Friday, 30 November 2012

Postcard Friendship Friday 081: Oxumaré and the rainbow flag

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Has anyone heard about the Fairy Hobmother? Several blogs I visited last week have been talking about this fairy who visits blogs from all over the world and grants their wish. In the beginning, I was doubtful about his (yes, this fairy is a HE!) existence but when I learned of his visit to a friend's blog here in the Penh - wow! I became a believer instantly. I hope he'd visit me, too. I have a long wishlist :) Don't worry, dear Fairy Hobmother, they're all not expensive. They're just stuff I need for crafting that are not found here. I'm not asking for tablets, smartphones or sterling silver jewelry - but, of course, if the Fairy Hobmother gives any of those to me, who am I to refuse? *wink* 

While I wait for the fairy's visit, here's my entry for this week. 

Oxumaré (O-Shoo-Ma-Ray) is  the mythical rainbow serpent deity in the Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian practiced mainly in Brazil (and other neighbouring countries). This practice originated mainly in Salvador, the capital of the popular Bahia region.

In Candomblé, many Gods are worshiped each with their own special powers and for specific reasons. These Gods are known as Orishas or deities and represent certain things. Each Orisha has a specific power; they have individual skills, personalities and rituals. The Orishas have different things that symbolize their powers. People who practice Candomblé believe that each person has their own Orish and that Orisha control his or her destiny and acts as a protector.

It is believed that Orishas represent a certain force of nature and are connected to certain foods, colors, animals, material goods, and days of the week. A person's Orisha can be decided by their personality and character. There are Orishas for everything and are found everywhere, from hospitals to homes.  - Source

Oxumaré contributes to the cycle of life and fertility which is why one of the minor symbols of the orishá is an umbilical cord, the connection to the supernatural. Those who practice Candomblé do not kill snakes because of the relation to Oxumaré.

According to this siteOxumaré is very much associated with sexual fluidity, especially in Candomblé that draw on UmbandaOxumaré is sometimes said to have the power to turn individuals homosexual and/or change their gender. The writer went on to explain that Oxumaré's rainbow as a symbol related to same-sex attraction preceded the modern Gay movement's rainbow flag.

Candomblé was brought from Africa to Brazil between the 16th-19th century, about the time when the Portuguese brought African slaves to the Americas. It was religion borne out of the attempts made  by the enslaved Africans to recreate their culture thousands of miles away from their homeland.

Obrigada, Fernanda!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday Stamps 071: International Year of the Earth


I had been putting off my Sunday Stamps post since yesterday because I was so engrossed in looking  at (and admiring) really beautiful websites on the net. How I wish I have the design skills to be able to give my blog, this blog, a full makeover. Since I do not have the moolah to hire one of the best website makers there is around, I'm going to take it upon myself to do the makeover on my own, slowly. But I don't think the result would satisfy me, lol. However, if someone asks me what I want for a Christmas pressie, this is definitely what I will say without batting an eyelash!

It's becoming hotter and hotter now in the city and there had been power interruptions the past couple of weeks. The road repairs in the Penh were rushed and were completed just in time for the ASEAN  (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit in Phnom Penh that started this morning. Aside from the heads of our ASEAN neighbours, the newly-reelected US President Barack Obama and the Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin is in town. They are also joined by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh of India and Wen Jiabao of China for this high-profile meeting. So you could just imagine the preparations  made by the Cambodian government for this mother of all ASEAN summits!

Okay, on to the stamp. I have this simple but symbolic stamp issued by the Correios de Portugal in 2008:

White clouds, as white as it can be!

It is a one in the set of four issued to commemorate Ano Internacional do Planeta Terra or the International Year of the Planet Earth (IYPE), in line with the UN General Assembly's declaration of 2008 as the IYPE, under the auspices of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). It's main objective, encapsulated in its slogan, Earth Sciences for Society, is to promote the importance of Earth Sciences to society at large and to raise awareness of the role of geo-sciences in solving the many problems that mankind faces. 

Here are all the stamps in this series:

This stamp issue represents the four elements, set in circles, to remind us of the importance and beauty of the environment, and that which it is our duty to preserve, not only for ourselves but above all for future generations.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Postcard Friendship Friday 080: Neak Poan Temple

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Here's a late entry for this week's Postcard Friendship Friday. I was scanning my Cambodia postcards and found one temple that I have never seen yet despite visiting Siem Reap's Angkor Archaeological Complex several times already. Presenting to you Neak Poan temple:

Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, this temple is dedicated to Buddha and Brahmanism.
Neak Poan mean [sic}]‘tire up by the dragon or entwined by the dragon'. “In Khmer culture the dragon is represented to the water. So our ancestor build this temple and put two dragons to wrap for protect this temple is the perfect representation on earth and water of our cosmic world,” says Sambo Manara, Historical Professor of Royal University of Phnom Penh. “This temple have been used as the holy place for treatment the health care to every people and especially for the soldier before go to the battle field.”
The most impressive of Neak Poan is there're four pools which have differences four statue around the big pool in the center that have the main tower of the temple. The curious figure has the body of a horse supported by a tangle of human legs. It relates to a legend that Avalokiteshvara once saved a group of shipwrecked followers from an island of ghouls by transforming himself into a flying horse. Water once flowed from the central pool into the four peripheral pools via condimental spouts, which can still be seen in the pavilions at each exist of the pool, Mr. Manara's explained. - Source
According to another site:

The central pond (or pool, as the mentioned above),  which you see above, symbolizes the Anavatapata Lake located on top of the Himalayan mountain.  The lake contained spring water and is protected by the Naga and Nagi.  According to the legend, the Anavatapata Lake was the place where all the gods of Mt. Mehru and the heavens take a bath after they had finished their yearly duties. I can only imagine the gods and goddesses enjoying the water. I bet they don't have a need for raypak pool heater parts in that lake for they can magically turn it into a warm spring water in one swish of their hands. For more details about Neak Poan's ponds or pools, please click here.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sunday Stamps 070: From the River of Woe to the River of Fun


I was down again with flu for the second time this year. I think my immune system is getting weak - and I only have myself to blame for it. I haven't been physically active much of this year so I guess that's why my health is so messed up.

On to this week's Sunday Stamps. I missed several weeks already - sorry Viridian - and I don't want to miss some more so here's my entry for the theme, water.

In ancient Greek mythology, Acheron  is one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld.
Looking at the image on the stamp, there is a beautiful serenity about this mythical river.

However, rivers are more than just what they are. Rivers, in Greek mythology, separate the underworld  (Hades) and the land of the living in most part by five primary rivers: Styx, Lethe, Cocytus, Phlegethon, and Acheron.

The River Acheron (Ἀχέρων) is located in the Epirus (Ήπειρος)) region of Northwest Greece.  It is a wide, swampy body of water. A large number of poets and writers of the ancient Greek tradition referred to Acheron as the river whose name was inextricably linked with the transition of the society of dead souls. 

Acheron is the first river that Dante and Virgil must cross in Dante's Inferno, and it divides the truly suffering souls from the neutral ones.

Acheron translates as the "River of Woe" where, in Greek mythology, Charon, the boatman, ferried the newly dead souls (those that can pay him, anyway) across into Hades. This brought to mind a scene from the movie Troy where the Greek soldiers placed coins on the eyes of their dead. It is a practice by the ancient Greeks with the belief that the coins will be used to pay Charon so they could cross the river. 

Mythological references aside, the Acheron river attracts many local and foreign tourists because of its sheer beauty and flowing water. It has now evolved - from the supernatural  place where souls travel to their final destination in the underworld to that of the popular natural attraction, with its beautiful springs, hiking trails, and placid waters ideal for many water sports. Which is why in June 2012, the above commemorative stamp was issued (in a series of six; click here to see all stamps) to promote outdoor activities under the theme, Touring Greece.

I want to thank my very good friend, Macel, for sending me the postcard during their holiday in Skiathos. The postcard will be posted soon, promise ;).

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Postcard Friendship Friday 079: Monkeys at Angkor Thom gate

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It's been awhile since I last posted at Postcard Friendship Friday and I feel bad for being so. Fridays just come in and out so quickly. So I'm making it up this week.

A Cambodian friend gave this postcard to me as her "Christmas present" to me on my first year in Cambodia. Immediately after our office Christmas party, I set out to Siem Reap with some of my colleagues to see Angkor Wat for the first time. On our second day, while on our way to Bayon Temple, we passed by dozens of monkeys playing along the southern portion of the Angkor Thom gate grounds. 

Angkor Thom means the "Great City" and, according to the Wikipedia, it is the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. The city was built towards the end of the 12th century and is renowned for its beautiful temple grounds and the fantastic southern gate.

The sight of passing vehicles excited the monkeys that one of them jumped right on the hood. Much to my surprise, I spilled my drink on the spankingly clean dodge seat covers of our rented car. Lol. I am so scared of monkeys, big and small,  and every time I see this postcard I am reminded of that incident.
Images by Freepik