Catholics in Trouble over ‘Idols’ Again

Idols on the Catholic altar

Various idols on the altar of a Roman Catholic church in England (photo: churchmilitant.com)

Maybe you missed it, but there was a minor scandal at the Vatican last year over the liturgical use of an image of Pachamana, one name given to the indigenous Mother Goddess of the Andean region of South America. Some traditional Catholics were deeply offended:

The statues, which were identical carved images of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman, had been displayed in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, close to the Vatican, and used in several events, rituals, and expression of spirituality taking place during the Oct. 6-27 Amazonian synod.1)I realize the “Andean” and “Amazonian” mean different things, but the reporting —  or the pope — is a little confused.

The pope said they had been displayed in the church “without idolatrous intentions,” French agency I.Media reported.

The statues were thrown into the river Oct. 21; a video released on YouTube showed two men entering the Church, leaving with the statues, and then throwing them off a nearby bridge

Pope Francis called the statues “Pachamama”; someone else referred to “Our Lady of the Amazon”; and the pope ended up trying to “walk back” the whole affair:

As bishop of this diocese,” Pope Francis, who is Bishop of Rome, said, “I ask forgiveness from those who have been offended by this gesture” . . .

Vatican spokesmen have said that [the statues] represent “life,” and are not religious symbols, but some journalists and commentators have raised questions about the origins of the symbols, and whether they were religious symbols of Amazonian indigenous groups.

Evidently the Roman Catholic diocese of Brentwood in England not get the memo, because this month they “tweeted a picture of the idols of Shiva and Buddha, alongside an icon of Jesus the Good Shepherd and an African carving advertising an ‘interfaith prayer service.’

Cue the outrage over “Pagan idolatry”: “Within minutes, hundreds of outraged Catholics bombarded the diocese’s Twitter thread accusing Fr. Belevendran of idolatry, syncretism, sacrilege and the heresy of indifferentism.”

A Christian convert from India was scathing:

“Father Belevendran says he is from India,” she said. “Doesn’t he know how the caste system of Hinduism oppressed us for 3,000 years and only Christianity liberated us? Doesn’t he know the idol he placed on the altar is that of Shiva — the Hindu god of destruction?”

“Is the Bishop of Brentwood so racist that he believes Catholicism is only for white English people and not for brown-skinned Indians like me and so I need to go back to Hinduism?” she asked. “The image of Shiva as Nataraja on the altar conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time, which is completely contrary to the biblical linear concept of time.”

I have to agree with her on the concepts of time; she knows her Hindu symbolism. Meanwhile, Pope Francis continues to try to smooth things over, using the big, heavy, hot smoking iron of monotheistic triumphantalism:

“Everyone prays as he knows, how he can, as he has received from his own culture. We are not praying against each other, this religious tradition against this, no,” the pontiff added. “We are all united as human beings, as brothers, praying to God, according to our culture, according to our own tradition, according to our beliefs, but brothers and praying to God. This is the important thing.”

In other words, we are all praying to the One God, even those benighted Hindus, Africans, and indigenous Amazonians who do not know better.

Notes   [ + ]

1. I realize the “Andean” and “Amazonian” mean different things, but the reporting —  or the pope — is a little confused.

Pentagram Pizza with Idolatrous Sprinkles

That’s our idol, and we will see you in court!  The Satanic Temple is going after Netflix for using their Baphomet in the new “Sabrina the Satanic Witch” series. (OK, its real name is Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Via The Daily Grail.)

I think I blogged her before. Or I should have: “Orgasms I have with my spirit lovers have been way more satisfying than any I’ve had with ordinary men.” (No, it was someone else who had a “sex with ghosts” website, now 404’d.)

An underground chamber has been located under the Pyramid of the Moon in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacán. Was it a place for initiatory or shamanic ceremonies, or was it where they kept the . . . special Beast? (Via The Daily Grail.)

A Room Full of Eerie, Masked Idols Has Been Discovered in Peru. “Deep in the enormous citadel of an ancient Peruvian culture, archaeologists have uncovered a corridor containing 19 mysterious black wooden statues.”  “We assume they are guardians,” said an archaeologist. Or maybe they were special Beasts. (Via The Daily Grail.)

Pagan Idols of the Mesolithic

The Shigir figure

Across northern Europe from the Ural Mountains to Ireland, the people erected wooden figures, of them quite large, as the ice age known as the Younger Dryas waned and the people could move into new, now-forested, lands. And they kept on during so until more recent times.

At Twilight Beasts, Rena Maguire writes,

There are stories from the deep past we won’t ever hear with our ears, but that’s not to say we cannot hear them. Archaeology tells those stories, the ones that I think matter.  The past I’m talking of is the one wrapped in skins and furs against the spiteful cold of the Younger Dryas. It has wise eyes and a hopeful heart; it knows what sustenance may still grow in snow and biting cold, and knows where the animals go to drink deep in parched summers. That past is carried in each and all of us, we are here because our ancestors survived the ice and cold with wisdom, courage and plain stubbornness. There’s times, however, something is found in bog, field or lake which beckons us to gather round in a circle, sit down, put the phone on silent, and listen to the past intently.

The Shigir wooden idol is one such object. It is an enigmatic wooden figure which, I admit, I could spend days just looking at, and ‘listening’ to, for it must have such a story to tell of the people who made it. It was found in a peat bog (all the best things are, imo) 100km north of Yekaterinburg, Russia, at the end of the 19th century. It stands head and shoulders (literally) above other objects of the past as it would have measured around 5 m  when complete, a tower of song, stories and memory set down some 11000 years ago. It is made of larch wood, and decorated with deep zig-zag lines on the torso, with 8 intriguing smaller faces carved as part of the design of the body. All the faces are unique and expressively stern.

More idols and a bibliography at the link. I love a good bibliography.  Read the whole thing!

Khalid al-Asaad and the War on Pagan Idolatry

Wouter Hanegraaff, professsor of Western esotericism at the University of Amsterdam, has written a moving blog post on larger implications of the death of Khalid al-Asaad, the Syrian archaeologist recently beheaded by the Muslim fighters of the so-called Islamic State. (He was a Muslim too, of course.)

We are told that Khaled Asaad was murdered for the crime of “overseeing ‘idols’ in the ancient city” and “attending ‘infidel’ conferences as Syrian representative”. This makes him one of the most recent casualties in a culture war that has been raging for thousands of years: that of exclusive monotheism against its mortal enemy, “pagan idolatry”. We should not delude ourselves: historically, our “own” dominant Western culture has not been on Khaled Asaad’s side but overwhelmingly on the side of his murderers. The idea that paganism and idolatry is the ultimate abomination that must be rooted out and destroyed, along with anybody who practices or sympathizes with it, goes to the heart of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic identity. And moreover, (pace Peter Gay c.s.) it goes to the heart of Enlightenment rationalism as well, which inherited the Protestant view of paganism and idolatry.

Read it all. For the news story, here is the New York Times version.

Around the Blogosphere: A Pagan Cat, Multiple Souls, and Idolatry

¶ “I don’t want to be rude, but what religion are you?” A Pagan pet’s name produces confusion at the veterinary clinic.

¶   “The Three/Four Souls and Their Afterlives.” Heather at Eaarth Animist looks at different traditional accounts to learn what might explain her own experiences: “It has baffled many Western anthropologists how a studied people can talk about a dead person being reincarnated in a child and also being an ancestor. The problem comes from the anthropologist’s own Christian idea of one soul.”

¶ Added to the blogroll under “Classics”:  Roman Times: An online magazine about current archaeology and classical research into the lives of inhabitants of the Roman Empire and Byzantium.

¶ Scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaf from the University of Amstersdam discovers a solid book on idolatry as a category within monotheistic religions: “One searches practically in vain for authoritative monographs about the notion of idolatry and its significance in monotheist religions generally.” There are some contemporary scholars of Paganism working on that area too, but maybe not enough.

Model T Religion

A hat tip to Wren at The Witches’ Voice, who posted on Facebook a news item about a parliamentarian in Kuwait, Abdulrahman Al-Jeeran, who is upset about the sale of non-Islamic statuary in Kuwaiti gift shops.

He revealed that statues representing gods believed by non-Muslim pagan worshippers during the primitive era are commonly seen at various shopping malls across the country.

He is not against freedom of religion, however, as he explained in this brain-twisting statement:

He explained that he was not trying to restrict the society to believing only one religion; however, he stressed that God Almighty commands human beings to accept faith without any alternative. He further stressed that issuing such a ban will protect future generations from deviating from the path of faith

Or as Henry Ford said c. 1922 about the Ford Model T car, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Pentagram Pizza for April 21st

Week-old pizza from the back of the refrigerator …

• Here’s an idea for a novel: “two down-on-their-luck entrepreneurs who stumble upon the idea of reviving for-profit idolatry. Selling statues of household gods to the masses, and building a neo-pagan religion around it.” Um, I think that people have been doing this for some time.

Circus Breivik. Norwegian scholar of esotericism Egil Asprem analyzes the trial of Anders Behring Breivik. (He wrote about the shootings for the current Pomegranate.)

This trial will be about two things: psychiatry and ideology. Two drastically conflicting reports on Breivik’s mental health have already ensured this. Added to this, of course, is Breivik’s own clearly stated wish to be judged as sane, and have his actions confirmed as ideologically motivated.

Teaching classical philosophy to Brazilian schoolchildren:

I assured the students that until the nineteenth century hardly any philosopher was an atheist. Plato’s Euthyphro—with its argument about the relationship between ethics and the will of the gods—gets us into a lively discussion.

* This is called “edgy, irreverent outreach” by some of today’s Christians Jesus Followers. I think the pastor needs to look up “pathos” in the rhetorical dictionary, because he is doing it wrong. But to be fair, some long-ago saints would have agreed with him.

• Alcohol  “sharpens the mind.”  But “beer goggles” are real too.

Canada braces for more Danish aggression.

Market Share of the Gods

A few weeks ago, I was looking at the Sacred Source catalog  and wondered if it could not be treated as a primary source for the extent and type of polytheistic worship in the West — or at least the Anglosphere? — today.

They sort their statuettes, etc., into categories, and I have further divided those categories by gender and also into an animal/other category for non-human representations. I did break their “Americas” category in North and Meso-South.

I double-count Great Rite/conjoined images, and I also count Buddha figures, for although Buddhas are originally human, they are effectively treated by gods by some.

New:  2 male,  13 female
Goddess/Pagan: 8 male, 43  female, 2 other
Celtic: 6 male, 22 female, 3 other
Norse: 7 male,  6 female
Greco-Roman: 19 male, 32 female, 1 other
Hindu & Buddhist: 34 male, 30 female
Native American 0 male,  5 female
African: 1 male, 3 female
Neolithic: 1 male,  3 female
Middle Eastern: 2 male, 10 female
Meso/South American: 2 male,  6 female
Gnostic: 8 male, 15 female
Egyptian: 2 male, 10 female,  5 other

As my title indicates, I am assuming that these numbers reflect sales, not theology. Slow-selling figures are dropped, which is why you do not, alas, find the Emperor Julian in the lineup anymore. (I should have bought several!)

What else do they tell us? Comments are open.

Mojo and Materiality: 300 Goddesses

The bulk of Morning Glory Zell's goddess-image collection is in these cabinets.

After Isis Oasis and Lucky Mojo, the final stop on the pre-AAR annual meeting “Mojo and Materiality” tour was the home of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell of the Church of All Worlds.

They contribute to Pagan “materiality” through through their business, Mythic Images, which features Oberon’s and other designers’ statues, plaques, and jewelry.

But they also have a huge collection of occult and Pagan-related images and objects of their own, gathered and created over the past forty-some years.

Morning Glory uses these images in workshops on the Divine Feminine, and is prepared to discuss the stories, cultus, and relationships of each one. We did not have time for a full workshop, of course, but she gave a sort of hands-on meta-presentation about how she does them.

My only regret is that the sun had set, so we could not see the grounds and outside shrines.