Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 03
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. At the stroke of midnight people release the floating lanterns into the air, and with them let go of their burdens and worries.

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 02
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. Buddhist monks release floating lanterns to welcome the New Year 2559 of the Buddhist calendar (2016).

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 04
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. Buddhist monk listens to the New Year's Eve sermon.

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 05
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. Monk listens to the New Year's Eve sermon.

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 06
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. Buddhist monks listen to the New Year's Eve sermon in English.

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 07
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. At the stroke of midnight young monks release the floating lanterns into the air, the wishes and blessings are written on the paper.

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 09
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
31 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. New Year's Eve. At the stroke of midnight a tourist blows the candle that she lit the floating lantern with.

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 01
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
30 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. Buddhist monks release floating lanterns to welcome the New Year 2559 of the Buddhist calendar (2016).

Thumb sm
thailand lanterns 08
Chiang Mai
By Gloria Kurnik
30 Dec 2015

Wat Phan Tao temple in Chiang Mai. Buddhists Monks meditate during the New Year's Eve sermon.

Thumb sm
Prizren's Dervish Fakirs: The Newroz ...
Prizren, Kosovo
By Michele Pero
08 Jul 2015

Ancient Shiite rituals were brought into the Balkans in the 15th century during the Ottoman invasion and dominion and have been kept intact up till our day, representing a parallel and very deep-rooted Islam amongst the people. In the town of Prizren in Kosovo there is the tariqa Rufai. To celebrate the Newroz, or Nevruz, the beginning of the new year which coincides with the arrival of spring, all the dervishes in the area meet up here to celebrate a propitiatory ritual. The ritual lasts five hours and is extremely exacting. The followers must go through a great test of physical and mental exertion. The dervishes pray, dance and sing and try to attain a state of trance. At the culmination of the ritual the feats of Fakirism take place. Whilst some of the dervishes play and sing, the shaikh takes long skewers and begins to pierce the mouths of the dervishes who willingly undergo this test, beginning with the children. The older dervishes, the braver and more expert, are pierced with a real sword. A blade is placed on their throat and the shaikh climbs on top of it. The ritual ends when the dervishes remove the skewers. Just a few drops of blood appear on their cheeks.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Thumb sm
Hasidic Jews Make Pilgrimage to Ukrai...
Uman
By kierankesner
02 Oct 2014

Despite the civil war currently devastating Ukraine this year, an estimated thirty-thousand Hasidic Jews gathered in Uman, a small city at banks of the Umanka River, paying little attention to the worldly, bloody political struggle surrounding the site of their spiritual leader's tomb.

Since 1811, Jewish followers of the Breslov Hasidic movement make an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of their founder, Rabbi Nachman (1772-1810) of Uman, in central Ukraine. The gathering, permeated by the rhythm of prayer and teaching, joy and remembrance is a central part of this religious group's devotional practice.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the city of Uman had a large Jewish population. In 1941, when the Germans invaded Ukraine, some seventeen-thousand Jews were murdered and the rest were deported - tragically wiping out the entire Jewish community of Uman.

Despite the Nazi occupation and Communist regimes, Jews continued to make the pilgrimage to Rabbi Nachman's grave even though in some years less than a dozen completed the journey.

Since the fall of Communism, a small but growing Jewish population has re-established itself in Uman in close proximity to the grave of Rabbi Nachman. Despite Uman's remote location, people travel from all over the world for just one week out of the year.

Uman is typical of a small Eastern European city. However, Rabbi Nachman’s grave is protected inside a collection of buildings and sanctuaries situated in something more reminiscent of an old Jewish Ghetto.

Crooked streets and congested buildings rest haphazardly on top of each other and harken back to a place frozen in time. Instead of Cyrillic, signs are in Hebrew. Instead of people dressed in shirts and slacks, the streets are filled with men and women, often separated by gender, and dressed much like those who lived in Uman In the 18th century.

Today, the pilgrimage is undertaken by individuals driven by faith and obligation. A sea of white shirts or black suits and hats, large groups of men and, separately, large groups of women, focus on prayer - blind to the chaos and bloodshed that grips Ukraine.

Thumb sm
True Faith, No Blood - The Howling De...
Prizren, Kosovo
By Michael Biach
15 Apr 2013

Each year members of the Rifai'i brotherhood gather to celebrate a special ritual: At its peak, after the faithful have reached a trancelike state, they start to pierce their cheeks and other parts of their body with long century-old metal nails. Blood only flows rarely.

Every year the members of a Kosovo Sufi order repeat their centuries-old ceremony in a sleepy side street in the Ottoman-style town of Prizren. Howling men call the name of God and dance and bounce in ecstasy until – at the peak of the ceremony – they are piercing their cheeks with antique ritual tools.

Sheikh Adrihusein Sheh is the religious leader of the Rifai'i, a Sufi brotherhood founded in the 12th century near Basra in todays Iraq. The community is celebrating Nowruz (Nevruz), the beginning of spring and therefore the New Year. The day also marks the birthday of Imam Ali, the cousin and son in law of the Prophet Mohammed. According to Shia belief Mohammed has chosen Ali as his successor and assigned him with the leadership of the Muslim nation. For Sufis Ali is the starting point of a continuous transmission of the spiritual heritage of Allah's Prophet Muhammad.

In the tekke, the prayer house of the Sufis, believers start to clean ancient religious tools, some of them are long, richly ornamented metal nails with a wooden handle. At the height of the feast the Sheikh will bless these ancient tools and gradually pierce the cheeks of the faithful believers. No blood will flow and scars will be gone in time. At least in theory.  

“For some outsiders, our ceremony is just humbug”, remarks Sheikh Adrihusein sternly, “but the ritual is leading to the purification of the heart of a believer und gives him the opportunity to obtain to know God”. His criticism applies not only to people of other or no faith, but also to Muslims in their own country.

The Sufi’s mythical interpretation of Islam and their own sight of spirituality often turn them into religious outsiders in Islam world. "Sufism is a way of life and an ever-lasting journey of perfection," says the Sheikh. He illustrates his statement with a parable: "First arose the man, but without a soul, similar to a vessel without anything in it. This form must be filled with wisdom and love”. For the Sufi master his way of religion is a true form of worship, based on a traditional method of enlightenment, which has carried the haqiqah – the basic truth – through the time.

The Sheikh is the spiritual leader of the Rifai'i Order. The title is hereditary according to the tradition of the Sufis. He got it transferred from his father after he died. Since his birth, he was prepared and he will pass on the title after his death to his eldest son.

Only those are allowed to lead the order who can prove an unbroken chain of transmission, starting from the Prophet Mohammed himself. Each Order has ancient scrolls on which the genealogy of this pedigree has been written down. "The role of the individual," explains Sheikh " is to fight against the false self and to walk the path of perfection." Aid is given to the seeker from the order leader, the Sheikh himself, who helps him to take the right path and to realize the Divine Presence of Allah.

Sufis are also called Dervish, which is derived from the word dari – door – and means that someone goes from door to door. Dervishes were known to be associated with criticism of an overly materialistic society for centuries. The first followers of Sufism were characterized by a strong ascetic way of life and by material poverty. Often they were therefore also called faqir - the poor in front of Allah.

"Every divine attribute is hidden in the human heart", expresses the Sheikh almost self-evident. The dhikr, the communitie’s prayer ritual is a tool to make the Dervishes aware of the constant presence of God. A compulsory procedure for the dhikr, which means ‘remembrance of God’ does not exist in Sufism. Each Order has its own method. The trance dance of the Mevlevi order is probably best known. Its members are often referred to as rotating or dancing dervishes. The prayer ritual of the howling dervishes of Rifai'i Order is loud and ecstatic. Although they may not be more different, both forms of dhikr serve the same purpose.

In the meantime, the tekke has filled with more than seventy believers. The dervishes are wrapped in black robes with sleeveless white vests and a Fez-like hat. Crowded together, they sit side by side on the floor, then the ceremony begins. Together, the dervishes constantly repeat the name of God. Therefore they are not limited purely using the word Allah, but make use of the 99 names of God mentioned in the Quran.

Doing so, the Dervishes start very slowly while sitting but will raise their voice and get into an upright position after a while.

After about an hour of swaying the dervishes start to move their upper bodies up and down, again and again. They are accompanied by drum sounds. Still they are repeating the name of God. Inevitably, the believers fall into a trance-like, ecstatic state.

Close to the ”awareness of God in their own hearts”, it's time for the ultimate proof of faith.

"Only those who manage to separate the spirit from the body, are able to recognize the Divine", reveals the Sheikh. The youngest Dervishes, about eight to twelve years old, stand in a row in front of the Sheikh. In his hand he holds a long needle.

For some of the boys it is their first Nowruz ritual. They have no fear and act excited and proud. The Sheikh speaks a blessing, leads the iron needle slowly through his mouth and moistens it with his tongue. With his left hand he grabs the boy's right cheek and pierces it with a quick tug.

The boy smiles and makes room for the next one.

The repetitive confession of God as well as the sway of the upper body is still ongoing in the meantime. Now the adult Dervishes have their turn and the Sheikh now graps for the large iron nails, many of which are centuries old.

The ritual is repeated; the dhikr is at its peak. About a dozen of the Dervishes have already had been pierced their cheeks. With the left hand they hold the ornate wooden knob and continue to sway and repeat the name of God.

Two older, much more experienced-looking dervishes enter the center of the Tekke.

They will carry out the spiritual ritual themselves. Dancing they walk through the room from one corner to another, under constant rhythmic accompaniment by drumming and singing of the other dervishes. Again and again they stop and leave the pointed iron rods revolve on their necks below the larynx. The metal chain on the knob is swirling through the air.

When the music and the prayers seem to be more and more maniac, the two dervishes take the metal nails and stab them laterally in the abdomen above the hips.

The ecstatic noises decrease apparently, but no one is startled. The dervishes are experienced and know how far they can go. The sheikh steps forward. In his hand he holds a heavy iron bar, a hammer. Several times he swings it onto the bars in the bellies of the dervishes.

One of the two lets himself fall to his knees. The expression in his eyes gives an idea of ​​the ecstasy in which it is located. Calm and in control, he gets rid of the metal nail, which is in his stomach.

With the right hand one of the dervishes holds the knob of the metal nail, while he is putting the other hand on his face. Then he pierces both of his cheeks with a fast move.

It seems that the Dervish, due to his trance, does not even feel the pain. Exhausted, he breathes out several times, then he is quickly on and joins the others, invokes the name of God and fluctuates in time with his upper body.

"It is by no means a kind of self-flagellation", assures one of the dervishes. "The one who can separate the spirit from his body, is able to notice God and follow the path to perfection" he implores.

The believers stand again in front of the Sheikh.

Slowly he removes the nails from the cheeks of the dervishes. With thumb and forefinger he is pressing on the sore openings. This shall help that after removing of the instruments no blood will flow and the injuries will heal quickly.

"Through this ritual we show that our faith is sincere and Allah recognizes and protects us - when we recognize him," says the Sheikh again.

In fact, the wounds do not seem to bleed and scars are searched in vain in the faces of elders. Also, none of the faithful seemed to be plagued by pain.

Then one of the dervishes pushes through the crowd, pulls out a tissue and gives it to a boy.

Some blood has flown in the end.

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Immigrants in Greece celebrate Nowruz...
Athens, Greece
By giorgos33
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Celebrating Nowruz In Greece
Athens, Greece
By U.S. Editor
23 Mar 2013

Immigrants in Greece celebrate the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in the Panionios Stadium of Athens

Thumb sm
Newroz in Kurdistan (14 of 33)
Batman, Turkey
By Monique Jaques
19 Mar 2013

Men on trampoline hold up flags at a festival for Newroz, an ancient holiday celebrating the astronomical Northward equinox and the beginning of spring as well as the start of the new calander year in the Persian system. Newroz is celebrated by millions of Kurds and Iranians in the Middle East by, wearing colorful clothing and jumping over fires to welcome the spring holiday. Originally a Zoroastrian festival, Newroz is now embraced by the Kurds to celebrate cultural unity and political goals. The celebrations are occasionally marked by violence as the celebration only recently became legal in Turkey.

Thumb sm
Newroz in Kurdistan (13 of 33)
Batman, Turkey
By Monique Jaques
19 Mar 2013

A concert of traditional Kurdish music is held at a festival for Newroz, an ancient holiday celebrating the astronomical Northward equinox and the beginning of spring as well as the start of the new calander year in the Persian system. Newroz is celebrated by millions of Kurds and Iranians in the Middle East by, wearing colorful clothing and jumping over fires to welcome the spring holiday. Originally a Zoroastrian festival, Newroz is now embraced by the Kurds to celebrate cultural unity and political goals. The celebrations are occasionally marked by violence as the celebration only recently became legal in Turkey.

Thumb sm
Newroz in Kurdistan (11 of 33)
Batman, Turkey
By Monique Jaques
19 Mar 2013

A concert of traditional Kurdish music is held at a festival for Newroz, an ancient holiday celebrating the astronomical Northward equinox and the beginning of spring as well as the start of the new calander year in the Persian system. Newroz is celebrated by millions of Kurds and Iranians in the Middle East by, wearing colorful clothing and jumping over fires to welcome the spring holiday. Originally a Zoroastrian festival, Newroz is now embraced by the Kurds to celebrate cultural unity and political goals. The celebrations are occasionally marked by violence as the celebration only recently became legal in Turkey.

Thumb sm
Newroz in Kurdistan (10 of 33)
Batman, Turkey
By Monique Jaques
19 Mar 2013

A concert of traditional Kurdish music is held at a festival for Newroz, an ancient holiday celebrating the astronomical Northward equinox and the beginning of spring as well as the start of the new calander year in the Persian system. Newroz is celebrated by millions of Kurds and Iranians in the Middle East by, wearing colorful clothing and jumping over fires to welcome the spring holiday. Originally a Zoroastrian festival, Newroz is now embraced by the Kurds to celebrate cultural unity and political goals. The celebrations are occasionally marked by violence as the celebration only recently became legal in Turkey.

Thumb sm
Newroz in Kurdistan (5 of 33)
Batman, Turkey
By Monique Jaques
19 Mar 2013

The crowd gathers behind a flag of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisioned PKK leader at a concert of traditional Kurdish music is held at a festival for Newroz, an ancient holiday celebrating the astronomical Northward equinox and the beginning of spring as well as the start of the new calander year in the Persian system. Newroz is celebrated by millions of Kurds and Iranians in the Middle East by, wearing colorful clothing and jumping over fires to welcome the spring holiday. Originally a Zoroastrian festival, Newroz is now embraced by the Kurds to celebrate cultural unity and political goals. The celebrations are occasionally marked by violence as the celebration only recently became legal in Turkey.