Sacred Places

Document Sample
Sacred Places Powered By Docstoc

     Chapter 6
 2   Sacred Places
      Stonehenge... Machu Picchu... The Pyramids...
       Jerusalem... Banaras... Mt. Fuji... Mecca...

      Since prehistoric times, sacred places have exerted a mysterious attraction on billions
        of people around the world.
 3   Examples
 4   The Intrigue of Sacred Sites
      Different sacred sites have the power to heal the body, enlighten the mind, increase
        creativity, develop psychic abilities, and awaken the soul to a knowing of its true
        purpose in life.
      They continue to be the most venerated and visited locations on planet earth.
      What is the key to the mystery of the sacred sites and how are we to explain their
 5   The Grounding of Mythology
      In the study of myths, sacred places are a significant element worthy of further
      Places may be the repositories of national or ethnic identity.
      Places may mark the sites of supernatural revelation or visitation.
      Places may be actual or mythic; either, however, offers meaningful truth that
        transcends the degree of reality present.
 6   Sacred Places
      Invite us to associate the spiritual with the actual (natural, material) phenomena
      Places may prompt distinctions
         Past versus present
         Realistic versus mythological
         Spiritual versus material
      that on closer inspection show themselves as NOT mutually exclusive
 7   Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
      Vine Deloria’s research in, God is Red: A Native View of Religion, 1993, provides
      Gettysburg, PA, with its battlefield and National Cemetery, serves as a sacred place in
        our creation of national identity.
      Its sacredness derives from the importance of the events having occurred there.
      The events are embodied and localized at the sacred place
      The events contextualize values held dear by a given culture
 8   Gulliford’s 9 Categories of Sacred Places
     1. Sites associated with the emergence and migration tales
     2. Sites of trails and pilgrimage routes
     3. Places essential to cultural survival
     4. Altars
     5. Vision quest sites
     6. Ceremonial dance sites
     7. Ancestral ruins
     8. Petroglyphs and pictographs
     9. Burial or massacre sites
 9   Gulliford’s Categories
      Eachh of his categories refers to a specific, identifiable location that has a
        mythological dimension not unlike that which has attached itself to Gettysburg or the

10                                                                                                       1


       mythological dimension not unlike that which has attached itself to Gettysburg or the
       Liberty Bell.
      They are closely tied to historical events, spiritual practices, and identity-reinforcing
       activities so important to a culture’s identity.
10   Beyond Gulliford’s Categories
      We should also example places that have been sanctified by divine influence
      Many of the world’s myths include places such as these
      These places may be actual and still relevant to a culture today
      These places may be mythic in nature but no less meaningful than an actual place
11   Examples
      Modoc Indians of No. Calif honor Mount Shasta as sacred because Chief of the Sky
       Spirits made it as a dwelling for himself and his family.
      Jicarilla Apache saw Taos as the center of the earth and revered this place because
       “the Ruler” led them to this site
      Brule Sioux see the Badland rock formations as the bones of a primordial water
12   Deloria’s 4 Categories of Sacred Sites
      He provides a scale by which to gauge his 4 categories
         AGENCY---------------------------Higher Power
          ○Sacred due to exclusive human agency
          ○Sacred due to interaction between human and divine
          ○Sacred due to initiative of Higher Power
          ○Sacred due to present changes or circumstances
13   Examining our Comparison
      In comparing Gulliford’s and Deloria’s schemes we learn
         They are not wholly definitive but they provide useful descriptions by which to study
          sacredness of places
         We learn that a place is not to be understood in completely black/white structure
         Rather, places may embody a bit of both mythic meaning and actual reality
14   Sites of Longing and Fear
      Places may become sacred because myths of them dramatize our fears of and
       resistance to the inevitable facts of aging, weakness, disease, and death.
      Myths take us to a sacred place where our worries our dissipated and hope of idyllic
       conditions is possible.
15   Combining Interpretative Strategies
      Sacred Places may be understood along the use of two axes:
         Historical/actual -----------------Imaginary/metaphorical
         Human agency ------------------ Divine agency
16   Another Tool for Interpretation
      Identifying Tropes or Myth Types
         Myths of sacred waters
         Myths of sacred landforms, e.g., mountains, canyons, caves
         Myths of sacred trees, gardens, or forests
         Myths of blessed isles or magic realms



     Zuni (Modern Account, Arizona)
18   Comparing Native with Western
      Characteristics found in Native American stories contrast with the Judaeo-Christian
      Living on earth is not seen as a punishment.
      Nonhuman creatures are not seen as inferior to human beings.
      Stories are working versions that derive from an active oral tradition.
      There are many stories, which come from hundreds of different tribes or peoples.
19   Ruth Benedict
      Was a cultural anthropologist, a scholar who studies the relationships of folklore and
       religion and culture.
      Cultural relativism requires that the study of mythological texts take place within the
       context of understanding the society, beliefs, and customs of a people.
      The version of the Zuni emergence myth Benedict collected is more explicit about
       bodily functions than the stories we may be used to.
20   Zuni Emergence
      The lowest world is populated by larval creatures with no discernible human qualities.
      Two small boys, who are children of the Sun, create access to this world using prayer
      These boys are divine, as indicated by their relation to the Sun, and they legitimize
       the authority of the bow priests with whom they interact.
      The story contains systematic fourfold repetition that relates local names in the story
       to a wider perspective that implies the universe as a whole.
21   Zuni Emergence, 2
      The larval creatures travel vertically upward through four worlds before finding their
       ideal home on earth.
      The worlds are marked by indigenous trees and actual places.
      The two boys give the larval creatures human physical traits – fingers, toes, a mouth,
       and an anus.
22   The Migration
      Once the emergence is complete, and the people have become fully human, they go
       in separate directions.
      Each tribe went to its homeland.
      In the story collected by Benedict, Water Spider helps the people find “the middle” –
       the place where they will find the center of their life on earth.
23   Hopi Creation Story
      The Hopi, like the Zuni, are descendents of the Anasazi (“the Old Ones”).
      As in the Zuni emergence tale collected by Benedict, insect-like creatures emerge
       from underground.
      They evolve from insects, to dogs, bears, and coyotes (second world), and then to
       human-like creatures (third world).
      In the fourth world, they create disks that become the heavenly bodies that warm the
      The people are led by Spider Grandmother.
      The migration is accomplished through the ritual of selecting different kinds of corn.
24   Navajo Creation Story
      Although they are now neighbors in “Four Corners,” the Navajo are not related to the
       Zuni and Hopi.
      They are related to the Athabaskans, northern peoples in Alaska and northern


      The Navajo Air-Spirit People do not climb to their new home like the Zuni and Hopi;
       they fly.
      Despite what may seem like resemblances to the account of Adam and Eve being
       expelled from the Garden of Eden, the emphasis of the Navajo story is on the
       principle of hozho, a kind of balance that is needed to live well in society.
25   Navajo Creation Story, 2
      The Air-Spirit People pass through four worlds, each associated with a color. They are
       driven from each when they disturb the balance in it.
      In the fourth world, they resolve to mend their ways.
      Humans are created by the gods of the fourth world, called the Holy People, from
       corn – a kind of second creation that is not fully rationalized with the earlier evolution
       of human traits.
     Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, Eastern Shoshone, and Crow (Wyoming)
27   Summary of Gulliford’s Sacred Object, Sacred Places: Preserving Tribal
     Traditions, 2000.
      Andrew Gulliford says at the outset that his is "a work of affirmation about the ways
       in which Native Americans have maintained their cultures against all odds."
      He remarks that "the native peoples of America continue to teach the rest of us the
       valuable lessons they have learned from living on this continent for millennia."
      He contends that contemporary Native Americans, threatened but resilient, are trying
       to preserve their tribal heritage.
28   Bighorn Medicine Wheel
      The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is the most important of several medicine wheels in the
       American West. Constructed to be aligned with the stars, it is an important sacred
       site for Native Americans.

      This 75 foot diameter wheel has 28 spokes, and is part of a vast set of old Native
       American sites that document 7,000 years of their history in that area.
29   Black Elk
      Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux elder, said the following about the Medicine Wheel circle:
      “Everything the power of the world does, is done in a circle. The sky is round, the
       earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power,
       whirls... the sun comes forth and goes down in a circle. The moon does the same…
       even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again
       to where they were before. The life of a man is a circle… and it is in everything where
       power moves.”
30   Medicine Wheels
      John Brumley, an archaeologist from Medicine Hat, has provided a very exacting
       definition of what constitutes a medicine wheel.
      He notes that a medicine wheel consists of at least two of the following three traits:
       (1) a central stone cairn, (2) one or more concentric stone circles, and/or (3) two or
       more stone lines radiating outward from a central point.
31   Construction of Wheel
      Medicine wheels were constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the
      Most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center cairn of stones, and
       surrounding that would be an outer ring of stones, then there would be "spokes", or
       lines of rocks, coming out the cairn.
32   Purposes of Wheel


32   Purposes of Wheel
      Honor sacred ancestors
      Prayers to Great Spirit
      Vision Quests
      Promoting harmony within oneself and the earth
      Heightening perception of the Four Great Directions and their powers helps one find
       true identity in sync with all reality
34   Shinto – Japan’s Indigenous Religion
      Japan's religious history has been a long process of mutual influence between
      Shinto has been a big part of Japanese life ever since the beginning of Japan's history
       and continues today.
      Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 6th c CE
      Confucianism and Taoism have exerted influence in Japan for over 1,000 years
35   Kami
      Kami" are the central objects of worship for the Shinto faith.
      The term may refer to personified deities but also be associated with spirituality in
      Shinto began as the various ancient animistic folk religions of Japan, and only became
       a unified religion much later as a result of efforts to separate out influences of other
       religions brought into Japan from abroad.
37   Our Myth
      The lovely poem suggests the religious and aesthetic appeal of the sacredness of Mt.
      The reference to a lotus refers to the sacred flower of the Lord Buddha.
      Its eight points symbolize to the devout Buddhist the teachings of the Eightfold Path
        Right view, intention, speech, action livelihood, effort, mindfulness and
39   Our Myth
      Yosoji, in an attempt to find a way to help his ailing mother, takes the advice of a
       magician who instructs him to take of the healing waters at the Shrine to the God of
       Long Breath.
      The Goddess of Fuji leads the way when he gets lost, thus saving his mother.
      He realizes his true identity when he goes back to thank her.
     Yao (China)
41   Values in Chinese Myths
      There is emphasis on industrious labor, perseverance, self-sacrifice, respect for elders
       and departed ancestors, rebellion against oppression, passionate love, and virtuous
      Individuals are encouraged to view their needs as subordinate to those of a larger
       community – one’s family, ethnic group, or one’s kingdom.
42   K’o-li and his mother
      After urging each other to eat what little they had, they agreed to offer it Old Father



      He would then have his grand-daughter offer the boy keys to gain treasures from the
43   Gifts
      K’o-li could have taken many of the treasures but he heeded his mother’s advice and
       only took an implement that would help them live.
         White stone grinder gave them grain
         Yellow stone mortar game them rice
         Magic hoe to till the ground for corn
      K’o-li tricked the evil king when he tried to take all treasures
44   Questions
      How did K’o-li trick the king?
      What did K’o-li do with the young maiden’s earrings?
      How did the story end?
     Buddhist (Japan)
46   St. Kobo Stories
      St. Kobo’s Well
         The old man rewards the girl’s kindness and creates a water spring by striking the
          ground with his cane.
      The Willow Well of Kobo
         Clear water gushed forth from the ground where Kobo Daishi prayed to the god the
          Kashima Shrine. He planted a willow to commemorate the event.
47   St. Kobo Stories
      The Kobo Chestnut Trees
         When the small boys cried for not being able to climb the big trees, a priest created
          small trees within a year that bore fruit that they could reach.
      The Stream where Kobo Washed His Garment
         The town where the people criticized Kobo Daishi for washing his dirty clothes in
          their river suffer drought in summer; the town where he had to move to finish
          never had anyone drown in their river.
     Jewish (Italy, ca. 11th century)
49   Jewish History
      Marked by long periods of oppression by foreign entities
      Especially harsh oppression under Roman empire
      Throughout, they cherish their teachings
      Recording of oral tradition flourished
         Talmud and Midrash
50   Alexander the Great
      Prior to Roman occupation, the Greeks conquered the known western world
      All conquered cultures were Hellenized, including Judah
      Greek culture also influenced Jewish literature
51   Alexander Searches for Eternal Life Waters
      Prophecy said he’d be a great and famous warrior king
      Prophecy also said he’d have a short life
      He knew of both prophecies
      After conquering the known world, he went on his greatest quest of all
52   Flying Beyond Mts. Of Darkness
      After ingeniously manipulating the power of eagles, he landed beyond the mountains,



      When about to taste of the lovely fruited trees, he was captured by Asmodeus, king
       of demons.
      When Asmodeus discovered Alexander’s identity he decided to help him find the
       waters of eternal life.
53   Finding the Speaking Tree
      Speaking Tree only speaks on the third hour of the day and it would only answer 3
      Asmodeus asked for one of the 3 questions that may be asked of the tree to be
       where a glowing pearl can be found.
54   Three Questions
      Where can the Waters of Eternal Life be found?
      Where can one find the glowing pearls?
      How can the Well of Living Waters be reached?
55   Great Adventures
      Diving into and rising from the well
      Finding the golden pearl
      Led to the Garden of Eden
      Climbing a divine tree into the garden, he finds the waters of eternal life
      When he is about to drink from the waters, an angel warns him of the consequences
56   Alexander’s Choices
      Time and his journey was perceived differently once he decided to give up the chance
       to drink from the waters of eternal life.
      Asmodeus was before him instantly explaining all this to him, including his reward for
       his choice, a glowing pearl.
      He later reunited with his men as they finished their trek across the mountains.
      How were they able to return so quickly to their home?