Campaigning for the "Interstellar Day Of Tolerance"
Last week I caught a news article on Sky News where an Irish journalist was interviewing a couple of followers of the "Jedi Faith". The cause of the interview was that 390,000 people in the UK claimed their religion was the "Jedi Faith" on the 2001 UK Census forms and, thus, making the faith the fourth largest religion in Britain.
The interview was with Umada and Yunyun, aka John Wilkinson and Charlotte Law. They have recently lobbied the the United Nations to consider the UK Census result to recognize the "Jedi Faith" as a real world religion and that the the annual International Day for Tolerance on November 16th should be re-named as "Interstellar Day of Tolerance".
During this interview I found myself jointly amused and in support of their cause. Their teachings, according to Umada and Yunyun, are simple and peaceful leading with "tolerance for all people and their beliefs", "letting the force be with you", the lightsaver being a symbol of defence and protection and "never serve the dark side".
There's obviously a lot more to what the Jedi Faith follows but its not what I want to theme this article on. My interest is in questioning where this faith may come from.
From entertainment to faith
A mass reaction is "how can a faith from a movie become a real faith?". I feel answers may come from understanding how our major ancient religions originally spread and where the Star Wars films evolved from.
I'm not sure how major religions like Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism first spread but I am aware that the Christian religion as first spread by Bards a long time before Preachers. That's not surprising considering the colour, mystery and content of the ancient stories. The bible is full of incredible gripping content that film makers of the last 100 years have attempted to capture and hold viewer's attention. I'm sure most people's knowledge of the Bible has come from films and the story telling of Sunday School teachers than from preachers and Bible reading.
For one, the ancient Bards obviously loved the Psalters of Psalms for reading and even setting to music. Before Christ, in Ireland, Druids despatched Bards to the people to serve the druid's wisdom through story and song. The early Celtic Christian priests are said to regard Jesus as the "Druid's Druid". At the crowning of King Aiden in Scotland Columcille quoted "My Druid is Christ". The "Battle of Books", I mention in my last article, was a battle over the copyright of a book of Psalms that some say was unique as it included musical notation.
So, the Bards shared Christ through "entertainment", a performance that got people's attention and they remembered "scenes" that they formed into faith that became a code for their daily lives. There were no movie theatres then so is the Star Wars story the same as a bardic tale but presented in film rather than live to a live audience? Its the content that creates the Jedi Faith and not the locations but a little of the costume is mimicked. Likewise when following the Christian Faith we do not have to be in the Holy Land but our priests, monks and nuns do wear some garments of styles that date back to those times.
What interests me more is where Star Wars, the script, comes from.
Those of you reading my past blogs will already understand my passion for Mummers Plays and even read some explanations of Star`Wars connection to these.
Before Christ the druids used ceremonies which were a kind of theatre to demonstrate the passing of one season into the next through images and caricatures. Even Christians who condone the use of images and idols in faith naturally think of the devil in the image of a dark figure with horns, arrow head shaped tail and carrying a three pronged fork. Most of us know the "devil", evil and dark side do not look like that but its an image that says something to us. When I was a child in England the road sign warning us of a school ahead was of a torch and not an image of a school building or children like it is today, but it told us a school was ahead.
These early images became Sacred Plays and Mystery Plays with characters of Christ, Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and all kinds of evil men too. It was always the play and its images that said something more than the people. During the time of the Crusades, and just after, these plays became Mummer's Plays, community drama acting out the same as Sacred Plays and ancient rituals at times of both ancient and Christian celebrations. Mummers Plays evolved to include local characters of heros, villians, healers and tricksters. From the Mummer's Plays we had Punch & Judy Puppet Shows, and then Pantomime which is something completely different in the USA. Of course with a name like Pantomime its a merging of celebration theatre and Greek mime.
The foundation structure to Star Wars Episodes 4, 5 and 6 is that of a British Pantomime, which has evolved from the Sacred and Mystery plays use to show the life and faith of Christ. It has the same basic characters of hero, prince, princess, evil villain, maid, the healing wise man, and bungling buffoon comic or comics who accidently save the day. In fact, I went to a Christmas Pantomime in Bristol in the 80s and the pantomime was called Star Wars that I was told was a Colin Wakefield script. I have since seen Star Paws billed that someone told me was adapted from a Norman Robbins script.
Is this a faith from our ancestors?
Also of interest is that amongst the myths that George Lucas collected was our own local Lugh Of The Long Arm and Balor Of The Evil Eye story from the Tuatha De Dannan, when he visited here. Luke was son of Darth Vadar, Lugh was grandson of Balor.
What about "The Force"?
When I was a child, around 6 years old, and quite naive of religion I used a nearby passage barrow to my home as a "den". This was at least 15 years before Star`Wars was released but I remember feeling aware of a guiding spirit that I used to call "The Force", but unfortunately I cannot remember why as it did not seem to be forcing me to do anything. I imagine with George Lucus it is short for Lifeforce but the shortened word "Force" is more fitting for an action packed movie.
To find out more
With a listed 390,000 people following its is surprising that there does not appear to be a spiritually charged web site to support this gathering. Umada and Yunyun, who went to the United Nations, do not appear to have a web site, or its well hidden in the search engines. I certainly could not find a web site representing the 390,000 followers in Britain. An opportunity for someone?
There's the Temple Of The Jedi Order web site that looks more like a Marvel comic production with seemingly as much leaning on the Star Wars films as there is on the Jedi Faith.
The Jedi Sanctuary web site is much more attractive. It attempts to focus on the Jedi much more than Star Wars but is an essay site, a bit like this blog, rather than social or congregation site. It is hosted by members of the Universal Light Church.
JediFaith.com is purely forum. I did not join so I cannot comment. Home page is bare and a bit "Barbi".
As you may gather, you are unlikely to find me greeting you for my tours dressed in a Jedi cloak and pointing sacred sites out with my Light Sabre.
However, I am intrigued that along with the 390,000 British Jedi Knights other census results show 70,000 Jedi knights in Australia, 53,000 in New Zealand, and 20,000 in Canada. USA figures are unknown.
I woke up from a dream a couple of nights ago after a voice, in the dream, called out "Trust comes from Facts while Faith comes from Fiction".
I welcome any of these folks to share the sactuary of our local sacred sites where I am sure they will find themselves at one with "The Force".