From the Deputy ... (Jan 2018)
In most religions the quest for knowledge is expressed in terms of light: seeking enlightenment. And this season abounds with festivals of light, despite or perhaps because, it is the darkest time of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway.)
Bodhi Day commemorates the day that Siddhartha Gautama obtained enlightenment and became the first Buddha.
Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of the “light of the world”. Trees and houses are lit and candles form an integral part of many church services.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the time when there was only enough oil to light the temple for one night, but it lasted for eight. Jews light the candles on the Menorah to remember this miracle.
Milad un-Nabi is a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed. It is a quiet day as it also marks his death. While the major focus is on the Prophet’s life and teaching, in some countries the streets and mosques are illuminated at night.
Hindus celebrate Diwali with prayers, gifts and lights. Millions of lamps shine from houses across India during this festival. Diwali is also important to Jains as the end of the year and as a commemoration of enlightenment and nirvana.
Lohri is an official festival in the Punjab. It involves big bonfires and lots of food. It is celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
In Japan, huge bonfires burn on Mount Fuji each December 22nd.
Fires were lit to mark the Scandinavian festival of Juul – hence the Yule log.
A Kinora with seven candles is lit to remind us of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
The Zuni and Hopi people of the Southwest U.S.A. observe Soyal with fasting, prayer and ceremonial dancing.
Saturnalia in ancient Rome was celebrated with gifts of imitation fruit, dolls and candles.
Yalda, which is still observed in Iran as a secular festival, had its roots the triumph of Mithra over darkness.
The Winter Solstice is one of only four times a year that access to Stonehenge is allowed. Neo-Druids gather to watch the midwinter sun rise perfectly between the two upright stones of the Great Trilithon.
Freemasonry, although not a religion, celebrates enlightenment, and symbols of light abound – from the question posed to the initiate at the altar, to the sun in splendour on the Grand Master’s apron. Many Lodges hold their Installations during this season of darkness and light.
One of the hallmarks of Freemasonry is our inclusion of men of many faiths. It is one of our greatest strengths.
In this season which is so special to all of us, Jill and I wish you all the best for the holy days.
David J. Cameron
Deputy Grand Master