Thursday, February 24, 2011

Universal Symbols: The Sacred Circle

Before I begin this intro to the symbolism of the circle, I'd like to give a warm welcome to our new interns, Rachel Denney, who is contacting spiritual and cultural representatives, and researching sacred text, and Linda Gradert who is researching sacred symbols, beginning with the five basic symbols. Thank you for your hard work and dedication!

Throughout history and across cultures, there are five symbols- five basic shapes that are found in sacred art. While their specifics may vary from one tradition to the next, their basic meanings remain primarily the same cross-culturally.

The first of these is the sacred circle. In life, it appears as the sun, moon, and planets. Our own earth, representing and controlling seasons, natural cycles, the passage of time. A full rainbow symbolizes completion, the end of a tempest.

In western religious iconography, a cruciform halo is always used only to depict or adorn Christ, while the circular halo signifies angels, saints and other holy figures. The cruciform halo is a combination between the circle and cross- another universal symbol we will cover in a later blog.
In Eastern traditions the circle takes the form of the Dharma Wheel, and is the primary shape of the mandala, created in sand as a meditation by Buddhist monks.

The circle, in the form of an Ouroboro, or serpent devouring its own tale, was also an important symbol in alchemy, the precurser to modern chemistry. As the ouroboro, the circle represents the unity of all things, and the cycle of creation and destruction and recreation, and specific to alchemy, of chemical change. One thing becomes another, things change states but never truly go away.

The circle in the form of a ring has had a variety of similar meanings down through the ages, often worn as talismans for success or good fortune (as in the ancient Egyptians and Romans) or to ward off disease (as in parts of Europe during the middle ages).
The ring represents union and eternity, making the exchanging of rings a popular symbolic gesture in marriage ceremonies.


Song of the Sky

Thanks to all who made last Saturday's Song of the Sky benefit concert a big success! Thanks to our talented performers, guests and the power of nature.

Indeed, as we were setting out the snacks and wine and adding the final touches, a single clap of thunder boomed as though voicing the sky's approval.

This concert was the first major arts event in conjunction with the Skywheel Project. Concerns for the weather driving prospective guests back inside their own homes quickly melted as headlights rounded the bend, and people began arriving, umbrellas in hand. Certainly we couldn't deny that this was perfect weather for a spring concert featuring songs about the sky.

Once welcomed in and hustled out of the brisk evening air, our friends enjoyed conversation, hors d'oeuvres and glasses of wine, I was overjoyed to meet the faces of many people I'd known only by email, see others I hadn't seen in a while, and have so meny people from our different circles meeting under one roof, some of them for the first time. I also felt a rising sensation of nervousness and excitement for my own small roll singing backup for two of the songs.

This nervousness heightened as our guests filtered to their seats, rows of white chairs set up in what is normally the living room of the gorgeous wood beam house built by Kim's grandfather (the acoustics are absolutely incredible). But all of my excitement and jitters turned to a calm as the music began and I was reminded of how fortunate I am to be in such good company with these talented creative people.

Our Ensemble:

Carter Dewberry~ Cello, Vocals
Peter Sprague~ Guitar
Leland Means~ Bass
Kim Means~ Vocals
Jeanette McMahon~ Chimes
Steve Radosevich~ Vocals, Guitar
Rachel Hillberg (me)~ Vocals

The Set List Included:

Call to the Four Directions a Native American blessing sung by Kim Means
Miro by Carter Dewberry
Secret Code by Peter Sprague
Stormy Weather~ Arlen/Koehler
Blue Skies~ Irving Berlin
How High the Moon~ Hamilton/Lewis
Fly me to the Moon~ Bart Howard
The Heavens- Excerpt from Tehilim with Chimes by Jeanette McMahon with audience participation
Mundaka by Peter Sprague
Did you See?~ John Simon
Swing Low Sweet Chariot~ Wallis Willis
Satellite Rock~ Sammy Smith and the Rebelairs

Every once in a while throughout the concert, the rain would pick up and become another musical element, and we were literally hearing the Song of the Sky. It was truly magical.

Afterwards, while enjoying dessert and wonderful conversation, I was overwhelmed by an amazing sense of gratitude, and felt my spirits lifted by this experience. I'm struck by what an incredible gift community really is, grateful to play a helping role in the support of this project, and thoroughly happy to be surrounded by wonderful people who made this event so special.