Tags: indigenous religion

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

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

Haitian Vodoun, and Groundhog Day

This is a good article you should read the whole thing.
Haiti earthquake: voodoo high priest claims aid monopolised by Christians
By Nick Allen in Port-au-Prince, Telegraph.co.uk, 01 Feb 2010
"Max Beauvoir, Haiti's "supreme master" of voodoo, alleged his faith's opponents had deliberately prevented much-needed help from reaching followers of the religion, which blends the traditional beliefs of West African slaves with Roman Catholicism.

"The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves," he claimed. "They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that's a shame.

"Everyone is suffering the same and has the same needs. We are not asking for anything more than anyone else. We're just asking for it to be fair."
[...]
Kompe Filo, one of the most popular TV and radio personalities in Haiti, and a vocal believer, said voodoo predicted the earthquake six months ago.

He said: “God is angry against humanity, not just Haiti but all humanity. This is a message that man must change, and reconnect with the natural world around him.

“We have a lot of beliefs modern people should believe in. For example we believe that trees have spirits which we should not harm otherwise we will all suffer.” "
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“Thirteen Moons on A Turtles Back” And “Punxsutawney Who?”
Findlay Living , Feb 1, 2010‎
"The term actually comes from the number of plates on the shell of a snapping turtle. The Native Americans used it as a way of keeping track of the moons in a year. I know you are thinking, “Aren’t there twelve moons in a year?” That is true if there were not occasionally two full moons in one month approximately every 2.5 years. I am sure you have heard of ‘Once in a Blue Moon’.
[...]
We have many cultures to thank for the origin of Groundhog Day. Some of the roots of this shadowy event are found in the archaic time of paganism. The Germans celebrated a pagan event that marked the half waypoint of winter.

That would be the time between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. (February 2cd) When the Catholic religion entered the picture, Candlemas Day was celebrated at this midwinter time to bring blessed light to the people. The blessed candles were put in windows and the day’s weather was watched very closely for shadows. The Germans would look for a badger to see it saw its shadow. When the German migrated to Pennsylvania, the groundhog replaced the badger. The Scotts and English also celebrated Candlemas Day. My Scottish great grandmother (Erskin) Bowerman used to recite a saying around February 2cd that went something like this, “If Candlemas Day be clear and bright, two winter we will have this year.” My Pennsylvania Dutch German great grandfather would then chime in with, If the sunshines on Candlemas Day, the snow will fall until May. If the snow falls on Candlemas Day, the sun will shine before May.” When it comes to folk sayings and this whole Groundhog Day event, Ben Franklin had his own saying. “ Some men are weather-wise and some are other-wise.”"
goddess and god

"Religious Items", the Nazareth Baptist Church, Marketing to Muslims, Religious Diversity

"Pagainist"? Why do people make up words like this? It's as bad as "Wiccanism".

Living Dead dolls are "a bit macabre" but so are Day of the Dead dolls.

I had this conversation with a friend of mine when I was giving her 2 year old daughter candy skulls for Samhain. Her mother had not let her celebrate Halloween because any image of death was necessarily evil. In Wicca we value balance and accepting the cycles of life. We accept that death is a natural part of the cycle of life. We celebrate both life and death to maintain the balance. And we discourage the fear of death that comes with trying to hide it away and deny it.

Are Living Dead dolls "religious items"? I'm not sure. Are Christmas trees "religious items"? It's not like they are statues of gods.

Paganist protests as health visitor tells her to move items
by Chris Broom, Portsmouth News, UK, 25 January 2010
"Jemma Hawkins, 29, receives regular visits from a mental health home treatment team because of her bi-polar disorder.

But on one of these visits, Mrs Hawkins says the health visitor told her she should remove pagan images and accessories from her living room because of her concerns for her 10-year-old son David
[...]
'I was really angry because Wicca is a recognised religion.

'You wouldn't go into a Muslim's home and ask them to take down their religious items would you?'
[...]
Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust Jamie Stevenson said the health visitor had been referring to some collectable dolls not connected to religious beliefs, known as Living Dead dolls, which Mrs Hawkins had on display.

He said 'When the support worker went around there and she saw these dolls and she thought they were a bit macabre.
[...]
We would never give advice on parenting unless they were doing something extremely wrong, which isn't the case here.

'With a mental health patient like Mrs Hawkins we are trying to build a rapport and look after her needs, not to go in and throw our weight around.'"
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Battle for the Holy Mountain
By Bongani Mthethwa, Jan 24, 2010
"One of the oldest and most powerful African churches in Southern Africa has been rocked for decades by a bitter and sometimes bloody leadership battle

For almost a century Maria Nyanisile Mthembu has been a devoted member of the estimated 4.5 million-strong Shembe Church, as the Nazareth Baptist Church is popularly known.
[...]
Easily identifiable by their flowing white robes, the Nazarites spend two weeks on the mountain, where they perform their hypnotic traditional Zulu dance, sing hymns and praise God in a festival that has evolved into a colourful spectacle.

Shembe worshippers believe Nhlangakazi is where God instructed Shembe to form the church.
[...]
Followers of Shembe - a religion that combines Zulu tradition with Christian values - believe that their leader is equivalent to Jesus Christ and that female followers should be virgins before marriage.

Shembe rituals include baptism by immersion, the keeping of the Sabbath, observance of a seven-day fast before Holy Communion, and the celebration of Holy Communion at night, preceded by feet-washing ceremonies.

For more information about African Initiated Churches on wikipedia.com
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Marketing to Muslims poses a challenge for retailers
By Raja Abdulrahim, The Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2010
"Best Buy has refused to discuss its holiday advertising, though a brief statement on its website indicates it stands by its Eid greetings: "Best Buy's customers and employees around the world represent a variety of faiths and denominations. We respect that diversity and choose to greet our customers and employees in ways that reflect their traditions."

Other companies have recently come under some fire for marketing to groups that some considered out of the mainstream.

A Gap ad during the holiday season angered a conservative Christian group for being too inclusive by referring to Christian, Jewish, secular and pagan holidays with the line "Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanzaa, Go solstice." Gap didn't directly address whether it had considered mentioning Eid al-Adha, which was celebrated two weeks after the ad first appeared.

"We've been down this road before with other groups," said Jerome Williams, a professor of advertising and African American studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

In the 1960s, studies looked at whether advertising that featured blacks would scare away white customers. Companies don't rush into new and unfamiliar markets, he said, but rather tiptoe into them. And what will ultimately sway advertisers is money.

"They're not in the business of social justice," he said. "An advertiser does not want to do anything that will have negative impacts on sales. . . . At the end of the day, they have to see if they've gained more than they've lost."
[...]
Constraints that advertisers face here don't exist in the Middle East, where Ramadan and the two Eid holidays are times when brands such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and McDonald's are merged seamlessly with holiday greetings."
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My East-West Allah
By Petra Gimbad, The Nut Graph, 25 Jan 2010
"My father is a non-Muslim bumiputera and my mother a West Malaysian Chinese. My sister and I grew up attending mass and read books on Buddhism; my mother's Catholic brother who practises Buddhist meditation introduced Islamic poetry to our family. We have Muslim cousins and Buddhist aunts.

My East Malaysian cousins and I share ancestors who were bobohizans — pagan medicine women — and men who held bomoh abilities. My family members and I, regardless of faith — whether Muslim, Christian or Buddhist — understood that "Allah" and "Tuhan" could be used interchangeably. It was never something to get confused about.

As Catholics, we never fought with our Protestant cousins the way I had to defend my church denomination when I came to Kuala Lumpur. Diversity in skin colour and belief were expected, and accepted. Had anyone tried to put my Buddhist or Muslim relatives down on account of religion, they would have my sister and me to contend with.

Underlying it all, we knew, even as children, that everyone's blood runs red, and that we ultimately worship the same God. Those who did not believe in a higher being practised love and compassion anyway. This was good enough for most of us.
[...]
In the light of attacks on churches, a gurdwara and surau, I feel immensely lucky to be a mixed race child from a family of many faiths. I believe — and this is personal — that this has brought me closer to God. Hafiz expresses it best:
I have learned So much from God That I can no longer Call Myself A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, A Buddhist, a Jew. The Truth has shared so much of itself With me That I can no longer call myself A man, a woman, an angel, Or even pure Soul."
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goddess and god

Ancient Religion all over the World

Egypt announces find of ancient cat goddess temple
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, Jan 19, 2010
"CAIRO (AP) -- Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old temple that may have been dedicated to the ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said Tuesday. The ruins of the Ptolemaic-era temple were discovered by Egyptian archaeologists in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C."
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Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx
By Evan Hadingham, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2010
"Lehner spotted something perhaps even more remarkable. If you stand in the eastern niche during sunset at the March or September equinoxes, you see a dramatic astronomical event: the sun appears to sink into the shoulder of the Sphinx and, beyond that, into the south side of the Pyramid of Khafre on the horizon. “At the very same moment,” Lehner says, “the shadow of the Sphinx and the shadow of the pyramid, both symbols of the king, become merged silhouettes. The Sphinx itself, it seems, symbolized the pharaoh presenting offerings to the sun god in the court of the temple.” Hawass concurs, saying the Sphinx represents Khafre as Horus, the Egyptians’ revered royal falcon god, “who is giving offerings with his two paws to his father, Khufu, incarnated as the sun god, Ra, who rises and sets in that temple.”

Equally intriguing, Lehner discovered that when one stands near the Sphinx during the summer solstice, the sun appears to set midway between the silhouettes of the pyramids of Khafre and Khufu. The scene resembles the hieroglyph akhet, which can be translated as “horizon” but also symbolized the cycle of life and rebirth. “Even if coincidental, it is hard to imagine the Egyptians not seeing this ideogram,” Lehner wrote in the Archive of Oriental Research. “If somehow intentional, it ranks as an example of architectural illusionism on a grand, maybe the grandest, scale.”

If Lehner and Hawass are right, Khafre’s architects arranged for solar events to link the pyramid, Sphinx and temple. Collectively, Lehner describes the complex as a cosmic engine, intended to harness the power of the sun and other gods to resurrect the soul of the pharaoh. This transformation not only guaranteed eternal life for the dead ruler but also sustained the universal natural order, including the passing of the seasons, the annual flooding of the Nile and the daily lives of the people. In this sacred cycle of death and revival, the Sphinx may have stood for many things: as an image of Khafre the dead king, as the sun god incarnated in the living ruler and as guardian of the underworld and the Giza tombs."
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Stonehenge Cemetry
By Gail Willumsen, Inside Nova, January 20, 2010
"When I started researching our Stonehenge show, I was surprised to learn that at least 50 human burials were discovered there in the early 20th century. But that's the tip of the iceberg: considering all the unexcavated areas of the monument, experts figure at least 240 people were buried at Stonehenge, if not many more. There has been no shortage of theories about the purpose of Stonehenge -Druid temple, astronomical observatory, landing pad for UFO's- but one thing is certain: Stonehenge was used as a cemetery. In fact it's the largest cemetery ever discovered in Britain for its time period (roughly 3000 to 2500 BC -the last gasp of the Stone Age.)
[...]
To complicate matters, the archaeologists who excavated most of the burials at Stonehenge did so in the 1920's and 1930's, at time when burnt bone was considered useless for scientific study. Not a single museum in Britain would accept the cremations from Stonehenge, so they were dumped into four burlap bags, and stored in an attic for a decade. Then in 1935, archaeologists reburied the bones in a hole at Stonehenge, and largely forgot about them."
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US sunworshippers hope to profit from solar energy
By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press, 2010-01-18
"A poverty-stricken American Indian tribe that holds the sun and nature's other gifts sacred sees a brighter future for itself in solar power.

The 3,000 members of the Jemez Pueblo are on the verge of building the United States' first utility-scale solar plant on tribal land, a project that could bring in millions of dollars.

Experts say tapping into sun, wind and geothermal energy on vast tribal lands of the American West could generate the kind of wealth many tribes have seen from slot machines and blackjack tables.
[...]
Every fall, Jemez Pueblo gives thanks to nature in an age-old harvest celebration during which dancers wearing headdresses and jingling bells pound the ground with their feet to the beat of drums. Tribal members hold the sun sacred as the source of the warmth and light needed to grow crops in this remote area about 50 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico's capital."
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goddess and god

Representations of Haiti and Vodou

The Myth of “Voodoo”: A Caribbean American Response to Representations of Haiti
By Dianne Diakité, Religion Dispatches, January 20, 2010
"To set the record straight, the varied imperial and stateless civilizations of Africa each had their own established religious beliefs, practices and institutions well before any exposure to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Vodou, a term with endless contemplative meanings and inferences, including “god,” “spirit,” and “deep mystery” is one such religious culture that should not be misconstrued as any devil-dealing clan.

Today, libraries of reliable scholarship confirm Vodou’s credibility as a viable historic and contemporary tradition most prominent in West Africa and Haiti. This religious heritage links Haiti, Benin, Togo, and Ghana through a civilizing legacy where cognate cosmologies, philosophies, languages, medical therapies, diets, rites of passage, codes of conduct, aesthetic norms, artistic conventions, and technologies furnish entire communities with a shared sense of identity and the ritual/theological grammars required to guide their common life and transmission of humanity from one generation to the next.
[...]
This line of discussion, however, concedes to the fear that behind the portrait of meandering earthquake survivors peacefully singing Christian hymns in the streets of Port-au-Prince is a barbaric “voodoo” ceremony waiting to unfold. It is for this reason that accessible Vodou priests and priestesses who were first responders, providing medical care to wounded victims pouring into their temples in the immediate aftermath of the quake, remain unaccounted for in the US American media’s roll call of international heroes and heroines now at work in Haiti.

Whether strict Vodou practitioners or dually aligned members of Vodou temples and Christian churches, the millions of Haitians whose lives are touched by Vodou in countless ways remain unaccounted for when the primary rejoinder to America’s fear of the “voodoo” it created in the first place is to reassure the world of Haiti’s established Christian identity.
[...]
In the end, I must concur with Mr. Robertson: “Something” did “[happen] a long time ago in Haiti, and people [do not] want to talk about it.” Enslaved Africans asserted their humanity, religious freedom and political sovereignty and, under the influence of sour grapes, Western powers have sent one ‘earthquake’ after another Haiti’s way ever since."
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Voodoo Brings Solace To Grieving Haitians
By Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR, wbusr.org, January 20, 2010
"Voodoo is playing a central role in helping Haitians cope with their unthinkable tragedy. Outside of Haitian culture, few know what Voodoo is. Elizabeth McAlister, a Voodoo expert at Wesleyan University, says at its core, the philosophy is really pretty simple.

"Voodoo in a nutshell is about the idea that everything material has a spiritual dimension that is more real" than physical reality, she says. "So everything living — but even rocks and the Earth — is considered to have spirit and have a spiritual nature."

McAlister says there is no unified Voodoo religion. There's no "Voodoo Pope" or central authority, no Voodoo scripture or even a core doctrine.

"It's a religion that really operates through revelation," she says. "So people can receive dreams or visions, and even be possessed by spirits, and that spirit can tell them something, and that's the revelation."
[...]
But even as Haitians mourn the death of tens of thousands of people, Voodoo gives them an eternal perspective, says Max Beauvoir, the supreme servitor of Voodoo, or the highest priest, in Haiti.

"The Haitian people do not get afraid of death," he says. "We are sure that we come back again."

After a person dies, he says, he or she goes underwater for a year and a day, then passes on to the next life.

"We believe that everyone lives 16 times — eight times we live as men, and eight times as women. And the purpose of life is to gather all kinds of experiences," says Beauvoir.

During those 16 lives, a person moves from body to body, country to country, attaining wisdom until he or she merges with God.

To help souls pass easily from death to new life, Voodoo priests like Josue preside over requiem ceremonies with water, candles, coffee and songs. But when death comes unexpectedly, Josue says, it's confusing to the souls. And now the earthquake has yielded another spiritual tragedy: mass graves.

"We have to make sure we bury our ancestors," he says. "We have to show respect to them. And to put them into a mass grave is no respect for our culture, no respect for our ancestors."

So today, Josue prays and sings, to help those souls find their way. "
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Head Voodoo Priest Protests Haiti’s Mass Burials, Fear of Zombies
ChattahBox, January 17, 2010
"the nation’s chief Voodoo priest, Max Beauvoir is strongly objecting to the horrific mass burials on religious grounds. He met with President Rene Preval over the weekend to officially lodge his protest on behalf of the many Voodoo worshipers in Haiti. “It is not in our culture to bury people in such a fashion,” Beauvoir said.

Before the country was decimated by the earthquake, about half of the 9 million residents of Haiti practiced Voodoo, which is a mix of Christianity and elements of West African paganism and animism. Although, about 80 percent of Haitians are also Catholic, they somehow blend Voodooism into their worship of God, without finding a conflict between the two practices.

Max Beauvoir who was educated at City College in New York and the Sorbonne in Paris, was recently chosen as the Voodoo Supreme Master. Beauvoir believes that Voodooism has a role to play in Haiti’s revival. In his Voodoo temple in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake’s destruction, Beauvoir and his followers held frequent ceremonies to summon the spirits. They would light blazing bonfires and dance around a giant totem poll. And ceremonies would end with animal sacrifices and the draining of their blood.

“The conditions in which bodies are being buried is not respecting the dignity of these people,” the Voodoo Supreme Leader told President Preval. Many Haitians believe that the desecration of their loves ones could lead to the dead roaming the earth again as Zombies.

In a 2008 New York Times piece profiling Max Beauvoir, soon after he was chosen as the Supreme Voodoo Master, he ridiculed Hollywood’s treatment of Zombies as scary monsters. Beauvoir believes Zombies to be a very real element of Voodoo science.

Whatever beliefs one holds, the mass burials are a grim consequence of the earthquake’s devastation of the country and the destruction of the Haitian people’s dignity."
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goddess and god

Pagan Customs in Islam, Pagan Customs in Haiti, Witchhunts and Politics in Theaters

Saudi Princess: The Shi'ites Injected Pagan Customs into Islam
by Saudi Princess Basma bint Sa'ud bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, Middle East Media Research Institute, January 22, 2010
""The Sunnis mark the Day of 'Ashura by fasting, in accordance with the teachings of their Prophet. They [mark] this holy month [of Muharram] by fasting, and by benefiting from the merit and internalizing the lesson of [this month]. In contrast, we see our brothers in some of the other Islamic sects [i.e. the Shi'ites, marking the Day of 'Ashura by] running around hysterically while screaming and shouting, as though they do not know that Allah commanded [us] to keep our voices down, even while praying...
[...]
"These [Shi'ite] disciples take to the streets by the thousands and scour [their own flesh] with chains and sticks. They spill their own blood in the name of [Hussein] – the Martyr of Islam, the grandson of the Prophet and the Master of the Youth of Paradise – whose teachings made no mention of these despicable customs of [self-] flagellation. [In fact, these customs] are among the ugliest and most primitive pagan rites banned by the Prophet.

"Thanks to the sound nature with which God has endowed us, and from our reading of the Sunna and of the history of the Prophet's family, we know that these rites are all pagan customs that were injected into Islam, [and which are] like a sword that divides our ranks, our teachings, our identity and our beliefs… so that we cease to be one nation, as our Prophet commanded us, and do not live in peace, which is at the heart of Islam…""
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'God has shaken' Haiti due to voodoo: pastor
by Ted Colley, Surrey Now, January 22, 2010
"Haiti's religions, both Catholicism and voodoo, are legacies of its colonial past. Europeans wasted little time in killing off the indigenous population, then importing African slaves to provide cheap labour. Those unfortunates brought their religions with them, but those beliefs were suppressed by their Christian masters. Forced to adopt the religion of the slave masters, the Africans melded their old beliefs with Christianity and created voodoo.

It is common practice among some Christians to label any religious belief not their own as satanic, devil worship. They aren't satanic, of course, they're simply not Christian. Neither, to my mind, are Dennison's words."
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Paradise Gets Serious with Miller's Witch-Hunt Classic
by Michael C. Moore, ‎Gig Harbor Life, Jan 20, 2010‎
"Jeff and Vicki Richards, the husband-and-wife brain trust of Gig Harbor’s Paradise Theatre, have decided they like to get serious once a season.

And it doesn’t get much more serious than “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s take on the Salem witch hunts of the 1690s. The 1953 drama was the notoriously vitriolic Miller’s response to the “witch hunts” of his own time, the anti-Communist campaigns fronted by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

“Actually, Miller wasn’t called up (in front of McCarthy’s Senate “investigating” committee) until a couple of years after he wrote (the play),” said Jeff Richards, who’s directing the Paradise production that opens Jan. 22. “But a lot of his friends already had been, and many of them had been blacklisted.

“It was a real political hot potato,” Richards said."
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Rewriting the Avatar script, George Bush-style
by Bella Counihan, Sydney Morning Herald, January 22, 2010
"To start we'll need to change some of the main characters. Forget making the US General a slack-jawed, cigar-smoking Texan who is impatient and quick to invade the alien world of Pandora. Let's make the US presence on this alien planet a hearts and minds mission to help the local Na'vi people. Build some schools, some roads, some hospitals, maybe bring some Western governance? And the rest of the rank and file US marines? Well, they're a bunch of good ol' boys just doing their jobs in the face of ever present danger the best they know how.

What about the much criticised Iraq and Afghan war lingo from the film? No more "shock and awe" and "pre-emptive attacks" yelled out by the brutish General in the original. These would be replaced by words like "freedom", "duty" and "mission accomplished."

But it still just doesn't smell conservative enough. These blue people, the native Na'vi, they need some tweaking don't they? How about instead of them being in tune with nature, intelligent warriors, let's give them a bit of an edge. A bit darker maybe? Let's never let them speak English fluently, only stammering recognisable words between the snarls. A bit cruder. More alien, less human. Vicious and backward with no regard for human life or otherwise and observant of a primitive religion. Blindly territorial and unreasonable. I mean, all the Americans want to do is to some minor scale precision mining to help the folks back home drive their cars, what's all the fuss about? There's no dealing with the savage natives in this version.

We also need to change the portrayal of the Na'vi's animist Godess-based religion. A Christian movie site reviewer was particularly disquieted by the Na'vi's worshiping of a "false goddess". He said "the humans in Avatar are all presented as unbelievers. It’s as if humans have no God while every Na’vi worships Eywa the goddess. The reality of life on earth is that there are millions of Christians who worship a loving and compassionate God." So clearly all this Pagan worship won't do. Maybe when Jake Sully cavorts with the Na'vi, he could spread a little God around? After all, a little proselytising never hurt anyone."
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goddess and god

Bookstore Closing, Indigenous Religion, Roman Magic, and Modern Spellcraft

Bodhi Tree Bookstore Is Closing: Bad News for Buddhists
by Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly (blog), Jan. 12, 2010
"Thompson and Madson started the bookstore when they were in their 30's. They are now both in their early 70's. They were aerospace engineers who left a life of science for one of contemplation and meditation.
[...]
Books on Wicca and Astrology and Native American shamanism used to be tough to find. But now every Borders and Barnes & Noble carries a significant selection of religious, spiritual and New Age literature. And what can't be bought at a bricks and mortar shop can undoubtedly be found online at Amazon. For cheap.
[...]
Thompson likes to think that the place has helped people who were lost, who were trying to discover who they really are, whether that be through Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. They both worry about what will happen to the community once the store is gone. Where will people go for spiritual solace?"
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A magickal omen of hope for the new year
by Kathy Nance, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (blog), Jan. 12, 2010
"In an earlier post, I wrote about local artist Julee Higginbotham and the shakers she constructed as the Midwest Pagan gift to people at the Parliament of World Religions. I didn’t write that she had the absolute faith that one would go to the Dalai Lama.
[...]
“The shakers passed through hundreds of hands with blessings for world peace and for understanding between different yet similar religions,” River said. “We were all tremendously moved that we were able to give one to the Dalai Llama.”

The other three went to representatives of indigenous people. To me, that was fitting for two reasons. First of all, this year’s Parliament had an emphasis on indigenous faiths and the lessons they have for healing the earth. And of course, modern Paganism as it is practiced in the U.S., Australia and Europe owes a tremendous debt to indigenous peoples and religions.

One shaker was always dedicated to His Majesty Robert Daagbo Hounoun, world wide leader of the Vodun Hwendo faith. Hounoun, a resident of Benin, is a member of an African interfaith organization, Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa. Other leaders in that council had denominations that could easily afford the trip to the Parliament of World Religions. Hounoun did not. The Pagan members of the Parliament of World Religions board and many U.S. Pagan groups helped raise money for his trip. His Majesty is the first member of an African indigenous religion to attend the Parliament of World Religions, River said.

The remaining two shakers went to Australian Aboriginal leaders. One went to Professor “Auntie” Joy Murphy Wandin, AO Senior Woman of the Wurundjeri People. Her group is known as the traditional owners of the Melbourne area. She gave an official welcome to the Parliament, and spoke movingly of the need to preserve the Earth for our descendants.

The other went to “Uncle Bob” Randall, Yankunytjatjara Elder and Traditional Owner of Uluru (Ayers Rock). Uncle Bob is a member of a group the Aboriginals call the Stolen Generations. From about 1869 to 1969, Aboriginal children were subject to forcible removal from their families. The children were then placed at government institutions or mission schools. Uncle Bob was taken from his family at age 7."
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ARS ARCANA: The secret science of Magic in the Roman World
by Jan Claus, The Roman Forum, January 12th, 2010
"The term magos (magician, and thus mageia, magic) originally refers to the Persian sacerdotal caste, the Magi (or Chaldeans), responsible for most of the religious practices in the oriental courts.
To the stern and dignified Greeks of Classical times, magic did not appear to be a Greek practice and thus its origin was placed in the mysterious and enticing East, a land of wonders and arcane wisdom. Yet a Greek term existed, namely goes, whose etymological origin brings us back to an ancient Greek shamanism where ritual funerary lamentation brought on a trance that accompanied the dead to the underworld.
This ancient form of shamanism fell into disgrace with the birth of urban society; the histrionic, wild practices of the Magician contrasted openly with the ordered nature of urban society and its religious establishment.
[...]
The rise of Christianity sought to establish a clearer divide between religion and magic, casting the latter in the shadows of ignominy and persecuting it because it was ‘inspired by Satan’. During his rule emperor Constantine passed laws against all forms of ‘superstition’ – despite Pagans’ retort that Jesus himself possessed the attributes of a magician. The heyday of magic in Europe was well and truly over.
That said magic continued to be practised by night under the silver rays of the full moon, in a quest to further mankind’s ancestral desire to understand and control nature."
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Some Thoughts on Spells and Spellcraft
by Gus diZerega, Beliefnet.com (blog), January 12, 2010
"In my understanding, spells are rooted in three assumptions which I believe are well-founded. First, that everything is in some sense conscious and therefore accessible to other consciousness. In short, there are no purely inviolable boundaries separating one thing from another. From this perspective we are nodes, self-aware nodes, in a web of consciousness.

Second, that focused strong intent can cross boundaries that are relatively closed, and bring abut a response. We see this all the time at a mundane level. It also holds true at non-mundane levels. A well crafted spell is like a mental arrow penetrating an environment that would dissipate a less focused less energetic effort.

Third, in a sense everything can be considered as vibrations at different frequencies. All else being equal, (and it need not be), lower frequencies can be penetrated more easily than higher frequencies. Think of a rotating fan. When it turns slowly objects thrown against it can penetrate while when it is spinning rapidly, objects thrown against it are bounced off as if it were a solid barrier."
goddess and god

Shaman School, Salem Witch Trials, and Worshipping Images

Shaman School Open For Business
by Ron Hogan, Popular Fidelity (blog), 1/12/2010
"In the little Amazonian village of Cachoeira Uapui in Northwestern Brazil, an unusual group of students will be getting an education in folk medicine, Western medicine, the cultivation of medical plants, and all the metaphysical knowledge needed to care for the spiritual and health needs of indiginous people. This school, called Malikai Depan, is the first school for shaman in Brazil, possibly the world.

Founded by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in California, with supervision from cultural anthropologist Robin Wright and staffed by the children of a prominent shaman, the school aims to preserve not just knowledge, but an entire way of life that is threatened by Western-style homogenization."
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Arizona Curriculum Theater To Resurrect The Salem Witch Trials
Broadway World, January 12, 2010
"Ever wanted to go back in time to witness some historical event? Arizona Curriculum Theater (ACT) will give you that chance. In March, the troupe will open a new original play based on the actual court transcripts from the Salem Witchcraft Trials. The play, called Salem:1692, will run every Friday and Saturday in March at 8:00 PM. Performances will take place at Soul Invictus, 1022 Grand Ave., Phoenix, AZ."
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The chief justice appointment issue
by Emil Jurado, Manila Standard Today, Jan 12, 2010
"Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales advised the more than two million devotees of the Black Nazarene who participated in last Saturday’s procession not to overdo their devotion. They should instead live a life of simplicity and selflessness.

I had expected the good Cardinal to do much more than that. The annual procession of the image of a Black Christ carrying His Cross has become an annual display of fanaticism. Millions of devotees with their kerchiefs and towels try to touch the image of Christ.

Santa Banana, many of the barefoot devotees believe they will see miracles just by touching the ropes of the Black Nazarene!

But to attribute miracles to a wooden image is pure fanaticism. It is against the Second Commandment.

In fact, attributing miracles to images like the Black Nazarene has pagan origins. Before the Spaniards came, our ancestors worshipped wooden images called “anitos.” To reconcile the practice of worshipping images with the religion they were introducing, the colonizers decided to put images in churches."