(Pagan) News of Note

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.

Let Us Convert Uncontacted Tribes!

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).

(Pagan) News of Note

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.

Hugo Chavez the Marxist Pagan Christ-Figure

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.

The Return of Maria Lionza

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.