CFP: Women in World Religions

Author-scholars are needed for the two volume reference work, Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture Across History, to be published by ABC-CLIO Publishing. We seek contributors with expertise in Women, Religion, and History to write articles of 500 to 2000 words, with overview, historical background, and selected details. Areas where scholars are needed include: Women in African Religions, Ancient Greek and Roman Religions, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Paganism, Prehistoric Religions, Shinto, Sikhism, and Spirituality. A wide range of entries are included in each religion category, such as art, worship, women’s rituals, leadership and organization, social and environmental issues, the feminine divine, holy days and seasonal celebrations. The deadline for this round of entries is August 15, 2016.

Please provide a brief summary of your academic credentials in related disciplines (or a cv) to General Editor, Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions at sjdegaia@gmail.com. The encyclopedia title should appear in the subject line of your message.

Contact Info:
Susan de Gaia, Ph.D., General Editor, Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture Across History

Contact Email:
sjdegaia@gmail.com
URL:
http://susandegaia.weebly.com

Recreating Hair Styles of the Vestal Virgins

Credit Janet Stephens via Livescience.com

View of the work of a “forensic hairdresser” who creates ancient women’s hair styles, such as those of the Vestal Virgins of Rome.

The stylist, Janet Stephens, has a YouTube channel with other examples of her work.

Via Cara Schulz.

Necrophilia: An Ancient Egyptian Tradition?

This may be the worst sort of environmental determinism, but what is it with Egypt? Is there something in the Nile water?

For centuries Egyptian Paganism seemed to function—on one level—as as sort of post office of the dead. All those mummified cats, ibises, crocodiles, etc. neatly stacked in little p.o. boxes. What’s with that?

And of course there was the elaborate bureaucratic ritual that accompanied the mummification. The Greek historian Herodotus (a bit of a gossip) commented,

The wives of men of rank are not give to be embalmed immediately after death, nor indeed are any of the more beautiful and valued women. It is not until they have been dead three or four days that they are carried to the embalmers. This is done to prevent indignities from being offered them. (Link is to a different translation, but quite similar.)

Then, for several centuries, Egypt was mostly Christian. Christians liked to store the body parts of saints in their churches, which is why the Emperor Julian (PBUH) referred to them as “charnel houses.” What went on in the funeral business I do not know.

Today, in majority-Muslim Egypt, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television network reports that Egyptian women’s rights campaigners (there are some) are protesting two laws proposed in the “Islamist-dominated parliament”:

She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death. . . . . Egyptian prominent journalist and TV anchor Jaber al-Qarmouty on Tuesday referred to [cleric] Abdul Samea’s article in his daily show on Egyptian ON TV and criticized the whole notion of “permitting a husband to have sex with his wife after her death under a so-called ‘Farewell Intercourse’ draft law.”

Because nothing expresses grief over losing one’s spouse quite like that.

UPDATE: Another source says that no such law was proposed. Was Al-Arabiya fooled?

Fisking the Red Tent

At Regretsy, an elaborate take-down of first-menses rites for girls.

7. In addition to not being a womyn or a goddess, your daughter is most likely not a priestess. Ask yourself if people routinely drop by the house to see if Caitlyn can perform an exorcism after school. If the answer is no, she’s just a 13-year-old girl who doesn’t need made-up fairy titles or a bloody vagina necklace. She just needs a pad and a couple of Midol, and for you to stay the fuck away from Etsy.

(Hat tip: The House of Vines.) Also, fisking defined.

 

Why the Pantheacon Gender Controversy Persists

For the second year running, some attendees at Pantheacon have become involved in protests, sit-ins, and a whole lot of blog posts about gender issues.

I am not going to weigh in on Z Budapest, etc. I was not there. But I was reading a post on Religion Bulletin the other day titled “Yogis and the Politics of Offense,”  by Matt Sheedy, that suggested a reason for the size and persistence of this particular Pantheacon kerfuffle.

Reading past the yogis and the “Shit Yogis Say” parody video, I came to this paragraph:

When groups are new and not well defined, and where the boundaries of their self-understanding are generally recognized to be unstable, the work of critique becomes that much easier since it focuses the conversation on tangible matters that can be discussed and debated. As many scholars are aware, this instability and contingency is true of all religious formations, yet it remains an uphill battle to speak of older traditions in the same way—unless of course one’s goal is to cause offense in the first place.

Contemporary Paganism in all its forms is “not well defined.” Our boundaries are not merely porous, they are vaporous. You could do a “Shit Pagans Say” video — and maybe someone has — but a lot of Pagans probably would say that it just critiques the fluff bunnies or something, that none of “that stuff” is really central to their spiritual practice.

On the other hand, the author writes,

Whenever the social practices of a group are presented as the essence of that group as a social whole, there is a risk of causing offense. For something to be considered “offensive” in a categorical sense, however, it must involve more than hurt feelings on the part of an individual. There must be some notion of a “social whole” in the first place and, what is more, those things that are being lampooned must be considered central to the self-understanding of the group in question.

Sheedy argues that another video, “Shit Girls Say,” is indeed offensive because it addresses a social whole, whereas “Shit Yogis Say” does not.

If “girls” constitute a social whole, then certainly “women” do as well.  There is a general assumption of what constitutes “women.” Some people insist that self-identified transwomen, for example,  can also be included. But there is a boundary, and the argument is about who is inside it and who is not. There is something worth struggling over — as long as Paganism(s) valorize women-only ritual and female religious leadership.

UPDATE, Feb. 28: Gus diZerega writes the most reasonable blog post on this whole issue from a Pagan-politics standpoint that I have seen.

To summarize, the protest against Z’s genetic-women only ritual was political.  Its advocates were making a statement about how they believe the entire Pagan community should act: not simply not to condemn, not simply to accept other ways, but to modify their ways so as to include a group that wanted such affirmation even while they were free to practice in their own way within a largely accepting environment.  Sometimes this is necessary to do, as with a hypothetical case of having the community ban a group practicing ritual child abuse. But most of the time this is not necessary.

I am asking different questions, but I applaud Gus for making that point. Wicca, in particular, has always been a small-l libertarian, “live and let live,” do-it-yourself religion. I hate to see one group demanding that another group change its ways to accommodate them based on a self-proclaimed moral authority.