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goddess and god

World Cup Magic, Finnish Magic, Gardening by the moon, Summer Solstice, Pagan youth service

A magical World Cup team? It just might be the magic powder
By Michelle Kaufman, Miami Herald, 06.15.10
" SOWETO, South Africa -- Deep in the heart of this dusty township of three million people, not far from Nelson Mandela's former house, around the corner from an arts and crafts market, behind a modest but well-kept brick house, sits what looks like just another corrugated tin shanty.

Turns out it is a ``Ndumba,'' a sacred hut.

Take a peek inside, and you find Kenneth Nephawe, a 63-year-old electrician-turned-Sangoma (traditional/holistic healer). He has removed his shoes and is seated on the floor on a reed mat, elephant tusk chunks in his hands, 40 jars of herbal powders and concoctions by his side. The remedies, called ``Muti,'' are made of African bushes, and are housed in old Nescafe and mayonnaise jars.
[...]
Traditional healers -- don't call them ``witch doctors'' -- have been known to sprinkle special powders over fields and have teams swim in crocodile-infested waters to ward off evil spirits. But what they mainly do, Nephawe said, is act as holistic healers and counselors.

Their practice is based on the belief that the spirits of dead ancestors guide and protect the living. Patients are asked to blow onto eight pieces of elephant tusks and throw them on the mat. The Sangoma interprets how the pieces lie. Each ``bone'' represents a family member."
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Seitas, sacred places of the indigenous Sámi people, have become subjects of renewed interest
By Jussi Konttinen in Inari, Finnish Lapland, Helsingin Sanomat, International Edition, 13.6.2010
"Seitas, or the old sacred places of the Sámi people, have become the subject of renewed interest. The name varies, depending on the local Sámi dialect, and the places are also known as sieidis or Storjunkare.
The Academy of Finland is funding a four-year research project, in connection with which six seitas have already been examined. The archaeologists from the University of Oulu have performed small-scale excavations in the vicinity of the seitas.

The studies have already produced some results.
“Based on radiocarbon dating, the oldest findings have been dated back to the 12th century”, says archaeologist Tiina Äikäs.
Next to most of the examined sacred places the bones of animals, such as reindeer, goats, sheep, or various types of bird and fish species have been located.
Animal offerings were presented to seitas in hopes for better luck with fishing or hunting. Sometimes such proceedings included brushing the stone with blood or fat."
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Gardening by the moon
by Lila Das Gupta, Gardeners' World (blog) Friday 11 June 2010
"In a nutshell, people who garden by the phases of the moon believe that its gravitational pull on the earth’s water (i.e. tides), has a bearing on plant growth. They never plant anything when the moon is waning in the last quarter because it’s believed that the earth’s water table is receding. After the new moon, the water table rises again and planting can resume. Farmers on the continent have been using moon phases to guide them for years, as indeed have many gardeners in the UK."
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Summer Solstice: Celebrating the benefits of sunshine and how the sun supports our lives
by Debra Dadd Redalia, The Daily Loaf (blog), June 11, 2010
"Last year, I was talking with some friends about green living and got all excited that Summer Solstice is coming up that weekend. One of them said, “I’m not very interested in Summer Solstice. What does it have to do with living green?”

For me, it has everything with living green, because acknowledging the passing of time in Nature is part of what aligns me with the natural world.

When I first became interested in “living in harmony with Nature” (read my story of how this occurred at “The Windfall”), the very first thing I explored was the concept of natural time.
[...]
For me, in the twenty-first century, honoring seasonal changes with a celebration is a way to periodically tune in with the time system of nature and honor that nature is the source of everything that sustains the material aspect of my life."
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Alternatives to Stonehenge: 10 Places to Celebrate the Summer Solstice
by Sean Williams, Heritage Key, 06/11/2010
"1. Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire
2. The Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border
3. Glastonbury Tor, Somerset
4. Golowan, Penzance, Cornwall
5. Sighthill, Glasgow
6. Pendle Witch Camp, Trawden, Lancashire
7. Orkney, Scotland
8. Castlerigg, Cumbria
9. The City of London
10. Your Own Home"
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If you read the description you will see that they are doing a standard American eclectic Wiccan ritual.
Pagan youth service uses world of Avatar to pray for our own
By Kathy Nance, stltoday.com, Post-Dispatch, 06.11.2010
"At this weekend’s St. Louis Pagan Picnic in Tower Grove Park, the young people from Four Winds Fellowship will dedicate their annual youth-led service to healing the Earth. The ritual begins at 1 p.m.

Martha, the adult who helped the children and teens put the ritual together, said that the intent is both to heal the planet and to help people rediscover and strengthen their connection to it.

The kids decided to frame the ritual around the movie Avatar. It’s something they’ve all seen, Martha said, and something they thought would be familiar to anyone who happened to come to the ritual, whether they are Pagan or not."
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goddess and god

Wiccan Spirituality, Church Blaims Pagans for Roses, Mythology of Avatar, Judge Rejects Suit

Spirituality and reincarnation through Wiccan eyes
by Tom Davis, Austin American-Statesman, ‎Mar 26, 2010‎
"What is "spirituality?" It's a great marketing tool for preachers and writers, but it doesn't have much real meaning for nearly anybody today. The problem is that we don't understand the relationship between the finite part of ourselves the part that lives and dies and our eternal part.

Some religions say we only get one trip through life, and then we're off to an eternity of reward or punishment. Other religions re-imagine what "spirit" is, based on the understanding that we all have those two parts, the finite and the eternal. They believe that we, here on this planet, are incarnations of an eternal essence — a soul. Among them are Buddhism, Taoism and many neo-Pagan religions, such as my own path, Wicca."
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Mystery deepens as Lockport church gets more roses
by Nancy A. Fischer, Buffalo News, ‎Mar 29, 2010‎
"LOCKPORT — Most people would welcome a bouquet of roses on their doorstep — but not the leaders of Lockport Christian Church.
[...]
That’s when church members became concerned because Wing’s son, Michael, found that the dates when items were left corresponded with dates of pagan or satanic rituals.

“The incidents fell on the new moon, and satanic rituals recognize certain calendar dates,” Pastor Wing said last week. “We did seek some counseling and have felt there is a possibility that there is a pagan who is performing ceremonies at the church. . . .
[...]
A local pagan, who declined to let her name be used, said the incidents were unlikely to have been related to pagan or satanic rituals because all the items left were based in Christianity.

“The pagan religion is not anti-Christian, but teaches tolerance. It is the study of all religions,” she said. The woman speculated that the Lockport Christian Church may have been targeted in such a way because of their proselytizing in the area.

“Maybe this is about religious tolerance,” she said. “It takes guts to do what [the members of the Lockport Christian Church] believe, but it takes guts for me to do what I believe. . . .

“Whoever is doing this [harassment] is wrong. Can’t we all just get along?”

Wing said members of the church, along the Locust Street Extension, are frightened about the incidents.

“I don’t care if it’s a Wiccan or two kids with a Ouija board,” the pastor said. “It’s got to stop.”"
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Big Corporations, Environmentalism and Pantheism: A Mythological Reading of Avatar
By Rafi Blumenthal, The Commentator, March 28, 2010
"Essentially, what Cameron has done is create an “Indigenous Peoples Myth” that can be applied to the treatment, persecution and displacement of many minorities in many different locales. In fact, in a discussion about myths, Sarah Iles Johnston, a Professor of Greek and Latin at Ohio State University, writes that any successful myths must “respond to their societies’ needs and values.”

Now, granted that Johnston stated this in the context of a discussion about ancient myths, but the argument here is that ancient and modern myths (or narratives, if you wish) have much in common. In essence, both are dependent upon their audiences to be perpetuated. If Avatar did not respond to, touch upon or provoke a part of our personal, collective, national or ethnic consciousness, it would not have become so wildly successful.

Therefore, rather than trying to peruse Avatar for subtle political statements or particular symbols, perhaps we should lay down our magnifying glasses or, better yet, turn them over and stop our attempt to figure out what Avatar is telling us and rather focus on what we can learn about ourselves from the way we are reading Avatar. "
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Judge in Nevada rejects ex-inmate's religious suit
NewsOK.com, ‎Mar 25, 2010‎
"LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal judge has rejected the civil rights lawsuit of a former inmate who claimed federal law on prisoners' religious rights requires prisons to provide things like sweat lodges and raw meat for practicing the Wicca religion.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro on Thursday rejected the suit filed by Scott Fletcher when he was serving a sentence at High Desert State Prison in Clark County for first-degree murder. He was granted parole in January.

Pro ruled prison regulations don't pose a substantial burden on Fletcher's exercise of his religion or pressure him to abandon his beliefs.

The judge noted that Fletcher could still practice Wicca even if his requests were denied.

Pro ruled that constructing and operating a sweat lodge and handling and cooking raw meat posed safety threats and health hazards."
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goddess and god

Box Office Pantheism, Islam and the civic state, The Lesser Path

Box Office Pantheism
ChristianityToday.com, March 5, 2010‎
"C.S. Lewis thought pantheism—the belief that a non-personal God and nature are one, that there is an all-inclusive divine unity—was more corrosive to Christianity than atheism itself.
[...]
A conventional love story bolstered by dazzling visuals, the film follows ex-Marine Jake Sully as he joins forces with the Na'vi, Pandora's natives, to defend their ecosystem—which is also their god, it seems. The blue humanoids revere all life, believing that each creature is interconnected and charged with divine energy. We see the Na'vi bowing and worshiping before the Tree of Souls, their holiest site. Eywa, an unseen female deity, holds it all together, responding to their prayers for protection against American mercenaries.

What all this amounts to, grumbled New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, is Cameron's "long apologia for pantheism," which has been "Hollywood's religion of choice for a generation now." It's the spirit that animates such classics as the Star Wars saga and The Lion King, along with the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra. Vatican Radio criticized the film for "cleverly wink[ing] at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium." Movieguide said the film "has an abhorrent New Age, pagan, anti-capitalist worldview that promotes goddess worship and the destruction of the human race." The only clear religion in Avatar is White Messianism, scoffed David Brooks at The New York Times, since "the natives" need a white man, Sully, to lead their crusade."
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Islam and the civic state
Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 March 2010, Issue No. 988
"Every religion has its own genius for finding a universal meaning or value that serves to carve its niche in history. This genius might be inspired by the challenges it faces, by the aims it aspires to, or by the historical role it seeks to play. Islam appeared in a tribal and pagan environment, one characterised by the lack of a dominant religion and by the absence of an overarching political society -- an early Arabian without tribal protection had little chance of survival. Islam thus encountered a three-fold challenge: a crisis in creed in the face of prevailing paganism; a social crisis fed by prevailing tribalism; and a civilisational crisis in light of the backwardness of life in the Arabian Peninsula in comparison to the overwhelming superiority of neighbouring civilisations."
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The Lesser Path
by Lewis S. Rutherfurd, The New York Times, UDAIPUR, INDIA, March 5, 2010
"I encountered Father Lesser at the hotel buffet, where my dad had assembled his mutinous table, including his fiancé, her 20-something son, my agnostic wife and our three glowingly pagan children.
[...]
Father Lesser has become a genuine Indian holy man. He’s paid his dues. Everyone in Udaipur knows this, Christian or not. But I asked him what he thought a missionary could bring to India, with all its riotous, ancient religions.

“It’s a valid question,” he said, as we sat in his small, cluttered room at a Catholic high school. “But if I believe in Christ, he tells me to go and preach. He doesn’t tell me go and convert.”

As we spoke, the noxious traffic of urban India clamored outside. “For instance,” he continued. “You came here, and I must try and give you something of Christ. But there’s no compulsion. How can there be?”
[...]
He’d come to love Indian spirituality, he said, especially the poetry of Indian saints. They made him a better communicator, and a better priest, and so he wrote books about them.
[...]
“If you really want to live — you’ve got to relate to God, and you’ve got to relate to people,” he said. “You cannot live a proper life without these.” The worst sins were selfishness and pride."
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goddess and god

Pagan Chaplain Appointed, God hates hate, Pagan Avatar, POTUS on Religious Liberty, Pagan Families

First Pagan Chaplain Appointed at Syracuse University
By Rebecca Kheel, Virtue Online, 2/15/10
"Hendricks Chapel recognized Mary Hudson as its first pagan chaplain on Feb. 1, in line with its goal of being more inclusive of all religions on campus.

This is the first new chaplain since the appointments of the Buddhist and the historically black church chaplains and the 11th chaplain at Hendricks. As a chaplain, Hudson will work at Hendricks two days a week, sponsor community outreaches and be apart of the Chaplains Council.

Syracuse University may be only the second university in the nation to have a pagan chaplain, Hudson said. The only other one she was aware of is at the University of Southern Maine.

Hudson said she hopes her appointment will help the SU community become more aware and understanding of the pagan community. Although she said there is more awareness and respect than the past, she hopes the chaplaincy will help stigmas and stereotypes disappear."
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Aw, this is sweet.
Christianity should be marked by love, not hate
by Myles Ikenberry, Kansas State Collegian, February 15, 2010
"When St. Thomas Aquinas shaped the Catholic Church’s view of homosexuality, he believed that homosexuality was a creation of human beings, standing in direct opposition to the intentions of the Creator. Today we know that homosexual behavior exists not only in other mammals, but also in birds, reptiles, amphibians and even bugs.

Although the evolutionary reasons for LGBTQ are not fully understood today, when a man or a woman is born gay that is clearly not a defiance of God’s will.

Although Jesus never condemned homosexuality, he did condemn the persecution of the weak, the vilification of those who are different and the hatred of fellow human beings.

God doesn’t hate LGBTQ. God hates hate."
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Is "Avatar" too Blue for Oscar gold?
by Peter Keough, The Phoenix (blog), Feb 15 2010
"Adds the ever reliable John Podhoretz of the "Weekly Standard:" "Avatar is blitheringly stupid; indeed, it's among the dumbest movies I've ever seen [and he's seen his share -- he's listed "Cinderella Man" and "The Phantom Menace" as among his favorite movies]." And mainly it's dumb because of its "mindless worship of a nature-loving tribe and the tribe's adorable pagan rituals, its hatred of the military and American institutions, and the notion that to be human is just way uncool-at all seriously as a political document."

And then of course, there is its godless, anti-religious paganism, a theme that doesn't surprise Russ Douhat in "The New York Times." "...pantheism," he sighs, " has been Hollywood's religion of choice for a generation now."

And there's a lot more where this comes from. You got to wonder where these guys get the time to spread their lies and half truths about Obama's health care reform policies."
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Presidential Proclamations: The Chief Executives On Religious Liberty
by Rob Boston, Americans United (blog),
"George Washington: “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” (Letter to Touro Synagogue, Newport, R.I., August, 1790)
[...]
John F. Kennedy: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.” (Speech to Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Sept. 12, 1960)"
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A New Political Theory Research Program For Today
by James Poulos, First Things (blog), ‎Feb 14, 2010‎
"As instructive as it is to trace the logic of Sade, Emerson, Freud, and others into the post-Foucauldian territory we frequent today, and as worthy a task as it is to reemphasize the natural character of the traditional family, both these sides of the family debate seem to me to miss something essential: a special aspect or character of the family that is non-natural. Typically, those who defend the family on natural-law grounds are happy to further demonstrate the compatibility of the nature-based approach with a supernatural one, wherein the authority of the traditional family results from the imposition of sacred order upon the natural substrate or raw material of biological necessity on the one hand and possibility on the other. But the question of whether that imposition is soft or hard is an important one; at least some commentators, particularly on the left, will not tire of pointing out the potentialities, in Christianity, particularly, for a sacred order that imposes commanding truths against certain aspects of the traditional family. The pagan, republican, quintessentially Roman family — as Tocqueville took a moment to hint — runs fundamentally contrary to the typical sort of family lived and theorized by natural-law Christians.

There are a variety of ways in which this is so, but, at the same time, it’s clear that certain aspects of pagan familial virtue are not exactly incompatible with the Biblical sacred order that can check or overcome their excesses and pathologies — just as the Biblical order imposes powerful interdicts, not to be confused with taboos, against the kind of violent desires that, to the morbid fascination of the ancient Greeks, deconstructed and destroyed the identities of family-bound individuals. Above all, for individuals in families Biblical order interdicts two kinds of pride, which combine and culminate in aristocratic nobility: pride in the unity of bloodline and virtu. Nonetheless, Biblical order has been unable to destroy both pagan familial order and the residual pride in family identity and family accomplishment that persist, especially among ‘real Americans’, to this day. It is not too much to suggest that Biblical order, in practice, has been unwilling to destroy these things."
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goddess and god

Avatar Tree, Who is God?, Biodiversity, Lupercalia, 17th Century East Anglia

Is Avatar' anti-(fill in the blank)?
by Douglas Brode, TheNewsTribune.com, 02/08/10
"The "pro-environmentalist" theme is present. But what's wrong with that? Why do so many contemporary "conservatives" recoil in horror from principles of "conservation" when those two terms derive from the same word? This wasn't always the case: former President George H.W. Bush proudly stated, "I'm a conservationist. Always have been. Always will be." Another Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, initiated our environmental policies.

So! If Disney's "Pocahontas" (1995) were released today, would it likewise come under scrutiny for projecting the same supposedly "liberal" themes?

Speaking of Disney, in its Florida resort area sits a 500-acre site called Animal Kingdom, a theme park dedicated to "nature and conservation." On its opening day, sign-wielding demonstrators from the left massed to complain that animals were exploited there. Yet this modern zoo and rehabilitation center for harmed beasts has no bars. Should those protesters now be replaced by rightists, angry about efforts made there to protect the natural world?

The epicenter of Animal Kingdom is The Tree of Life, 14 stories high, 50 feet wide. Visitors resemble the indigenous blue creatures in "Avatar" who gather around their own, similar tree. This brings up the most heated attack on "Avatar" - i.e., that Cameron's film is "anti-religious." Is there any truth to that? Actually, answering "yes" or "no" depends on how an individual defines the term "anti-religious."

Positive symbolic use of the tree does run directly against the grain of the JudeoChristian Bible. Those anonymous figures who set down the moral fables of Genesis set out to reverse the meanings of pagan icons, which celebrated nature in general, the tree in particular. With roots burrowing down into the earth and leaves that reach toward Heaven above, the tree was worshipped as a natural bridge between here and there."
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Local religions answer the question: Who is God?
by Lisa Larson, St. George Daily Spectrum, ‎Feb 6, 2010‎
"It's a word uttered by many - religious and non. At times it is shouted in anger and other times whispered in prayer. It represents a person to some and an idea to others so the answer to the question: "Who is God?" is as varied as the people who respond.

"I don't know that I would answer it," said Melanie Cottam, a neo-pagan of Cedar City. "Being pagan there is no set person to worship or celebrate."

That said, Cottam does have a concept of deity, but the god - or goddess in her case - depends on the needs of the person seeking help, the season of the year, or the phase of the person's life.

There are hundreds of gods and goddesses, said Cottam, adding that she thinks of these beings more in a spiritual realm. "I can call upon them to give me strength for what I'm needing, similar to how Christians will pray."

"I pray but I just don't pray to the same person every day," she said.
[...]
For Warren Wright, lay leader with Unitarian Universalists in St. George, this is something that remains a great mystery of life.

"For me, it's an unknown. It's not knowable," Wright said. "I've always felt it would certainly be nice to know what relationship we may have with our creator. But whether God, or the creator of us all, has any interest in us as individuals, I don't know. I think that's questionable."

Wright describes himself as an agnostic, though people who gather with the Unitarian Universalists come from a variety of theological backgrounds. When it comes to the idea of God, Wright said the agnostic approach seems to be the most honest.

"You just don't know," he said. "When you think about the concepts of god around the world, to limit it to one approach seems very difficult to swallow."

If a person chooses to believe in one of these concepts, Wright said it is important to have a balance of masculine and feminine attributes in the expression of God.

"A lot of people, not just Unitarians, would argue against the emphasis on the masculine part of God," he said.

Cottam said she prefers to focus on a feminine deity because she grew up in a patriarchal house.

"I'm kind of done with that. I need more of a matriarchal house," she said.
[...]
Cottam said her knowledge of the pagan gods came after a lot of study as well.

"I think the most important thing for people to know is they have the freedom to choose what makes them happy. When it comes to religion, they need to follow their heart," Cottam said. "As long as they're not hurting anyone and doing what makes them happy in life, they're going to find that peace in their life.""
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Saluting Darwin, Biodiversity
by Warren D. Allmon, The Ithaca Journal, February 8, 2010
"The diversity of life is truly staggering: approximately 1.7 million species have been described so far, and estimates of the total range from 10 to 100 million. Everyone should know three things about this mind-boggling panoply:

* It really matters. For example, biodiversity mirrors and enhances the overall health of ecosystems, and therefore ultimately of human communities, and all those species provide abundant ecological "services" such as pest and flood control. They are also treasure troves of genes and chemicals that we can use for medicine, agriculture and other important purposes.

* We are losing species at a rapid and quickening pace, due to human activity. Between one quarter and one half of all species on Earth will likely be gone within the next two centuries, amounting to a mass extinction of a size not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

* Finally - and back to Darwin - all of these species are the unique and irreplaceable products of millions of years of evolution. Because they were evolved, and not created, once they are gone they are gone forever. They may eventually be "replaced" by evolution, but this will take hundreds of thousands to millions of years, and we will be long gone by then. Evolution, in other words, should encourage us to value and protect the biodiversity with which we share the planet, because it is all we're going to have."
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Will you be my Valentine?
Thaindian.com - Shobha Shukla February 9th, 2010
"In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and to Juno, the goddess of marriage, as well as to Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or luperca. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat’s hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with them. Roman women welcomed this, as it was believed that the strips would make them more fertile. Later in the day, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. This custom lasted until the 1700s when people decided their beloveds should be chosen by sight, and not by luck.
[...]
Today Valentine’s Day is a popular observance around the world and has been increasing in popularity in India too, in recent years. Despite complaints from fanatic religious groups that it is a western phenomenon, destroying Indian culture, Valentine’s Day has now become a widely recognized and celebrated day with the Indian youth.

Similar is the situation in some other countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan , where the hardliners forbid any romantic relationship, dubbing it un-Islamic, unless the couple is married. Nevertheless, the occasional heart-shaped gift, stuffed animals with love messages and flowers sneak their way in the shops, and the Day is becoming increasingly popular among young people.

We must remember that Valentine’s Day is not a day of debauchery, as made out by religious fanatics. It is a day that celebrates love and romance, and the only ritual performed is when a guy sends flowers or candy to his sweetheart. We should not let it become a consumer driven holiday, which fills the coffers of the rich. Let it remain a celebration of love and hope, as it was meant to be.

In a world full of hate and discord, let the true meaning of Valentine’s Day be embraced by all cultures. Valentine’s Day should be the ultimate ecumenical observation. What religion or culture could possibly be against love?"
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Region caught up in witchcraft and war
Great Yarmouth Mercury, UK, 08 February 2010
"THE turmoil of the 17th century will be explored during a series of public lectures starting at the University of East Anglia this week.

The 17th century witnessed war, revolution and profound social change.

East Anglia was caught up in these life-shaping events: its population divided by the English civil wars; the region experienced periodic witchcraft trials; and the enclosure of common land drove many poor people to the brink of desperation.

Entitled 'The Turbulent 17th Century', the lecture series has been organised by the Centre of East Anglia Studies, based in the School of History. Experts in the history of the region from the universities of East Anglia, Essex and Warwick will present cutting-edge research into the revolutionary changes experienced by people during this time.

On Thursday, Prof Steve Hindle (Warwick) will talk on 'Work, reward and labour discipline in 17th century England', while 'Popular politics and seditious speech in early 17th century Norwich' is the subject of Dr Fiona Williamson's lecture on February 18.

Dr Alison Rowlands (Essex) will give a lecture entitled '17th century witch-hunts in comparative context' on February 25, and Prof John Walter (Essex) will present 'Swearing oaths and subscribing petitions: East Anglia gets ready for war' on March 4.

All lectures take place in Lecture Theatre 2 at UEA. Admission is free and all are welcome."
goddess and god

The Jewish People, Witch-hunter Murders, African Polygamy, Religion in Movies, Witches' Hat

Wow! this is really controversial stuff.
"A leading Israeli historian shatters the national myth of the Jewish exodus from the promised land."
The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand (Author), Yael Lotan (Translator)
Book Review: The Invention of the Jewish People
by Harry Clark, CounterPunch Feb 4, 2010
"Sand’s account of Judaism, from exclusive Israelite genealogy, to Hellenic proselytizing, to proselytizing and conversion on the margins of Christianity, in Arabia, North Africa, Spain, and among the Khazars and the Slavs, to defensive introversion amidst the final triumph of Christianity, is the interesting and compelling story of a religious minority subject to normal historical forces.

The contrary view of the unitary Jewish people expelled from its homeland, and wandering aloof in exile for two thousand years, until beginning its return in the late 19th c., is a reactionary myth which Zionism has deployed to conquer Palestine and compel support for it. The myth prevails unchecked today not only in Israel but worldwide. Nothing “has challenged the fundamental concepts that were formed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” Advances in the study of nations and nationalism have not “affected the departments of the ‘History of the People of Israel’ (aka Jewish history) in Israeli universities.

Nor, amazingly, have they left their imprint on the ample output of Jewish studies departments in American or European universities.” The Zionist myth expresses a virulently racialized Jewish consciousness. In the canonical liberal view “anyone who argued that all Jews belong to a nation of alien origin would have been classified at once as an anti-Semite. Nowadays, anyone who dares to suggest that the people known in the world as Jews (as distinct from today’s Jewish Israelis) have never been, and are still not, a people or a nation is immediately denounced as a Jew-hater.”

Sand states in closing that “the mood at the end of this book. . .is more pessimistic than hopeful.” His final paragraph asks:

“In the final account, if it was possible to change the historical imaginary so profoundly, why not put forth a similarly lavish effort of the imagination to create a different tomorrow? If the nation’s history was mainly a dream, why not dream afresh, before it becomes a nightmare?”"
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Three held for E Cape witchcraft murder
by SAPA, Independent Online, South Africa, February 04 2010
"Three men were arrested on Thursday for allegedly beating a woman to death they accused of practising witchcraft, Eastern Cape police said.

The trio, aged between 21 and 28, also faced a charge of arson and another of pointing of a firearm.

They went to a homstead in Bizana on Tuesday and allegedly assaulted a 60-year-old woman they accused of witchcraft, said Captain Mlungisi Matidane.

She died of her wounds. Her husband escaped.

"The same suspects later went back to the same homestead and set alight two rondavels. The 11 occupants survived with minor injuries."

The trio was arrested on Thursday morning and expected to appear in the Bizana Magistrate's Court shortly.

In a separate incident, three men accused of killing 65-year-old Nokitani Tshemesi and her three granddaughters, appeared in the Elliotdale Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

They had suspected the woman of practising witchcraft, police said. Their bodies were found in their home in Ntsingizi village on Tuesday morning. They had been stabbed to death."
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Another take on Polygamy. Even with three wives he fathered a child outside of marriage!!

Union: Stop Zuma witch-hunt
by SAPA, News24, 2010-02-04
"Johannesburg - Critics of President Jacob Zuma are trying to re-engineer society into "one man and one woman for life", the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) said on Thursday.

"The media's obsession and interference at President Zuma's private life aims at re-engineering society to conform to the capitalist sex 'norm' of one man and one woman for life, thus denying the complexity of human sexuality," said the CWU.

Demanding that the media "stay out of the bedroom", they said if the media owners and opposition party leaders could not respect Zuma's privacy, they should declare their own partners and "throngs" of children.

"This puritanical witch-hunt against President Zuma waged by the bourgeois media and the opposition is a typical modern day version of Christian fundamentalist crusades against 'sin'."

"This witch-hunt directed towards President Zuma seeks to reinforce the idea in the public sphere that it is morally wrong for either President Zuma or women to be sexually intimate and impregnate each other outside the institution of marriage."

The union believed Zuma's private life was "none of our business".

Zuma had taken two days off to rest after confirming he fathered a child outside his three marriages and engagement.
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'Avatar' draws controversy from the Vatican
by Joe Cramer, The Villanovan (subscription), Feb, 4, 2010
"Rev. David Cregan, O.S.A., a professor in the theater department who holds his doctorate in drama, feels that the Vatican newspaper is extremely important in the function exemplified by its critique of “Avatar.”

“It can be helpful in leading people toward the kinds of artistic projects that will enrich their spiritual lives,” Cregan says.

This would apply not only to films with a particular influence over pop culture at any given moment, but also those which challenge or reinterpret ideas that may be crucial to the religion in general. Yet the newspaper has remained silent on recent religious-themed films, such as “The Book of Eli” and “Legion,” both of which deal with religious implications and iconic imagery in a much more blatant way than the allegorical “Avatar.”
[...]
As often occurs when popular entertainment attempts to address topical issues, questions are raised concerning its place and significance within the issue, as well as its effectiveness in addressing those questions.

Rev. Joseph Farrell, O.S.A., doesn’t see the naturalistic ideologies as necessarily in opposition with Catholic or Augustinian views.

“What I was reminded of was a passage in Book X of the Confessions of St. Augustine when he asks himself the question, ‘What am I loving when I love my God?’” Farrell says.“He goes on a search questioning nature and all created things and keeps getting the answer from them, ‘We are not your God.’ He concludes by saying, ‘They lifted up their mighty voices and cried, “He made us.” My questioning was my attentive spirit, and their reply, their beauty.’”
[...]
Ultimately, “Avatar” is yet another example of the tension that will always exist between art and ideology.
When a form of popular entertainment attempts to address highly topical and divisive issues, even in an allegorical manner, it is sure to incite some criticism. Despite this, it illustrates the importance of having relevant and intelligent arguments on both sides to maintain a well-informed balance for viewers.

“Art can create perspective,” Cregan says. “But art is not doctrine.”"
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South Lyon Cross Country--Witch's Hat Run
Apparently the race is named after a building, the Witches Hat Depot Museum
"The Witch's Hat Depot functions as a museum and the gathering place for the South Lyon Historical Society. It's distinctive roof line gives the building it's name: The Witch's Hat. The building was moved from the original location on East Lake Street to McHattie Park in 1976 as a bicentennial project and it now serves as the focal point for the historic village.

The interior of the depot has been preserved to show what a turn-of-the-century train depot would look like. The Historical Society uses the Depot and the nearby Freight Building to store historic documents. The Depot is an excellent resource for railroad buffs or those who simply want to know more about the history of South Lyon."
goddess and god

The "religion" of the Na'vi in the movie Avatar

There has been a lot of talk about the "pagan religion" of the Na'vi, humanoid natives of the planet Pandora, in the movie Avatar.

People are saying that the Na'vi worship a Mother Goddess called Eywa. The problem is that Eywa is not a supernatural entity, she is the physically living and conscious mind of the biosphere. Eywa has a body (the biosphere) and a brain (the Tree of Souls). There is no equivalent to Eywa on Earth.

The plants of Pandora act as a neural network that the larger animals are able to connect with through a "Lekku" a neural appendage which grows from the brain stem ending in filaments which have the capability of connecting with the Lekku of others. The Na'vi are able to communicate directly, mind to mind, with their Direhorses, and Mountain Banshee mounts using those neural queues. (They should also have been able to domesticate the Viperwolves, but we never see that).

The neural network, Eywa, is effectively immortal since it predates the Na'vi and will live as long as the biosphere lives. It also contains the memories of all the Na'vi that have ever lived, because they were connected to it.

Eywa is not a supernatural entity. She is an entirely natural, physically measurable, sentient being. Is a tree a god if it worshiped just for being itself, not for representing something greater than itself?

The idea that an alien religion turns out to be an alien physical reality is a common trope of science fiction.
goddess and god

Why Right Wing Christians Think Environmentalism is a Religion

AVATAR, the Vatican, and Neo-Paganism
by Alessandro Moretti, Alt Film Guide (blog), Jan 12, 2010
"Right-wingers criticize it for its anti-militaristic and anti-imperialism stance. The politically correct accuse it of being racist. Anti-smokers cry foul because of a chain-smoking character. And now comes the Vatican media accusing it of promoting paganism and nature worship. Really, you can’t please everyone, but this?

In addition to referring to Avatar as "bland" and "sappy," L’Osservatore Romano complained in its review that James Cameron’s sci-fier "gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature," while Vatican Radio pointed out that the film "cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium," adding that "nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship."

Pope Benedict XVI, who just yesterday called gay marriage an attack on "creation and the natural order" (Portugal has become the latest country to approve the legalization of gay marriages; a gay couple got married in Argentina last week), has already proclaimed against the dangers of turning nature into a "new divinity." The pope also denounced the "supposedly egalitarian vision" that human beings and other living creatures should be placed on the same plane of existence, adding that such a worldview would "open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.""


Bolivian president a fan of Avatar
IANS, 13 January, 2010
"Bolivian President Evo Morales has liked the movie Avatar, the latest film by James Cameron, and says the film plot is in line with "the fight for the protection of Mother Earth and against capitalism".

The president went to the movies for the third time in his life to see Avatar, official ABI news agency reported, and said that despite its "heavy dose of fantasy", the film is "a profound example of resistance to capitalism and the fight for the defense of nature".

Morales, Bolivia's first president of native origin, went to the movies on Sunday with his daughter, Eva Liz, 15, and one of her cousins.

The film, which was conceived by the celebrated director of box-office hits some 15 years ago, tells the story of the planet Pandora, where invaders from Earth, local natives and avatars fight for survival.

The plot of the movie brings into conflict opposing ideas about development and co-existence with nature. "


The official Catholic review of "Avatar" is not much different from main stream review: the plot is predictable, the theme is obvious and preachy, the visuals are stunning.

I had an epiphany about all this talk of Environmentalism as a religion. These fundamentalist Christians are focused on God as the definition of religion. To them which deity you venerate defines your religion. That is not true for polytheists. Polytheists can be devoted to different gods and still consider themselves part of the same religion. It goes back to the monotheistic bias in the Christian world view.

Christians see people arguing for the defense of the environment and they say "You are venerating the Earth, therefore you worship the Earth, therefor Environmentalism is a religion."

Using my definition of religion, which god you venerate is secondary to one's religion. The core of any religion is cosmology, gods are dependent (therefor secondary) to cosmology.

Just because one acts from religious motivation does not make ones action a religion. Christians frequently feel called to feed the poor. That doesn't make feeding the poor a religion.

Environmentalism is not a cosmology, it is dependent (secondary) position based on a cosmology. There are many cosmologies that can result in environmentalism. Christians and other monotheists can see environmentalism as divine responsibility given to them by their god. Atheists can see environmentalism as rational position of self interest. Pagans can see environmentalism as a devotion to a deity or part of our responsibility to the web of life.