Air Force Academy Gets a Circle and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: As noted by Pagan bloggers Chas Clifton and Gus diZerega yesterday, the Air Force Academy, once notorious for its culture of religious intolerance towards non-Christians, is adding a circular worship area for followers of modern Pagan religions.

“The Air Force Academy chapel will add a worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions during a dedication ceremony scheduled to be held at the circle March 10. The circle, located atop the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center, will be the latest addition to a collection of worship areas that includes Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces. Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, NCO in charge of the Academy’s Astronautics laboratories, worked with the chapel to create the official worship area for both cadets and other servicemembers in the Colorado Springs area who practice Earth-centered spirituality.  “Feel free to check the site out, but treat it as you would any other religious structure,” he said.”

This development comes in the wake of a massive effort by the academy to improve relations with minority faiths. Sergeant Longcrier, who joined the academy shortly after accusations of religious intolerance emerged, says that the improvements have been palpable.

“When I first arrived here, Earth-centered cadets didn’t have anywhere to call home,” he said. “Now, they meet every Monday night, they get to go on retreats, and they have a stone circle. … We have representation on the Cadet Interfaith Council, and I even meet with the Chaplains at Peterson Air Force Base once a year to discuss religious climate.”

A dedication ceremony is scheduled to be held at the circle on March 10, one that they hope will well-attended.

In Other News:

Who’s Responsible for the Decapitated Goats: After two hog-tied decapitated goats were found in Washington DC, Humane Society officials said they believed the animals were ritually sacrificed, and the Washington City paper wondered if that meant Santeria. This prompted a practitioner of Santeria to step forward and defend her faith.

“Meet Elaine Hall … a member of a local “Ile,” or Santeria house. “I think that they were sacrificial animals, but I am not certain with which religion they are associated,” Hall says of the decapitated livestock found on Sheridan. Though devotees of Santeria certainly could have given the goats up to the gods, Hall has a hard time believing the gory remains Humane Law Enforcement came across on Jan. 17 have anything to do with Santeria. Why? It was sloppy work. “With the religion of Santeria, if an animal is destined to be ritually killed, it is believed that we— as humans—should be grateful to the animal, and it behooves us to treat the animal kindly and humanely before it dies for fear of offending the orishas [deities] and Olodumare [God].  Therefore, it is inappropriate to kill an animal that is bound (i.e. hog-tied), for one wants the animal to be offered of its own free will.”  Another reason? “My first thought when I read that two decapitated goat bodies were found was ‘That’s weird! Why did they waste the meat?” Hall says goats killed during a Santeria ritual are typically eaten afterward.”

I’m so glad that Ms. Hall stepped forward. Too often assertions of “ritual sacrifice” and “Santeria” are thrown around by ill-informed animal welfare and law enforcement officials when presented with dead animals. The only way to truly combat this ignorance is through education, by speaking out and educating those who accuse you. Then instead of simply rounding up the usual animal cruelty suspects, animal welfare officers can enter into a real dialog with faiths that engage in animal sacrifice. Separating the conscientious and law-abiding practitioners from rogue elements, the mentally disturbed, and thrill-seeking teenagers.

The Aversion to Christianity: Pope Benedict, while leading a Vespers service, condemned the “growing aversion” to Christianity around the world.

“Pope Benedict is condemning what he called “growing aversion” to the Christian faith in the world. Benedict urged Christians to invigorate efforts to spread their faith’s message despite what he described as the unfriendly climate to Christianity in parts of the world. He did not specify any particular region. “In a world marked by religious indifference and even by a growing aversion toward the Christian faith, a new, intense activity of evangelization is necessary,” the Pope said.”

Man, this is just too rich for me to digest in one sitting. If we just try harder to make everyone Christian, then our “aversion towards Christianity” problem will be solved! Genius! This coming from the Pope who has repeatedly insulted Pagans, who intimated that indigenous faiths are “silently longing” for Christ, and who keeps angering Jews. No doubt it’s all part of his cunning plan to somehow make us all like Catholicism more by angering us first. How Zen. Oh well, if this doesn’t work, maybe all those new blogging priests will.

Ted Andrews Memorial Service: A public memorial service will be held on January 30th for well-known spiritual teacher and author Ted Andrews, who passed away on October 24th after a long struggle with cancer.

“Loving family members and spiritual friends from around the nation are expected to arrive in Dayton by Saturday, Jan. 30, for a 10 a.m. memorial service in honor of Ted A. Andrews. Mr. Andrews, a prolific writer, teacher, story teller, protector of wildlife, a musician, and a serious student of the occult and esoteric, died from cancer at his Jackson, Tenn., farm and animal refuge on Oct. 24 at the age of 57.”

The memorial service will be held at St. Luke Parish in Beavercreek, Ohio. My heartfelt condolences to his friends and family, may Andrews’ spirit find rest and peace.

Here’s How You Spell It: In a final note, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Terry Rey, chair of the religion department at Temple University, and Leslie Desmangles, professor of religion at Trinity College, team up to give us all a lesson on how to spell Voodoo Vodou.

“Whether writing in English, French or Creole, the correct spelling of the predominant religion in Haiti is Vodou, according to the official orthography of Haitian Creole language … Derived from the term “Vodoun” in the language of the Fon of Benin in West Africa, and signifying a company or family of spirits, the correct pronunciation is VO-doo.”

So if you are talking about the religion in Haiti it’s “Vodou”, and if you are talking about the religion in Africa it’s “Vodoun/Vodun”. They only time the popular spelling of “Voodoo” is used is in the context of Louisiana/New Orleans Voodoo. So now you know. For further commentary from these professors on Haiti and Vodou, check out this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that interviews Bellegarde-Smith, and Leslie Desmangles was recently quoted by CNN concerning Vodou. Both are worth the read.

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