Category Archives: Symbols and Traditions

the basics of sacred geometry

Just as mathematics is the foundation of all science, a special kind of math is the foundation of all metaphysics. Sacred geometry springs from the examination of patterns and relationships found in nature. On the surface that may sound a little dry, but when we look at how basic lines and curves come together to form the universe, it’s like taking a wonderful look into the mind of creation. Because while all matter is made from elements, it’s the patterns that gives matter form, purpose, and astounding diversity.

The images in the title photo show an example of how this works. Calcite, aragonite and seashells are made of the same thing: calcium carbonate (CaCO3) The earth forms this material into calcite, usually in squarish blocks, directly through geological processes. Sea creatures also take up CaCO3 and, and with the help of patterns recorded in their DNA, they reform it into shells. Eventually these shells decompose, returning their the CaCO3 to earth as aragonite, a mineral with its own distinctive shapes. So aragonite and calcite are the exact same material, but each has its own unique structure. In other words, the first three images are all the same substance; only the pattern is different.

But what about that fourth picture? The spiral staircase isn’t made of CaCO3, yet it has the same pattern as the nautilus shell. In this case human engineers have copied a form found in nature, translated it into a new material, and given it a new purpose. This specific form, the Fibonacci spiral, happens to be one of the prime symbols of sacred geometry.

Calcium carbonate alone is a simple mineral. Patterned by life, it becomes a shell. Patterned by the mind, that shell in turn becomes an intelligent design.

The Fibonacci spiral and many other forms and patterns we talk about in sacred geometry arise from the Flower of Life, which is seen as the basis for all other patterns in the universe. The study of sacred geometry begins by drawing circles:

Two intersecting circles form the vesica piscis, seen also in chalice well symbol.
Where three circles intersect, we see the triquetra, a symbol of sacred trinities.
The seed of life is also called the genesis pattern, where six intersecting circles signify the six stages of creation.
The egg of life takes this into three dimensions. The eight non-intersecting spheres, and can represent the cell division of an embryo.
The flower of life is 19 intersecting circles within the boundary of a larger circle. It’s said that all patterns can be found within it.
In Metatron’s cube, lines connecting the centers of the circles in the fruit of life. The lines represent masculine energy and the circles feminine energy, so that this pattern combines polarities into a unified creation.

Obviously, these patterns are closely related, becoming more complex as we draw new connections. We start with two circles, then three, and so on, watching how these circles intersect and relate. New combinations of circles, lines, and three-dimensional images continue to evolve, and with each evolution we gain new insights.

Continuing the process, eventually a significant set of three-dimensional shapes arises: the platonic solids. Platonic solids are 3-dimensional shapes in which 1) all faces are the same 2) all edges are the same length 3) all angles are the same 4) if the figure were put inside a sphere, all vertices would touch the sphere. Another way of looking at these shapes is that they all arise from the cube, when it is truncated in various ways. Thus the cube is the Father of all forms, while the sphere is the Mother of all forms. These shapes are the building blocks of everything from crystal formation to music to organic life.

Three additional forms deserve special mention:

The vector equilibrium is a three-dimensional shape constructed  with triangles and cubes. It’s sometimes called the “perfect shape” because every corner is exactly the same distance from all the other corners. This very stable shape is the basis of a three-dimensional rendering of the flower of life.
Pyramids have amazing preserving and energizing properties, because the pyramid is such an efficient amplifier. By focusing universal energy, it increases the vibrational field of whatever is placed inside it with intention — even intangible things like hopes. This effect is can be enhanced by the pyramid’s material, color and other properties.
The merkaba is the intersection of two tetrahedrons. The one pointing downward brings up earth energy, while the one pointing upward channels universal energy into the human plane. A person within this energy field will experience the confluence of both types of energy. While the chakras can be seen as an energy system within the body, the merkaba represents an energy system outside it. The name combines three Egyptian words:

mer = rotating fields of light
ka = spirit (the intangible part of human life)
ba = soul (the sum of all it means to be human)

Note from the author: Sacred Geometry is an extremely complicated, detailed subject that’s hard to deal with in an article of any kind of reasonable length. To be honest, researching it made me feel like my left brain was jousting with my right brain with both ending up dehorsed on the ground. Hopefully the information below will explain enough about forms and their  symbolism to help you put sacred geometry to use in your everyday life: for meditation, making crystal grids, sacred art, etc. If you really want to get into detail into the theory behind all this, we recommend The Sacred Geometry Movie from Spirit Science.

Photo credits: staircase: De Mcginnly de en.wikipedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1226162; nautilus: By Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19711

 

 


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Working with the Four Elements

by Cathy Douglas

The first time I heard of the four classical elements, it was from a middle school chemistry teacher who was making fun of the whole idea. He said that modern concepts like atoms and the periodic table of the elements had made the division of things into earth, water, air and fire obsolete. For him, he two ways of looking at the world were a contrast between an older (ignorant) way of looking at nature and a modern (enlightened) one.

Which sort of made sense, until he then taught us everything in nature is divided into solid, liquid, gas and plasma/energy. Seemed like a pretty tight correspondence with the four elements to me!

But the time-tested idea of the elements isn’t just about abstract theories. The elements can form the basis of a system of correspondences, through which we can work with nature and her laws to improve our lives. Going even deeper, we can work with the four elements and their representatives, the elementals or elemental devas, to forge a deep connection between human and nature.

Air ElementWater ElementFire ElementEarth Element

Here are some ideas about how to do that:

Elements in your living space: Many people keep symbols of the four elements on their altar, or somewhere else in their living space. I have four mini-altars, one for each element, and also natural symbols like feathers and shells in the windowsills facing each direction. I feel this helps keep a good balance of energy in my home.

Meditation: There are many ways to meditate on the elements — focusing on them within your own body, immersing your mind in elemental images from nature, or meditating with associated crystals and other representative objects. One way to meditate on them in balance is to use a tree meditation below.

Tarot: The four tarot suits are based on the four elements. Traditionally, swords are associated with air, wands with fire, chalices with water, and pentacles with earth. In any tarot spread, considering the elemental implications of the cards is part of the reading — often a big part. For example, if you draw a five-card spread and four of the cards come from the chalices, the reading will most likely focus on emotions. This can be a great intuitive way to find out if something is out of balance or needs attention. And if tarot isn’t your thing, various oracle decks also use the elements.

Working with elementals: Elementals, sometimes called elemental devas, are spiritual personifications of the elements. The best place to find them is out in nature, where you may sense their presence or even see something out of the corner of your eye. Elementals of each type have places they prefer: Earth elementals are fond of caves, for example, and water elementals of natural springs. Working with spiritual beings always involves a certain suspension of disbelief, and some unlearning of simplistic images — time to let go of those garden gnomes and sexpot mermaids! Elementals are not gods, but rather beings that occupy a plane somewhere between gods and humans. They are powerful and a little wild, so take care in working with them. Be especially careful when asking for a favor: state your needs exactly, being careful not to request too much, lest you end up with more than you can handle. You’ll also want to mind your pleases and thankyous, and leave a small but appropriate token of appreciation.

As a Key to Understanding: Probably the basic way to use the elements is to simply use them as a way to understand the world. Elements are especially helpful in understanding personality. When you meet new people, reading their elemental make-up can give you a quick and effective way to know how to interact with them. For example, if a new boss has a strongly grounded earth personality, you’ll want to be extra careful to read the employee manual and meet all your deadlines; on the other hand, if you see more air in their personality, you may want to get ready for midnight brainstorming sessions! Either way, getting this kind of early “read” on the people around you can help you know what to expect.

These are just a few of the ways to interact the elements and benefit from their help. It’s something anyone can add to their spiritual practice and learn from. You may even wind up teaching your science teacher a thing or two!


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Bird Augury and Omens

by Cathy Douglas

People have found omens as long as they’ve seen patterns and correspondences — it’s one of the traits that makes us human. Both science and religion are based on patterns that evolve through continued observation. And in their better moments, both religion and science might agree that real wisdom is less about “true” and “false” than about analyzing the observed facts in a reasonable way. Nowadays, as environmental awareness increases, observation of nature may be at the same time the most ancient and the most timely form of spirituality.

Much has been written about new age totem or spirit animals, and there are a lot of interesting and sometimes downright weird stories about bird augury in ancient history. (If you’d like a sample of the latter, see the footnote below.) For a change, I thought it might be interesting to take a more hands-on approach, and look at how we may interpret the bird sightings and patterns in everyday life.

Simple Bird Omens: One very basic divination technique is to simply spend time outside and pay attention to what you see and hear. A lot of bird activity flows in a predictable way through the seasons, and while this activity is interesting in its own right, it’s not really a sign or omen with any personal meaning. At times, though, you may notice a bird someplace you wouldn’t expect it, or doing something it wouldn’t usually do. These are the sightings that may carry a personal message.

Not too long ago, this happened to me in a very memorably way. My late husband was always a handyman, and the workshop behind our house was his favorite place. Not long after he died, I was back there sorting through some of his tools and other belongings, when a little finch flew in. This surprised me, because it was the dead of winter and not many birds were around. The finch circled the room, confused and unable to find its way, and I was afraid it would hurt itself running into walls and windows. Finally it found the door and burst out into the sky. I took this as an omen about my husband’s soul — that after a life that included a certain amount of frustration and difficulty, his soul’s time for freedom had come, and he had finally found his way.

Envoys of the Gods: Birds have a special place in nature because flight allows them to travel freely between heaven and earth. Some Greek philosophers argued that if the gods exist, they must care about the affairs of men, and if that was a case they must have some way of communicating. This tells us something about the spiritual nature of birds.

Taking a modern spiritual perspective, this means that if you ask for help from a god, goddess, or the universe, the answer may come to you in the form of a bird. You would not simply be watching nature, you would also be finding answers in her richness — sort of like picking an oracle card out of the sky!

After giving thanks, take some time to meditate and think. Many natural signs have more than one layer of meaning.

Folklore: There must be at least one rhyme interpreting the appearance of birds for every county in England. Here’s one about various black birds, such as rooks, magpies, crows or ravens:

One is for bad news, two is for mirth.
Three is a wedding, four for a birth.
Five is for riches, six is a thief,
Seven a journey, eight is for grief.
Nine is a secret, ten is for sorrow,
Eleven is love and twelve is joy on the morrow.

I don’t know if there’s much truth to any of this, but it’s kind of fun to try out.

Not all bird lore is fun and games, though. Because they cross the heavens, birds have often been seen as omens of death. Not as the cause of death, but as a soul-bearer or psychopomp; for example, a mysterious bird perched on the house was often interpreted as an unearthly being, waiting to carry soul to its new home. But as with all nature symbolism, it’s important here not to jump to conclusions based on other people’s stories. For one thing, symbolic meanings are neither inflexible nor infallible; something that had meaning for one culture might not translate well into another. Besides, the stories handed down with the most enthusiasm tend to be the creepiest ones! So take what you hear or read with a grain of salt.

A Special Bird: If a bird follows you home, or if you encounter the same type of bird over and over, it probably has some kind of meaning. It’s not necessarily your spirit animal (though it could be), it may just have a message you need to know. It can’t hurt to look up the meaning in a guidebook,such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak. But you should pay even more attention your own personal associations and instincts. Maybe the guidebook says cardinals have a certain meaning, but you feel something different based on a strong personal association, such as a cardinal family that nested outside your window when you were a child. In this case, you should pay attention to both meanings, but give precedence to the personal association, which will probably be stronger.

I remember one summer when it seemed like everywhere I went, I was practically tripping over great blue herons. Looking it up, I found that herons are a bird particularly associated with shamanism, which I found very interesting. But with further observation, I kept noticing how strong and self-sufficient these herons were — comfortable in air, land and water, a bird of the Three Worlds. At the time I’d been seriously considering joining a pagan group, but the heron’s message was that mine was to be a more solitary path.

Using a templum: If a simple bird omen is like pulling a single tarot card, taking auspices with a Roman templum is like reading a complicated spread. The ancient Romans used it not so much to divine the future as to consult with the gods about the present.

While it’s not well known, there’s no reason we can’t adapt this technique to our own times. It would take a whole book to explain how to do it, and I’m no expert, but here are the basics:

Go to the top of a hill and face the point in the east where the sun rises. Use a staff or wand to draw a line on the earth from direction the sun follows from sunrise to sunset, then another line perpendicular to the first. Use this orientation to trace a rectangle or square. Then draw a corresponding rectangle across the sky. This is called the templum, and it functions very much like the sacred circle in Wicca, creating a temporary sacred space. Pray for guidance, and plainly state your question. Incense, flute music and libations were traditional parts of the process, both as offerings and to help the augur ignore everyday sounds and concentrate on signals sent by the gods. Watch what birds that cross the templum — not just what kinds of birds, but also their number, the sounds they make and how they fly. The Romans paid special attention to eagles, hawks and vultures.

It seems to me a templum would be best used to find the answer to a well-formulated question; using it for general guidance could get awfully confusing. The simplest way would be for a yes-or-no question. In Roman tradition, a bird flying across the templum from in front or the left means the gods view your plan favorably. If a bird flies in from the right or from behind you, the gods disapprove.

Beyond this, there was a whole system of traditional correspondences for species, flight patterns, calls and other behavior that goes way beyond the scope of this article. It would be interesting to find new ways to use a templum to communicate with the heavens, perhaps by combining it with a more commonly used system of correspondences.

Observing Domestic Birds: We can also learn surprising things by observing the behavior domestic birds, whether they’re farm animals or urban pets. Bird owners often notice, for example, that their pets get skittish when a storm is approaching, even if there’s not yet a cloud in the sky. And some say hens’ behavior foretells the length of a storm; if they hide under their henhouse, expect a short rain, but if they just give up and go out in the yard, expect it to rain all day.

As with other pets, birds may form strong attachments with their human friends. If you have a psychic bond with your pet bird, consider yourself lucky!


Footnote: A Couple Not-Too-Stellar Examples of Bird Augury in Ancient Rome

* One commander had his troops ready for war, confident and eager to engage the enemy. Their chicken augur (pullarius) spread bread before the chickens, because the chickens’ appetite was supposed to augur success in battle. Unfortunately, the chickens refused to eat. So he claimed the food was still on the ground because they’d eaten it so greedily that they’d slobbered it, intentionally misreading the signals because he didn’t want to bring bad news. The general found out, though, and put the pullarius in the front of the army and let the enemy shoot at him. As the pullarius died, a crow cawed loudly. This was taken as a good omen, so they went into battle confident, and won.

* Chicken auguring was common practice in the navy too. One consul, Publius Pulcher, checked his chickens before a big battle and found they wouldn’t eat. Considering his crew superstitious, he said something like ‘oh well, then let them drink!” and tossed them into the Mediterranean. Bad idea — his navy went down in defeat.

 


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Moon Calendar for 2017

by Beki Yopek

Humans have always used the moon and sun to keep track of the dates and seasons. The Moon, the night sky’s brightest celestial being, is an essential part of our lives. The Moon pulls and pushes on our oceans, creating the tides, and helps keep the Earth’s orbit stable. Its gravitational pull reaches all the way into the Earth’s core, slowing down the rotational speed. The Moon literally keeps our planet in check, constantly pulling and pushing, as if we were engaged in a mystical ballroom dance. Yet even before knowing how much it controls our lives, we gave the Moon meaning.

A Full Moon occurs approximately every 28 days, which is the time the Moon takes to travel around our Earth. As it makes a full rotation in about the same amount of time, we always see the same side — the beautiful, cratered, and battered side. In it, some cultures see rabbits, or men, or a lady. But whatever they see, it’s something magical.

Many myths and legends surround the Moon, and every culture has its own idea. The Chinese believed there were twelve different moons, all made of water, each with its own month and meaning. The Algonquin tribe of North America also gave the Full Moons names and meanings, and these are still popular in North America. They used the Moon to tell the seasons, and to know the best times for planting crops and hunting. Many cultures see the Moon itself as feminine, helping women with fertility; since the moon’s orbit is about the same length as a woman’s menstrual cycle, it can help her make an educated guess about when she might be ovulating.

The Moon’s many phases are essential to Wiccan and Pagan practices. Each stage of the moon brings new and different energy to their magic, and certain spells work best at certain times. One common practice is known as Drawing Down the Moon, the purpose of which is to fill yourself with the Full Moon’s divine light, or Essence of the Goddess. Anyone can invoke Her, by simply looking up and willing Her Essence. Taking in the Full Moon’s energy helps increase self-confidence, release all worries and stress from one’s body, and essentially clear oneself of negativity. Drawing in the Moon’s energy is beneficial for all souls, helping one release the negative and accept the positive. It’s about directing energy in a positive way.

You can use any amount of Moonlight to fill yourself with Divine Light. Different phases have different meanings, so it’s important to be really clear with your intention when drawing in the energy. Each Moon Phase reflects a different face of the Goddess.

Phases of the Moon

new moon New Moon/Crescent Moon: The Moon is dark. Now is the time to seek new knowledge and new beginnings. Start fresh, try something new — perhaps a new project.
waxing moon Waxing Moon: The Moon’s light is starting to grow. It’s the time for abundance in your life. Invoke Her light to bring Good Luck, attract love and conceptualize new ideas.
first quarter moon First Quarter Moon: This is a time of action. If you’ve been meaning to do something, now is the time to do it.
waxing gibbous Waxing Gibbous Moon: There is forward momentum as the Moon moves into her fullest phase. You’ll start noticing results from your new beginnings now.
full moon Full Moon: The Moon is at the peak of her energy and the most positive. This is the primest time to take in her divine light.
 disseminating moon Disseminating Moon: As the light begins to fade, energies turn inward. It may be a good time to hold off and bide your time. Reflect on what you’ve learned.
 third quarter moon Third Quarter Moon: Now is the time to polish your skills. Use what you have and make the best of it. Look over your work, and make it better. Get rid of anything that just isn’t working in your life.
balsamic moon Balsamic Moon: Now that she is reaching her final stage, it is time to release all of your pent up energies. If you’ve been unhappy at your workplace or relationship, now may be the time to let go.
teensy waning moon Last Waning Moon: The Full Moon is passing and the light is growing smaller. This is the time to banish addictions or problems that cause you anguish.

Full Moons for 2017

January 12, Full Wolf Moon: The name comes from the sound of howling wolves during this full moon. The wolves remind us to confer with our pack in times of great challenge, and honor our traditions. Wolves are very vocal beings, communicating openly and often. Not just through literal vocalization but also through body language and eye movements. Express yourself during this Full Moon. Full Moon Zodiac – Cancer: The Full Moon in Cancer means that everything will be coming together. It’ll feel like coming home after a long trip. It’s a powerful full moon great for manifestation. Time to make things come full circle.

February 10, Full Snow Moon: Another nickname for this moon is the Hunger Moon, as there is also a lack of food during this month. The amount of snow was usually so high in this month that even hunting was near impossible. This Full Moon is a time to come together with your loved ones. Full Moon Zodiac – Leo: This Full Moon in Leo is the time to invoke the energy of the Full Moon for courage or fertility.

March 12, Full Worm Moon: As the snow melts, the ground is going through repeated stages of thawing and freezing, and earthworms start to peek out. This moon is also called the Full Sap Moon, as it is the time to start tapping Maple trees. It is also known as the last Moon of Winter. It is a time of renewal as the Earth begins to wake up from its nap. This Full Moon is about rebirth and fertility. During this time of the Full Moon, try branching out, try something new. Full Moon Zodiac – Virgo: The Full Moon in Virgo is a good time to manifest employment or the invoke her energy for health and dietary concerns.

April 11, Full Pink Moon: This name comes from the seasonal blooming of pink phlox, a bright explosion of color. This Full Moon is also known as the Egg Moon or Sprouting Grass Moon. During this time you may be feeling a little flighty or ungrounded. The Earth has been frozen, but now the earth is soft once more, and it’s time to ground yourself. During this Full Moon, imagine roots coming from the bottom of your feet and spreading deep within the dirt and sediment. You are strong and balanced, like a are beautiful tree.  Full Moon Zodiac – Libra: A Full Moon in Libra means good news for invoking Her power for artistic creativity. It’s also good for working with personal relationships as well as emotional balance.

May 10, Full Flower Moon: This Full Moon represents the end of spring and the welcoming of Summer. Because of the abundance of flowers and life, Faeries are prominently found. Communication to the Faerie Realm and the trees is heightened. There is a strong power flowing from the trees and plants during this Full Moon. There are myths that flowers grow in the moonlight and even dance. During this Full Moon the Faeries remind us to relax a little and enjoy life. Creative energies are flowing. Full Moon Zodiac – Scorpio: Scorpio’s Full Moon allows for one to go through transformations. Also helps one work in using Her Divine Light for sexual matters.

June 9, Full Strawberry Moon: The name evokes strawberry picking season, but this Full Moon is also known as the Rose Moon in France. In this prime season both roses and strawberries are at their best. During this Full Moon you will need to strengthen yourself and fix your inconsistencies. It’s a good idea to remember to reward yourself for all your hard work, and know that you are essential. Full Moon Zodiac – Sagittarius: This is a good Moon to try invoking the energy of Divine Light in aid for legal issues, publication, traveling and revealing the truth.

July 8, Full Thunder Moon: Also known by the Algonquin tribe as the Full Buck Moon, because this is the time when bucks’ antlers grow a lot. It’s also very stormy, which means there is a lot of energy flowing around. It’s important to ground yourself, but to embrace this surge of energy as well. Use the more tranquil storms to carry you to another plane and meditate. Try manifesting or simply just sitting quietly and enjoying the sound of rain. Open yourself up. Full Moon Zodiac – Capricorn: The Full Moon in Capricorn is excellent for using the Moon’s energy to bring you ambition and success in career and political matters.

August 7, Full Sturgeon Moon: This Moon is also referred to as the Red Moon in honor of the hot summer days that are beginning to fade. The Algonquin tribe named it for the lakes and rivers being abundant with fish. This Full Moon is the calm after the stormy weather. It’s a great time to strengthen your relationships. Hang out with friends, and even make new ones. Give thanks for all you’re grateful for. Pamper yourself and your loved ones. Full Moon Zodiac – Aquarius: Problem-solving and creative expression are going to be easy to invoke during Aquarius in the Lunar Eclipse. Maintaining relationships and hanging out with friends will come with ease.

September 6, Full Harvest Moon: This Moon also goes by the name of Full Corn Moon (as you may have heard in the famous Disney Pocahontas song “Colors of the Wind”.) It is a time of harvesting crops before the cold sets in and the ground freezes. If this Full Moon appears in late August, it’s known as the Full Harvest Moon; if it occurs in early September, it’s known as the Full Corn Moon, since this is the time to pick corn for winter storage. This is a time to let go and forgive, and for abundance and growth. Out with the old, in with the new. Full Moon Zodiac – Pisces: This is a good time to work on psychic abilities and your creative outlet.

October 5, Full Hunter’s Moon: Known as the Harvest Moon if it falls close to the Autumn Equinox, though the Algonquin tribe referred to it as the Full Hunter’s Moon, as this was when they hunted game for winter. It’s also known as the Full Dying Moon, to symbolize the dying of the old year, to lull the Earth to sleep for the Winter. This is also a great time to communicate with animal spirits and to find your animal guide or totem. You may have been born with a Spirit Animal Guide, or you may have instinctively picked one. Full Moon Zodiac – Aries: Now is the time to invoke the Goddess’s skills in leadership. She will help you become the leader you want to be with all the authority you need.

November 4, Full Beaver Moon: The Algonquin tribe would trap and kill beavers during this month, in order to use their fur. This is a time to protect yourself. Surround yourself in white light, and remember to love yourself. It’s good to try to ground yourself before the warmth of the world fades and the long winter comes. It’s important to remember the Sun will keep shining. So be the Sun, and shine. Full Moon Zodiac – Taurus: Now is the time for manifestation of love or material things. This is a great time to ask for things we want.

December 3, Full Cold Moon: Otherwise known as the Long Dark Nights or Full Yule Moon. During this month the nights are long, dark and frigid. We remember those in need of warmth, and sitting with our loved ones before the blazing fire we are reminded that there’s love and warmth even in the cold of winter.We are not alone. We protect each other; we are the Sun. We celebrate that the year has come full circle, knowing that soon the Earth will warm and breathe again, full of new life. Full Moon Zodiac – Gemini: This is the best time to work on communication. You can use this energy to manifest travel time or even help with your writing.



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Tibetan Buddhist Symbols

 

The eight Auspicious Symbols of Mahayana Buddhism are often pictured together. Their harmony illustrates how the many aspects of life come together on the Buddhist path.

 lotus line drawing Lotus represents purity of body, speech and mind. The opening of the flower signifies the “blossoming” of enlightenment.
knot Endless Knot (mandala) represents eternity and unity. Different aspects of wisdom depend upon and lead to each other: fulfillment and emptiness, straight lines and turnings, wisdom and compassion.
fish Pair of Golden Fish represents moving through life without fear. As a fish swimming through water has no thought of drowning, so we may swim through life, allowing the waters of the Ocean of Suffering to roll off our backs.
banner Victory Banner represents spiritual victory — both one’s personal victory over obstacles, and also the victory of Buddhist doctrine.
wheel Wheel of Dharma has eight spokes, corresponding to the Noble Eightfold Path, also called the Middle Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. Working toward these things promotes wisdom, ethical conduct, and spiritual development.
 treasure Treasure Vase represents abundance. This symbol is somewhat puzzling, since represents the attainment of material wealth, while at the same time promising liberation from the world.
 umbrella Parasol represents protection from temporary suffering; though all beings suffer, the person approaching enlightenment ceases to be bothered by temporary setbacks.
 conch Conch Shell represents the voice of the Buddha, which we may hear within our own minds. The conch signals teachings that wake us from the figurative “slumber” of deception.

 

Many other symbols are part of the Buddhist tradition as well:

 

Chorten (or stupa in Hindi): Like a Tibetan version of the Stations of the Cross, each of the eight types of chorten stands for one of the stages in the Buddha’s life: birth, enlightenment, many doors, descent from the god realm, great miracles, reconciliation, complete victory, and nirvana. stupa
Dorje (or Vajra in Hindi): This may be variously described as a lightening bolt, a scepter, or a diamond rod. Whichever interpretation is followed, the dorje represents the invincible truth of Buddhist teachings. The diamond is is the hardest of natural materials, able to cut through anything else. In the same way, the wisdom of the Buddha is pure and strong enough to cut through every deception. The dorje embodies the male, or skill, aspect of wisdom. dorje hand
Double Dorje: Two crossed dorjes represent the foundation of the world, signifying physical reality as we experience it in day-to-day life. This may be used as an emblem of protection.  double dorje
Tibetan Bell: The feminine aspect of enlightenment, encompassing wisdom and emptiness. The sound of the bell drives away demons, including spiritual demons such as fear and illusion.  bell
Kartika: This curved knife cuts the ties that bind us to conventional beliefs, leaving us free to pursue truth and attain true wisdom.  kartika
Phurpa: A ritual dagger that fights back against negativity and harmful forces that would hold us back. These harmful forces may be parts of ourselves; the phurpa, therefore, also signifies self control. phurpa
Flame Sword: Transcendent wisdom, which cuts through illusion, duality and attachment. This sword is the weapon of Manjusri, one of the most ancient Bodhisattvas, who embodies wisdom achieving victory over ignorance. sword
Tingsha: These cymbals are small but thick, producing a clear, piercing tone, which clears the mind for meditation. They can also clear the atmosphere of a place, removing negative energy. Tingshas are used in prayer, meditation and ritual, particularly the ritual of appeasing the “hungry ghosts.” tingsha
Buddha Eyes: The all-seeing eyes of the Buddha observe everything, but never speak.  buddha eyes

 


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Two Basic Mantras

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indian om   or  Tibetan om

OM (AUM)

This is the most sacred mantra, which is regarded as the primal sound in the birth of the cosmos.

Its symbol is OM, but the actual mystic sound heard in the deep meditative state is A-U-M, which appears to correspond to the three elements that sprang up out of creation:  Spirit-mind-body. A stands for the initial surge of emanation; U for preserving or nurturing it; and M for absorption, not dissolution. It also stands for Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, the Hindu trinity.

When articulated or chanted, it is cleansing or purifying, and activates certain latent forces in the human body, and helps transcend worldly problems. Hence, as the holiest of all mantras, OM must precede all other mantras, otherwise the latter would not have the presence of divine power or force. To make any work successful, the OM mantra must be invoked before the work is started.

It is regarded to exist before and after creation. It is imperishable and therefore the symbol of the Infinite. It resides and is present in silence, and represents the entire manifested and unmanifested world.

om mani padme hum

OM MANI PADME HUM

Om Mani Padme Hum is the most common mantra in Tibet. It is recited by Buddhists, painted on rocks, and carved on prayer wheels. The essence of all the teachings of the Buddha are said to be contained in this mantra. Literally meaning “Aum to the Jewel in the Lotus,” this Tibetan mantra is said to invoke compassion. Tibetan people and almost all Buddhists believe that chanting this mantra of Chenrezig (Bodhisatva of Compassion) helps to rescue them from the sea of suffering and to achieve Buddhahood. Repeating it is believed to purify the mind and body. The mantra is also used for protection.

OM helps you to achieve perfection in the practice of generosity. Repetition of Om helps us maintain mental and emotional calmness, and to overcome obstacles.

MANI (jewel) helps you to perfect the practice of pure ethics, tolerance and patience.

PADME (lotus) helps you to achieve perfection in the practice of perseverance and concentration.

HUM (inseparability, purity) helps you to achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.


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Maneki Neko: The Meaning Behind the Waving Cats

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The story of the Lucky Cat is based on a 9th century Chinese proverb: If a cat washes its face and ears, it will rain. A cat washes its face with its paw to ease its anxiety. However, people have long believed that when a cat lifts its paw it is actually a beckoning gesture.

Lucky cats often go by their Japanese name, Maneki Neko, which means “beckoning” or “welcoming cat.” They’re traditionally stationed near doors and windows of shops and other public places, to welcome customers and bring good fortune. While the ones with the moving arm are a lot of fun, Maneki Neko predates double-A batteries by several centuries. Non-moving ceramic models are the most traditional, often with a slot in the top for coins.

The cat has one paw up, while the other holds an ancient coin called a koban, inscribed with the characters “10,000,000 ryo” — basically, a lot of money. Some cats have the right paw raised to beckon people, while others lift their left paw to beckon money and general good luck. Cats of various colors and have specific symbolism, with the blessings on their coins chosen to match. The color correspondences come from the Chinese Feng Shui tradition:

RED:  Love
BLUE:  Health
GREEN:  Good Luck
YELLOW:  Wealth
BROWN:  Stability/Earth
PURPLE:  Fulfill wishes

There are many stories about who the first Maneki Neko may have been. One, from Edo-era Japan, goes like this: At a time when the capitol was plagued by intrigue, there was a loyal courtier who did his best to go about his honest business and fulfill his duties to the emperor. One day, he was summoned to the offices of a certain nobleman. On his way there, he noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him. Curious, he turned off the road to go and see what the cat wanted, stopping for a moment to scratch its ears. Some noise made him turn back toward the road, and he noticed that he had been about to walk into a trap that the evil nobleman had set to kill him; had he not stepped off the path, he would have been killed. The wise courtier saw that the cat had saved him–and probably saved the emperor too, by revealing the nobleman’s treachery. So he ordered the first Maneki Neko statue to be made, and it brought him luck for the rest of his life.


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