Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blogroll Update: Pharyngula

Please welcome Pharyngula to the ol' Prophet or Madman blogroll. Pharyngula is the brainchild of Professor Myers. As an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, the good professor is well-positioned to report on matters pertaining to evolutionary developmental biology and any other odd bits of biological interest. What exactly falls under that latter category? Oh, how about Intelligent Design, the dumbing down of science, and the dangers of religious belief, to name but a few. Yes, Professor Myers is a self-professed "godless liberal" and a public critic of intelligent design (as well as the creationist movement in general). Myers is an activist in promoting atheism -- or at least nontheism -- in America. So why, given that my blog does indeed focus on matters of the spirit, would I add Pharyngula to my blogroll? Well, Pharyngula is quirky and fun to read. Plus it is chock full of good science information. Some of the best science writing on the web can be found on Pharyngula. Besides, I'm quite comfortable with science (I earned my Physics degree from Penn State), and I happen to support his stance against creation theory. So, you'll find Pharyngula under the Sci & Tech label in the right sidebar. What else can I say about Pharyngula to get you to try it out? I really cannot summarize Myers' blog and do it complete justice. It really is that damn good. So I'll just tease you a bit. I'll tell you that he has posted such interesting thoughts as God as an abortionist, argued against compatibility between religion and science, and bemoaned the state of academics. For more information, check out his about page which explains what exactly pharyngula is, summarizes the good professor's background, and provides a quick summary of the three main aspects of the blog (random quote file, list of science articles, and his own blogroll).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blaze of Glory

I'm blogging this article for two reasons:

  1. It mentions Ásatrú.
  2. It concerns a matter of religious freedom/choice.
Hindus In Britain Demand Traditional Cremation

Hindu cremation

More:

Quotable | Art Function

It is the function of art to carry us beyond speech to experience." -- Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987), American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, from his book Sake and Satori (New World Library, 2002; edited by David Kudler)

https://homepages.westminster.org.uk/art_history/Module1/images/Tate_sun.jpg

Specific image from Westminster's History of Art Module. It is part of The Weather Project, by Olafur Eliasson, as shown in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pagans in ... Israel?

The headline brazenly proclaims, "Paganism returns to the Holy Land," but the truth is so much more subtle. Of course, one could make the argument that paganism never really left Israel. That, at most, it was driven underground. And that seems to be the way things still are. Consider the following quotes from Ofri Ilani's article:
  • ...most Israeli pagans reveal their beliefs only to those who share them. They usually keep religious gatherings ... secret.
  • "Some guys live with religious families. They can't tell their parents, 'I don't believe in Judaism, I'm a pagan.' They'd chop off their heads."
  • "In a country like ours ... being a pagan is not easy ... Worshiping other gods is something very sensitive in Judaism. We all were educated [to think] this is intolerable and illogical."
  • "...Judaism has only one god, and if you do not believe in him, you will be driven off with stones."
Due to this environment, it's not much of a surprise that there is not all that much information about pre-Judaic divinities or practices. So some Israeli worshipers pray to Nordic or Celtic gods. But there is a movement to revive the worship of ancient Canaanite gods. Hail to all those who seek to revive, preserve, and make relevant their ancient ancestral practices. Especially those living in what is considered the capital of monotheism. Read the article at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072829.html

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hail Spring!

On this, the day of the Spring Equinox, I wish the blessings of Ostara (Eostre, Oschder, Alban Eilir, etc.) upon all my family, friends, and kindred spirits.

Frigga, ever wise, Mother of all
Freya, our Lady of love, beauty, and fertility
Nerthus, earth Mother, womb of the world
Sunna, Lady of the heavens, bright and glorious in your return
Ostara, the spring Maiden, it is in your name we gather this day
  Winter is over
The land is awakened with your creative and sustaining powers
Flowers long to bloom
The light quickens, lengthening the days
And, soon we hope, warming them as well.
  Thus the cycle continues.
Spring is nigh upon us:
Ostara takes root in our hearts
And then blossoms in our deeds.
We depart knowing her blessings.


 Words: © Brian Weis 2008
photo credit: Frank Black 2008

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A New Breastplate (And a Message for St. Patrick)

Ah, yes. Today is St. Patrick's Day. Well, I for one will not be putting on the green and celebrating. I do not celebrate the lives (real or imagined) of those who tried to put down my ancestral faith. (For those of you who didn't realize, the driving out the snakes thing is most likely a metaphor for stomping out the ethnic and traditional practices of the Irish people). Patrick, if you truly existed (even if only as a composite of several individuals as I suspect), I have a message for you. You did not drive out the "snakes" -- you merely forced them undergound. Nor did you eliminate their traditions. In fact, your beloved Church is riddled with more of my ancestor's traditions than those of the early Christians, and by this I am referring to practices from the first few decades of Christianity, or "the Way of Yeshua" as it was likely known by its earliest adherents. And in case you missed it, Patrick. The "snakes" are back. We are back, and every year our numbers grow as more people awaken to the old ways -- be they Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Romanic, etc. -- and make them relevant today. For our ways are relevant as they are a means of being in this world, being with it, and not trying to simply control it or ignore it in the hope of achieving some afterlife. Originally written and posted last year, "A Heathen's Breastplate" is still appropriate to post on this day:
The Lorica (or Breastplate) is a prayer written in Irish and Latin that is often attributed to Saint Patrick. There are many variations of it (one can be found here), but I have decided to rewrite it in "honor" of the old saint who is said to have driven out the pagans. Now it has a nice Heathen slant...
A Heathen's Breastplate 
I arise today 
Heir to the strength of Asgard; 
Light of the sun, 
Splendor of fire, 
Swiftness of wind, 
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of earth, 
Firmness of rock. 
I arise today with mine own strength to pilot me; 
Thor's might to uphold me, 
Frigga's wisdom to guide me, 
Odin's hand to guard me, 
Heimdall's watch to shield me, 
Freya's love to bless me. 
Afar and anear, 
Alone or in a multitude. 
The ancestors are with me, 
before me, behind me, 
on my right, on my left. 
As sure as 
The Earth beneath me, 
The Sky above me, 
The Holy Powers within me. 
I arise today 
Rooted in the mighty traditions of my past. 
And I walk Midgard, 
Sending forth the blessings of this day's deeds to generations yet unborn. 
copyright 2008, BSW

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review | Words That Work

[This review is cross-posted to Amazon.com and Facebook (LivingSocial:Books)]
Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear (Dr. Frank Luntz, Hyperion, 2008, ISBN: 1401309291)
Luntz's book will interest anyone who loves words, especially folks who are interested in the careful use of words to get a message across to other people. Most of Words That Work deals with framing language issues of the political and corporate varieties, and some folks may be turned off by Luntz's work with big corporations, the Republican Party, or both. But the non-partisan reader will enjoy the discussion of how a word's meaning can change over time, or through the careful control of context. The examination of polling's role in shaping a message or affecting public opinion is eye opening as well. 
In the end, understanding the concept of "words that work" will help just about anyone regardless of the specific communication situation. But what, perhaps, impresses me most about this book is that, after all the "meanness and abrasiveness" that Luntz has witnessed and experienced, he remains dedicated to finding the positive. He writes: "...there is much to be gained by being upbeat and optimistic. When you trash the opposition, you simultaneously demean yourself. The best warrior is a happy warrior. Accentuate the positive ... eliminate the negative. Negative definitely works, but a solid positive message will triumph over negativity." 
Some may call that naive, maybe even accuse him of attempting to sugar-coat or dumb down important issues (I know I kind of felt that way at first). But after going through the examples in the book, and looking for others on my own, I can see the value in his approach. Hopefully, others will, too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

National Book Critics Circle Awards

Amazon.com has a list of the 2008 and 2007 nominees for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. Looks to be some interesting reading: NBCC Awards