(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.

West African Vodun is taking an important step towards modernization as Togo passes new laws (with the blessing of the Vodun divinities) that forbids pressing young girls into the service of the priesthood after their initiation as adepts.

“After a three-year campaign, rights groups claimed victory over a way of life that they said cut the girls off from their own families, sometimes involved ritual scarring — and occasionally led to sexual abuse. But it took some intense lobbying of political and religious authorities in this small west African state — and, it would seem, the voodoo divinities — to get there … Voodoo priests say that several hundred young girls are baptised every year as voodoo adepts, or voodoosi, after lengthy initiation rites of between three months and two years. Under the old system, instead of rejoining their families after these ceremonies, they had to stay at voodoo convents to serve the gods.”

Under the new laws, it is a five-year prison sentence for anyone to take a child away from their family environment. This is a major shift in attitudes in one of the few countries where Vodun is still a major social and political power (60% of Togolese people are adherents of Vodun).

Speaking of Vodun, Speaking of Faith’s blog takes you behind the scenes of their recent episode on Vodou.

“About two years ago, Patrick Bellegarde-Smith wrote us a brief e-mail asking if we had produced shows on “African and African-derived traditional religions” and recommended several volumes that he’d edited on Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santeria, Brazilian Candomble, and Umbanda. Our former associate producer Jessica Nordell called him asking for suggestions for people that he thought could speak about Vodou intimately. He was forthcoming and recommended many voices, including Claudine Michel. But we quickly realized that he was that voice — a Haitian aristocrat who was not only a scholar of the tradition but a practitioner who discovered Vodou in his early adulthood. We found his personal story about rediscovering his heritage and the spirit of the people of his country utterly captivating.”

Check out SOF’s archive of programs for a wealth of programming of interest to our faith communities.

In a town like Salem, even the cops are psychic!

“A retired Salem cop who swapped his badge for a crystal ball is still sleuthing – with backup from his friends from beyond the grave. Professional psychic medium Chuck Bergman, 57, spent 32 years pounding the beat in the Witch City, but says that since retiring five years ago he is finding old habits die hard. Initially skeptical of his “gift,” Bergman says he is now channeling the spirits to help police and desperate families find missing loved ones from coast to coast.”

Forget “Medium”, I want to see a police procedural set in Salem with a psychic cop! Maybe CSI: Salem? Forensics and Witchcraft, I’d watch it.

The Modesto Bee interviews a group of atheists about their struggles for tolerance and respect, including a self-described Pagan atheist.

“Shawna Amaral, a 22-year-old Modesto caregiver, said her parents and grandparents were Christians who never went to church or read the Bible when she was growing up. “They were too busy,” she said. “Since nobody was there to teach me basic religion, I just came to believe that I can’t believe in a god or a higher power or anything. “When I was 16 or 17, I discovered paganism, an earth-based religion. You don’t have to believe in in a god or goddess, so I still consider myself an atheist in that way.” Amaral said she lived in Alabama for a couple of years. When she told people she was an atheist, ‘they’d call me a devil worshipper and said I’d go to hell. I’d laugh at them and ask how I could go to hell if I didn’t believe in it to begin with.'”

I wonder if she has read Frederick Lamond’s “Religion without Beliefs”?

While an American Indian spiritual leader hasn’t been invited to the opening interfaith service at the Democratic National Convention, a gathering of Ute tribal leaders will be on hand for a “grand welcoming” ceremony.

“Colorado’s first residents will offer the first official welcome to the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 23, when Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Northern Ute tribal leaders and other Indian notables in full regalia will lead the pageantry of a grand entry before officials address some 13,000 media representatives. “It’s the right thing to do, since they were the first people in the state of Colorado,” said Holly Arnold Kinney, co-chair of the entertainment committee for the media event at Elitch Gardens near the Pepsi Center. The Ute Mountain and Southern Ute tribes are the only sovereign nations currently in Colorado, once considered home by the Northern Utes and many other tribes.”

Interesting that Native Americans performing dances and songs tied to their indigenous faith traditions will be handled by the entertainment committee, while representatives from “mainstream” religions are organized by the head of the Democratic Party’s Faith in Action initiative.

In a final note, the News Virginian reminds us that homeschooling comes in more flavors than right-wing Christian.

“For some reason, it’s gotten into the mindset of the public that homeschoolers are right-wing Christians,” said Ann Cameron Siegal, a homeschool mother and a volunteer for The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. “Obviously, there are people under that label, but there are also Jewish homeschoolers, Muslim homeschoolers and pagan homeschoolers; it ranges from far left to far right. If there is any unifying thing, it is the idea of freedom – freedom to pursue education, much like people did in the Colonial period, to the depth and breadth of what you want to do.”

My wife’s youngest daughter was homeschooled, and is entering college this year as a sophomore. I’m proud to say I had a hand in her homeschooling, and there was nothing particularly Christian about it.

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