I have a few news stories I wanted to share before tomorrow’s Winter Solstice, starting with a look at the annual pilgrimage for Saint Lazarus in Cuba, that not only draws devout Catholics, but devout adherents to Santeria as well.
“Several thousand people walked to the church during the morning clutching bunches of mauve gladioli, pink bougainvillea and fat cigars to leave as offerings to the saint, who also symbolizes the deity Babalu-Aye in the Afro-Cuban Santeria faith. Experts explain this fusion of Santeria and Christian figures by saying that African slaves in Cuba originally pretended to worship the Catholic saints of their Spanish masters while secretly paying homage to their own deities.”
The Reuters article notes that religious expression, particularly Catholic religious expression, has become more pronounced in Cuba since the Pope John Paul II’s visit in the late 1990s. However, despite this relatively recent religious openness, Cuba is still rated as the least religiously free country in the Americas by a recent study of global restrictions on religion released by the Pew Forum. Santeria was initially suppressed by the Communist government, though those restrictions have lapsed over the decades, especially now that the faith draws in tourists interested in witnessing rites, or receiving initiations.
Over at the Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith religious blogging brain-trust, Starhawk weighs in on whether action regarding global warming is a moral imperative.
“Responding to climate change is the moral imperative of our time, and people of spirit and faith can play a vital role in helping us make this crucial transition. God, Goddess, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Krishna and the Great Spirit know that the politicians aren’t doing it! Watching the manipulations, stalling and deceptions going on in Copenhagen is enough to make us wonder if the Goddess really knew what she was up to in involving human beings–or if she simply didn’t finish the job … we need real commitments. What if every church, synagogue, mosque, temple, and Pagan grove committed to reduce their carbon footprint by the 90 percent that we truly need to reach by 2050? What if they started study groups and chevras and support groups to help people learn the skills and fund the projects and make the changes together?”
In addition to calling for stronger leadership on this issue within religious communities, Starhawk will also be attending the upcoming Gaza Freedom March along with 1300 other activists and notables, including Alice Walker and Roger Waters. You’ll be hearing more about her participation in this event soon. It should be interesting to see what ramifications, if any, her 2008 deportation from Israel will have.
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald conducted a Nielsen poll concerning religious belief, and found that 6% followed “obscure faiths” like Wicca, while 22% of the total population believe in the existence of witches.
“Committed Christians are even more likely to believe in witches (35 per cent). This may surprise many, but not Pastor Daniel Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries, who in October this year organised a prayer offensive on Mount Ainslie after the discovery, it seems, of an altar for black masses. It was, said Nalliah, “the work of dark forces wanting to cast spells on Australia and Federal Parliament [which Mount Ainslie overlooks] – witches have been at work to tear down the fabric of the robust democratic system of Australia through spells”. The offensive appears to have worked.”
The manner in which the survey and the results were conducted and reported didn’t please some local Pagans, who didn’t like being lumped in with UFO-believers, Jedi, and other “obscure” religions. That the 22% who believed in witches weren’t superstitious, just “informed”.
“…the 22 per cent who said they believed in witches are not necessarily superstitious but just informed. In the last Australian census more than 22,000 people admitted to following a pagan religion, many of them Wiccan or witches. To put this in perspective, this is more people than the Australian followers of the Jains, Ba’hai and Sikh religions combined. At the recent World Parliament of Religions hosted in Melbourne, witches and other pagans had their own educational stream just like the Christians and Buddhists. As for the 78 per cent who don’t believe in witches . . . I don’t believe in you either.”
That’s all I have for now, have a happy Solstice tomorrow. If you are looking for some Pagan-friendly holiday music, why not check out my just-posted A Darker Shade of Pagan 2009 Winter Holiday Music Special. It’s sure to put you in a proper Winter-feasting, welcoming-the-light-back sort of mood.