Archives For Venezuela

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

  • Moonhenge in Cambridgeshire was recently dedicated and blessed by local Pagans. Quote: “For Jo-Ann Childs, a druid from ­Huntingdon, the experience was ­particularly spiritual because she said she had dreamed about the henge during a trance three weeks before the artist Derek Massey’s design appeared in The Hunts Post. She said: ‘It was exactly what I saw in my dream – tonight is a dream come true.’ Ms Childs, 72, a retired anaesthetic technician, has been a druid for many years. She explained that by blessing the site, druids hope it will be a sacred place for everybody, no matter what their religion.” Moonhenge is a wooden replica of Stonehenge built in honor of the land owner’s late wife, and featuring 19 outer trees representing a lunar cycle. BBC News notes that there’s a bit of bother over planning permissions, though nothing too dire it seems.
  • The Christian obsession with witchcraft continues unabated, with spiritual warfare peddler Landon “The Rev” Schott‘s new book entitled “Jezebel: The Witch Is Back” that will “equip and empower you to wage spiritual warfare aggressively” against “Jezebel’s diabolical characteristics and behaviors.” Quote: “Her assault will continue until all of God’s people are dead or defeated. Jezebel’s bloodlust for death and destruction will only be stopped when met with spiritual violence.” This is hardly the first book about the “Jezebel spirit,” she’s practically a household name among certain Christians (see here, here, here, and here). So what happens when you explain away everything from depression to simple illness to witchcraft? Do you start looking for scapegoats when your “spiritual violence” isn’t enough anymore to keep things as Christian and stable as you would like? Make no mistake, we’re considered a “symptom” of Jezebel’s reign.
  • For some time now I’ve been covering the Phoenix Goddess Temple saga. Were the practitioners devout tantric healers, or was it merely a front for a prostitution ring? Now, two years after the temple was raided and shut down by police, founder Tracy Elise will be headed to trial in October, and will be representing herself. Quote: “According to court paperwork, Tracy Elise has fired her attorney and has chosen to represent herself in court. Two years ago, police raided Elise’s church, known as the Phoenix Goddess Temple. Investigators claimed it was a house of prostitution, but parishioners said they were just practicing their religion.” For the curious, Elise has a Youtube channel where she outlines some of her beliefs. We will be covering this story as it continues to develop.
  • The trial of psychic matriarch Rose Marks continues, with gripping testimony back and forth over how successful her services were, and whether she was merely conning people for lucrative pay-outs. Quote: “Walker said she became unhappy, though the psychics felt they’d had successes: Walker’s husband had returned to live with her before he died; no child had been born; and Walker’s legal team had negotiated an initial payment from the estate to Walker.” My previous reporting on this story can be found here, and here.
  • Bloomberg, Salon.com, and Discovery all write about the deteriorating water supply in Caracas, Venezuela. While Bloomberg largely focuses on the political and structural failures that are causing the unsafe water, the others seem to focus in on Santeria practitioners dumping dead animals into local reservoirs (which the processing plants are unable to filter toxins from). Quote: “Witch doctors regularly dump animal sacrifices into the reservoir meant to quench the thirst, clean the dishes and wash the clothes of 750,000 Venezuelans, reported Bloomberg. As a result, citizens of one of the most dangerous, crime-ridden cities in the world, Caracas, Venezuela, can’t even take a drink of water from the tap safely. The 60-year old water treatment plant at the reservoir lacks the ability to filter out the toxins from the putrefying carcasses.” None of these articles seem very balanced to me. The problem isn’t the dumping per-se, if it is indeed as pervasive as claimed, the problem is a decaying infrastructure, law enforcement, and a political system in turmoil. The bad water is a symptom of a problem far larger than dead animals.

  • Self-help “Secret”-peddler James Arthur Ray, currently free on parole after serving two years for negligent homicide in three 2009 sweat-lodge ceremony deaths, has decided to drop his conviction appeal. According to the Associated Press, Ray “wants to avoid the possibility of a retrial and resentencing.” Quote: “I wish to ensure the prompt, complete and definitive termination of these criminal proceedings by dismissing this appeal and allowing the conviction and sentence to stand undisturbed.” In other words, the appeal to his not-that-harsh sentence considering 3 people died was generating a lot of criticism, and he feared that being sent back to prison was a real possibility if a new trial went forward. So perhaps this is the end of the James Arthur Ray saga? Let’s hope he sinks into a quiet and isolated retirement.
  • BBC News Scotland has the tragic story of how one abused girl’s testimony was manipulated into what would be known as the South Ronaldsay child abuse scandal in 1991. Quote: “The tiny Orkney island of South Ronaldsay became the centre of a worldwide media storm in 1991 when nine children were removed from four families following allegations of satanic sexual abuse. Two decades on, Esther, who was the child at the centre of the scandal, believes none of it would have happened if she had spoken out at the time.” Esther has published a new book entitled “If Only I Had Told.”
  • Interfaith activist Andrew Luisi says that Indian culture teaches us plurality. Quote: “India has taught me that there are endless paths to reach the same destination. Hindus believe in many deities, but ultimately and regardless of the deity they choose to worship, they believe that they will be lead to the same truth. To this point, Hindus believe that they are worshipping the manifestation of the deity in the specific image that they are performing the puja, or religious ritual, to. It is not as if each Hindu believes that the image is the deity because most understand that divine power is greater than any one physical figure; divinity is present anywhere in the world and at any time.”
  • The Revealer interviews Ronald L. Grimes, ritual theorist, and author of “Deeply into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage.” Quote: “His book “Deeply Into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage“ (University of California Press, 2000), for example, mixes personal accounts of the ways people have performed rites of “hatching, matching, and dispatching” with theoretical approaches to those rites. Through his detailed explanations, Grimes also makes arguments for why rites of passage matter, not just as an academic discipline, but for our lived lives. These passages are difficult, when fully comprehended, and it takes performance, imagination, and community to work through them. Crucially, they have to be updated, changed, and “re-invented” to continue to have impact.”
  • Paganism is resurgent, and thus, people are throwing away babies. Modern Catholic thought in action folks.
  • Matt Hedstrom at the Christian Century admits that a “come-one, come-all” open prayer policy would unfairly favor Christianity, but can’t bring himself to endorse either “ceremonial deism” or complete elimination of opening invocations. Quote: “As Stephen Prothero recently reminded me, many evangelicals and fundamentalists actually supported—for this very reason—the landmark 1962 Supreme Court ruling in Engel v. Vitale, which banned school-sponsored prayer. Fundamentalist leader Carl McIntire made this point clearly: ‘Prayer itself without the name of Jesus Christ’—whom the prayer in question did not name—’was not non-denominational prayer—it was simply a pagan prayer.’ McIntire continued: ‘No Government agency or power in the United States can be used to establish a religion.’ Prayer without Jesus represented a religious orientation, one McIntire found objectionable.” Again, this is why the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway is so important.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Let’s start off with some updates on past stories, first off Sarah Pike, author of “Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community”, reports on the Dan Halloran story for Religion Dispatches. Pike ultimately sees his candidacy as a positive sign of modern Paganism’s entry into the mainstream.

“It would have been impossible to find a Neopagan like Halloran running for political office twenty years ago, when most Neopagans kept their identities carefully guarded for fear of losing jobs or child custody battles. In neighborhoods all over the country, Neopagan communities have been treated suspiciously and outright persecuted by some Christian neighbors, law enforcement, and government agencies. Since for many Americans, the Republican Party is inseparable from conservative Christianity, Neopagans were surprised that the party stood by Halloran, and took it as a sign that not only is the makeup of the religious left and the religious right shifting, but that the country as a whole is becoming more receptive toward their religion.”

As for Halloran’s campaign, he’s trailing badly in the fundraising department, but has benefited greatly from the city’s matching funds program (which his Democratic challenger opted out of). The two candidates are scheduled to debate on October 24th, I’m sure many of us will be watching to see if religion is brought up.

Now we turn to another ongoing story, the death of two participants (and hospitalization of others) in a sweat-lodge ceremony lead by New Age “Secret” peddler James A. Ray. Commentary on the issue, as you can imagine, has been fast and (mostly) furious. New Agers and Natives in Arizona are undertandably split on the issue of Ray’s sweat-lodge use, historian Al Carroll, one of the founders of New Age Frauds Plastic Shamans (NAFPS), is asking Oprah to apologize for promoting him, and Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle has made an official statement.

“Our First Nations People have to earn the right to pour the mini wic’oni (water of life) upon the inyan oyate (the stone people) in creating Inikag’a – by going on the vision quest for four years and four years Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted – to recognize that you have now earned that right to take care of someone’s life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture; in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate. What has happened in the news with the make shift sauna called the sweat lodge is not our ceremonial way of life! When you do ceremony – you can not have money on your mind.”

Meanwhile, James Ray reportedly broke down in tears at a scheduled speaking engagement in Los Angeles, saying that he grieved for the families and is “being tested” by these events. Let’s hope his contrition is genuine, because another sweat-lodge victim is in a coma with multiple damaged organs, and two more remain hospitalized. Authorities have also noted that the sweat lodge didn’t have a permit to be constructed, and that there was a past mishap in its use in 2005, also lead by Ray. For even more, check out the Newspaper Rock blog.

Turning to other events, Mollie at Get Religion has totally got my back this week. She looked at coverage of the James Ray sweat-lodge deaths, and debunked one-sided press speculation that roaming goats were Santeria sacrifices.

“But while we get tons of perspective from animal rescue groups, there is literally not one practitioner of Santeria whose views are included. We don’t even hear from a professor or other expert who could speak about Santeria. And finally, I’m unclear how these live, wandering goats are related to animals killed as part of a religious sacrifice. Maybe we could just get some explanation on that front.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m really happy to see Get Religion start to dip its toe in the waters of minority faiths, especially Santeria and its practice of animal sacrifice, becasuse press coverage of those topics is especially bad.

If you’re a Pagan who needs his bladed weapons to meditate, maybe you shouldn’t wave them in the face of a policeman.

“He told police he had travelled the world and needed the weapons to meditate with in a peaceful place. Thornton, 46, of no fixed address, was committed to Bradford Crown Court for sentence by the city’s magistrates for carrying an ornamental dagger and a lock knife in Buttershaw on June 13. On bail, he drew a sword in the city centre five days later and waved the weapon at a Police Community Support Officer.”

The world-traveling homeless magician was sentenced to two years imprisonment (for two seperate offenses). Proving, I suppose, that “religious purposes” isn’t some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card you can wave anytime you do something stupid.

Inside Jersey takes a look at the “real” vampire subculture in New Jersey, with all the usual stopping points about blood-drinking, safety, ethics, interviewing Michelle Belanger, sparkly pop-culture vampires, and such. But what really caught my eye was this little tidbit.

“Their August event featured a pagan rite performed by a guest from outside the court. It was an animal sacrifice; a lizard was dispatched for a good harvest. That was followed by a vampire town hall. There was a debate, an election for magistrate and Q&A session addressing tensions between clans.”

A lizard? For a good harvest? Did lizards suddenly become a livestock animal? Or was that the only animal they thought they could stomach killing? I’m sorry, I try not to judge regarding people’s rituals, but this seems, well, wrong. Not wrong because they sacrificed an animal, but wrong because it sounds like a failed attempt to be “dark” and “shocking”. I’d really like to know what tradition the lizard-killer is from, and what the ritual format for this “harvest sacrifice” was.

In a quick final note, be sure to check out the AP article about Maria Lionza followers in Venezuela, you may remember that I did several stories about the socio-political importance of the goddess Maria Lionza years back on this blog.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

A major news story making the rounds has concerned photos of an “uncontacted” indigenous tribe in Brazil, sparking debate over the treatment and rights of these isolated communities. While some, like Peruvian oil and gas interests, contest that there is no such a thing as an “uncontacted” tribe, others, most notably Survival International and CIPIACI, have urged the Brazilian government to ensure the protection of their territory.


Uncontacted Indians in Brazil, May 2008
© Gleison Miranda/FUNAI

“There are more than one hundred uncontacted tribes worldwide, with more than half living in either Brazil or Peru. All are in grave danger of being forced off their land, killed and decimated by new diseases. Survival has launched an urgent campaign to get their land protected…”

Now a third party, evangelical Christian missionaries, have weighed in on the subject of these tribes. Unsurprisingly, they want to foray in and “contact” them with the love of Christ, damn the consequences (such as decimating them with disease).

“It’s hard to understand how providing medical care and literacy is exploitation, especially among indigenous groups where the life expectancy of men and women is lower than average and suicide rates among youth are alarmingly high, but New Tribes and other mission organizations may face increasing opposition as governments like Venezuela’s and Brazil’s restrict outside access to tribes. In the process, those governments seem to be promoting the ideology of the “noble savage” and assuming it’s in the best interests of indigenous people to have no access to the modern world, or to the gospel.”

The article also casts aspersions on Venezeula for kicking them out, despite a long history of missionary groups (particularly New Tribes Mission) committing acts of ethnocide, espionage, and outright insurrection in the country. These Christian missionary groups are also not fond of the recent Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations, which enshrines the right to religious integrity.

“The UN Declaration, adopted in September of 2007, grants broad national rights to natives and contains language that could cause problems for … missionaries.”

What sorts of “care” and “literacy” would groups like New Tribes Mission provide if allowed to evangelize these Indians? Here is a quote from a typical “teaching session” given to a recently contacted tribe.

“As John taught about the Ten Commandments he held up a mirror, showing the Ayores how he could look into it and see himself. Then he took mud and spread it all over his face. The people thought it was hilarious, but John brought out the seriousness of the lesson. He told them how, in the mirror, he could see the dirt all over his face and that God’s Law was like a mirror. It showed people how they are dirty (sinful) before God.”

You see, indigenous people need to be taught that they are dirty sinners (under constant divine surveillance), and that only conversion will get them “clean”. I can’t see how we could deny the missionaries this opportunity, after all, according to Pope Benedict they are “silently longing” for it! So remember, according to missionaries, cultural and religious integrity, freedom from diseases they have no immunity to, and land rights come second to the old carrot/stick scenario of “progress” in exchange for your soul.

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 8, 2008 — 2 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Yesterday was the Chinese New Year (the year of the Rat), and April Rabkin of Slate.com details how China’s Communist government has worked over the years to eliminate Taoist and indigenous religious traditions associated with the holiday.

“Perhaps the most significant blow to Chinese New Year was the government’s decision to forbid the annual burning of the Kitchen God, whose paper effigy hung above the stove … for more than 50 years, the Kitchen God’s effigy has been censored material. While low-ranking gods like the Lords of the Door, who guard courtyard gates and inner doorways, were more tolerated, the Kitchen God was not. In the more traditional countryside, peasants evaded censors by printing the Kitchen God at home on crude wooden blocks. But many young Beijingers I recently asked had never heard of the Kitchen God. Others laughed sheepishly, as if he were a national embarrassment – the equivalent of still believing in Santa Claus as an adult.”

Some Chinese are hopeful that Hu Jintao’s recent announcement concerning an easing towards Marxist attitudes on religion might translate into allowing a return to more traditional forms of New Year’s celebrations. However, it remains to be seen if the Chinese government, long an enemy of religious freedom, will truly change course on this matter or if it is simply a public-relations gesture.

Turning from China to Venezuela, the Associate Press reports that an influx of Cubans into the country has helped spur a rising interest in Santeria.

“[Santeria] rituals have become an attractive option for Venezuelans seeking a unique spiritual path, including healing ceremonies aimed at curing everything from illness to heartache. Some even believe certain gods will offer protection from Venezuela’s rampant violent crime. The surge in Santeria, which is practiced by many in Cuba, can partly be explained by the arrival of thousands of Cuban doctors in Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez has been providing Cuba with subsidized oil in exchange for thousands of physicians who come to the South American country to treat poor people … The Santeria movement nowadays cuts across racial groups and class lines and includes lawyers and other professionals as well as the unemployed among its adherents. In spite of rapid economic growth propelled by Venezuela’s key oil industry, people here face problems from crime and inflation.”

The article also mentions the local folk religion surrounding the Indian goddess Maria Lionza (a subject this blog has covered before), which has also been flourishing under the reign of President Hugo Chavez. For more on Venzuela, check out Slate.com’s recent travelogue of the country.

On the political front, American’s United has issued a statement calling on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to reject a federal court nominee partially because of his hostile stance towards minority religions.

“On Feb. 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider the nomination of Richard H. Honaker to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. The Rock Springs, Wyo., attorney promotes the idea that the U.S. Constitution creates a Christian nation and that government need not remain neutral on religion … [AU executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn] argued that Honaker has also shown a striking callousness to minority faiths. The Wyoming lawyer has suggested that democracy and freedom prosper only because of Christianity and that other faiths pose a danger to such freedom. ‘A judge with such an opinion of minority faiths is unlikely to be able to fairly and objectively adjudicate issues affecting their freedoms and rights,’ wrote Lynn.”

I doubt anyone is surprised that George W. Bush has nominated a judge who has an “abrasive” view of non-Christian faiths. Honaker’s appointment to the federal bench would be completely detrimental to the health and safety of minority (non-Christian) religions in the United States. Let us hope that the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee (chaired by Patrick J. Leahy) shows some backbone concerning this appointment.

The satirical site Avant News has spoofed John McCain’s recent troubles with Republican-party conservatives by claiming he burned a Witch in order to get into their good graces.

“Republican presidential candidate John McCain burned a witch yesterday outside his campaign headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, in a gesture some political analysts believe was intended to dispel accusations by rivals that the political veteran may possess dangerously moderate tendencies.”

The “quote” from Rush Limbaugh about the Witch-burning was a real treat.

The Cedar Creek Pilot interviews Chad Owens, author of the recently published “Working For Death”. Owens, who wrote the book while recuperating from a car accident, talks about his religious journey from conservative Christianity to Paganism.

“In high school, I preached under the conservative Church of Christ,” Owens said. “But I didn’t know the person in the mirror. So I walked for a month – Dallas, Mississippi, Tennessee, San Antonio, Austin. Then I did a series of articles against the church on online boards and posts under an assumed name, Adrian Gray. I?have pagan beliefs now. There are many different beliefs out there, but the point is, we all have beliefs and argue about them, but we’re all here on Earth in the same boat, living and trying to find our place.”

The profile doesn’t delve further into what Owens’ “pagan” beliefs are, but apparently his book details a war in the “realm of the gods”. Which seems to hint at a predilection towards polytheism.

The Revealer looks at the beginning of a backlash against the spiritually self-centered book phenomena that is “Eat, Pray. Love”.

“They’re the victims of Gilbert’s spiritual snake oil as surely as fans of The Secret or Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel who’re encouraged to respond to economic woes with magical thinking. No health insurance? Forced to work double shifts? Can’t afford enough heat? The problem, dear reader, is spiritual, not material. Join a union? Forget it. Work with a church group to demand legislative change? Stop worrying so much. All you need is love, and 15 bucks for a paperback to read on the train.”

Oh, Oprah Winfrey, so much to answer for.

In a final note, the Feri community has produced a CD of poetry to help Feri co-founder Cora Anderson with her medical and care costs.

“Here is a sneak peek at the CD of Victor Anderson’s poetry that I am using as a “Thank You” gift for donors to the Corafund (like PBS pledge gifts). I will have a limited number of the CDs at Pantheacon at Anaar’s booth in the dealer’s room. For Pantheacon, the CDs will be a gift for donors to the fund who donate at least $10. After Pantheacon I will be sending out CDs to people who currently subscribe to recurring monthly donations and to those who have donated $20 or more in the last 2 months. However, the idea going forward is to use the CD to encourage new donors to subscribe to the recurring donations. More details later.”

Among those reading Victor Anderson’s poetry for the CD are T. Thorn Coyle, Sharon Knight, and Storm Faerywolf. It looks like an amazing collector’s item that also benefits a very worthy cause.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

The Christian Broadcasting Network has filed a report after the swearing in of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who was re-elected last month. Perhaps unsurprisingly, CBN correspondent Dale Hurd seems pre-occupied with Chavez’s religious beliefs.

“Chavez is a syncretist (fusing different religions) and a neo-pagan, according to a conversation I had in Caracas with a Danish cultural anthropologist, himself a non-christian, who was studying Chavez’ beliefs from an academic standpoint. He told me that for Hugo Chavez, the only value of Christ and Christianity are as sources of Marxist imagery. He also said that Chavez views himself as a type of Christ.”

The report then goes on to mention Chavez’s expulsion of New Tribes Ministry (whom he portrays as innocent victims) and anti-Catholic statements made by the Socialist president. The piece ends with some red-baiting.

“Meanwhile, Chavez, as a self-depicted type of Christ, continues to establish his Marxist kingdom in Venezuela.”

While I think that Chavez’s religious views are an interesting topic of reporting, I don’t think a news agency founded by Pat Robertson (who publicly called for the assassination of Chavez) should be taken seriously on any topic regarding Venezuela or Hugo Chavez. Sadly it seems that most reporting on Chavez can’t move past his outlandish statements to investigate his unique blend of socialism, Christianity, and indigenous beliefs. Chavez is neither the savior he would like to be seen as, or the demon many right-wing critics paint him as. It would be great to see more nuanced reporting on this issue.

In Venezuela one of the largest religious cults is the one devoted to the goddess Maria Lionza. She is the central figure in a religion that incorporates elements of indigenous belief, Catholicism, and Santeria. Back in 2004 a much revered statue of the goddess toppled over backwards at the waist. This was read by some anti-Chavez factions in Venezuela as an omen that his administration would soon topple (Hugo Chavez was facing a recall referendum at the time). Despite the political storm, most Marialionceros (and their goddess) called for peace.

Maria Lionza

Maria Lionza

Two years later the statue has been repaired and unveiled in time for the annual pilgrimage honoring Maria Lionza.

“Several thousand Venezuelans made an annual pilgrimage to pay homage to the Indian goddess Maria Lionza, while a refurbished statue of the revered religious figure was unveiled after a two-year restoration effort. Followers of the religious sect walked through sugarcane fields to a river near the Sorte Mountains, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) west of Caracas, to perform rituals after dusk Wednesday. The glow of candles lit up the group, including Reinaldo Pinto, who said he acts as a “medium” through which believers communicate with the goddess and summon her “court” of deities. “We come to make offerings to the queen for fulfilled promises,” said Pinto, 37, who wore only a pair of red shorts and beaded necklaces.”

In the two years since the statue toppled Venezuela has stabilized quite a bit. Though Chavez is much-hated by certain elements in the country (and by conservatives in America who see him as another Castro), his popularity has remained strong amongst most Venezuelans and he is expected to easily beat the opposition in December elections. No doubt the restoration is something of a political act, symbolizing Chavez’s vision of a unified country. The real controversy at this point is where the statue will end up.

“University and city officials are at odds over the original statue’s future destination. The university, which owns the statue, insists it should be returned to the highway. City authorities, citing pollution and vibrations from passing vehicles as factors that caused the statue to collapse, argue it should be moved to a plaza.”

So it seems like Maria Lionza’s journey isn’t over yet. One hopes that the placement of the statue won’t be used to generate more omens for the political right or left.

The splitting of the statue of cult figure Maria Lionza in Venezuela has made the news again. The BBC investigates the political ramifications for the country, they even interview the goddess herself.

” In his incense-filled office three blocks from the parliament building, Priest Rafael Albis dons a shiny white robe, scents his hands with magical perfume, and, with a paroxysm of shuddering, is miraculously transformed into the goddess herself. “What message does her fall hold for the nation?” asks a reporter present at the event. “If the people want violence, there will be violence; if they want peace, there will be peace,” replies a feminine voice from Albis’ huge torso. “I want peace for the world.” Whatever the message, nobody interprets the goddess’s crisis as positive for Venezuela. – Mike Ceaser

In even more Pope news, modern pagans should watch their step.

“The Vatican is holding a special summit with Catholic leaders from around the world, hammering out a way to deal with so-called “New Age” religions and fads that pose a “threat” to Christianity.”Jeannette Walls (“MSNBC,” June 21, 2004)

“This is an enemy with dozens of heads: the version of the Jewish kabbalah espoused by Madonna, the Enneagram personality-reading cult, ancient Egyptian occult practices, Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, medieval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Yoga, Zen Buddhism, and many more.”Peter Popham (“The Independent,” June 16, 2004)

Hey, didn’t the Pope just apologise for the Inquisitions?

In Venezuela one of the most beloved cult figures is The Cult of Maria Lionza.

“The legend has it that Maria Lionza was an indigenous princess that was abducted by an anaconda snake, the master of the lagoon. God punished the crawler by making it so swollen that its burst apart at the seams. The blowup caused a great flooding that killed off the entire tribe the princess belonged to. The girl became the master of the lagoon, the rivers, the jungle and the wild animals.”

Recently the famous statue of Maria Lionza toppled over backwards at the waist. Despite warnings by experts that the statue was in grave danger, it is being spun by anti-Chavez media as being an omen of the left-wing President’s downfall in the upcoming August recall referendum.

“”It’s all coming to an end. The abuses against us and this country are ending. We are going to see liberty, truth,” said Tamara Escalona, a faith healer who also happens to be a critic of President Hugo Chavez. The fact that the statue fell backward to face the sky means Maria Lionza is asking God for assistance to resolve the crisis, she said.”Fabiola Sanchez (AP)

Hugo “Bush is an asshole” Chavez, who is popular among the poor in Venezuela, is hated by the elites who own the majority of media in the country and feed US news sources on Venezuelan issues. This has been eaten up by the Bush team as they push for a leader more in line with their thinking (especially about their oil).

“The Bush administration has been pushing for “regime change” in Venezuela for years now, painting a false and exaggerated picture of the reality there…Reporting on Venezuela relies overwhelmingly on opposition sources, many of them about as reliable as Ahmed Chalabi. Although there are any number of scholars and academics — both Venezuelan and international — who could offer coherent arguments on the other side, their arguments almost never appear. For balance, we usually get at most a poor person on the street describing why he likes Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, or a sound bite from Chavez himself denouncing “imperialist intervention.””Mark Weisbrot (CEPR)

In the end it looks like the faith of the people of Venezuela has been manipulated to prove that the recall referendum is divinely annointed and not merely the work of structural damage and vandals.