Spirituality * Culture * Self-Expression

Month: March 2015

Belling the Cat – a Fable



This fable is often attributed to Aesop but it actually seems to have written around the 12th century in England or France.

A large, fierce cat was brought into the big house to help control the mice population. Whenever the mice would try to go to the kitchen for a snack, the cat would sneak up on them and chase them away – or worse from the perspective of the mice.  In desperation the mice decided to hold a council meeting to find a solution to their problem. Many suggestions were put forward but none were totally acceptable to the group. Finally a young mouse stepped forward with an idea:

“The problem is that the cat sneaks up on us and we never know where she is until it’s too late. If we put a bell around her neck we’d always know where she was and we could come and go to the kitchen as we pleased.”


Everyone loved this idea and congratulated the young mouse on his brains and initiative. It was agreed he would have a great future in the mouse community. While the council celebrated a successful meeting an old mouse stepped forward and offered some of his wisdom.

“I agree,” the old mouse said, “that this is excellent idea. But, before we get too carried away by the proposal I wonder if our resourceful young mouse – or one of his friends – will be brave enough to put the plan into effect. For, you see, someone is going to have to put the bell on the cat.”

No one volunteered, the celebration subsided and the council got back to its discussion.


One moral of this story points out the fundamental difference between ideas and their feasibility.

From a mystical point of view we all want to see a perfect world and have a perfect life, but are we willing to do what it takes to bring it about?

A similar story is found in the Bible. A young man comes to the Master and asks how he can be perfected. The Master tells him to love God, follow all the teachings of the law, and be useful and beneficial to all those who need him. The young man asserts that he has done all this and more all his life but now he wants to be perfected. The Master says, “if you really want to be perfected, sell all you have and give the money to the poor that you might have treasures in Heaven and then come and follow me.” The young man silently turns and walks away, for he was very rich.

plans and actions

Ostara – the Spring Equinox

Goddess of Spring

Goddess of Spring

There are 8 basic mystical festivals that have been celebrated around the world for thousands of years. The names and specific dates may be modified in different cultures, and some of the rituals associated with them may differ – but the underlying theme stays the same.

They are:

The Spring Equinox or Ostara in March – symbolizing re-birth and renewal

Beltane or May Day, which occurs about 6 weeks after the Equinox – symbolizing spiritual union and fertility

The Summer Solstice or Lithia in June – symbolizing the light of consciousness and spiritual awakening

Lammas or Lughnasadh, which occurs 6 weeks after the Solstice – symbolizing the harvest and first fruits

The Autumn Equinox or Mabon in September – symbolizing balance and transformation

Samhain or Halloween, which occurs about 6 weeks after the Equinox – symbolizing the final harvest and remembrance of things past

The Winter Solstice or Yule in December – symbolizing the triumph of the light and the birth of the divine

And Imbolc or Candlemas, which occurs about 6 weeks after the Solstice – symbolizing change and setting new goals

Mystical Festivals

Mystical Festivals

This year Ostara, the Spring Equinox is on March 20th.

This has been a tough winter. Although we saw the first promise of spring at Imbolc in the swelling buds, there were still nights of frost and darkness ahead. But now, finally, spring has arrived and hopefully the dark cold days of winter are past.

Observing holidays is a tradition intertwined with spirituality. The depths of humanity’s need for holy days and the biological connection to the earth’s yearly cycles are subjects worthy of more study.

The spring equinox also known as Ostara, Easter, and St. Patrick’s Day, occurs in the middle of March in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the beginning of Spring and the time when days and nights are of equal length.



It is important to remember that the dawning of spring has been observed for a long time in many cultures around the world. Traditions vary widely from one country to the next. Megalithic people on Europe’s Atlantic fringe calculated the date of the Spring Equinox using circular monuments constructed of huge stones. Germanic tribes associated it with the fertility goddess Ostara. The Mayans of Central America still gather at the pyramid at Chichen Itza which was designed to produce a “serpent” shadow on the Spring Equinox.

Serpent Shadow revealed at the Spring Equinox

Serpent Shadow revealed at the Spring Equinox

The Ancient Saxons held a feast day for their version of the fertility goddess, Eostre, on the full moon following the Equinox. Eostre is associated with the symbols of decorated eggs and hares.

Happy Ostara

Happy Ostara

The month of March contains holidays dedicated to all the great mother goddesses: Astarte, Isis, Aphrodite, Cybele and the Virgin Mary. The goddess shows herself in the blossoms, the leaves on the trees, the sprouting of the crops, the mating of birds, the birth of young animals. In the agricultural cycle, it is time for planting. We are assured that life will continue. March is also the start of the New Year in many traditions. It is also connected with the rebirth or resurrection of many divine sons and lovers of ancient gods and goddesses: Attis, Adonis, Osiris and Dionysus — who, like Christ, each die and are reborn. These gods and heroes are typically seen as saviors of their people in some way, sometimes through sacrifice. They are often gods of vegetation, dying each year (at harvest) to be reborn in the spring.

Here are some Spring traditions from around the world:


The Festival of Isis was held in ancient Egypt as a celebration of spring and rebirth. Isis features prominently in the story of the resurrection of her lover, Osiris. Although Isis’ major festival was held in the fall, folklorist Sir James Frazer says in The Golden Bough that “We are told that the Egyptians held a festival of Isis at the time when the Nile began to rise [in the spring]… the goddess was then mourning for the lost Osiris, and the tears which dropped from her eyes swelled the impetuous tide of the river.”

Isis resurrecting Osiris

Isis resurrecting Osiris


In Iran, the festival of No Ruz or Nowruz, the Persian New Year, begins shortly before the vernal equinox. The phrase “No Ruz” actually means “new day,” and this is a time of hope and rebirth. Typically, a lot of cleaning is done, old broken items are repaired, homes are repainted, and fresh flowers are gathered and displayed indoors along with fresh fruit and colored eggs. The Iranian New Year begins on the day of the equinox, and typically people celebrate by getting outside for a picnic or other activity with their loved ones. Nowruz is deeply rooted in the beliefs of Zoroastrianism, which was the predominant religion in ancient Persia before Islam came along.



In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17. St. Patrick is known as a symbol of Ireland. One of the reasons he’s so famous is because he drove the snakes out of Ireland. What many people don’t realize is that the snake was actually a metaphor for the early Pagan faiths of Ireland. St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle, and did such a thorough job of it that he practically eliminated Paganism from the country.

St. Patrick casting out the "snakes"

St. Patrick casting out the “snakes”


For the ancient Romans, the Feast of Cybele was an important spring ritual. Cybele was a mother goddess who was at the center of a Phrygian fertility cult, and eunuch priests performed mysterious rites in her honor. Her lover was Attis (who some say was born of a virgin on December 25th), and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was the source of the first violets, and divine intervention allowed Attis to be resurrected by Cybele, with some help from Zeus. In some areas, there is still an annual celebration of Attis’ rebirth and Cybele’s power observed from March 15 to March 25. A pine tree, which represented Attis, was chopped down, wrapped in a linen shroud, decorated with violets and placed in a tomb in the temple. On the Day of Blood or Black Friday, the priests of the cult gashed themselves with knives as they danced ecstatically, sympathizing with Cybele in her grief and helping to restore Attis to life. Two days later, on Sunday, a priest opened the sepulchre at dawn, revealing that it was empty and announcing that the god was saved. This day was known as Hilaria or the Day of Joy, a time of feasting and merriment. Attis, by his self-mutilation, death, and resurrection represents the fruits of the earth, which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.


One of Judaism’s biggest festivals is Passover, which takes place in the middle of the Hebrew month of Nisan. It was a pilgrimage festival, and commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt after centuries of slavery. A special meal is held, called the Seder, and it is concluded with the story of the Jews leaving Egypt, and readings from a special book of prayers. Part of the eight-day Passover traditions include a thorough spring cleaning, going through the house from top to bottom.


Anyone who has been in Greece at Easter time, especially among the more remote peasants, must have been struck by the emotion of suspense and excitement, with which they wait for the announcement, “Christos aneste,” “Christ is risen!” and the response “Alethos aneste,” “He has really risen!” Some of the older peasants still believe that “If Christ does not rise tomorrow we shall have no harvest this year.” Not quite the Ecclesiastical concern for the resurrection, but one that indicates the origins of the festival in antiquity and the general need for a vegetation savior god.

Resurrection from the Dead

The resurrection theme connected to spring and Easter is shared and possibly inspired by older non-Christian traditions. The name Easter comes from the Saxon dawn-goddess Eostre, whose festival was celebrated on spring equinox. The date of Easter is still determined by the old moon cycle. It is always the first Sunday on or after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Compare the ancient Roman story of Attis described above with the Easter story: On Good Friday, Christ is crucified, a willing sacrifice. He is wrapped in a shroud and placed in a tomb. Altars are stripped, candles extinguished to represent the darkness of the grave. But on Easter Sunday, light springs from darkness, Christ rises from the tomb. If you’ve never attended an Easter vigil, I highly recommend it. (I usually go to a Greek Orthodox Church, so I don’t know what the ceremony is like in other Christian churches.) Shortly before midnight all the lights are extinguished and the thronged church is dark and silent. Everyone is holding an unlit candle. The priest lights the Paschal candle, which has been ritually blessed and inscribed with the year. He then lights the candles of those nearby, who light the candles of their neighbors, until the church is ablaze with light and filled with song.

Candles representing the Light coming forth

Candles representing the Light coming forth

The spring equinox is a time of re-birth and renewal. It is the time when the Light has won out over the Darkness and begins to grow in strength and power. It is a time when the World begins to wake up after the long, cold night of winter. Many of us feel, not only the physical impulses connected with spring but also, the spiritual rumblings deep within us as our souls seek to reach out and embrace the resurrected Light. This spring I encourage you to allow yourself to become conscious of the great mystery of Light that starts as an inner glow but soon expands to illuminate the universe.


Let your inner self bring Light to the world!

Let your inner self bring Light to the world!


ostara blessings

Too Materialistic – a Zen Story

zen garden

I can’t track the source of this story and I’m not even sure it’s part of authentic Zen tradition – but I like the concept and I thought I’d share my imperfectly remembered version.

Once there was a Zen master noted for his great austerity. He had only one robe that he wore summer and winter. He slept on the ground with only an old, worn-thin blanket for warmth. He allowed himself only one bowl of rice a day, but he gave half of even this meager portion away.

He was always compassionate and cheerful despite his practice of poverty, yet deep inside he was troubled. After years of rigorous effort he had still not attained full awakening.

poor meditation

One day he called to one of his disciples. The disciple was going on a journey to the city and the Master asked him to do him a favour.

“My old master lives in the city” he said. “Please visit him there and ask him why I have still not attained full awakening.”

The disciple bowed and went on his way.


The city was a wondrous place of lavish delights. The disciple was struck by the beauty of his surroundings. He asked directions to the temple where the old master lived and was even more amazed at what he saw when he got there. The temple was magnificent and held luxurious gardens with all many of exotic plants. The walls were brightly painted with exquisite art works. The monks were dressed in silken robes and wore golden chains. But when the disciple was shown to the master’s chamber he was awestruck by the opulent display of riches. The brightly polished floors were strewn with jewels, and silken pillows, the master himself dressed in saffron robes reclined on an overstuffed divan while beautiful young women fed him from tables overflowing with costly delectables.


The disciple could hardly speak but finally he composed himself and asked the question – “Why has my master not yet attained full awakening?”

The old master paused from his repast for only the briefest second and then said: “it’s simple – he is too materialistic.”

The disciple could hardly believe what he heard but bowed and left the temple. He returned to his own master and hesitantly approached.

“Well,” said the master. “What did he say?”

The disciple stammered a bit and admitted that he may not have understood the response correctly. But the master insisted on getting the message.

“He said you are too materialistic.”

“Ah, yes,” said the master. “Of course; it’s true.  I should have known this. Wonderful!”

“But Master,” said the disciple. “You are the least materialistic person I could ever imagine. You have only one robe to wear summer and winter; you sleep on the ground with only a worn-thin blanket for warmth; you allow yourself only one bowl of rice a day and then you give half of that away to the poor. How can you possibly be materialistic?”

The master sighed and closed his eyes. “At night before I go to sleep … I think about the rice I’ve given away.”

finally awake




Keys to Being Happy


When we look around at people we notice that some are happy and some are not. What makes the difference? What patterns of life generate a happy, positive attitude rather than an unhappy or negative attitude? Is it possible to change yourself from a negative to a positive person – from an unhappy to a happy person?

It is definitely possible to unlock the door to happiness in your own life. Once you have the right keys you can leave the negative world behind and stay in the positive world as long as you want.

key to happiness


Maintain a CONSCIOUS positive mental attitude, no matter what happens to you in your daily activities.

Reject any idea that negative conditions arising in your daily life are part of reality. Maintain the position that the real world is good and positive and full of joy – you just need to reframe it or look at it all in the right perspective.

Also, in communicating with others, say only positive things that will have them mentally accepting you as a winner in their minds. Regard your every thought as a telepathic magnetic energy that can draw or repel good and happiness.



Program your mind every day with positive thoughts, particularly concerning your goals and desires.

Take time each day to fill your mind with joyful, positive images and thoughts, and especially hold onto a positive image of yourself as a happy, fulfilled person.

Maintain a positive mental attitude throughout the day by using affirmations or simply repeating positive statements to yourself.

Nullify negative thoughts as soon as they enter your mind. Keep them away by consciously replacing them with positive thoughts, feelings, images and memories.



Sublimate or convert the energy of negative thought patterns and emotions each day into more useful patterns through meditation or concentration and allowing the natural healing energy of the universe to fill your mind and thoughts.

Monitor even your casual conversations – keep the subjects positive or look for the positive side of situations. If you must respond to negative occurrences, such as those appearing in the daily news, keep the negative aspects to a minimum and put yourself in the position of positive role model. For example you might send thoughts of love and blessings to victims of crime or disaster, or take part in activities that support solutions to whatever situation has manifested. Don’t let yourself become wrapped up in the negative circumstances that might present themselves. Instead, choose to focus only on ways to make those circumstances better.

To help convert negative thoughts to positive ones, choose to associate, as much as possible, with people who also have a positive mental attitude. Avoid people who continually wish to see only the dark side of life. However, never shun family or old friends – allow yourself to become a beacon of positive radiance in their lives and allow them the opportunity to choose your company if they want that kind of energy.

Live, act and above all think and feel like a positive and happy person.

stay true to yourself

These keys might appear simple and obvious, yet it seems few people use them. If you are not happy in life and are not connecting with people in positive ways consider the type of attitude you are expressing. What is likely blocking your natural charisma from shining through is the veil of negative thought patterns you are reinforcing with your everyday attitudes. Test these keys for yourself for a period of 30 days and notice the dramatic change that will occur in your life.

The Dog and His Bone – a Fable

The dog and his bone


A young hound dog found a big tasty bone while out on his travels and held it tightly between his clenched teeth. He scowled and growled at anyone or anything that tried to take it away from him. Pleased with himself, he trotted off into the woods looking for a good place to bury his prize.

As he jogged along, he came to a stream, and merrily padded over a footbridge in his path. But his pleasure was short lived. Crossing the stream he happened to glance into the water below and saw his own reflection. Thinking it was another dog down there with an even bigger bone, he became envious and threatened the reflection in the water. He scowled and growled at the other dog; and the other dog seemed to scowl and growl right back at him.

Angry at the audacity of the other dog he thought “I’ll teach you to growl at me. I’ll get your bone as well, and then I will be truly satisfied.”

illusion of more

He opened his jaws, barked and made a grab for the other bone he saw in the water. Alas, as he tried to snap up the new prize, the big bone he held in his mouth fell with a splash, into the water and forever out of sight.

The moral of this Aesop’s Fable:  be satisfied with what you have because if you go running greedily after what somebody else has, you just might lose what you’ve already got.

Put in a more mystical way: when you seek fulfillment, be careful not to pursue false dreams and illusions or you might end up losing the good things you`ve already attained.

focus on what matters

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