(Pagan) News of Note

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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!