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Tag Archives: culture

Huichol Indians

When the white man first arrived in the America’s he brought with him the light of God. That light was usually reflected off the end of a sword or musket barrel and was probably the last thing millions of Native Americans saw before they were murdered. Today, many hundreds of years later, the white man is still bringing light to the indigenous peoples of the continent but in a much different and far more useful form.

An organization known as the Portable Light Project has been visiting the Huichol Indians (pronounced we-chill) of west central Mexico in an attempt to “address the need for affordable electrical lighting that would require no fixed installations”. The Huichol live high in the Sierra Madre’s which is a few days journey by foot from the nearest city and they have no access to Mexico’s power grid. The Portable Light Project devised a method of supplying the Indians with solar rechargeable LED’s powerful enough to illuminate an entire room. Since many of the Huichol earn a living by making and selling crafts, these small but brilliant light sources allow them to sew and paint well into the night and it also allows the children a few more hours to do their homework.

The overall goal of the Portable Light Project is to “optimize existing semi-conductor technologies and create new applications to serve the large number of people—more than 2 billion—who do not have access to electric light or power.” So far about 50 solar packs, which the Huichol carry on their backs during the day, have been given out and the project plans to distribute many more in the future. Should the idea catch on the project hopes to bring this technology to many more people around the globe who have no access to electricity.

One of the community leaders of the Huichol’s stated that the LED’s are plenty enough light for them. They do not want power lines running into their villages for fear that commercial factories would soon follow and ruin their culture. This is probably a sentiment shared by many native peoples around the world who wish to benefit from modern technology but have no desire for the industrialized world to encroach any further upon their way of life.

(Listen to more of this story which was broadcast April 4, 2007 on the BBC’s “The World” radio program.)

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Photo credit AFP

Believed to have lived for 300 years, the birthday of the Hindu Guru Jai Shri Bawa Lal Dayal Ji Maharaj is celebrated across India during the Magh Month (usually between January and February). The young men in the photograph above are taking part in a fire breathing ritual in Amritsar. 2007 marked the 652nd anniversary of the guru’s birthday.

Saint Nicholas and the Buttnmandl and Krampus

The traditions related to St. Nicholas originated in France during the middle ages before spreading throughout Europe. Since then in Bavaria the running of the Buttnmandl and Krampus from door to door in the Berchtesgadener Land has been closely associated with ‘St. Nick’s’ visit – in fact, in the Berchtesgaden area you’ll never see one without the other.

Buttenmandl and Krampusse are costumes worn by young single men and consist of animal skins and fur masks with long red tongues adding to their frightening appearance. Attached to their backs are large cow-bells weighing up to 45 pounds used to make loud and frightening noises. They follow Saint Nicholas from house to house on December 5 and 6 each year to bring luck to the good and punish the idle. As they accompany Saint Nicholas, they will flick switches at the legs of young girls in a sign of fertility. Their mission is also to chase away evil spirits at the dark time of year (near the winter solstice) and to awaken Mother Nature slumbering deep under the hard frozen ground.