2017 Apr 18 — Ancient Symbols and Traditions
Since ancient times humans have felt the need to commune with the intelligence that created us, and the world we live in. We refer to this intelligence as Spirit.
Often, we feel driven to influence the will of Spirit so creation can favor us. The longing to gain favor with Spirit is nothing new; in primeval times it was customary to prepare offerings to the manifestations of gods, goddesses, or the source of all life. Both simple and intricate rituals originated in societies around the world.
Whether you observe Passover, Easter, or various rituals from other times and places, this month is rich in time-honored symbols and traditions.
Native Americans have long celebrated April’s Full Moon, known to some as the Pink Moon in honor of the wildflowers that bloom in Spring. It is also called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Fish Moon, and the Egg Moon.
Long before its appearance in our religious practices, the egg was widely used in ritualistic and shamanic ceremonies as a symbol of fertility, life, and transformation. In earth worshipping cultures worldwide, the egg is a symbol of Mother Earth.
In Eastern Europe, the custom of painting and patterning eggs dates back to ancient seasonal and fertility rituals. The druids colored their eggs to designate different powers. Eggs colored red, symbolic of a woman’s monthly bleeding, were buried in planting fields to attract life force and abundance.
The 10,000-year-old Ukrainian tradition of Pysanky is a complex process for coloring eggs, which symbolized the seasonal release of the earth from the shackles of winter. The beautifully decorated eggs were exchanged as gifts and kept as protective talismans. This tradition was eventually incorporated into the Christian faith and continues in modern Easter rituals.
Easter eggs are seen as symbols of the resurrection of Christ — cracking open the hard shell represents the opening of Jesus’ tomb. The egg on the Seder plate during Passover, however, signifies sacrifices and mourning.
The rabbit, or hare, emerged as a symbol of spring in various ancient cultures thanks to its reproductive prowess. Rabbit meat was considered a potent remedy for infertility. The hare was associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. The Madonna of the Rabbit, an oil painting of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child by Tiziano Vecelli, shows a white hare at her feet, representing the Immaculate Conception.
For hundreds of years, the Laika — high shamans or wisdomkeepers of the Q’ero lineage of Peru — have used the despacho ceremony for a wide variety of occasions: births, deaths, as an expression of gratitude, to heal physical and emotional ailments, to restore balance and harmony, or when there is a specific request of the spirit world.
A despacho is a prayer bundle or offering. Similar to a mandala or sacred creation, the despacho holds symbolic elements and the prayers of the participants, becoming a living prayer that brings energy shifts and healing.
The medicine women of the Chilean Andes believe in a step prior to gratitude: acknowledging that we might have stepped out of right relationship with Spirit. At the start of prayers they say, “I am sorry for not being impeccable,” even absent any conscious recollection of having acted without integrity. It is a practice of “humbleness” meant to deepen their connection, and mindful that the word “humble” derives its roots from “humus,” the Latin word for earth.
From the standpoint of humility, the feeling of gratitude comes in a most natural way. As we feel grateful, our hearts fill with love — the most precious vehicle to carry our requests to Spirit.