The ‘Pentecostal Drift’ and Modern Paganism

Religion blogger Peter Berger, melding articles from  The Tablet (Roman Catholic) and The Christian Century (mainline Protestant) notes “the major demographic shift in world Christianity—the fact that more Christians now live in the Global South: Asia, Africa, Latin America—than in the old Christian homelands of Europe and North America.”

With this shift goes huge growth in Pentecostal Christianity—Protestant churches emphasizing ecstatic worship and the “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” such as speaking in tongues and faith-healing. (The modern Pentecostal movement began in Los Angeles in 1906—the same month as the great San Francisco earthquake and fire. Some of them see a connection.)

In 1970 Pentecostals were 5% of world Christians; today the figure is 25%! 80% of Christian converts in Asia are Pentecostal! I’m not quite clear how this arithmetic is worked out, but the Christian Century story asserts that one of twelve people alive today is Pentecostal! Not surprisingly, the [recent Pentecostal World Conference] in Kuala Lumpur was “young, vibrant and confident”. No stepping around quietly so as not to offend Muslim sensitivities!

There is, for example, major competition between (often Pentecostal) Christians and Muslims for conversions in sub-Saharan Africa. Sometimes it is bloody—see the recent news from Nigeria and the Central African Republic, for example. Some conflicts that are not religious on the surface become divided on religious lines.

So what is the Pagan angle? For one, Pentecostal Christians (and many Muslims) see the world as a scene of spiritual warfare. (See, for instance, “Saudi Arabia’s War on Witchcraft.”) Both groups battle demons and “demonic” practitioners.  Consequently, followers of traditional animist/polythestic religions as well as new Pagans are going to continue to be targeted.

If you are reading this, chances are that you live in a culture where the notions of religious freedom and individual religious choice have at least some weight. But from a global perspective, isn’t that a minority view — no matter how many interfaith congresses and parliaments there are?

I am all for religious freedom, but much of the world has a very limited idea as to what that means.

Pentagram Pizza with the Inner Bark of Pine Trees

pentagrampizza• At Wytch of the North, a lengthy blog post on being a godspouse.

• A small publisher seeks submissions for a volume on “transgressive rites and rituals.”
We are looking primarily for practical articles describing new and original rites and rituals that cross barriers and challenge social norms. Although the bulk of the book will be made up of practical working material, we will consider articles relating to historically significant rites, philosophical discussions on the nature or significance of transgression, and first person accounts of actual rites and rituals. Original artwork will also be accepted for consideration.

• Certain ponderosa pine trees in my region are identified as being “sacred trees” to the Ute Indians. I would like to know more about this, since is a distinction between these “cultural” trees and those that were de-barked for eating purposes — this link addresses both eating the inner bark and the “cultural” use, complete with power dreams.


Hanging the Salem Witches was a Good Idea, said the Zuñis.

From Philip Jenkins’ Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality, which I am reading as part of some research on changing attitudes towards shamanism:

In 1882 when a group of Zuñi emissaries visited Salem [Mass.] . . . they congratulated the citizens for their ancestors’ determined response to the witchcraft problem. Through the 1890s, U.S. authorities were struggling to suppress Zuñi persecution of witches in conflicts that nearly led to war. (31)

Which reminded me of one of my all-time favorite articles, Malcolm Brenner’s “A Witch among the Navajo,” or what happens when Pagan Witchcraft meets witch-as-translation-for-our-word-for-evil-magic-worker.

At the time of writing it, Malcolm was a newspaper reporter in Gallup, New Mexico, and the Zuñi tribal government was part of his beat. Previously he had lived on the Navajo reservation to the north, during which the events he described took place. His website.


Idolatry 101: Kachina Dolls

Traditional-style kachinas by known carvers command four-figure prices.

Robert Cafazzo, antiques-and-art dealer in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, discusses the care and repair of kachina dolls, which can be simultaneously images of spiritual power and art objects made to be purchased by collectors.

(Disclaimer: I have bought a few small things at his shop, Two Graces, although not kachinas.)

He also gets into the collecting side and shares some of  his “kachina kitsch.”

Then there are the doll carvings made by other Pueblo people. Zuni carvings are some of the best (in the store here they always sell rather quickly, recently I had one for all of 3 hours!), Acoma & Laguna carvings are the simplest and to some collectors extremely desirable but really not for everyone, basically they look like a short log with a stylized face, Jemez dolls tend to be confused with ‘Boy Scout’ carvings, those from Isleta are not common but do exist. San Juan carvings, which I carry are specific to the various Northern Pueblo Dances. As a rule I do not carry Navajo Kachinas, which I refer to as PowWow Dancer Dolls. These may look great on a coffee table featured in a photo essay for Architectural Digest or some other home interiors magazine, but they are some of the worst craftsmanship of curios in the marketplace today. Navajo carvers did make traditional Route 66 Yei Dolls, and there are some amazing Navajo traditional carvings out there. It’s my personal opinion that PowWow Dancer Dolls are not your best option. All of the Pueblos in New Mexico & Arizona have their own unique carvings, some do not offer them as crafts for sale and strictly forbid the sale of wooden deity carvings. When visiting a Pueblo ask for dolls or crafts—never ask for ‘Kachinas’.

In Two Graces, you will find both fine kachina dolls and kachina salt-and-pepper shakers—Robert likes it all.

Strictly Forbidden

A list of laws against Pagan practice, from the late days of the Roman Empire (4th-6th centuries C.E.), compiled by Christopher Ocker of San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Those Christian emperors just swung a big ax. On the other hand, the divine Julian’s ways of dealing with Christians were much subtler. After all, why force someone who does not believe in the gods to teach the Iliad, which is so painful to their conscience?

Medicine man granted ‘confession’ right

Courtesy of Belief Net via Gus DiZerega comes this federal judge’s decisionthat a Native medicine man can enjoy the same privilege of keeping secrets that Christian clergy enjoy, when those secrets are given in confidence during sacramental confession or its equivalent. (UPDATE: Link is broken.)