During his recent visit to Brazil, Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, did something unprecedented. The Pontiff met with a representative of the Candomblé faith, the first time a Catholic Pope has ever done so. “At odds since colonial times, Catholicism and Afro-Brazilian religions have embarked on a process of mutual acceptance. Pope Francis added words and gestures to this reconciliation of two groups that share a common interest: confronting the growth of evangelical and neo-Pentecostal churches. The photo of Francis wearing a “cocar” headdress given to him by Ubiraí, a Pataxó Indian, went around the world. Ivanir dos Santos, a “babalawo” or priest of the Afro-Brazilian candomblé religion, was also received by the pope in the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro as part of the rapprochement between the Catholic Church and other creeds and cultures during his Jul. 22-28 visit to Brazil.
No matter what your belief system a whole lot of people are kicking off their holiday shopping today (or really, really, early this morning). Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, all initiatives to get people to spend their money early, to trigger that flood of commerce that many businesses, both small and large, depend on to survive. However, I believe this is also a great time to think about how the money you spend now could be used to help build important projects within the larger interconnected Pagan community. Perhaps a donation made in honor of a local elder, teacher, or friend who is active in building and supporting Pagan infrastructure. A bright and ongoing success story in the Pagan community has been the utilization of crowd-funding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to collectively raise funds for important projects.Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her book “The Fifth Sacred Thing” made. Peter Dybing helped raise $30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders in the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.
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. The case of Forsyth County, North Carolina v. Joyner, which ultimately ruled that opening invocations and prayers before government bodies cannot be overwhelmingly sectarian in nature, is now being used to challenge the sectarian prayers in North Carolina’s State Legislature. The ACLU is threatening litigation if North Carolina doesn’t change its policy. As I’ve pointed out here before, this case rests heavily on precedents involving Pagans who’ve challenged government invocation policies.
Top Story: Jon Lee Anderson of the Guardian brings us a riveting look at the massively violent drug wars raging in Rio’s favelas, where over 5000 people were murdered last year, and police-affiliated militias can be as deadly as the gangs. While exploring the question of if this situation can be reversed, and the culture of these gangs, Anderson focuses on Fernandinho, a gang-leader who converted to evangelical Christianity in 2007 and melds Christian morals with the violence of his trade. “On 20 August 2007, a banner headline of the Rio tabloid Meia Hora said: “Thug beheads those who don’t follow his rules”, and underneath, “Fernandinho Guarabu, Dendê’s boss, uses an axe to execute his victims. The evangelical trafficker forbids even macumba in the favela.” (Macumba refers to one of the country’s African-derived religions, along with Umbanda and Candomblé, which strict evangelicals see as little more than witchcraft.) That same day, in the broadsheet O Dia, this report appeared: “In spite of his violence, the ‘word of God’ must always be propagated, sometimes in a radical way. Guarabu has supposedly banned Umbanda and Candomblé rituals, as well as spiritualist séances.
If the last twenty years have been a large “coming out” party for the various forms of modern Paganism, the next twenty may be focused on Yoruba and the African diasporic religions entering the mainstream consciousness. A sign of this can be seen in a bit of journalistic synchronicity, as two papers, one on the West coast and one on the East coast, talk about events involving Orisha veneration. We start off with the Press-Enterprise’s coverage of the 7th annual Ifa Festival near San Bernardino, California.”The sounds of chanting, drumming and traditional West African music streamed Saturday afternoon from a backyard near San Bernardino, as about 100 people gathered for the biggest festival of the Orisa religion in southern California … The afternoon began with prayers, chanting and devotional drumming in a large bamboo-walled shrine in the couple’s yard. The prayers were to Orisa spirits, conduits to communicate with Olodumare, the name for God in the Yoruba language of West Africa.