Servant

Frangipani, or Plumeria, is a genus of flowering plants in the family which includes Dogbane. They are native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, and have been spread throughout the world’s tropics. Indian incenses containing Frangipani have “Champa” in their name, for example Nag Champa.

Frangipani flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers have no nectar, and simply dupe their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar.

They are associated with temples in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures. In local Asian folk beliefs, the plants provide shelter to ghosts. Frangipani are often planted on cemetery grounds Indonesia. Balinese Hindus use the flowers in their temple offerings.

In Hindu mythology there is a saying “The beauty of Champa is compared to Radhika, who is wife of lord Krishna and honey bees are servants of Lord Krishna. This is the reason honey bees don’t sit on the champa flower.”

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Devotion

The Indian Palm Squirrel is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family that can be easily domesticated and kept as pets. It is found naturally in India. In the late 19th century, the Palm Squirrel was accidentally introduced into Western Australia where it has since become a minor pest.

The squirrels eat mainly nuts and fruits. They are opportunists in urban areas, and can be easily domesticated and trained to accept food from humans. Naturally active, their activity reaches levels of frenzy during the mating season. They tend to be very protective over their food sources, often guarding and defending them from birds and other squirrels.

The stripes on the Palm Squirrel’s back are described in a Hindu legend. The bridge at Rameswaram was being constructed by Lord Rama and the Vanara Sena, and the squirrel played its part by rolling in beach sand then running to the bridge to shake the sand from its back, all the time chanting Lord Rama’s name.

Lord Rama was pleased by the creature’s dedication and, in stroking the squirrel’s back, the mark of Rama’s fingers was left on the squirrel ever since. This association with Lord Rama explains why squirrels are considered sacred in India.

Articulation

A philosophical zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except in that it lacks conscious experience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain though it behaves exactly as if it does.

The notion of a philosophical zombie is used mainly in thought experiments intended to support arguments against forms of physicalism such as materialism and functionalism. Since a zombie is physiologically indistinguishable from human beings, its hypothetical possibility is an argument for a consciousness that is more than the sum of neurological pathways and brain states.

Though philosophical zombies are widely used in thought experiments, the detailed articulation of the concept is not always the same. Philosophical zombies were introduced primarily to argue against specific types of physicalism such as behaviorism, according to which mental states exist solely as behavior.

Belief, desire, thought, consciousness, and so on, are simply certain kinds of behavior or tendencies towards behaviors. A philosophical zombie that is behaviorally indistinguishable from a normal human being, but lacks conscious experiences, is therefore not logically possible according to the behaviorist.

Developing

Neural plasticity is the key to changes in intelligence. It occurs during short-term memory when a stimulus with a high frequency of activation causes improvement of a brain cell’s sensitivity to signals received from an associated cell. This change in neural connectivity allows information to be more easily processed, as the neural connection associated with that information becomes stronger.

It has been shown to play a large role in the development of the senses. For instance, blind patients have learned to “see” through tactile stimulation of their backs and tongues. The brain rewires the visual cortex to further process and interpret tactile stimulation in replacement of eyesight.

There are numerous behavioral factors that affect intellectual development. The key is neural plasticity, which is caused by experience-driven electrical activation of neurons. This experience-driven activation causes axons to sprout new branches and develop new presynaptic terminals. These new branches often lead to greater mental processing in different areas.

Those with a belief in fixed intelligence show less improvement on cognitive testing than people with a belief in neural plasticity, and a focus on performance goals and proving intelligence causes negative feedback and failure. Those who focus on flexible and expansive learning goals rebound well from occasional failure or feedback. By focusing on challenging tasks to expand intelligence instead of working to prove intelligence, neural plasticity allows greater intellectual capacity.

Realms

The interdimensional hypothesis is a theory that paranormal phenomenon and related events involve visitations from other realities or dimensions that coexist separately alongside our own. The theory holds that UFOs are a modern manifestation of a phenomenon that has occurred throughout recorded human history, which in prior ages were ascribed to mythological or supernatural creatures.

Proponents believe it possible that a technology already exists which encompasses both the physical and the psychic. It is thought that there may be a civilization that is millions of years more advanced than ours, and that it is possible that a million-year-old civilization may show us something that we don’t know how to perceive.

It is argued that if the other dimension is more advanced than ours, or is our own future, this would explain how paranormal phenomenon have a tendency to appear and disappear from sight and fail all testing and experimentation.

Some consider the interdimensional hypothesis as a belief system rather than a scientific hypothesis. Others believe a technology encompassing the mental and material realms is not entirely out of the question. The psychic realms, so mysterious to us today, could be an ordinary part of an advanced technology we are unable to comprehend.

Occasion

All seasonal festivals attract superstitions, which usually focus on whatever elements are considered particularly special to the season. Christmas has been one of the most popular festivals in calendar for a long time, so it is no surprise that it has had more than its fair share of beliefs, and those which are still widely known are concentrated on.

The only genuine belief today about mistletoe is that anyone who stands under it cannot refuse to be kissed.  Special powers are attributed to it by a wide range of cultures, both within Europe and elsewhere. The use of mistletoe as an all-heal and a cure for impotence is reputed to have a very ancient history. The link between mistletoe and fertility persists to this day in the tradition of kissing underneath bunches of it at Christmas. In the early 19th century, it was traditional for each man who kissed under the mistletoe to remove one berry. Once all the berries were gone, so was the potency.

The Druids regarded anything growing on oak trees as having been sent from heaven. On the rare occasions when mistletoe was found growing on an oak, it would be gathered with great ceremony. A priest in white clothing would cut the mistletoe with a golden sickle and allow it to fall onto a white cloak, and two white bulls would then be sacrificed.

Evergreen

In decorating the house with evergreens at Christmas, it was once believed that care must be taken not to let ivy be used alone, or even predominate, as it is a plant of bad omen and would prove injurious. Ivy was used in garlands by the ancient Greeks and the Romans for religious ceremonies and was strongly associated with Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine.

Since Roman times, ivy has been associated with wine and wine-making. Branches of evergreen ivy tied to a pole was often used to indicate a place where wine or alcohol was for sale. Hence, the proverb “Good wine needs no bush” meaning that it is not necessary to advertise well-made goods. Ivy is less commonly seen in houses in Britain at Christmas compared to holly and mistletoe and it may be that established religions opposed its use in Christmas wreaths because of its association with drunkenness.

At one time, there was disagreement between those who believed that the Christmas evergreens should be burned when taken down, and those who insisted they should not. Both sides maintained it would be dreadfully bad luck not to follow their rule, but there is no pattern to explain the different views on burning. The earliest anti-burning treatise dates from 1866, but there are references which support burning back to the eleventh century. On this evidence, it would seem that burning the Christmas evergreens was the norm until late in the nineteenth century.

Mainstay

Holly has been a mainstay of Christmas decoration since the fifteenth century, mentioned regularly in churchwardens’ records, but many of the specific traditions about it are found in much later accounts. It has been said that the kind of holly that comes into a house at Christmas could determine who would be master during the coming year, the wife or the husband. If the holly is smooth the wife will be master, if the holly is prickly, the husband will be the master.

Holly is palatable to livestock despite its spines and was extensively used as a winter fodder for livestock in medieval times. Hay and grains for wintering stock would often run short, and the livestock would eventually have to be slaughtered, causing problems to medieval economies in the following years. Thus, a supply of fresh browse would have been extremely valuable. Written records of payments and agreements involving the use of holly for livestock cover a wide period from the late 12th century to the mid-18th century, by which time the practice had been largely abandoned.

In the past, many believed that it was extremely unlucky to decorate before Christmas Eve. It was once thought that if every scrap of Christmas decoration was not removed from the church before Candlemas Day on February 2nd, there would be a death within a year in the family occupying the pew where the leaf or berry was left.

Ecology

Festive ecology explores the relationships between the symbolism and the ecology of the plants, fungi and animals associated with cultural events such as festivals, processions and special occasions.

Holly, ivy and mistletoe, plants traditionally associated with Christmas, have had special roles in earlier religions and past cultures. Houses were decorated with evergreens and bunches of holly were given as tokens of friendship. When this festival was absorbed into the Christian calendar, holly and the other evergreens were absorbed as well.

The main areas in which belief comes to play in respect to Christmas decorations are which plants can be used and which are forbidden, when they are put up and taken down, and what happens to them later and whether they should be burnt or not.

Artificial decorations were not introduced until late Victorian times and do not seem to have gathered any beliefs of their own.

Juncture

The Axis Mundi describes a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. The symbol originates as a perception that the spot one occupies stands at the center of the world. It is found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices, in major world religions, and in technologically advanced urban centers. Every inhabited region has an Axis Mundi, a place that is sacred above all.

The space serves as a microcosm of order because it is known and settled. Outside the boundaries of the Axis Mundi lie foreign realms that, because they are unfamiliar or not ordered, represent chaos, death or night. From the center one may venture in any of the four cardinal directions, make discoveries, and establish new centers as new realms become known and settled.

A universally told story is that of the healer traversing the Axis Mundi to bring back knowledge from the other world. It may be seen in stories from the Garden of Eden and Jacob’s Ladder to Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. The stories relate the hero’s descent and ascent through a series of structures that take him from the depths of hell to paradise.

Because the Axis Mundi is an idea that unites a number of concrete images, places and landmarks, no contradiction exists regarding multiple spots as the center. The symbol can operate in a number of locales at once. The ancient Greeks regarded several sites as places of centering, notably the oracle at Delphi, while still maintaining a belief in a cosmic world tree and in Mount Olympus.