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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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.

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.

Archetypes

Oneiromancy is a form of divination based upon dreams. It is a system of dream interpretation that uses dreams to predict the future.

The word comes from the Oneiroi, the sons of Hypnos the Greek god of sleep. Usually such dream interpretation is of a prophetic nature as opposed to the modern psychological version whereby dreams are often seen as clues to the present state of the dreamer, as in the scientific field of oneirology.

The interpretation of dreams was particularly prevalent in ancient Egypt where the dreams of the Pharoah were given great prominence. Oneiromancy also occurs in the Christian bible, as when the Magi are told in a dream to avoid Herod on their journey home.

For many cultures in the past, oneiromancy was seen as a science rather than an art. The use of flexible imagery and artistic interpretation is similar to some of the modern psychological approaches to dreams such as Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and archetypes.

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.

Force

Mana is an indigenous Pacific islander concept of an impersonal force or quality that resides in people, animals, and inanimate objects. In anthropological discourse, mana as a generalized concept is often understood as a precursor to formal religion. It has commonly been interpreted as the stuff of which magic is formed, as well as the substance of which souls are made.

In Polynesian culture, it is a spiritual quality considered to have supernatural origin, and a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. Therefore to have mana is to have influence and authority, and the power to perform in a given situation. This essential quality of mana is not limited to people. Government, places and inanimate objects can possess mana.

There are two ways to obtain mana: through birth and through warfare. People or objects that possess mana are accorded respect because their possession of mana gives them authority, power, and prestige. The word’s meaning is complex because mana is a basic foundation of the Polynesian worldview.

Mana is also referred to in the Huna religion as the vital life force which flows through the body. The kahuna believed that there are three different kinds of mana within the body.

Modern fantasy fiction and computer and role-playing games have adopted mana as a term for magic points, an expendable and often rechargable resource out of which magic users form their magical spells.

Authenticity

Duende is a difficult to define phrase used in the Spanish arts, including performing arts. The artistic and especially musical term was derived from the original meaning of a fairy or goblin-like creature in Spanish and Latin American mythology.

The meaning of duende  has to do with emotion, expression and authenticity. In fact, duende can be loosely translated as “having soul”. It is the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical and emotional response to music. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive.

Folk music in general, especially flamenco, tends to embody an authenticity that comes from a people whose culture is enriched by diaspora and hardship; vox populi, the human condition of joys and sorrows. It is thus as universal in its meaning as it is immensely personal and culturally contextual by its nature.

To a higher degree than the muse or the angel, duende seizes not only the performer but also the audience, creating conditions where art can be understood spontaneously with little, if any, conscious effort. It is, in Lorca’s words, “a sort of corkscrew that can get art into the sensibility of an audience… the very dearest thing that life can offer the intellectual.”

Obedience

The Asch experiments were a series of studies published in the 1950s that demonstrated the power of conformity in groups. Experiments led by Solomon Asch asked groups of students to participate in a “vision test.” In reality, all but one of the participants were confederates of the experimenter, and the study was really about how the remaining student would react to the others’ behavior.

The participants, the real subjects and the confederates, were all seated in a classroom. They were asked a variety of questions about lines printed on cards, such as how long is line A compared to the an everyday object, which line was longer than the other, which lines were the same length, etc. The group was told to announce their answers to each question out loud.

The confederates always provided their answers before the study participant, and always gave the same answer as each other. They answered a few questions correctly but eventually began providing incorrect responses.

Asch hypothesized that the majority of people would not conform to something obviously wrong. However, when surrounded by individuals all voicing an incorrect answer, participants provided incorrect responses on a high proportion of the questions. Seventy-five percent of the participants gave an incorrect answer to at least one question.

Variations of the basic paradigm tested how many confederates were necessary to induce conformity, examining the influence of just 1 confederate and as many as 15 confederates. Results indicate that 1 confederate has virtually no influence and 2 confederates have only a small influence. When 3 or more confederates are present, the tendency to conform is relatively stable.

Symmetry

A triskelion is a symbol consisting of three interlocked spirals or or any similar symbol with three protrusions and a threefold rotational symmetry. It appears in many early cultures as a heraldic emblem on shields depicted on Greek pottery. The triple spiral motif is a Neolithic symbol in Western Europe. It is carved into the rock of a stone lozenge near the main entrance of the prehistoric Newgrange monument in County Meath, Ireland.

The triskelion is used by some polytheistic reconstructionist and neopagan groups. As a Celtic symbol, it is found primarily amongst groups with a Celtic cultural orientation and, less frequently, can also be found in use by some Germanic neopagan groups and eclectic or syncretic traditions such as Wicca.

In the north of Spain, the triskelion is used as a symbol of Galizan and Asturian nationalists. The triskele was used by Galician nationalists as early as 1930, although its use as a contemporary fashion icon only started during the Celtic revival of the 1970s. Currently, the Department of Agriculture of the devolved government of Galicia uses a triskele as its corporate logo.

A triskelion pattern forms part of the United States Department of Transportation seal. The three comma shapes represent air, land, and sea transportation. The seal was adopted on February 1, 1967. A triskelion is the basis for the roundel of the Irish Air Corps. It is loosely based on the Flag of Ireland and traditional Celtic designs.

A triskelion shape was used in the design of a common plastic adapter for vinyl records, which allowed larger center holed 45 rpm records to spin on players designed for smaller center-holed 33 1/3 rpm records.

81_triskelion

Likelihood

Strong optimism, is the overarching mental state wherein people believe that things are more likely to go well for them than go badly. Compare this with the valence effect of prediction, a tendency for people to overestimate the likelihood of good things happening rather than bad things. It is the demonstrated systematic tendency for people to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions.

Personal optimism correlates strongly with self-esteem, with psychological well-being and with physical and mental health. Optimism has been shown to be correlated with better immune systems in healthy people who have been subjected to stress. Martin Seligman, in researching this area, criticizes academics for focusing too much on causes for pessimism and not enough on optimism. He states that in the last three decades of the 20th century journals published 46,000 psychological papers on depression and only 400 on joy.

Popular culture has reflected the link between optimism and well-being with works like the fable “The Moth and the Star”, and Barack Obama’s speech and book, The Audacity of Hope.

A number of scholars have suggested that although optimism and pessimism might seem like opposites, in psychological terms they do not function in this way. Having more of one does not mean you have less of the other. The factors that reduce one do not necessarily increase the other. On many occasions in life we need both in equal supply.

Hope can become a force for social change when it combines optimism and pessimism in healthy proportions. John Braithwaite, an academic at the Australian National University, suggests that in modern society we undervalue hope because we wrongly think of it as a choice between hopefulness and naiveness as opposed to scepticism and realism.