Origins of Religious Concepts Definitions F-I

Flags at Half Mast- Modern definition or use:  A flag flown at half mast is a tribute to a national leader that has died.

Origins:  In the days of Tall ships, the flag was not the only thing flown at half mast.  Sails were lowered to half mast as well.  The ship itself seemed to be gloomy and sad as it drooped its sales in bowing respect for the fallen leader.  Today there are no sails, but there are still flags.


GahennaModern definition or use:  one of the names of the torturous afterlife in which all evil people spend eternity. 

Origins:  Literally is gaeh or "valley" and henna "of Henom,". This describes the valley at the South gate of Jerusalem. Geh, or Geah is the Hebrew word for Valley (An interesting note that the Greek deity Gaia is pronounced almost the same as the Hebrew word for valley ).  Henom was the name of the patriarch of the family that owned it.  The valley was used as the city's trash dump. It was also where criminal's bodies were thrown after they were executed.  To keep the vermin out of the city, there was a constant fire burning between the dump and the city.  It became a warning to young children that 'if you were bad, you would burn in the fires of Gahenna'.  Later usage created a concept of an eternal flame that burned evil doers after death. 


'G-d'- Modern definition or use:  The one and only name for the creator of the universe and all-powerful deity.  

Origins:  There are seventy (70) names of G-d in the torah.  Each one is a different aspect of the undefinable being that created and became the universe we understand (my opinion).  (Note:  the -K- is added to the names in this text, as is Kabballic practice; but the ‘true names’ have no -K- in the middle of them) The names describe aspects, like "the protector" (Shad-K-ai) or "the creator" (Eloh-K-eem) or "my master"  (Ahdon-K-ai) or "the Sabbath Queen" (Shekin-K-a).  Since the translation of the letters that are pronounced as G-d mean either "good  fortune", or "to attack", it is obvious that there was some other word that was translated and became the word we know today.  The word pronounced "gahdol-K-ah" means greatness, glory, and vast size. Since it is also one of the 70 names of G-d, it is very possible that this word was shortened to become the 3 letter name that is prayed to today.  There are two old English meanings to the word.  The first obsolete definition is "good."  The second obsolete definition is "a spectator or auditor in the gallery of a theatre."  This second definition does give a hint towards the 'all knowing, all seeing being that watches over us' and is also a possible source for the word.

As to why I use symbol "G-d" instead of putting in the center letter, it is an old Jewish custom.  The idea is two fold.  Firstly, it signifies that there is more to the name than can be written on paper.  Secondly, in Jewish belief it is a sin to use the lords name except in prayer and teaching.  I respect that belief. (Besides, since I am only describing an aspect of G-d, I feel like these names are basically 'nicknames'.  It is just not proper respect to use a nickname unless you have permission) 


"G-d Bless You" (for sneezing)- Modern definition or use:  The polite way to respond when someone sneezes.

Origins:   In ancient times, spirits were thought to be a type of air or ether (hence the modern name 'etheric being').  It was believed that in a moment of weakness these beings could enter your body through your breath and possess you.  One belief had it that a sneeze was your body throwing out an invading spirit.  A second, similar belief stated that a sneeze made you vulnerable to inhaling these beings.  Either way, the solution was a blessing by the Lord to protect you from this foul entry.  The prayers were shortened in time to a simple "G-d bless you!"


The Golden Rule - Modern definition or use:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  A common Biblical passage.

Origins:  This rule has been given as quoted by everyone, but it was never said by any Biblical passage.  The closest quotation there is in the Bible is Mathew 7:12 which states "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."  This circuitous statement has basically the same meaning as the well know golden rule, but it is open to other interpretations as well.  Even so, this was never called "The Golden Rule" until 1660. An English clergyman chose to call it golden because he thought that this rule, like gold, could not be easily broken or bent.  Unfortunately he was mistaken about both.


Graveyard shift - Modern definition or use:  A boring late night job where nothing happens.  

Origins:  During the 16th century, it was discovered that many bodies were buried while still alive, these people tried to scratch their way out of the coffin.  It was realized that many wakes were not long enough or the doctors not sharp enough.  It became a custom to leave a small hole in the ground and the coffin to allow a cord through.  This cord was tied to the corpses hand and to a bell on the surface.  If the corpse moved, the bell rang and the attendant knew there was a mistakenly buried corpse.  They would dig up the coffin and release the victim.  (also originated the expression “saved by the bell)


Hallelujah- Modern definition or use:  a sung and chanted praise to G-d.  

Origins:  This Hebrew statement is a sin to speak!  The meaning is “Praise G-d” and is literally that.  Praise is denoted  by the Hebrew word ‘halal’ and the second part of the word is one of the proper names of G-d.  Of course, since it is a sin to utter the proper names of G-d, it is a sin to say hallelujah. As an interesting note, slightly mispronounced, the word actually means ‘spaceman’ or’ sky dweller’ 


Heathen - Modern definition or use: a person who believes in many gods, a rude, irreligious barbarian.

Origins:   Heathen is a term very similar to Pagan.  A 4th century error of translation of ‘hethanos’ and 'khaithanaz'.  While Pagans were country dwellers, Heathens were dwellers in the heathers, or the wastelands.  They were considered outsiders because they held fast to their individuality or tribe beliefs outside of the masses.  Often they were merely enemies of the biblically favored tribes, regardless of their religion.


Hebrew- Modern definition or use:  The language of the Jewish People.  

Origins:  Many people think the word Hebrew is a description of  a language, many more think it is a description of a religion.  In truth it is a description of a people.  The word "habrew" strictly translated means "The disinherited" or "the unwanted ones".  The original Hebrews were the violent and warlike children that the families withdrew their protection from and kicked out of their tribes.  After wandering and living on their own for a while, they began to conquer other tribes and absorb more and more into themselves.  They grew to encompass 12 tribes, and started to spread out around the land.  They became enslaved and freed themselves, and eventually went on to conquer the land that is now called the nation of Israel.  Over the past few thousand years they have become more peaceful and less warlike, being conquered many times in areas outside of their homeland.  Their fierceness has become more a spiritual than a physical thing over that period.


Heretic- Modern Definition or use:  One who has betrayed the teachings of the church and preaches against it.

Origins: The basic word 'heretic' was literally 'of a school of thought contrary to that which is generally established.' or ' able to choose' This difference was usually based on philosophy of life more than religion. When the church became the established, it created a new standard of behavior and morality.  From that point on, life, philosophy and morality became an integral part of the religious belief. The word heretic was considered to be directed towards church teachings, not just basic philosophy.  The idea that you would possibly choose other than the church's thinking was considered abomination.


Hip Hip Hurrah - Modern definition or use:  A universal cry of celebration.  Usually used at sports events and battles.

Origins:  Originally hep hep huraj!  This expression is traced back to the time of the crusades as an insult and taunt to Jews in Europe.  The Hip, (then hep) stood for the words "Hierosolyma Est Perdita" it meant "Jerusalem is destroyed."  Many a Jewish religious service was interrupted or broken up by men running into the house of worship yelling "Hep! Hep! " Later the Huraj, meaning "to paradise" was added.  It translated roughly to "Jerusalem is conquered, we (Christians) will soon have paradise"


Hocus Pocus - Modern definition or use:  Descriptions of magick and trickery.  Magic words.

Origins:  Hocus pocus comes from the Latin words "Hoc Est Corpus Domini." meaning "this is the body of the lord"  Magic was both feared and respected in ancient days.  If you were too good a magician, people would fear you and you risked being burned at the stake for witchery.  One solution for this was to evoke the powers of G-d every time you did a trick.  This kept the ministers happy, as they understood the magic was merely another of G-d's miracles.  The ministers could then reassure the audience that this magician used the power of G-d, not of the evil one.  Of course the common man could never remember to words correctly, so common Latin phrases were altered as they were passed from audience member to outsider.


Honeymoon-Modern definition or use:  The romantic vacation taken by newly married couples to celebrate their union.

Origins:  Contrary to the romantic honeymoons of today, this custom lacked privacy, it actually separated the couples.  In ancient times, the wedding gathering was similar to modern rituals.  First, the couple stood before friends and family and said their vows.  Then, they went to their bedchamber where they were blessed by priests and their guests.  Then as the guests went to the reception, they consummated the union.  After consummation, the couple would join the reception and the 'honeymoon' would begin.  The honeymoon, or wine moon was a nightly event for a full moon cycle.  The groom would meet with his groomsmen after dinner and they would imbibe wine or honey mead.  The drink was thought to replenish the sexual potency of the groom as they waited to see if the bridal bed had its desired effect.  


Idols- Modern definition or use:  stone and metal figures of gods and goddesses that people prayed to.  Origins: The Hebrew word for animal is ‘baal- hayeem’ which translates to  “master of life”  It was long thought that animals understood the earth more than man, since G-d made animals for the Earth, and man was just banished here.  Some took it further and made altars to the animals of sustenance (cow, sheep, etc).  Others made images of people with animal aspects for their altars.  After a time it became custom to worship the images more than the animals, after all, the animals died, the images stayed on.


Infidel- Modern Definition or use:  One who accepts no religion .

Origins:  Originally an infidel was simply someone of a different religion. If they believed in a religion contrary to yours, you would consider them an infidel.  With the advent of Christianity's belief that there is only one true religion, it followed that infidels had no religion.


Israel- Modern definition or use:  A country in the Middle East that is home to the Jewish People.  

Origins:  Israel, actually more properly pronounced "yisrah-el" is the promised land.  In the Torah it is described as "the land of Milk and Honey".  It is the ideal of goodness and plenty.  It also has another meaning.  Yisrael is the state of transcendence that you must achieve in order to join with G-d.  It is a spiritual ideal, a plateau of consciousness.  Many prayers state that you are striving to be in Israel, but it is not the physical location you are praying for, it is the transcendence.

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