Tags: uk

goddess and god

Druids recognized as religion for first time in UK

Government finally recognises Druids as a bona fide religion
This is Somerset, October 05, 2010
​They were the wise men and leaders of society across the West long before the Romans came, but now, finally, the Druids who gather at the likes of Stonehenge, Avebury and Glastonbury Tor have had their religion recognised officially by the Government.

The recognition came in a typically understated and bureaucratic British way, with the Charity Commission accepting that The Druid Network, the umbrella organisation for druid orders across the UK, could have charitable status.

That move establishes Druidry as a bona fide religion under English Charity Law for the first time ever, giving the religion of the white-robed druids the same legal status as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

The key ruling recognises that The Druid Network, the first druid group to gain charitable status, exists to “advance religion for the public benefit”.


Druids recognized as religion for first time in UK
By Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press, Oct 2, 2010
"Druids have practiced for thousands of years in Britain and in Celtic societies elsewhere in Europe. They worship natural forces such as thunder and the sun, and spirits they believe arise from places such as mountains and rivers. They do not worship a single god or creator, but seek to cultivate a sacred relationship with the natural world.

Although many see them as robed, mysterious people who gather every summer solstice at Stonehenge — which predates the Druids — believers say modern Druidry is chiefly concerned with helping practitioners connect with nature and themselves through rituals, dancing and singing at stone circles and other sites throughout the country believed to be "sacred."

Ancient Druids were known to be religious leaders, judges and sages among the Celts during pre-Christian times, although little evidence about their lives survived. There are now various Druid orders and about 10,000 practitioners in Britain — and believers said the numbers are growing because more people are becoming aware of the importance to preserve the environment.

The Druid Network fought for nearly five years to be recognized under the semi-governmental Charity Commission, which requires proof of cohesive and serious belief in a supreme entity and a moral framework."


Druids gain official recognition
‎By Phil Gast, CNN News Service, The Keene Sentinel Friday, October 15, 2010
"“There is a sufficient belief in a supreme being or entity to constitute a religion for the purposes of charity law,” declared the Charity Commission for England and Wales in response to the Druid Network’s application.

The decision will give the neo-pagan religion, known for its cloaked worshippers at Stonehenge and other sites, tax advantages and is expected to lead to broader acceptance.

In some ways, Druidry in Britain is catching up to Druids and other neo-pagans in the United States, which already provides tax-exempt status for religious groups, said Marty Laubach, associate professor of sociology at Marshall University."


Halloween falls on Sunday; some want to trick or treat on Saturday
‎Kate Larsen, News10.net, 10/15/2010
"David Shorey. a practicing Druid (a form of Paganism) with Sacramento (CA) Grove of the Oak, says "Halloween or as we call it Samhain, is a time to honor the ancestors, look at the past year and honor those who have passed on."

Shorey recognizes that Halloween has evolved into a secular holiday for most Americans and says he and his fellow Druids celebrate with candy and costumes as well as in a traditional Pagan manner.

"We're actually going to be celebrating on the following weekend where we're going to do an ancestors feast, where folks come together and bring a dish that recognizes and honors their ancestry," Shorey said."


Druids as an official religion? Stones of Praise here we come
‎Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, Oct 3, 2010
"Will someone please tell me this is all a joke. Until now, Druids have been regarded indulgently as a curious remnant of Britain’s ancient past, a bunch of eccentrics who annually dress up in strange robes at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice.

However, according to the Charity Commission, they are to be recognised as a religion and, as a result, afforded charitable status, with the tax exemptions and other advantages that follow.

After a four-year campaign, the Commission says it accepts that the Druids worship nature and that they also believe in the spirits of places such as mountains and rivers, as well as in ‘divine guides’."


The Feral Beast: Mad Mel conjures up Druid rage
The Independent, Sunday, 17 October 2010
Melanie Phillips is always game for a little controversy but did she know what she was getting into when she took on the Druids?

Her Daily Mail column dismissing their claim to be a religion has drawn thousands of complaints. An online petition demanding an apology has gathered over 4,000 signatures and a complaint has been lodged with the PCC. The letter accuses Mad Mel of riddling her column with inaccuracies. But is this the way to go about it? Why not invite her for a day at the henge? Who knows, she might like the eccentricity of it all.
goddess and god

UK News: Pagan Police, Humanist Police, NHS Spiritual Care Guide

Sefton and West Lancashire Pagans hit out at UKIP attack over holidays
By David Simister, Champion News, 19 May 2010
"The region's Pagan community has reacted with uproar this week after a political party branded moves to let police officers celebrate their festivals as “madness”.

Pat Regan, founder of the Pagan Anti-Defamation Network, told The Champion on Monday, May 17, 2010, that a statement sent out by the UK Independence Party describing a ruling allowing Pagan police officers in Lancashire and Merseyside to take time off to commemorate their festivals as “politically correct madness” was offensive, and called for UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall to resign.

“I was saddened, shocked and appalled at recent comments made against the UKs Pagan minority by Paul Nuttall, MEP for the UK Independence Party. This type of negative diatribe against an innocent spiritual minority may in fact breach UK laws relating to Incitement to Religious Hatred. He may also be in breach of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and in particular articles 18 and 19. If Mr Nuttall values his own freedom of expression then he should be prepared to extend this essential liberty to others,” he said."

Pagan police ‘madness’
RochdaleOnline.co.uk, 17/05/2010
"The right for pagan police officers to celebrate their festivals has been described by a Euro MP as “politically correct madness.”

The Pagan Police Association has just been officially recognised as a ‘diversity staff support organisation’ by the Home Office.

This means chief constables cannot refuse pagan officers’ requests to take official religious holidays, which will be given the same respect as Christmas for Christians, Ramadan for Muslims and Passover for Jews.

There are believed to be about 500 pagan officers - including druids and witches.

“I was appalled to hear of this ridiculous decision,” said Paul Nuttall, MEP for the UK Independence Party.

“These pagan festivals include believers behaving with unabashed sexuality and promiscuity, casting spells and dancing around naked. It is politically correct madness of high order.”"
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Humanists join a police force chaplaincy for the first time
Daily Mail, ‎May 17, 2010‎
"Humanists have joined a police force chaplaincy for the first time.

The two lay advisers are working as part of the team of volunteers who support frontline officers and staff at Hertfordshire Police.

Pam Burn and Ray Owen, both experienced in giving advice in other organisations, started this month.

Humanists have joined a police force chaplaincy for the first time, supporting frontline officers and staff at Hertfordshire Police

Their chaplaincy support team members have several beliefs, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and pagan.

Force spokesman Superintendent Simon Hawkins said: 'It is vital that our police officers and staff can have a choice that is compatible with their religion, belief or faith.'

British Humanist Association chief executive Andrew Copson welcomed 'the inclusive and progressive instinct' that led to their appointments.

Humanists do not follow a god or gods. They believe science provides the only reliable source of knowledge about the universe and that morality is based on human nature."

BHA: Hertfordshire constabulary first force to add humanists to their chaplaincy team
politics.co.uk, Monday, 17, May 2010
"Constabulary has become the first force in the country to have Humanists join their 20-strong voluntary team.

Pam Burn and Ray Owen, who both have extensive experience in giving advice and support in other organisations, started this month. The chaplaincy support team is currently composed of people from a variety of belief groups, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Pagan.

Superintendant Simon Hawkins, lead for faith, religion and belief, said: "As we have sought to expand and provide a more diverse chaplaincy support service, I am really pleased that we have the services of Humanists within Hertfordshire Constabulary. "
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NHS lessons for pleasing pagans
Express.co.uk - Dean Herbert - ‎May 18, 2010‎
"A new 64-page etiquette guide entitled “spiritual care matters” has been produced for doctors, nurses, and midwives.

It includes an exhaustive guide to avoiding causing offence to a dozen separate religious groups including Scotland’s estimated 2,000 Pagans.

Followers – including wiccans, druids, shamans and heathens, who worship Norse gods – believe that Mother Nature is the most powerful influence on earth. Their religion also embraces ecology, witchcraft and Celtic traditions.
[...]
The densely worded medical document was produced by NHS Education Scotland (NES) alongside the findings of a dozen focus groups which revealed that Pagans believe they are the most victimised patient group.

A “newly delivered Pagan mother” told researchers: “All I did was to hold my newborn baby towards the sunlight in the window and utter a prayer to the Sun-God, from whom all energy and life ultimately comes.

“Unfortunately, by lunchtime all the other mothers, and even some of the staff, were convinced I was a witch.”
[...]
Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Wasteful spending on patronising literature like this has to stop.”


The NES last night refused to reveal the cost of producing the document.

But Ewan Kelly, the body’s programme director for spiritual care and healthcare chaplaincy, said it would ensure “sensitive spiritual care”.

He added: “This dimension of care is vital if patients are to receive person centred quality healthcare as envisioned by the Scottish Government’s new Quality Strategy.”"
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goddess and god

UK Police get Pagan Holidays, Dalits Build Temple to English

Pagan police get right to take festivals as holiday
Times Online, May 10, 2010
" Being serving police officers, they would no doubt leave their sun worshipping, mead drinking and naked dancing for their days off, not to mention the annual practice of leaving food out for the wandering dead.

As of today, however, pagan police have the right to take their festivals as official holiday after their support group won formal recognition from the Home Office.

The Pagan Police Association was announced by co-founder PC Andy Pardy, who, when he is not patrolling the beat in Hertfordshire, is a heathen worshipper of Norse gods including Thor and Odin.
[...]
Pagans, including druids, witches and shamans, will have to take their official religious festivals as holiday days, but each day is given the same respect as Christmas for Christians, Ramadan for Muslims and Passover for Jews.

Pagan officers will also be allowed to swear upon their own religion in court now, pledging to tell the truth not before God but by what “they hold sacred”.
[...]
One officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “When they talk about political correctness gone mad, this is exactly what they are talking about.

“I mean, what has it come to when a cop gets time off so he can sit about making spells or dance around the place drinking honey beer with a wand in his hand?”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves.” "


Pagan cops get eight new hols
The Sun, Monday, 10 May 2010
A PAGAN police support group which gives cops the right to take EIGHT oddball holidays each year has been launched today.


Tolerance of paganism now a symbol of civilised society
Times Online, May 11, 2010
"For centuries, Christianity, Judaism and Islam were regarded as the marks of civilisation in Western Europe as they supplanted the beliefs of ancient civilisations. But these beliefs never disappeared. Even in the City of London, with nearly 50 churches in one square mile, the ancient guardians — the giants Gog and Magog — housed at Guildhall, are carried in procession in the annual Lord Mayor’s Show as they have been since the reign of Henry V.

Today the wheel has turned full circle. Practitioners of witchcraft are no longer burnt at the stake — and it is a mark of civilised society that those who follow these beliefs are accorded the same rights as those who follow mainstream faiths.
[...]
In some quarters, paganism is gaining in its appeal to younger generations, disillusioned or bored with mainstream faiths.

Although the precise dateline is contended, many New Agers believe the world is moving from the Age of Pisces — the fish became a symbol of Christianity — to the Age of Aquarius.

This is in tandem with the rise of the green movement. Paganism fits well into the lives of this generation, where belief in a transcendent, male God is rejected for a feminine earth force or Gaia, seeking to right the injustices to nature wreaked by rampant materialism.

The election of Caroline Lucas, the first Green MP, is just one sign seen in some pagan circles as marking a new dawn. Internet forums have been debating whether volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are Gaia’s revenge."


Wicca's World
Times Online, May 11, 2010
"The Pagan Police Association stands alongside similar sub-groups for Muslim police, black police, Jewish police, gay police, Sikh police, though not yet Jedi police. Might this not be a good moment for police officers to go back to just being police?"

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D is for Dalits and E is for the English Goddess
D Shyam Babu, The Times of India, May 9, 2010
""Had Ambedkar not learned English, he would not have gone abroad," said Eash Kumar Gangania, "and had he not gone abroad, he would not have become Babasaheb for us."

Gangania, a teacher from Delhi, was speaking to 1,500 dalits in Bankagaon, a nondescript village near Lakhimpur Khiri in UP. The crowd was rapt as Gangania added that it all happened "because Ambedkar learned English," finally ending with a powerful and surprising message: "If you learn English, you too can scale the heights Babasaheb did."

Gangania's speech came on a special occasion — April 30, the day Bankagaon's dalits pledged to learn the English language as well as worship it as a goddess. It was the day they laid the foundations of a temple dedicated to "English, the Dalit Goddess".
[...]
As more dalit parents insist on imparting English to their children, the market will do the rest. At some point, the supply of English teachers is bound to meet demand, helping educators like Kamal Kumar offer English-medium education. However, two questions remain unanswered. One is the colonial taint of English. The lone foreigner at the temple event, Sussex university professor Marcus Wood, offers an answer. The British empire was responsible for the standardization of English, which paved the way for its emergence as a global language, "but now English does not belong to the English anymore". The dalits' quest for English is their attempt to find a voice. It has all the ingredients of an epic struggle. This goddess may not join the Hindu pantheon of 330 million but it could usher in an era of cultural rejuvenation for dalits. "
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goddess and god

'Christian' names, Wicker Man

Police told: don't ask for 'Christian' names, it offends
The Christian Institute, Friday, 19 March 2010
Police in Kent have been banned from asking for a person’s “Christian” name, in case it offends people from other faiths.

The call has been met with dismay, with one experienced officer calling it politically correct “nonsense”.

And the Plain English Campaign questioned whether there really was anyone from other faiths who would be offended.
[...]
"In July it was revealed that Pagan police officers were being allowed to take Halloween off as holiday.

It followed the Home Office agreeing to the establishment of a Pagan Police Association.

In September the chairman of a rank-and-file police group criticised forces for over reacting to political correctness. "
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Wicker Man burned to mark the start of spring
belfasttelegraph.co.uk, Monday, 22 March 2010
"A huge 20-foot Wicker Man was burned in Fermanagh at the weekend by mummers marking the end of one of the coldest winters in years.

The spectacular mock sacrifice by Aughakillymaude Community Mummers symbolically returned the ashes of last year’s corn and straw to the same field near Derrylin where they were harvested — marking the Spring Equinox and ensuring a fertile season in 2010.

But happily, no-one was burned alive inside the terrifying effigy — unlike in the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man.

Spokesman Jim Ledwith said the burning of effigies on key calendar dates such as the turning of the seasons remains one of the oldest and most widespread forms of pagan worship and is still practiced in such forms as Guy Fawkes Day and the burning of Lundy in Londonderry."
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goddess and god

'Jediism', Church Meetings in Homes, Health Science Teacher pushes Homophobia and Bible verses.

Political correctness strikes back: Jedi believer wins apology after being kicked out of Jobcentre for wearing a hood
By Andrew Levy, DailyMail.co.uk, 17th March 2010
"When benefits claimant Chris Jarvis was asked to put down his hood in a Jobcentre, he said he was entitled to wear it because of his Jedi 'faith'.

When he continued to wear the cowl despite repeated warnings, he was escorted from the premises by security guards.

Yet in a case which sums up the march of political correctness in the public sector, he has now received a grovelling apology saying that the government agency 'embraces diversity and respects a customer's religion'. 'Jediism' was made up for the Star Wars films.
[...]
The father of three now plans to sue Jobcentre Plus in Southend for discrimination, despite admitting he took up the 'faith' last year only as an excuse to wear hooded tops.

'I am a Star Wars follower. It means following the way of the Jedi,' he said yesterday. 'The main reason is I want to wear my hood up and I have got a religion which allows me to do that.
[...]
A spokesman for the Campaign Against Political Correctness said: 'This is the problem with the equality and diversity agenda. I'm sure when the legislation was being drawn up people didn't have in mind a Jedi who would sue because they couldn't wear their hood.'

In the 2001 census, 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi, making it the fourth biggest 'belief' in the country."
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Arizona Town to Rescind Ban on Church Meetings in Homes
FOXNews.com, March 17, 2010
" A controversial ban on church meetings in private homes in a rapidly-growing Arizona town could be rescinded as early as next week, officials say.
[...]
The pastor of the seven-member Oasis of Truth Church received a cease-and-desist letter from a code compliance officer in November to stop church meetings in Pastor Joe Sutherland’s home. That interpretation is "clearly unconstitutional," according to the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based legal organization.

"Christian church groups shouldn't be singled out for discrimination and banned from meeting in their own homes," ADF attorney Daniel Blomberg said in a statement issued last week. "The interpretation and enforcement of the town's code is clearly unconstitutional. It bans 200,000 Gilbert residents from meeting in their private homes for organized religious purposes -- an activity encouraged in the Bible, practiced for thousands of years, and protected by the First Amendment.
[...]
According to the code, which was last updated in April 2006, "religious assembly uses" are not permitted in single family residential structures.

ADF officials note that nothing in the town's zoning code prohibits activities such as Cub Scout meetings, Monday Night Football parties or business parties in private homes. The zoning code also explicitly allows some day care providers to operate in homes, ADF officials said.

In their appeal, ADF attorneys argued that the Constitution's Free Exercise Clause does not allow a ban on church meetings where all other meetings are permitted."
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Fresno City plans action against instructor
By Tracy Correa, The Fresno Bee, Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010
"In a March 8 letter to three students who complained, the school said its investigation found that instructor Bradley Lopez violated district policy and engaged in conduct that could create a hostile learning environment. The students were part of a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in February.

The letter from Christopher M. Villa, Fresno City's vice president of student services, said that Lopez's conduct could have unreasonably interfered with students' learning by making insulting comments directed at homosexuals. A copy of the letter was posted on the Web site of the college's student newspaper, The Rampage.
[...]
Magill also said that Lopez, who teaches health science, has not been reprimanded or notified of any pending disciplinary action. He said Lopez continues to teach at Fresno City and is not going to change the way he teaches.

The two-page letter from Villa said Lopez described homosexuals as "suffering from a mental disorder and advising psychological counseling as a remedy." Doing so, the letter said, violated district policy prohibiting comments based on sexual orientation.

Lopez also was found to have violated district policy by teaching religious material, which is inconsistent with Fresno City as a public institution. Villa said the instructor was not required to hide his religious belief, but should not have engaged in religious indoctrination as he did by assigning readings from the Bible.

The school also concluded that Lopez's actions are not protected by academic freedom -- a principle that allows instructors to teach controversial ideas without fear of punishment. The idea of academic freedom is that healthy exchanges with students can lead to thought-provoking discussions.

The college said it would "take appropriate action to address the violations policy and regulations and prevent them from recurring in the future.""
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goddess and god

1,000 people to light the length of Hadrian's Wall

1,000 people to light the length of Hadrian's Wall
by Ginny Light, Times Online, February 23, 2010
Times Online captures the dress rehearsal for an ambitious project that will link the 84-mile Roman wall in a line of light on March 13
"It is forbiddden to climb on Hadrian's Wall, to remove even a fragment of stone or to make a lasting imprint in the ground around it, but next month more than 1,000 people will set it alight.

The plan, on March 13, is to ignite a chain of 500 points of light along the 84-mile length of the wall to illuminate it in a line of flaming torches and flares.

Times Online was there to film the practice run, above, which saw 12 points of light ignited in a dress rehearsal. "
goddess and god

Witchcraft in the UK, Science and Christianity

Witchcraft is the most benign of all the silly religions
Tanya Gold, The Guardian, UK, Tuesday 16 February 2010
"Of all the silly religions – and I think that all religions are silly – I believe that witchcraft is the least dangerous and the most benign. It is also the least understood.
[...]
But the things that witches do agree on are benevolent. Witchcraft is the ultimate eco-religion. Witches love our planet. They are pagans who worship the stones and the trees through the prism of their god and goddess, by practising "the art magical". I don't know what this is exactly, because no witch would tell me. It sounds odd, and very time-consuming, but not dangerous. There are no witch Jihadis, and few witch proselytisers.

But I have seen Kate West, author of The Real Witches Handbook, harangue an audience at the Witchfest convention in Croydon to bully politicians into action on global warming, long before it was fashionable. "Go away and turn into a group of nagging witches," she shouted, dressed, incredibly self-referentially, as Grotbags from Emu's World. "We sing to the Mother Goddess and follow her through the cycles of the seasons. But do we stick up for her when she is in trouble?" She then laid into the curse of spray-can incense and battery-powered "flickering" candles – witches, on the whole, do not care about money.

Witchcraft is also a religion that venerates the female. During the witch trials, odd, different or freethinking women – outsiders – were tortured and murdered; it's all in the Vincent Price classic Witchfinder General (1968). Many female witches told me they were drawn in for this reason: there are no shaven heads in witchcraft, no shrouding of the female, no submission to the male. I suspect even Jedis think men are superior to women – the worship of the lightsaber is a telling clue."
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I found this interesting because just recently I was trying to explain to someone that Western Science is a Protestant Christian religion. That it was the child of European Christianity.

Faith and science were once friendlier bedfellows
By Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education, 4 February 2010
"While an early memorandum of the Royal Society declared that fellows would avoid "meddling with divinity, metaphysics, morals", its 1663 charter stated that its activities would be devoted "to the glory of God the creator, and the advantage of the human race".

Officers were even required to swear an oath on "the holy Gospels of God".

In reality, Professor Harrison said, "almost without exception, early modern natural philosophers cherished religious convictions, although these were not invariably orthodox. Some - but by no means all - made the point that they were motivated to pursue scientific inquiry on account of these religious commitments."

Far from being militant atheists, they "believed that the disinterested study of the structures of living things could offer independent support for the truth of the Christian religion, and refute atheism"."


The Templeton Foundation plays some more games
by PZ Myers, ScienceBlogs (blog), February 16, 2010
"They might as well argue that the people who built Stonehenge 5000 years ago were motivated by their pagan beliefs to study astronomy — the astronomy is cool, but animism is not hallowed by its antiquity."
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Atheists challenge Prayer, Imbolc Festival, Witch Hunts in Africa

Legal line of prayer unclear
Atheists challenge Fresno council custom
By Russell Clemings, The Fresno Bee, Feb. 12, 2010
" Whether an atheist group succeeds in challenging invocations at Fresno City Council meetings may come down to a legal distinction between "sectarian" and "nonsectarian" prayer.

Nonsectarian prayer -- promoting or endorsing no specific religion -- is allowed under a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision. But more recent court decisions have barred prayer that invokes the name of Jesus or otherwise crosses the sectarian line.

Where exactly is that line? That's not entirely clear.

The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent Mayor Ashley Swearengin a letter Monday complaining about the City Council's invocations, says it has written similar letters to six other California cities and is looking for a test case.

"We are contemplating the possibility of litigation in California," said the foundation's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor.
[...]
Gaylor said her organization hopes that, in the end, the Fresno council will opt to do without invocations, rather than trying to navigate the channel between sectarian and nonsectarian versions. But she said she's not confident that will happen.

"We're atheists," she said. "We don't believe in miracles.""
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Huge crowds turn out for Marsden’s Imbolc Festival
by Steve Catchpool, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, UK, Feb 13 2010
"MASSIVE crowds descended on Marsden last weekend for the acclaimed annual Imbolc Festival.

Jack Frost and Arctic winter chills were sent packing at the stunning festival, attended by excited people from near and far.

In fact more than 3,500 people – one of the biggest crowds for years – flocked to the Colne Valley village to see the fiery celebrations, organised by local enthusiasts and the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre.

The 2,000-year-old event featured performances by fire jugglers, fire-swingers and “human fireworks” and many revellers took part in the festival procession from Marsden railway station down to Tunnel End.

Thousands more gathered at the visitor centre to enjoy the fire circus, fire sculptures and the festival finale – a stunning fiery battle between Jack Frost, representing winter, and the Green Man, representing spring."
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Witchcraft-killings tension brews
By Mpume Madlala, Independent Online, February 15 2010
"A heavy police presence is still in place at Umlazi's E Section, where three homes were set alight by community members more than two weeks ago on suspicion that their inhabitants were practising witchcraft.

Mbongeni Zungu, 68, died of smoke inhalation when his home, which he shared with his wife Mildred, 58, grandchildren and children, was set alight in a mob rampage on January 29.

His funeral took place on Friday.

The chairman of the Umlazi community policing forum, Sihle Chiliza, said another family had to leave the area last week after they were accused of witchcraft after a neighbour had collapsed and died.

"We tried to calm the community members, who were very angry, but it did not work. We then decided to place the family in hiding because we feared that their home would be set alight," he said.

Chiliza said that at a community meeting on February 7, people refused to give up their suspicions that the victims were practising witchcraft.

"They also made it clear that they did not want the families back in the community. We then pleaded with them to allow Zungu to be buried at his home, as it was African tradition to do so. They agreed, but said the family should leave," Chiliza explained.

He said 11 people had handed themselves over to the police.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Vincent Mdunge, said the 11 suspects, who had been charged with murder, attempted murder, malicious damage to property and arson, had been released on bail. Police would remain in the area until the situation returned to normal, he said."
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Five women lynched over witchcraft
By Richard Adrama, New Vision Sunday, Uganda, 14th February, 2010
"A 90-YEAR-OLD woman and her daughter were last week lynched by a mob in Kucuala village in Zombo district on allegations of practicing witchcraft.

The north-eastern regional Police spokesman, Henry Alyang, identified the women as Veronica Diacwinya and her 40-year-old daughter, Celina Jokocibo.

Alyang said the mob picked five women at about 8:30pm and clobbered them with sticks and hoe handles.

The mob also reportedly burnt 18 huts in the homesteads of the accused.

“The attackers accused the women of bewitching their daughter, who recently became mentally impaired,” Alyanga said.

The other three, who were not identified, were rescued by the Police after a tip-off from the residents. They sustained serious injuries.

Six residents of the same village, suspected to have headed the mob justice, were rounded up by the Police during a cordon-and-search operation.

Alyang identified the six as John Nyalula, Awola Ajoge, Lenya Ayella, Vincent Nachiku, To Bin and Charles Alengo.

They were detained at Zeu Police station.

In a related incident, a man was lynched by a mob in Marro central village in Nebbi town on Friday morning.

According to Alyang, the man, who is commonly known as Dodo in Paidha where he worked as a butcher, was found in possession of a stolen goat which he was carryingn an un-registered motorcycle."
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goddess and god

Witch vs Green Party, Gods' Robes, Pendle Witch Camp, NZ Pagan Festival, Margot Adler, Hindu Pyre

Witch's poll hopes dashed after rejection by Greens
South Devon.co.uk Herald Express, February 13, 2010
"Ms Goldsmith said she had hoped to represent Torbay on green issues.

She said her lifestyle as a 10th generation hereditary witch was is in tune with the party's politics.

Ms Goldsmith describes herself as a female Shaman — Shamanka or wise woman — who practises the ancient arts to help students on their spiritual journey.

A Green Party spokesman did not make any comment on Ms Goldsmith's recent membership application.

He said: "Sarah Goldsmith resigned from the Green Party in May 2008. The South Devon Green Party will shortly run a selection process to find our general election candidate for the Torbay constituency.

"That candidate will champion our party's goals to preserve public services, restore the NHS, and create jobs to address the recession.""
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Gods’ robes marry tradition and innovation
By Tien-ying Hsu, Taiwan Today, 02/12/2010
"The robes worn by altar statues in Taiwanese temples are something to see, delicately embroidered with ancient Chinese characters or nature themes to accentuate the specific blessings that the gods offer.

Tim Chou, heir to a local traditional embroidery business based in the southern Taiwan County of Chiayi, has come up with unprecedented applications for these “gods’ robes.” One of the most striking is his design of tiny versions of the robes to protect and identify the paper-made lucky charms that pilgrims take home after worshipping a deity. These talismans are small and easily lost, especially when entrusted to children. Over time, one may also forget the specific blessing associated with a charm."
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Bewitching plans for 400th anniversary of Pendle witch trials
By Jon Livesey LancashireTelegraph.co.uk, 10th February 2010
" A YEAR-long programme of events is being proposed to mark the 400th anniversary of the trial and execution of the Pendle witches.

Adrian Lord, the man behind Pendle Witch Camp, wants to organise the series of events to take place in 2012.

He has offered to chair a committee aimed at securing funding for the festivities and coming up with ideas."
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Morrinsville prepares for pagan invasion
By Ali Ikram, 3news.co.nz, Thu, 11 Feb 2010
"Morrinsville will play host to the fourth New Zealand Pagan Festival, starting Friday.

Official statistics show that thousands of Kiwis follow the pagan way of life.

Nightline met with a member of the Order of the Oriental Templars, a secretive group that once counted infamous British occultist Aleister Crowley amongst its numbers.

Lionel Snell was dressed like an accountant on holiday. He's what's known as a 'chaos magician', and while he's used to people thinking that's a bit odd, so are a lot of things.

"Where I come from in England, there were these people who would meet in a temple where there was a field surrounding it where dead bodies were buried, and they'd kneel down in front of images of human torture and degradation and pretend to drink human blood and eat flesh," says Mr Snell.

"That, word for word, is an accurate description of a Church of England ceremony, but it complete misses the point.""
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Author, Margot Adler, to discuss paganism at Pacific
The Record, February 09, 2010
"STOCKTON, CA-- Margot Adler, an author and correspondent for National Public Radio, will lecture about paganism in America at 8 p.m. next Tuesday at the Long Theatre at University of the Pacific.

Adler is a practicing Wiccan. She is author of "Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today," a book considered by scholars to be an authoritative guide. Her most recent book is "Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit and Revolution."

Adler's lecture, "Paganism: Religion, Not Superstition," is part of Pacific's Colliver Lecture Series on religion.

The event is free and open to the public. Adler will conduct a book signing after the lecture. For more information, visit www.pacific.edu."
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Hindu healer wins funeral pyre battle
By Jerome Taylor, The Independent Religious Affairs Correspondent, 10 February 2010
"In the end they decided that Mr Ghai’s wishes to burn on a pyre enclosed within a large structure but open to the elements was not forbidden by the Cremation Act 1902.

In summing up his judgement Lord Justice Neuberger ruled: “Contrary to what everyone seems to have assumed below, and I am not saying it is anyone's fault, it seems to us that Mr Ghai's religious and personal beliefs as to how his remains should be cremated once he dies can be accommodated within current cremation legislation."

The landmark ruling paves the way for anyone in Britain – be they Hindu, Sikh, religious or non-religious – to opt for an open air cremation as long as they can find a crematorium which can conduct the cremations without falling foul of the strict environmental and public health regulations surrounding the disposal of bodies. Currently no such facility exists although the expectation is that some orthodox Hindus will hope to build one soon."
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Polish Nationalists oppose St. Valentine’s Day
by Gazeta Wyborcza, Polskie Radio S.A., 10.02.2010
"Posters saying “F**k Off Valentines, Noc Kupaly OK”, designed by Niklot, a nationalist organisation, have appeared on the streets of the Baltic city of Szczecin.

The organisation wants Poles to abandon the foreign tradition of celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day and go back to their roots, i.e. pagan rites.

Niklot claims that Poles should observe the Kupala Night, a Slavic fertility holiday traditionally celebrated on 23-24 June.

On Kupala Night young men would jump over the flames of bonfires and girls would float wreaths of flowers often lit with candles on rivers, attempting to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river.

Niklot, which opposes the mixing of cultures, languages, nations and races and considers revenge to be the basic right of every man, and is frequently accused of propagating fascism.

“We only refer to tradition, not radical ideology,” Ireneusz Woszczyk from Niklot has said, denying the accusations.

The Helsinki Federation for Human Rights claims that city authorities should wage war against the organisation and check if it has violated the law by pasting anti-Valentine posters with nationalistic slogans."
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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."