Thursday, August 19, 2010

Indian seer donates blood to create awareness

This is a short piece that simply states how a seer in India, named Chandrashekhar Swami, donated blood at a clinic. This doesn't seem to be a very exciting story to American eyes, but I wanted to point out that this is a good thing. To embrace spirituality and live out it's principles is good, and there is certainly a lot we can learn from people practicing indigenous faiths around the world. However, it is also very nice to see a person who will do more than simply blindly follow and encourage others to drop needless superstitions that hurt themselves and others in the long run. In a country with as many health care and poverty issues as India, I'm sure that this may be especially important. I will probably never meet this man, or even see his name in the media again, but I laud his efforts.

The Times of India
Full article

Shadow Stonehenge discovered at historic site

This is kind of old news by now, but in case you haven't heard, there was a secondary ceremonial site located almost 3,000 feet from Stonehenge, the famed monument in southern England. British archaeologists say that it is the first significant discovery in the area surrounding Stonehenge in fifty years. It has two entrances, one at the north-east, and the other at the southwest of the circle which contained a burial mound as well. The site was not found by digging but rather through subterranean scanning technology. It's detailed uses are obviously not known, but it's archaeological implications are huge.

NPR
Full article

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stone age dwelling Britain's oldest surviving house

An ancient dwelling, dating back as far as 8500 B.C. has been found by a team of archaeologists from the Universities of Manchester and York in Yorkshire County in the United Kingdom. It is a rare find that hints at having been rebuilt several times. It may be so old that the house may have been built when the British Isles were still part of the European mainland. A few artifacts have been found as well, the most interesting of which, are the tops of deer skulls which may have been used as masks. While this suggests ritual activities, it is far too early to begin speculating on the function of the space, or very much else detail for that matter. There are a couple of pictures included in the original article, which is linked to at the bottom of this entry.

CBS News
Full article

Virginia woman fights 'fortune teller' label

In Chesterfield County, Va., it is apparently required to submit five references to the chief of police to ask for a business license if you are going into business as a fortune teller. When one woman, Patricia Moore-King wanted to open a business as a spiritual counselor, she was denied on the basis that she had to go the route of setting up as a fortune teller. This eventually led to her suing the county, claiming religious discrimination because of the fortune teller label.

This is an interesting case because to most people this would probably seem a trivial difference between titles, if they recognized any at all. Most Pagans would see the difference, I think. A fortune teller uses methods of divination to attempt to forecast future events. A spiritual counselor uses divination methods, perhaps even the same ones, to communicate with deities or spirits to attempt to find solutions to the client's problems. I wonder however, what would be said if charismatic and evangelical spiritual leaders of the Christian faith were made to file for a business license as fortune tellers for offering services where people claimed revelations from the Christian god and spoke in tongues, for instance. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Moore-King gets very far with this lawsuit.

The Washington Post
Full article

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart?

The Washington Post reports in the column, On Faith, that Julia Roberts has recently made public that she and her family are practicing Hindus. This seems to be a recent development tied in with her role in the movie adaptation of the book, 'Eat, Pray, Love.' Roberts is certainly not the first celebrity to garner attention for proclaiming a faith that is seen as outside the mainstream by Western society. Examples range from Richard Gere, a practicing Buddhist, to more infamous examples, such as Scientologist Tom Cruise and Madonna's practice of Kaballah.

What is interesting is that Julia Roberts has, for a couple of decades, inhabited a particular role in American pop culture: That of "America's sweetheart." While someone like Madonna can practice Kaballah without raising too many eyebrows, and Buddhism is viewed as eccentric, if not largely benevolent, in the West, Hinduism is dotted by a landscape of religious practice that most Protestant Americans would not be comfortable with. It is distinguished with a rich, full history and practice including temples, chanting, material offerings, etc. that, at least on the surface, appear to be very alien to most of Christendom. The comments at the bottom of the column seem to take the stance that this is all irrelevant. I'm not so sure that it is as irrelevant as it first seems. When Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010, won her current title, she was immediately put on display for public scrutiny because of her heritage linking her with Islam. Granted, there is a quite a bit of Islamophobia currently present in our culture for various reasons. However, the same could be said for laying flowers down at the feet of deities who most Protestant Americans would view as polytheistic in nature, despite the monotheistic self-identification of Hindus.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if there is any backlash for her apparent conversion. If there isn't, then maybe we are ready for more spiritual diversity, even among the places we most expect people to fit a particular mold.

The Washington Post
Full article

Tunnel might provide insight into pre-Hispanic culture

Teotihuacan is a site in Mexico that has seen nearly a century's worth of archaeological exploration, and still very little understanding of the culture and civilization that flourished there. The city itself may have housed as many as 100,000 people, and by the time the Aztecs found it in the 1300s, it was already deserted. One of the central mysteries that remains is the identity of it's rulers. Virtually nothing is known about them, and several expeditions have hoped to turn up the burial sites of these rulers and returned empty handed. This is most peculiar in light of the fact that they are the only pre-Hispanic civilization that deified their rulers, and did not have so much as a depiction of these rulers.

Recently though, the ground began to sink at the foot of the Temple of Quetzacoatl, leading researchers to dig there. After eight months, it has finally been confirmed to be a tunnel that may very well lead to an underground complex of burial chambers answering these questions once and for all. However, it will be another two months of digging before these tunnels are ready to be entered by archaeologists.

San Francisco Chronicle
Full article

Monday, August 16, 2010

The loss of a leader: Isaac Bonewits

When I was much younger, I happened upon a few articles by Isaac Bonewits. I was, at the time, far more interested in Wicca, and having come from a Catholic background, was convinced that what I needed to do most was to recreate some sort of impervious belief system that could withstand the onslaught of competing ideologies. I ignored the writings of this man, and the writings of many others. Tried as I might, the systems always failed. How could one face the obvious archaeological implications? How could the myth of the humans who had no idea of the male role in procreation stand against modern anthropological findings? The answer was simply that they could not. Not knowing how to deal with this, I found comfort in the most basic of religious principles, housed in the construct of the Catholicism that I had grown up with, simple devotion. For a while, I knew not who to address my prayers to other than the Great Mother. For me, She was the Moon. And, for a time, I became the most simple of Pagans, truly worshiping what I found in nature. There were certainly worse things to be than a moon worshiper. And sometimes, I still address my prayers to Her, for She sustained me for so long.

After a while though, I longed for more. When I did not find it in Wicca, I began to question whether I had even found the right path, and began to look elsewhere. When I found Druidism, and ADF, I suddenly was able to grasp the idea of a tangible, realistic Pagan worldview and worship, and at the same time let go of what I thought was the necessity of dualism. I was able to let go of the longing to find the one true path, and was able to embrace a spirituality teeming with presence and interaction. I always wanted to meet Isaac in person and tell him how grateful I was to have found what he had started. I knew that I was simply one among many, but I was overflowing with gratitude. I also understood the great idea. I understood that not only were we bringing back the idea of daring to worship the old Gods, but that we were bringing the discussion of Them back into the mainstream as had not been done in a very long time. I wish that I could tell him this in person, but I hope that he somehow knows the implications of the work he accomplished in life. May the Gods and Ancestors guide and bless him and his family.

Isaac Bonewits Memorial on the ADF website
The Wild Hunt posts on the passing of Isaac Bonewits
NPR's Margot Adler remembers Isaac Bonewits