The Shofar is a musical instrument, usually created from a ram’s horn (or that of any kosher animal), used by the ancient Hebrews in war and during events of special significance. The shofar is the legendary horn that “blew down the walls of Jericho,” allowing the wandering Hebrews to take the city.
The shofar is blown to signal the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the most important feast day in the Jewish religious calendar. The shofar is blown 100 times in a specially prescribed manner to commemorate the Holy Day.
The shofar is also blown at the outset of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as directed in the Book of Leviticus:
“Then you shall transmit a blast on the horn; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, the day of Yom Kippur, you shall have the horn sounded throughout the land…And proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Turning lead into gold? Immortality? Proto-chemistry or spiritual transformation? Discover the spiritual tradition that gave birth to modern science.
- Hermetic Tradition
Named after Hermes Trismigestus (Hermes the three times great), the Greek moniker of the Egyptian God Tehuti (Thoth), alleged author of hundreds of mystical tractates, the Hermetic tradition is an eclectic spiritual tradition that encompasses elements from from many religions.
The Keris (Malaysian, dagger) originated in tenth-century Java and can be found throughout Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia.
The keris is a talismanic weapon- a sword or dagger with unique characteristics, carried by men and handed down from father to son, often through a great many generations. A new keris is made by a special artisan, known as an Empu.
The keris is not only a protective amulet, but is considered a mark of manhood.
A keris consists of several characteristics, depending on origin. The typical keris has either a wavy (Luk) or straight (Lurus) tapered triangular blade; the pattern of the blade determines the dagger’s magical properties. The hilt is often designed in the shape of a deity.
Malaysian man with keris
The labrys is a double headed ritual axe. It is found in ancient Minoan depictions of the Mother Goddess, where its symbolism is related to the labrynth. The word “labrys” is Minoan in origin and is from the same root as the Latin labus, or lips.
Similar symbols appear on Norse, African, and Greek religious objects, where it is most often a feminine symbol, most likely lunar in origin.
Use of the labrys has been documented on medieval charms used to attract women.
Today, it is often used as a sign of identity and solidarity among lesbians.
The marriage-knot or knot of Hercules, a strong knot created by two intertwined ropes, originated as a healing charm in ancient Egypt, but is best known for it’s use in ancient Greece and Rome as a protective amulet, most notably as a wedding symbol, incorporated into the protective girdles worn by brides, which were ceremonially untied by the new groom. This custom is the likely origin of the phrase “tying the knot.”
According to Roman lore, the knot symbolized the legendary fertility of the God Hercules; it probably relates to the legendary Girdle of Diana captured from the Amazon Queen Hippolyta. In this, the marriage-knot was probably a representation of the virginity of the bride.
The symbolism of the knot survived well beyond its religious use, and was a very common symbol in medieval and Renaissance love tokens.
Greek girdle, 3rd cent. BCE
This symbolizes the sharp, triangular lance, or Vel, is the sacred weapon of the Hindu war god Murugan (Also called Skanda, Karttikeya, Subramanya). Vel’s other attributes are a peacock and a mace.
The vel in Vedic mythology was a demon-slaying instrument; it symbolizes penetrating spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and the cutting away of ignorance. In an annual procession honoring the god in Southern India, it is common for devotees to pierce their cheeks or other body parts with miniature lances.
The Khanda is the most recognizable emblem of the Sikh faith, symbolizing the four pillars of Sikh belief. It consists of four symbolic weapons: In the center, the double edged sword, or khanda, from which the symbol derives its name. The Khanda represents knowledge of divinity and the creative power of God. Surrounding the khanda is a circular quoit, called a Chakkar (or chakka), meaning wheel, from the same root as chakra- a medieval weapon which symbolizes the unity of God. On either side, crossed daggers, or kirpans, called Piri and Miri (after the personal weapons of Guru Hargobind), symbolizing spiritual and temporal (earthly) power in balance. Another important device incorporating this symbol is the Nishan Sahib, or Saffron banner, which adorns Sikh Gurudwaras (temples).