination of painters and writers, whose perceptions shape their audiences' images of, and beliefs about, mother, nature and women in general.
Gaia or Gaea derives from the Greek words Ge (γη) = Earth (Pelasgian), and *aia = grandmother (PIE).

In the Hindu context, the worship of the Mother entity can be traced back to early Vedic culture, and perhaps even before. The Rigveda calls the divine female power Mahimata (R.V. 1.164.33), a term which literally means Mother Earth.
Prithvi is the Hindu earth and mother goddess. According to one tradition, she is the personification of the Earth, and to another its Mother, being prithivi tattwa, the essence of the element earth.

In both Latvian and Lithuanian religions the earth is personified and called Earth Mother (Latvian Zemes mate, Lithuanian Zemyna).

Native American
Algonquin legend says that "[b]eneath the clouds [lives] the Earth-Mother from whom is derived the Water of Life, who at her bosom feeds plants, animals and men" (Larousse 428). She is known as Nakomis, the Grandmother.
Chehooit - started life as a barren formless planet, but it wasn't long before a huge helpful frog, along with certain other Godly Animals, tunneled and burrowed within her and gave rise to hills and valleys, fields and rivers.

Terra Mater/Tellus, ancient Roman earth goddess. Probably of great antiquity, she was concerned with the productivity of the earth and was later identified with the mother-goddess Cybele. Her temple on the Esquiline Hill dated from about 268 BC. Though she had no special priest, she was honoured in the Fordicidia and Sementivae festivals, both of which centred on fertility and good crops.

In Norse mythology, Jörð (or Jarð in Old East Norse; Earth, sometimes Anglicized Jord or Jorth) is a goddess and the personification of the Earth. She is identified with Fjörgyn and Hlôdyn (Bellinger 1997:235).

Jörð is the everyday word for earth in Old Norse and so are its descendants in the modern Scandinavian languages (Icelandic: jörð, Faroese: jørð, Danish/Swedish/Norwegian: jord). It's a cognate to English earth. [The J is often pronounced as a long-e sound, equivalent to a Y; as such, "jard" is the equivalent of "yard" as in the earth/plot of land/yard around your house; backyard, front yard, etc.]

All you under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta

Slavic Myth and Religion
Mokosh is an earth goddess. She rules over fertility and midwifery. She is commonly called Mati-Syra-Zemlya, or "Moist Mother Earth." … Mokosh is dark, like good, black soil. She is portrayed with uplifted hands, flanked by two horsemen. … One prayer to Mokosh involves going to the fields at dawn in August with jars filled with hemp oil. Turn East and say: "Moist Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm." Turn West and say: "Moist Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in your boiling pits, in your burning fires." Turn South and say: "Moist Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the south and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds." Turn North and say: "Moist Mother Earth, calm the north winds and the clouds, subdue the snowstorms and the cold." Oil is poured out after each invocation, and finally, the jar is thrown to the ground.

… goddess Ki was the personification of earth.
Babylonians replaced the earth-mother Sumerian “Ki” with “Ea.”