Archive for the 'Religion' Category

The Howl of the Werewolf, Chapter 13

Chapter 13
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End of the world mosaic uncovered at cathedral

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From
The Guardian:

The wraps have come off one of Westminster Abbey’s least known treasures, a medieval marble pavement foretelling the end of the world, while conservation experts consider how to preserve the ancient stones for the next 740 years.

Few modern visitors have ever seen it, although since 1268 kings and princes, queens and cardinals have walked across a symbol laden mosaic as intricate as a piece of jewellery.

It is made up of rare marbles and gemstones, including some recycled from monuments 1,000 years older, and pieces of coloured glass, set in complex allegorical patterns into a framework of Purbeck marble cut as intricately as a jigsaw puzzle.

“When this floor was new it would have blazed with colour,” Vanessa Simeoni, the abbey’s head of conservation said. “The materials were chosen for their brilliance and shine, and the quality of the craftsmanship is actually shocking, the ultimate that could be achieved.”

The mosaics are known as Cosmati work, after the four generations of a Roman family of marble workers who perfected the technique. The Westminster one, regarded as the finest north of the Alps, uniquely has an inscription boasting of its makers – and a cryptic message about the end of the world.

Expelled!

Oh this is too funny.

Mysterious pagan trove discovered in Cornwall

…and it dates from the 1640s:

Evidence of pagan rituals involving swans and other birds in the Cornish countryside in the 17th century has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Since 2003, 35 pits at the site in a valley near Truro have been excavated containing swan pelts, dead magpies, unhatched eggs, quartz pebbles, human hair, fingernails and part of an iron cauldron.

The finds have been dated to the 1640s, a period of turmoil in England when Cromwellian Puritans destroyed any links to pre-Christian pagan England. It was also a period when witchcraft attracted the death sentence.

[snip]

[Excavation leader, Jacqui] Woods said: “A lot of the paganism of the Celts was wiped out by the Romans, but not in Cornwall.

“Swan feathers had a connection with fertility. It’s possible these offerings were being left. Then, if there was a conception, nine months later the person would return to empty the pit.

“Often when secret rituals are abandoned people will talk about ‘things that were done in my grandmother’s day’ but there has been no whisper of this. It really makes me wonder whether that is because it is still going on.”

Shades of The Wicker Man, eh?

How the Nazis stole Christmas

Fortean Times features a timely tale:

Imagine the scene. It’s December 1936, and the shadow of war has not yet fallen over the people of Germany, who are now experiencing their fourth Christmas since Hitler’s National Socialist Party came to power and began its transformation of modern Germany. The streets of every town and city are busy with last-minute shoppers; the sounds of carol-singing and the rattle of Winter Relief collection tins fills the evening air; people wish one another a Happy Christmas as they stand before a great tree, proudly decorated and topped with a huge swastika.

We tend to think of the relationship between organised religion and totalitarian regimes – as in the Soviet Union – as one in which freedom of religious belief and expression are ruthlessly suppressed in the name of the unity of the state. But if that is the case, what exactly is taking place in our notional Christmas scene – one which could be taking place in any German town from 1933 to 1943? Does the substitution of the swastika for the cross reveal the Nazis’ transformation of a key Christian festival into a pagan rite, an appropriation of a popular tradition for political ends or an uneasy coexistence between the German people’s old-fashioned Christmas pleasures and the imperatives of their new masters?

Is it possible, even, that a regime which was shortly to embark on an apocalyptic and genocidal course of action that would plunge the entire world into conflict saw itself as Christian?

Insert your own War on Christmas joke below.

Gods called as witnesses

It’s all fun and religion until the lawyers get involved. Now the Hindu gods have been summoned to appear in court. Don’t you hate it when gods are summoned for property disputes?

‘A Golden Compass’ points to religious discussion

Some Catholics up in arms about the movie and books while others praise the ‘good vs. evil’ message:

William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, has condemned “The Golden Compass” (the second and third films are planned) mainly on the concern that the movie will “seduce” people, especially children, into buying the allegedly “anti-Christian” books. But Harry Forbes of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting wrote a positive review of the movie.

Donohue slammed the favorable article of Forbes, who wrote: “Whatever author Pullman’s putative motives in writing the story, writer-director Chris Weitz’s film, taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism.”

[warning from protected static: here there be spoilers! (Sorry, cavalaxis)]
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A beautiful secret temple to an ancient god

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Incredible. From The London Daily Mail:

Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque.

But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region’s greatest wonders are concealed.

Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret – one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ by the Italian government.

For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

Constructed like a three-dimensional book, narrating the history of humanity, they are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels and occupy almost 300,000 cubic feet – Big Ben is 15,000 cubic feet.

snip

But the ‘Temples of Damanhur’ are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilisation, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock.

It all began in the early Sixties when Oberto Airaudi was aged ten. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples.

Around these he dreamed there lived a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all the people worked for the common good.

snip

But it was only as he began a successful career as an insurance broker that he began to search for his perfect site.

In 1977, he selected a remote hillside where he felt the hard rock would sustain the structures he had in mind.

A house was built on the hillside and Falco moved in with several friends who shared his vision. Using hammers and picks, they began their dig to create the temples of Damanhur – named after the ancient subterranean Egyptian temple meaning City of Light – in August 1978.

“It gives life to the dead when they come”

The New York Times has a beautiful article and slideshow covering a Day of the Dead exhibit in the city:

Dia de Los Muertos Altar by Margarita Larios; photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Dia de Los Muertos Altar by Margarita Larios; photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Anne Rice: no more vampire novels

Monsters and Critics:

1998, Rice returned to her Roman Catholic faith, which she had not practiced since she was 18. In October 2005, as she reaffirmed her Catholic faith, Rice announced in a Newsweek article that she would “write only for the Lord.” She called Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, her first novel in this vein.

In an interview with Christianity Today, headlined “Interview with a Penitent”, Rice declared that she will never again write another vampire novel, saying; “I would never go back, not even if they say, ‘You will be financially ruined; you’ve got to write another vampire book.'”

Also she endorses Senator Hillary Clinton. From her web site:

To my readers:

Some time ago, I made an effort to remove from this website all political statements made by me in the past. Many of these statements were incomplete statements, and many were dated. And a good many of the emails I received about these statements indicated that they were confusing to my newer Christian readers. I felt, when I removed the material, that I was doing what was best for my personal vocation — which is, to write books for Jesus Christ.

My vocation at this time remains unchanged. I am committed to writing books for the Lord, and those books right now, are books about His life on Earth as God and Man. I hope my books will reach all Christians, regardless of denomination or background. This has become my life.

However, I have come to feel that my Christian conscience requires of me a particular political statement at this time.

I hope you will read this statement in a soft voice. It is meant to be spoken in a soft voice.

Let me say first of all that I am devoutly committed to the separation of church and state in America. I believe that the separation of church and state has been good for all Christians in this country, and particularly good for Catholics who had a difficult time gaining acceptance as Americans before the presidential election of John F. Kennedy. The best book I can recommend right now on the separation of church and state is A SECULAR FAITH, Why Christianity Favors The Separation of Church and State, by Darryl Hart. However there are many other good books on the subject.

Believing as I do that church and state should remain separate, I also believe that when one enters the voting booth, church and state become one for the voter. The voter must vote her conscience. He or she must vote for the party and candidate who best reflect all that the voter deeply believes. Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.

My commitment and my vote, therefore, must reflect my deepest Christian convictions; and for me these convictions are based on the teachings of Christ in the Four Gospels.

I am keenly aware as a Christian and as an American that the Gospels are subject to a great variety of interpretation. I am keenly aware that Christians disagree violently on what the Gospels say.

I am also keenly aware that we have only two parties in this country. Only two. This point can not be emphasized enough. We do not have a slate of parties, including one which is purely Christian. We have two parties, and our system has worked with two parties for generations. This is what we have.

Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving one’s neighbors and loving one’s enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.

I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.

I have heard many anti-abortion statements made by people who are not Democrats, but many of these statements do not strike me as constructive or convincing. I feel we can stop the horror of abortion. But I do not feel it can be done by rolling back Roe vs. Wade, or packing the Supreme Court with judges committed to doing this. As a student of history, I do not think that Americans will give up the legal right to abortion. Should Roe vs Wade be rolled back, Americans will pass other laws to support abortion, or they will find ways to have abortions using new legal and medical terms.

And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure — as a student of history – that Americans should give up the right to abortion.

I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.

UPDATED:

While I respect her decision, I think Anne Rice is wrong. Not write vampire novels? I believe you can still be a Christian and write about vampires.

Regarding her views on abortion, faith, Senator Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, I think her views are well stated and while I’m pro-choice I respect her point of view on the issue. I haven’t picked a presidential candidate yet. I’m pleased with many of the Democratic candidates and will support whoever the nominee is.

But I do wish Rice would change her mind about writing about vampires.

Harmonyfb also makes a good point in the comments.

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