Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vacation Pictures

Vacation August 2007

Nisfu Sha'ban

According to my calendar, today is the Islamic holiday Nisfu Sha'ban, a/k/a Mid-Sha'ban (and a bunch of other names)

Nisfu-Sha'ban is a Muslim festival celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month (Shaban) of the Islamic lunar calendar. (This year, it corresponds to August 28 on our calendar).

There are two major denominations of Islam: Shia (the Shi'its) and Sunni [aha - I never knew what these groups were exactly]. These denominations celebrate the holiday for different reasons.

Shias celebrate this holiday as the birth of Muhammad al-Mahdi. The Shias consider him to be the twelfth, final and current Shia Imam [a leader appointed by Allah who is a perfect example of how to live] and also the Mahdi [the ultimate savior of mankind]. The Prophet Muhammad said there would be 12 Imams after him, and apparently the Shias believe this one is the last one.

Sunnis observe this holiday as a night of worship and salvation, commemorating when Allah saved prophet Nuh's [Noah's] followers from the deluge [the flood]. They believe that on this night Allah prepares the destiny for all people on Earth for the coming year. It is decided who will be born, who will die, how much provision each person will get, etc. The angels are also given their duties for the coming year. It is a night spent in sincere introspection and repentance.

The Prophet Muhammad urged Muslims to stay up during the night and fast during the day. He himself would go to the graveyard of Madinah [a holy city] and pray for the dead. It is also desirable for Muslims to seek the forgiveness of their dead either by reciting the Qur'an, feeding the hungry, giving money in charity, or by just praying for them. .






Friday, August 10, 2007


According to my calendar, today is the Islamic holiday Isra/Me'raj

The official name of this holiday is "Laylat Al-Isra wa Al-Miraj", which means "the night journey and ascension." It celebrates that night that Muhammad went from Mecca to Jerusalem, ascended into the Seven Heavens, and returned, all in the same night. During his time in the Seven Heavens, Muhammad was instructed to establish the five daily prayers that Muslims use now. He also met other religious figures, including Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Adam, the archangel Gabriel, and Jesus. Many Muslims consider this a physical journey, while some scholars consider it a dream or journey of the soul.

The rock from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended is the focal point of the Dome of the Rock, a sacred building in Jerusalem.


Not all Muslims celebrate Isra Mer-aj and there are no obligatory prayers. Celebrations vary by area and may include gathering in mosques or homes to listen to the story of the journey, illuminating the cities with electric lights and candles, fasting, colorful decorations, and the partaking of sweets. It is also an opportunity for devotees to engage in good deeds, such as donating money to charity, distributing food among the poor, etc.

(There are more detailed descriptions of the vision/journey/dream in the links below - it's quite interesting. I found it somewhat amusing that after Allah told Muhammad he had to say 50 prayers ever day, Moses said that was too much, the people would never do that many, and told him to go back and get it reduced, and so he did, so there are only 5 prayers to do.)

Sources/More Info:





Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ellen Burstyn

I've added her to my list of heroes. the others are Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Katherine Hepburn and Eleanor Roosevelt. Like them, she is strong, wise, independent and has worked in her own way to make the world a better place for women.

Excerpt from a BeliefNet interview (link at bottom):

"Can you talk about your exploration into Sufism, which you practice today?

Oh, it started with reading. I was reading the work of Gurdjieff. And Gurdjieff led me to the Sufis, and then I met a Sufi teacher. And then I traveled to Europe and I climbed the Alps and went up to a Sufi camp conducted by Pir Vilayat Kahn; I was initiated up there.

When I was on top of the Alps and Pir Vilayat did the universal worship ceremony, I was so moved by it because here we were on an Alpine peak facing Mont Blanc, and there was an altar, and Pir lit a candle to each of the major religions of the world, and then read from the sacred books of those religions.

And the idea that we didn’t have to say, “I am a Christian” or, “I am a Buddhist” or, “I am a Muslim,” but, "I am a spirit opening to the truth that lives in all of these religions,” brings you into a place where you see that the differences are in the dogma, and the essence is very, very similar.

The truth is there spread out and speaking. For instance, Jesus says that if someone strikes you to turn the other cheek and the Buddha says that "Hatred cannot be fought with hatred--hatred can only be fought with love. This is a law eternal." Well, they’re saying the same thing there. And you find that consistently. So, I knew when I came upon that that I had found what was, for me, a doorway into spirit."

Ellen Burstyn's True Face: The Oscar-winning actress talks about embracing her essence, a love of Sufi poetry, and her scorchingly honest new memoir.

Protective Aura

"As you develop your intuition and strengthen your inner guidance, it can have the effect of enhancing your sensitivity to everyone and everything. This week notice how some people or places make you feel energized, while others leave you feeling drained. Learn to strengthen your aura with protection. As you get dressed each morning — just before you start your day — remember to place a protective thought on your aura. See your aura as a brilliant white light that acts as an invisible shield, surrounding you throughout the day. It really is our own personal psychic shield. Use it – it’s part of you!"

(from John Holland's newsletter and 101 Ways to Jumpstart Your Intuition)


According to my calendar, today is the Pagan/Wiccan holiday Lughnasa.

Lughnasa is a Celtic harvest festival celebrated on August 1st. It marked the beginning of the harvest season, the ripening of first fruits.

In Celtic mythology, Lughnasa was begun by the Irish god Lugh in honor of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg. Tailtiu cleared a great forest so the land could be cultivated, but then died of exhaustion. On her death bed, she told the men of Ireland that as long as they held funeral games in her honor, Ireland would not be without song. Since Tailtiu's name means "The Great One of the Earth," she was probably a personification of the land itself. Lugh's name refers to childbirth, which ties in with the time of year when the earth gives birth to her first fruits.

The festival was traditionally a time of community gatherings, market festivals, horse races and reunions. Among the Irish it was a favored time for handfastings - trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or later formalizing it as a more permanent marriage.

At one time the festival had evolved into a great tribal assembly, attended by the High King, where legal agreements were made, political problems discussed, and huge sporting contests were held on the scale of an early Olympic Games.

In later times, the festival was christianized as Lammas ("Loaf-Mass"). Some Wiccans and Neopagans use this name. In some rural areas, it was called "Bilberry Sunday," the day to climb the nearest "Lughnasadh Hill" and gather blackberries.

Lughnasadh is observed by Neopagans in various forms and by a variety of names. Some celebrate like the Ancient Celts, while others observe it with rituals adopted from other unrelated sources. In Wicca, Lughnasadh is one of the eight sabbats and the first of three harvest festivals.

Sources/More Info: