Resurrection Sunday and Links

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 24, 2011 — 28 Comments

Today is Easter/Pasha/Resurrection Sunday, when it is said that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Rather than give a barrage of “how pagan is Easter” type stories, I thought I’d leave you with a few non-Easter related links to look over today when you’re not busy finding eggs, eating candy, or dressing up like a witch.

Easter Witches in Sweden.

The Ganges in New York: The New York Times reports on how Hindus near Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York have turned the body of water into a local Ganges, a place to leave offerings for a variety of rituals. The problem is that the large number of offerings are disturbing the local habitat and creating an eyesore for park officials.

“We call it the Ganges,” one pilgrim, Madan Padarat, said as he finished his prayers. “She takes away your sickness, your pain, your suffering.” But to the park rangers who patrol the beach, the holy waters are a fragile habitat, the offerings are trash and the littered shores are a federal preserve that must be kept clean for picnickers, fishermen and kayakers. Unlike the Ganges, they say, the enclosed bay does not sweep the refuse away. The result is a standoff between two camps that regard the site as sacrosanct for very different reasons, and have spent years in a quiet tug of war between ancient traditions and modern regulations. Strenuous diplomacy on both sides has helped, but only to a point. “I can’t stop the people and say, ‘You can’t come to the water and make offerings,’ ” said Pandit Chunelall Narine, the priest at a thriving Ozone Park temple, Shri Trimurti Bhavan, who sometimes performs services by the bay. “We are at a dead end right now.”

The article does a good job of capturing the tensions as both sides try to find a workable compromise. I feel that as religions that engage directly with nature grow these tensions will continue. I anticipate that this will not be the last story I read about religious groups and law enforcement confronting how offerings impact a particular area.

A Queer Theology: In his latest Patheos.com column, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus confronts the “queerness” of theology within modern Paganism.

“I mentioned in an earlier article in this column that some modern Pagans have suggested that theology doesn’t really have a place in modern Paganism, and that Paganism as a religion isn’t really appropriate to the concerns of theology.  It was mentioned on that earlier occasion, though, that ancient Pagans in Greece and Rome invented most of the vocabulary of theology—including the term itself. The reservations of some modern Pagans on theology are understandable, and the ways in which Christianity has dominated the discourse on theology for the past several millennia are certainly a concern and something of which any Pagans actively engaged in theological work should be aware. Nonetheless, it is an area that is not only historically relevant to Paganism and polytheism, but one that is quite necessary to confront for modern Pagans.”

As always, Lupus is thoughtful an well-worth reading. Be sure to also check out his wonderful personal blog.

Who Gets Their Religious Freedom Protected: There’s a general election being held in Canada on May 2nd after the conservative government collapsed in a no confidence vote. It is in this context that Canadian Pagan and philosopher Brendan Myers looks at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to create an Office of Religious Freedom, and wonders whose freedoms it will work to protect.

“…given the Christian fundamentalism that dwells in the Reform Party’s agenda (pardon me, the Conservative Party’s agenda), therefore you can bet that this office will almost certainly not be used to help voudouisants in Africa, Tibetan Buddhists in China, Jews in Palestine or Muslims in Israel, or for that matter any religion at all which is not Christian. The only exceptions, the only non-Christian religions which this office might support in other countries, would be religious communities that are wealthy and well-organized enough in Canada to pressure the government to help their co-religionists in other countries.”

It seems that conservative Christian outlook in Canada isn’t too dissimilar from their brethren in the United States.

That’s all I have for now, have a happy Sunday, no matter what your activities or beliefs.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://twitter.com/CelestialElff @CelestialElff

    Lovely Post thank you,
    thought you might like my Eostre/Equinox machinima film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lZ-YKIeXww
    Happy Easter :D
    elf ~

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    What adorable witches!

    It's funny how they have painted freckles. Do witches stay out in the sun too much?

  • Gareth

    A carefully cultivated park is still part of nature.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      As are the people using it. But it's a lot less resilent and demands a lot more maintenance; it's kind of "artificial nature."

    • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

      As someone who drives past the area in question every day on my way to work I can say that JB is probably the closest bit of nature we have in NYC outside of Central park.

      • fyreflye

        But it's not the Ganges and NYC is not India. I've seen the real Ganges and like India itself it's one of the most polluted places on the planet.

        • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

          Okay? I never said that it was. I actually meant to post it as a reply to Gareth up there but.

  • elnigma

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/20

    If someone's "offering" to a place is something destructive to an area they call sacred, they missed the point, haven't they?

    • Cathryn Bauer

      Thank you! I was just about to post something very similar. I consider an offering something that will benefit the land, like our coffee grounds (great for soil, particularly alkaline soil like we have on the eastern edge of the SF Bay Area), and the waste that's left from the juicer. You can tuck that under spreading leaves, like under a lavender bush or in dense greenery. That's an offering the earth really appreciates. Suggest a compromise, like the cloutie wells of Great Britain where pieces of cloth are tied to a particular tree — one particular tree. I'm sure that where access to the living earth is so limited, these careless "offerers" are stirring up a lot more resentment than respect.

    • Christine

      It's a shame that they can't build a shrine or some sort of perminate structure on the water front to serve as a dropping point where Hindus can dip thier offerings and then leave them before an alter so they don't pollute the bay but at the same time the worshippers can feel as though thier offerings have truly been made.

      There has to be a happy medium here.

      • Lonespark

        Yeah, that's what I thought of, too. Reminds me of shrines in Thailand when I lived there. That would probably be tricky to work out with the overlapping juristictions and the various levels authorization required. And then there would need to be some kind of foundation to fund people to deal with the offereings…Of course now I'll go find though further reading that this has been tried and didn't work for some reason…

        • Christine

          The land is owned and managed by the National Parks so all approval would need to go through them. The trick would be convincing them that this is a good idea. If the temples in Queens think it's a good idea, they can probably arrange fundraisers and get grants to pay for it and get volunteers to deal with the offerings.

          I can see some Christian opposition to having a Hindu shrine housed in a national park but hey… they want the 10 commandments displayed in courthouses, why not shrines in our national parks too!

          • elnigma

            I'm not sure I'd like to see tons of shrines established over all the national parks. Some of those places are quite holy IMO but the rule "take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints" (and even there, avoiding treading certain delicate or dangerous areas (also perhaps leaving thanks, a few financial donations to their maintanance, and a few good wishes) seems to me what is respectful.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Lupus gets in his own way by insisting on his own definitions of spirituality and religion, and on the relationship between the two, before he even gets into talking about theology. This limits the appeal of the whole column if (like me) one does not agree with the earlier definitions and claims of relationship. Shorter would have been better.

    • sarenth

      To me that amount of prefacing is necessary given how misused the terms tend to be. That, and he has his own interpretations for those words pursuant to his arguments. So I agree it does limit the scope by predefining terms, but from a practical point of view if he didn't he might have to do a lot more explaining in the comment section.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        But when he actually got down to discussion of theology it didn't depend especially on his definitions of religion or spiritiuality.

  • Farrell McGovern

    Re: Brendan's comments are Harper…It's has been repeatedly reported that Harper is a Neo-Con from the same roots that George W. Bush comes from. Here is a good article on the subject:
    http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2005/11/29/HarperBus

    "What do close advisors to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement."

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      The problem with neo-conservatism isn't the influence of Leo Straus. Many neo-conservatives also often happen to be ex-trotskyists (srsly). The problem with neo-conservatives is that they are a bunch of warmongering hyper-nationalists.

      • Brendan Myers

        It might be worth my while to explain a little Canadian "inside joke" which appeared in the part of my blog post that Jason quoted here.

        The present day Conservative Party of Canada is not the party of traditional Progressive Conservatives from 20 years ago. It is, instead, a product of a merger between disaffected social conservatives among the old PC's, and a socially conservative, capitalist, libertarian, and populist movement that emerged in Western Canada in the late 90's, called the Reform Party. Hence the links which appeared in my text, which do not point to the Conservative party's Wikipedia page.

        The Reform Party, led by Preston Manning (a capitalist libertarian) and later by Stockwell Day (a capitalist libertarian and also a Christian evangelical) was very popular for a while. It even became the Official Opposition once. But it wasn't able to gather much support from outside Western Canada. The Liberal party was able to take advantage of a split in the right-wing vote between Reform and PC, and so remain in power for something like 11 years. There was a "Unite the Right" movement for a while, which created a short-lived right-wing party called the Alliance (led by Stockwell Day), which then evolved into the Conservative Party we have now.

        Stephen Harper is a former member of both predecessor right-wing parties: Reform and Alliance.

        Thus the present day Conservative party is not the party of Brian Mulrooney and Joe Clark, nor even John A. MacDonald. It is the party of Christian conservative libertarians, most of them from Alberta, and most of them heavily involved in the oil industry.

        Comparisons could be made with the Republican Party of America. But Canadian conservatives are not really as warmongering as their American counterparts, nor any more or less nationalist than people in other parties. They seem to care more about the economy than about nearly anything else. Some, in the past, openly spoke of a sovereignty-association with the USA, with a common immigration policy, a common border, and a common currency, as part of their economic 'package', so to speak. As a close second, they care about Christian conservative "family values" like anti-divorce, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc.

        Now if those are the kind of people you want running the country, then vote for them. But don't be mistaken about who they really are.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

          Thanks for that fascinating snapshot of the Canadian Right! Do any of the Canadian conservatives make an issue out of divorce to the point of proposing any kind of legislation to try to limit or discourage it? I think that is one area that US right-wingers have shied away from, although in many countries (especially heavily Catholic ones) this is a major issue for the Christian right (up to and including outright legal prohibition of divorce altogether, which I would love to see the fundies try to push here in the US).

          • Nykti

            I can't say I'm as well read into politics as Brendan is (and thanks for the information on that, btw! It's something that's certainly not taught in school (at least mine), and I took most of the politic classes), but I haven't heard anything trying to discourage or limit divorce. I may be wrong, but Canadians don't generally like it when people come into office and try and pass bills that tell them what they can and can not do, even if it doesn't effect them. It's sure to even get a Conservative tossed out of their riding. I'm not sure if it's out of us leaning more to the left of the political spectrum, or a sense of laziness ("I seriously don't want to go through this again."). As a bitter Western Canadian who wants to get the people around her to get serious into voting (which is hard, because we're so poorly represented compared to Eastern Canada for so long, most people adopt the attitude of "Why bother? Nothing is ever going to change."), I'm inclined towards the latter. But like I said, I'm being bitter about the whole thing.

            I just personally can't see anything like that happening. As right-wing fundie as some of them can get, none of them want to jeopardize their seats/ridings on something that could potentially piss a lot of Canadians off.

          • MoonJoy

            One former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, is on the record for saying something to the effect of "The state has no business in people's bedroom." That, I think sums up Canadian mentality in divorce issues. If someone was trying to prohibit divorce here, they'd get metaphorically hanged publicly.

          • Brendan Myers

            Regarding divorce: not really, not to my knowledge anyway.

            We've also had legal same-sex marriage here for over a decade, and it has clearly not produced the great social calamity that conservatives warn of. As former PM Pierre Trudeau put it: "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation".

  • Pitch313

    Offerings–How about we all offer all the bags, cups, bottles, wrappings and all that we gather at grocery stores and fast food restaurants and the rest to the Lords and Ladies of the Highways, Greenspace, Lakes, Rivers, Streams, Esuaries, and Oceans?

    Oh wait! We used to. Until the refuse piled so high that we passed laws against doing stuff like this.

    Overseas Hindus are, I hope, responsible folks who get that they aren't living in India. Let them understand that their nieghbors observe different civic customs for the good of the entire community. I, for one, do not accept that there exists a "religious right" to litter or to pollute here in this country.

  • Neorxnawang

    My take on offerings: Keep them biodegradable—use your damned brain.

    As for the lack of Easter/Eostre/Eostremonath coverage here; what the hell is with this hyper-skepticism? The linguistic elements check out as a cognate to other Indo-European dawn goddesses (stemming from the surprisingly reconstructable Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess—widely accepted in modern Indo-European studies) and that, combined with the fact that there’s no evident reason for Bede to have just pulled the goddess out his hat (and Anglo-Saxon paganism still existed during his time), make for a pretty strong combination.

    The issue is not the strength of the evidence, but rather elements of the Christian community being unable to cope with using a holiday bearing the name of a pagan goddess, and thus attempting to find any possible angle, no matter how remote or complex, to debunk the Bede’s straightforward explanation. That said, the smarter among them would just use “Paschal season” or, simply, passover.

    One of the select few modern holidays that directly and obviously descends from the Anglosphere’s native paganism and what gets a mention here? A Jesus narrative.

  • Neorxnawang

    I wanted to comment on the horrendous Gurdian article above, but the comment section was closed. However, as some readers here may well find these comments of interest (Easter comes around every year), here is my intended response:

    “What a misleading and poorly researched article! Playing debunker is fun, but before one goes off on a ramble about how “no evidence exists for Eostre outside of Bede”, one might want to first turn to modern scholarship on the issue.

    Had the author of this article consulted said modern scholarship on the matter, he would have ran into the single strongest piece of evidence standing in the way of the hyper-skepticism expressed regarding Bede’s attested Eostre: the linguistically reconstructed Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess who is held by various modern scholars in the area of historical linguistics to be the linguistic predecessor of Eostre (around 4,000-5,000 BC). It is by no means odd to assume that, like other Indo-European peoples (see cognates such as Greek Eos, Latin Aurora, Old Indian Usas, and Lithuanian Ausra), the Germanic peoples would have had a cognate goddess; which “Eostre” linguistically checks out as. Now, unless Bede had a time machine to 19th century, Bede pulling said name out of his hat is highly unlikely indeed.

    But who are these scholars? Well, just some of the best known in the field, such as J. P. Mallory. So, as you can see, it’s not just the neopagans making these claims, who you so happily use as a straw man.

    On top of this, it needs to be mentioned that pre-Christian Germanic deities /do/ repeatedly pop up on the folklore record, particularly in Scandinavia, despite your hint to the contrary, and there is, indeed, evidence of churches intentionally built upon pagan holy sites (the Aarhus cathedral comes to mind).

    And pagans claiming “wrongful treatment” to ancient pagans bothers you? Well, were you just hoping someone wouldn’t be familiar enough with the medieval period to mention something like, say, Charlemagne’s infamous “Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae”?

    Seriously, before calling people out on research, you ought to first do your own.”

    • Nick_Ritter

      Well said! It's a pity that you weren't able to post this at the site.

  • Neorxnawang

    Thanks, maybe someone will catch it next time the holiday comes around.