Assignment #2: Sacred Sites Assignment Assignment Description Pilgrimages or jou

Assignment #2: Sacred Sites Assignment
Assignment Description
Pilgrimages or journeys to sacred destinations have been part of our collective religious heritages. From ancient Greek and Hindu sites – the Parthenon and Angkor Wat — to sites at Jerusalem, Lourdes, and Mecca, and Dharamshala, people have gathered to engage with the history and particular sites considered sacred within their faith tradition. Even for those who are fortunate enough to travel to these destinations, these pilgrimages are still considered as “once in a life-time” events.
In this assignment you need to research three sacred sites and focus your research attention on the following theme: “transformation.”
Paper Requirements
In this assignment, you need to write on three different sacred sites. Write at least 300 words per site for a total of around 900-1000 words. Feel free to write more, but not less. Review the rubric for a more detailed breakdown of your grade.
Two of your sacred sites need to be associated with a religious tradition, and the third site can reflect a place(s) that you consider sacred. If you choose to write on a site that you consider sacred, please note that the place can be associated with a religious tradition, but that it need not be.
For a location to be sacred/holy literally means that the place is “set apart” or “revered” and not associated with the “mundane” places or locations of everyday life such as grocery stores or shopping malls. Given this definition, sacredness or sacred places does not necessarily need to be aligned with an organized religious and/or spiritual tradition.
This travel experience may be based on a trip that you have already taken or on one that you would like take in the future. However, this is not an exercise in fantasy literature: please include pictures of your sacred sites in your assignment along with a detailed description of what one does – rituals, sacred practices, etc. – at all three sites that you include in your assignment.
Since I assess your knowledge of Christianity (modules 9 & 10) in this assignment, one of your sacred sites must be associated with the Christian tradition. The other sacred religious site can be located in the same general area, associated with the same religious tradition, or not. The religious tradition for your second sacred site does not have to be one that is covered in the course. However, like your previous assignment, be sure that the information that you research is based on reliable sources.
Answer the two following questions in paragraph form for each sacred site.
1. What makes the site sacred? When answering this question, make sure to describe the historical/religious importance of the site. Do your research and properly site your sources.
2. What would a person within the religious tradition hope to gain from the journey? Connect this question to the theme of “transformation.” What experiences or emotions would one expect to have – or report having – when visiting the site? What rituals/practices does one perform at this site? You can include first-hand accounts that you find online when answering this question. If you do include first-hand accounts, just make sure to properly site your sources.
Include a visual component for each sacred site in your assignment. Include images of the sacred site along with any images that help to express what one experiences/or hopes to experience when visiting the sacred site.
Have questions? Send me an email or post your question in the discussion forum.
Background to the Assignment
In studying the different religions from around the world, the use of the word sacred is linked to a wide variety of objects, places, beings and times. One of the aspects of all religions is to offer a way to link or map the relationships that exist among the different understandings of ‘sacred’.
In First Nations in Canada, the Medicine Wheel offers a complex set of understandings about how human beings interact with the natural world and the spirit world.
In Buddhism, the mandala offers a path of meditation but also emphasizes the transience of the material world – nothing remains the same. In fact, in Tibetan Buddhism, beautiful coloured sand mandalas are created only to be destroyed!
In Islam, pictorial representations of the Hajj were often brought back as souvenirs by those who had participated in the Hajj. (There is an example of one such book at the Royal Ontario Museum.)
Wade Davis writes about sacred geography in his book entitled The Wayfinders Ancient cultures have an integrated understanding of the natural world, spirit world and human beings’ roles. In the chapter, “Sacred Geography,” Davis cites the spiritual importance – the sacredness – of particular places, one of which is in Canada. Davis writes:
In a rugged knot of mountains in the remote reaches of northern British Columbia lies a stunningly beautiful valley known to the First Nations as the Sacred Headwaters. There, on the southern edge of the Spatsizi Wilderness, the Serengeti of Canada, are born in remarkably close proximity three of Canada’s most important salmon rivers, the Stikine, the Skeena and the Nass. In a long day, perhaps two, it is possible to walk through open meadows, following the tracks of grizzly, caribou, and wolf, and drink from the very sources of the three rivers that inspired so many of the great cultures of the Pacific Northwest, the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en, the Carrier and Sekani, the Tsimshian, Nisga’a, Tahltan, Haisla, and Tlingit. Keep on for another three days and you’ll reach the origins of the Finlay, headwaters of the Mackenzie, Canada’s greatest river of all. (p. 116-117)
To underscore Davis’ point on the sacredness of this geography, he continues:
The only other place I know where such a wonder of geography occurs is in Tibet, where from the base of Mount Kailash arise three of the great rivers of Asia, the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra, vital arteries that bring life to more than a billion people downstream. Revered by Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain, Kailash is considered so sacred that no one is allowed to walk upon its slopes, let alone climb to its summit. The thought of violating its flanks with industrial development would represent for all peoples of Asia an act of desecration beyond all imaginings. Anyone who would even dare propose such a deed would face the most severe sanctions, in both this world and the next. (p. 117)
The Assignment: Research and Writing Process
1. Choose two experiential artifacts which you would recognize as being sacred or having sacred quality. You may choose artifacts from one religion, several religions or other sacred traditions. Explain why you have chosen the two artifacts. Length: One paragraph – 150 words maximum.
2. For each artifact, research the historical, cultural, religious, social background for each artifact so that you can explain how and why the artifact is considered ‘sacred’. Your research should answer the questions of identification, and association/meaning. You are required to have three sources for each artifact – a total of six sources are required.
Length of Written Component for Artifacts: 200 words x 2 experiential artifacts = 400 words maximum. This may be written as two paragraphs.
3. Go to the website of the Royal Ontario Museum. Use this link to their research website:
a. Find one artifact at the museum that is sacred or has sacredness.
b. Include the museum website details and photo, if possible.
c. Explain why you chose this artifact and how it contributes to your understanding of the sacred. (This could be historical, sociological, linked to ritual or culture…)
Written Length: Maximum: 200 words
4. Write a paragraph in which you define the term “sacred” using the experiential artifacts to illustrate the definition of sacred.
Written Length: 150 words maximum.
The Assignment: Visual Component – Connecting to the Sacred
Think of how different religions represent their beliefs – the use of geometric forms: circles, squares, triangles are all used. Or, consider how the natural geography of sacred locations becomes symbolic for the religion and therefore the beliefs connected to it – the use of rivers, mountains, oceans, trees are also used.
1. Create a visual definition for the term “sacred” as you have defined it. The artifacts you chose (the two plus the one from the ROM) must appear in your visual.
The visual definition may be done in any format. You may use whatever medium you like – paint, coloured pencils, coloured paper etc. The visual may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. This is your choice. You may use a computer…
2. Write a short paragraph to explain how your visual presents “the sacred”. (150 words maximum)

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