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Spiritually relevant articles and/or information from outside sources.

7 things paganism can teach the modern man -By Lee Kynaston

As thousands prepare to celebrate the Summer Solstice this weekend, Lee Kynaston looks at the lessons we can glean from a pagan lifestyle

If I were to ask you what the average male pagan looked like, you’d probably have him down as a bearded, middle-aged, cloak-wearing, tree-hugging, mead-swigging, part-time nudist who’s a bit paunchy around the middle and whose favourite film is The Wicker Man.

And you’d be right. In fact, that’s pretty much a description of me. And though I won’t be joining the hoards at Stonehenge this year I will be celebrating the Summer Solstice with them. Unchristened (my atheist father wanted me to find my own ‘path’) I spent most of my adult life with no faith whatsoever: so much so, in fact, that by the time I hit forty my ‘path’ had become an open road. I flirted with religion several times but nothing hit the spot. I was certainly searching for something – as you do in your fourth decade – but it clearly wasn’t organised religion.

 

It was a visit to Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire seven years ago that triggered my eventual conversion to the ‘old religion’, though looking back, I was already doing a lot of pagan stuff without realising it. Although I’ve dabbled in both Wicca and Druidry I’m very much a spiritual magpie, taking elements from both, throwing in a little shamanism and stirring it all up (in a massive black cauldron obviously) to create a form of contemporary paganism that works for me.

Certainly, I feel like I‘ve found my spiritual home. And I’m not alone. Paganism is thought to be the fastest growing ‘religion’ in the UK and there are probably more pagans in this country now than at any time since the Romans. In fact, historian Professor Ronald Hutton, a leading authority on British paganism, reckons there could be as many as a quarter of a million of us burning our incense and ceremonially swigging mead from cow horns. Meanwhile, traditional fire festivals, like those to welcome the pagan festivals of Beltane and Samhain are becoming, if you’ll forgive the pun, the hot place to be seen.

Part of the allure of paganism, especially for city-dwellers like myself, is that it enables you to connect with something that’s lost through metropolitan living. Paganism, more than any other belief system, celebrates and glorifies nature (the Latin word paganus means “of or relating to the countryside” after all). Plants and animals are venerated, as are the elements of earth, air, fire and water, along with our ancient ancestors. Celebrating these things and incorporating them into rituals allows us to tap into our ancient past and escape from our time-poor, stress-heavy urban lives. It allows us to see our place in the universe and liberates us from the manacles of modern life, even if just for a moment. The bottom line is, paganism is a real tonic.

But, hey, I’m not here to convert you (that’s organised religion’s job), just to impart a few lessons from paganism that I think any modern man can learn from. Here goes …

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Frederick CUUPS acquires large Pagan library

FREDRICK, Md. – A collection of nearly 3,300 Pagan books and items have found a new home. The collection was once housed in a Washington D.C. Pagan community center. After the center closed in 2014, the collection was put into storage. Now it has been donated to the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church in Fredrick.

The collection’s estimated value is $37,800 and contains mainly books and tarot cards spanning a wide range of Pagan paths. It includes difficult to find and out of print books as well as more recent publications.

History of the collection

In the Fall 2011, the Open Hearth Foundation (OHF), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1999, signed a lease for a long-planned Washington D.C. Pagan Community Center. The goal of this new space was to provide an open space for local Pagans.

By early 2012, OHF had installed an extensive library as well as an art gallery, and in the years that followed, several public events and private group meetings were held at that new community space.

Then fiscal hard times hit the Pagan community center and, in February 2014, news broke that the community center was closing.

The library was packed up and moved to a storage unit. Then, it was moved to a basement in a private home, then into a different climate controlled storage unit.

Finally, in August 2015, the collection was moved to the home of former OHF board member Eldritch. He set the collection up on shelves in his home in an attempt to allow regular access to the books and tarot cards.

He was also on a mission to find a permanent home for the collection.

Eldrich says the OHF board had created a criteria for him to use while looking for a prospective place to house the collection. He says the facility couldn’t be a private home, and it had to allow the items to be properly shelved and easily accessible. The collection had to be maintained in a climate-controlled building, and its keepers had to be willing to revitalize the collection and add to it.

Former OHF Chair Sherry Marts says, “Eldritch almost single-handedly kept this collection intact and safe, and bent over backward to find a permanent new home for them.”

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SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN BENEFITS OF THE ANCIENT ART OF SMUDGING (BURNING HERBS AND RESIN)

Smudging (burning herbs and plant resins for medicinal and spiritual use) has been used since ancient times for healing and to clear the build up of emotional or spiritual negativity.

 Smudging is often viewed as some sort of magical practice, however recent studies have shown that there is scientific evidence that medicinal smoke is a powerful antiseptic that can purify the air of 94% of harmful bacteria for up to 24 hours.

The electromagnetic field (aura) around our body, as well as the energy in our environment, can become blocked with harmful positive ions that can make us feel fatigued, sluggish and burnt out.

Burning sage or other herbs neutralizes the positive charge and releases large amounts of negative ions into the atmosphere. This means that our own energy, and the energy around us, will feel lighter and freer.

It is also the reason that we feel like we could “cut the tension with a knife” during an argument, or if someone is in a bad mood. A build up of positive ions due to stress, anger or any form of tension releases positive ions and causes the energy around us to become stagnant. Burning herbs turns the positive ions back to negative ones, and therefore, the practice purifies and cleanses the atmosphere.

Although smudging and similar practices have been classed as “new age” or dismissed as fantasy or spiritual nonsense by those attempting to discredit them, research is scientifically proving that there are great benefits to the rituals that the Native Americans (along with many other indigenous groups) have inherently known of and practiced with faith throughout time.

Burning herbs is a popular method of purification in many religions and cultures. Growing up with religion, I became accustomed to smudging, as frankincense was burned in churches. Incense is commonly burned in Asia and in Buddhist temples, and the Incas burned palo santo wood. It has been a tradition in South America for hundreds of years.

The Native Americans ritualistically smudge using sacred herbs, and their technique is known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. The most common herbs used include cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco—and they are known as the Four Manido.

Once the sacred plant is burned, the cloud of smoke that emanates is used to prepare for prayer ceremonies, rituals and purification. Smudging is believed to heighten the sensitivity of healers, or the medicine men, so that they achieve an enhanced state of mind and can affectively assess and treat illness.

Not only is smudging used in spiritual practices, but it can also have medicinal benefits for those who are affected by poor air quality. This means it can help those who suffer from asthma, headaches, lung problems and respiratory issues, as well as general coughs and colds.

Sage is one of the most popular herbs used for smudging. The word sage stems from the Latin word salvia, which translates to “healthy” or “to heal.”

Studies have also shown that burning sage increases clarity and awareness, heightens wisdom, improves moods and enhances the memory and quickens the senses. (It is no coincidence that the word sage is also used to describe someone steeped in wisdom and humility.) Continue reading

Pagan merchants continue to wrestle with occult bans-TWH

Terence P Ward — August 22, 2017 — Leave a comment
TWH –It’s still not a good time to accept credit cards while Pagan. As was reported in March, terms of service forbidding fortune telling and other “occult” practices are enforced arbitrarily, and sometimes without warning. A new twist in the tale was discovered by Yeshe Rabbit, who was advised that not using a particular processor for the forbidden transactions is not enough. She was told to remove the offending services from her business web site.

The Sacred Well, her shop with two West Coast locations, now uses a different provider, but she’d like to work on clearing this climate of uncertainty once and for all.

picture: [Carmel Sastre, CC/Flickr.]

The ban on occult products and services stems from a purely mercenary motivation: the fear that customers will be unhappy and demand their money back. It’s for that same reason that lottery tickets can’t be purchased with plastic.
The lottery comparison is only superficially similar, however. For one thing, it is a clearly-defined category of merchandise, as opposed to the board and mushy “occult” grouping.

For another, it’s unlikely that anyone has told the owners of shops selling lottery merchandise that they won’t be able to accept credit cards for any merchandise if they continue to sell those scratch-off tickets.

“TSW was designated ‘high risk’ because, according to CardConnect, we mentioned ‘reiki, herbal smoking blends, and psychic readings’ on our website,” Rabbit said.

“This was after 10 years of working in our industry without any significant chargebacks or complaints. It was not based on our existing record of sales, only on wording on our website.” That wording has not been changed in the recent past, she confirmed.

Like many store owners, Rabbit acknowledges that she didn’t study the fine print when she first signed her CardConnect agreement some ten years ago, but that changed when she heard about other Pagan vendors running into problems.

“We made sure that we were not using any single processor for any activities listed in the fine print of their policy. CardConnect had a policy against psychic readings. However, since we did not use CardConnect to process readings, but rather used it to process sales of merchandise and classes, we thought we were abiding by the policy,” Rabbit explained.

“However, when they notified us that they planned to terminate our service,” she continued, “they specifically cited that we offered readings and smoking blends on our website.”

Rabbit said that she wrote back, letting the agent know that they used other processors for both readings and web sales, but they did not budge.” Card Connect told her that the store would “need to take those pages down to retain their services, even if [they] were using those services for a separate part of the business that did not violate their policy.”

“In the end, we chose to close our account,” Rabbit said.

A call to CardConnect asking for media relations was transferred to the voice mail of a Chelsea Cole, who did not respond to inquiries by press time. Cole was asked to confirm that CardConnect policy includes the restrictions that Rabbit described, and whether those limitations extend to CardConnect clients with lottery tickets for sale.

What’s clear is that at least one card processor is coming down harder still than earlier in the year, with attempts to dictate terms that extend well beyond what one might expect.

“They are not interested in any proof that our practices are linked to a legitimate religious path,” Rabbit said, “even though Paganism and Wicca are recognized by the government and armed forces for things like chaplaincy and headstones.”

Picture: [Sacred Well Portland [Courtesy]

The fact that services such as divination are used by some individuals as part of their sincerely-held religious beliefs is a complicating factor which could well hold sway in a court of law, but getting there is an expensive and cumbersome process which the stereotypical Pagan merchant can ill afford to pursue.
If Rabbit had those resources handy, she said, she’d be more inclined to just start a processing company of her own. “It’s tempting to dream about creating the kind of infrastructure that supports the world I want to live in, where there is true religious freedom and respect for diversity of beliefs and practices,” she said.

Rabbit is confident she could write a report that demonstrates that there is no need to for any processor to consider the Sacred Well a business risk, but she’s not sure it would matter much. After all, a 115-page business plan backed by considerable research was ignored by a commercial realtor in one West Coast city that simply refused to rent any space to a Pagan shop.

“I fear that would happen if we tried to do that here,” she said. “Perhaps if several businesses did this and approached these companies en masse, it might be more effective.”

The number of Pagan merchants isn’t big enough to get changes through a boycott. That’s evident in the other demand made of Rabbit, concerning her business web page.

CardConnect representatives “did not provide any explanation about why they felt they could dictate the content of our website, even after we offered proof that the activities they find objectionable have nothing to do with their processing equipment or services,” Rabbit said.

That kind of demand makes little business sense if it would lead to a loss of revenue for the processor.

Rabbit believes that if changing this state of affairs were to be successful, it would be as a leaderless movement, with responsibilities shared among actors. “I can see myself instigating, contributing, and collaborating in a movement among Pagan business owners to address the religious intolerance directed toward our products and services,” she said, “but I don’t know that anyone needs me to lead in that field. We are all business owners and capable entrepreneurs.”

She added, “I would love to team up with people like Jane Hawkner, Susan Diamond, and Phoenix LaFey around this. And, truth be told, if we really want something like this to be successful, we would benefit greatly from the business wisdom of Cat Yronwode. She is brilliant.”

Unless and until these policies are clarified or modified, there is little a Pagan business owner can do other than read the fine print of every agreement carefully, and to have one more more backup plans in place.

As Rabbit discovered, even complying with the letter of the policy is no guarantee that someone at the other end of the phone won’t decide it’s too risky anyway, and close the account. Absent the deep pockets for a lawsuit or the community will for a movement, signing up for payment processing while Pagan is no more certain than the promises made by some world leaders to take in war refugees and give them permanent homes.

We will continue to update this story as new information is received.

* * *

The work of journalist Terence P. Ward was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth

source:http://wildhunt.org/2017/08/pagan-merchants-continue-to-wrestle-with-occult-bans.html

Everyday Joys of Witchcraft

 AUGUST 15, 2017 BY JASON MANKEY

But I still find happiness, solace, peace, and astonishment nearly every day. Much of that is because of the Craft I practice. I find joy from the Craft in my home, my backyard, the vistas just outside my front door, and in my gods. The best part is that they are all things I can, and generally do, experience everyday.

The joy this flower gives me cannot be put into words.
The joy this flower gives me cannot be put into words.

The Wonders of My Backyard

Due to living in the overly full Bay Area most of my rituals take place indoors. There’s just no privacy in our backyard, making it a bad place for ritual, but that doesn’t mean the space outside my backdoor is lacking in magick. My backyard is nearly a second ritual space and is full of things that inspire me and bring me closer to my Craft.

Watching life spring from a seed and then nurturing that seedling side by side with Mother Earth brings me a sense of joy I have trouble putting into words. I give them water, but She’s given them the Earth and Sky they need to thrive. I think of the pumpkins that have taken over my yard as my children and look in on them two or three times a day. (Four of them are actually pumpkin sized at this point, it’s going to be a good Halloween!)

My pumpkins are like weird silent children.
My pumpkins are like weird silent children.

I’ve never been much of a meditator but my garden is a form of meditation unto its self. It relaxes and centers me, it also inspires me. When I’m having a rough day I spend a few minutes starting up at the multi-faced sunflower towering over everything in the garden.

The fey live in our backyard behind our lemon tree and watch over our little piece of green-space. Since we’ve begun honoring them with libations and gifts our backyard has blossomed as a magickal space. I’m grateful for their presence.

My backyard also connects me to the Wheel of the Year and brings the sabbats home for me. Lammas was the start of tomato season and by Yule the kumquats, grapefruit, and mandarin oranges should be ready to eat. I’m not a great gardner, but I’m a joyful one.

Shrine to Cernunnos.
Shrine to Cernunnos.

The Gods Are Here

Why do I do what I do? Because I believe in the gods and magick. Both are fundamental to my Craft and it’s reassuring to know that my gods are close to me. When I need that little extra something all I have to do is visit our shrines to Brigit and Cernunnos or perhaps give Pan a chance to wink to me on the wall in our ritual space (our deities speak with Laura Tempest Zakroff).

I’m sure that those who don’t believe in the gods wonder just why I worship the gods and what they or I get out of it. I honor them because it brings me joy, and I get so many things from them. I get reassurances, energy, power, blessings, inspiration, and a sense of purpose. They make the writing easier, and one of them even helped to give my wife and I a place to live.

When someone enters my house I don’t think there’s any question about the gods being present here. They charge our home and help to shape our lives. And by honoring them I think I give them power and influence. Our relationship is reciprocal. As Gerald Gardner wrote of the gods of Witchcraft:

“. . . . while the gods wished them well, they were not all-powerful,that they needed man’s help; that by performing certain rites men gave them power; also that the gods wished men to be happy and that acts which gave men pleasure also gave the gods joy and power, which they could apply to their own uses as well as to the benefit of man.”

I was just 30 yards away from a humpback whale the other day.
I was just 30 yards away from a humpback whale the other day.

The Natural World

I live in a valley nestled between two small mountain ranges with the San Francisco Bay just a few miles from my house and the Pacific Ocean just twenty-five miles away. Silicon Valley is often filled with smog and it’s loud and full of people, but it’s also magickal in a way that makes my heart soar. Looking at those hills is still awe inspiring and gods help me if I ever find myself jaded when they are in my field of vision.

There are soaring pine trees across the street from me that I know are there simply to hide the ground of defense contractor Northrop Grumman, but I still find myself appreciating their majesty. The trees outside my home scrape the sky with the arms and speak to the possibilities that lie within nature.

The sea and the hills will never get old . . . .
The sea and the hills will never get old . . . .

The natural world is a constant reminder of the power and beauty of the Great Rite, which many people erroneously think is only about heterosexual sex. To me the Great Rite has always been about joining in its many forms. The mountains I see daily were formed when two tectonic plates collided and a whole host of factors when into creating those trees (pollination, soil, sun, water). When things join worlds and universes (not to mention mountains and trees) are born.

My Chosen Family

My Witchcraft is responsible for many of the most important relationships in my life. The love I receive from my coven is beyond compare. Those people are my chosen family and I can’t imagine living my life without them. But the Craft has given me even more than that.

If success in life is measured by friendships I am a very rich man. When the stupid hits the fan it’s gratifying to know that I’m loved and cared about. No matter what is written or said about me I know that I’ll be all right because of the relationships I’ve cultivated through Witchcraft.

My Evie Monster is a friend in her own strange way.
My Evie Monster is a friend in her own strange way.

Many of those friends are people I’ve never met fact to face, but the respect we have for one another is still a very real thing. Paganism today is full of squabbles, spats, and lots of other ignorance, but there’s far more good out there than bad. It can be tough to remember sometimes, but it’s the truth.

If you are reading this and have ever said a kind word or shared a post, thanks for being a part of that chosen family.

Source: Patheos blog Raise the Horns

Moldavite: An intro

Moldavite:

Moldavite is one of the rarest minerals on earth. It has a rich history, prized since the Stone Age and used not only for arrowheads and cutting tools, but as a spiritual talisman and amulet of good fortune, fertility and protection. It has been linked to legends of the Holy Grail, thought to be an emerald that fell from the sky out of Lucifer’s crown before he was cast from heaven.

image

Moldavite is found almost exclusively in the Czech Republic and is named for the area in which it was first found, the town of Moldauthein. It is generally believed that moldavite was formed when a large meteorite crashed into the earth roughly 14.8 million years ago in what is now the Bohemian plateau. Moldavite is a type of tektite, which is a natural glass that is formed from extraterrestrial impacts with the earth.

Metaphysical and Healing Properties:
Moldavite is useful for counteracting cynicism and connects even the most world-weary adult with the wonders of the universe. It eases away doubts and calms worries about money by providing solutions not previously considered. Moldavite works extremely well in combination with other crystals and stones (particularly with the energies of quartz), increasing their effects and healing energies.

Moldavite is considered to be a powerful aid for meditation, spiritual development, astral travel, dream work, and past life regression. Moldavite also increases one’s sensitivity to spiritual guidance and intuition. It is a stone of psychic protection. It is thought to be a powerful healing and rejuvenating stone. Moldavite is also a stone of the heart, reaching into the deepest inner self and bringing truth to the surface. Its resonance brings the heart into union with the mind, allowing them to work together in partnership, encouraging empathy and compassion.

Moldavite has an intense energy vibration, so it is important to see how this stone affects you before wearing it or carrying it regularly. It is known for amplifying energy and emotions. Add moldavite to wands and crystal grids to intensify their effects.

Source:http://blackmoonmagick.tumblr.com/post/79935000882/moldavite

Chicago Library Seeks Help Transcribing Magical Manuscripts

SMITHSONIAN.COM
he Newberry Library in Chicago is home to some 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period, a time of sweeping social, political, and cultural change spanning the late Middle Ages to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Among the library’s collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts that would have scandalized the religious establishment. These texts deal with magic—from casting charms to conjuring spirits—and the Newberry is asking for help translating and transcribing them.

As Tatiana Walk-Morris reports for Atlas Obscura, digital scans of three magical manuscripts are accessible through Transcribing Faith, an online portal that functions much like Wikipedia. Anyone with a working knowledge of Latin or English is invited to peruse the documents and contribute translations, transcriptions, and corrections to other users’ work.

 “You don’t need a Ph.D to transcribe,” Christopher Fletcher, coordinator of the project and a fellow of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, tells Smithsonian.com. “[The initiative] is a great way to allow the general public to engage with these materials in a way that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.”

The three manuscripts now available online reflect the varied and complex ways that magic fit into the broader religious landscape of a shifting and modernizing West. The 17th-century Book of Magical Charms contains instructions on a range of magical practices—“from speaking with spirits to cheating at dice,” according to the Transcribing Faith website—but also includes Latin prayers and litanies that align with mainstream religious practices. An untitled document known as the “commonplace book” explores strange and fantastical occurrences, along with religious and moral questions. Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits by Increase Mather, a Puritan minister and president of Harvard who presided over the Salem Witch Trials, expresses a righteous condemnation of witchcraft.

Newberry has brought the manuscripts to light as part of a multidisciplinary project titled Religious Change: 1450-1700, which explores the relationship between print and religion during this period. The project features a digital exploration of Italian broadsides—advertisements for Catholic celebrations and feasts—a blog and a podcast.  In September, a gallery exhibition—also titled Religious Change1450-1700—will focus on the ways that print galvanized the Reformation, the 16th-century religious movement that led to the foundation of Protestantism. One of the items that will be on display is a copy of Martin Luther’s German translation of the New Testament, which made the Bible accessible to ordinary lay people for the first time.

The magical texts will be on display during the exhibition because, according to Fletcher, they add nuance to our perception of religious life during a period marked by grand, transformative movements. “The Reformation and the Scientific Revolution are very big, capital letter concepts that we all hear about in Western civ courses, or social studies classes,” Fletcher explains. “When we talk about them that way, we lose sight of the fact that these were real events that happened to real people. What we’re trying to do with our items is give, as much as we can, a sense of … how individual people experienced them, how they affected their lives, how they had to change in response to them.”

As an example, Fletcher cites The Book of Magical Charms, with its meticulous chronicle of occult practices. “Both protestant and Catholic churches tried very hard to make sure that nobody would make a manuscript like this,” he says. “They didn’t like magic. They were very suspicious of it. They tried to do everything they could to stamp it out. Yet we have this manuscript, which is a nice piece of evidence that despite all of that effort to make sure people weren’t doing magic, people still continued to do it.”

By soliciting the public’s help in transcribing its magical texts, the Newberry hopes to make the documents more accessible to both casual users and experts. “Manuscripts are these unique witnesses to a particular historical experience, but if they’re just there in a manuscript it’s really hard for people to use them,” Fletcher says. “[Transcribing the documents] allows other users to come in and do word searches, maybe copy and paste into Google, try to find [other sources] talking about this sort of thing.”

Fletcher quickly scanned the documents before putting them online, but reading through users’ translations has reminded him of some of the manuscripts’ more fascinating and bizarre content. The Book of Magical Charms, for instance, proffers a rather unusual method for alleviating a toothache.

“One of the remedies is finding a dead man’s tooth, which apparently was just available in 17th-century England,” Fletcher said. “That was just really cool to see that.”

The Renaissance of Pagan Parenting – by Zaeli Kane

By the time we have kids of our own, most of us have reflected on how much, if at all, we want to pass on the worldview in which we were raised. Agnostics sometimes gravitate toward religious formality or vice versa. Others don’t want to reproduce the dogmas of their youth, yet long to maintain the spiritual hygiene church provided.

Now many of these in-betweeners are deciding to walk a middle path, raising their children within a pagan framework. While even a decade ago this may have sounded laughable or scandalous, the Internet has done much to clarify stigmas and smear campaigns about so-called heathens. Closeted “witches” and other practitioners of indigenous faiths have found each other on social media, building community.

What’s the appeal? Why do these folks believe a pagan upbringing best benefits their kids?

It’s ecological

Global warming, privatized water, deforestation: The urgency of environmental crises can weigh heavily on parents looking down the long road. Paganism (which comes from the Latin word pagus, meaning “country district”) is all about learning and developing reverence for patterns of nature so we can fit into them harmoniously. It’s basically a spiritual, non-anthropocentric approach to good citizenship.

Pagan parents raise their kids to know their local habitat intimately, seeing it not just as a collection of resources, but as a home for interdependent life forms. With this attitude, pagan kids internalize respect for nature by recognizing it as an extension of their own body. For them, environmental stewardship is not just a scientific obligation, but a sacred quest.

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MILITARY ADDS HUMANISM, DRUID, REFORM JUDAISM, 200+ TO RECOGNIZED RELIGION LIST

THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE’S LIST OF RECOGNIZED RELIGIONS HAS NOW DOUBLED. The United States Department of Defense, in its quest for diversity in military chaplaincy, has announced an increase in the recognized religions list. In addition to a number of other religions, it has officially recognized Humanism.
The United States military previously recognized only about 100 religions. The brand new list recognizes 221 religions. The list of new beliefs includes earth-centric faiths, like Asatru, Druid, and Heathenism. Eight Protestant groups have been recognized as well. Thanks to the new order, Jewish servicewomen and servicemen could now select among Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative and not forced to tick only “Jewish.” According to Josh Heath, a co-director of Open Halls Project, an organization that supports earth-centric faiths and heathens in the military, the newly recognized entities will find it much easier to apply for holidays and keep their own unique religious items inside the barracks.

This move means those servicemen and servicewomen who identify themselves as adherents of minority faith groups can now enjoy the same protections, privileges, and rights which were earlier granted to members of bigger faith groups. The move came after Armed Forces Chaplains Board or AFCB made a thorough review of the faith groups recognized by the department. It then recommended that the faith groups’ list should be expanded to better mirror the intent and language pertaining to section 533. It was then recommended by the AFCB to add new belief groups and faith to standardize and also better identify the religious preferences as recognized by military services. The AFCB believes these changes will help religious support planning of the military services through better tracking of more belief and also faith systems. They will also offer a more accurate demographic data pertaining to religious groups. It will also help the military to plan better when it comes to religious support within the armed forces.

The changes will also offer a better quality assessment of the requirements and capabilities of the Chaplain Corps of the Military Service.Humanist organizations have applauded the move. They were pushing for such a recognition for ten years. According to Jason Torpy, the president of Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the new listing goes beyond humanism and is a victory for diversity. He said his Military Association is all set to help in “chaplain outreach” so that existing and future military chaplains could be trained in humanist needs and beliefs.

Full article here:http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/military-adds-humanism-druid-reform-judaism-200-recognized-religion-list#.WP-vcDhws_Y.facebook

MODERN WITCHCRAFT IN A WICKED WORLD-BY SEAN RANDALL

WICCA SHOULD BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY BECAUSE IT INCREASES SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT AND INSTILLS GREAT APPRECIATION AND CONCERN FOR THE PLANET AND ITS RESOURCES. “Witchcraft is a spiritual system that fosters the free thought and will of the individual, encourages learning and an understanding of the earth and nature thereby affirming the divinity in all living things.” Witchcraft involves the belief that the divine is present in nature, and everything from animals, plants, trees, and stones should be honored and respected. Wicca, or practitioners of witchcraft whom sometimes refer to themselves as witches, are very tolerant of other religious views. Wiccans are commonly misjudged by others due to a lack of understanding, therefore Wiccans do not typically involve themselves in criticizing the beliefs of others. Wicca should be taken seriously and respected because although its nature is severely misconstrued, it increases spiritual development and instills great appreciation and concern for the planet and its resources.

Due to a history of misunderstood information, a considerable number of people deny acceptance of Wicca and witchcraft. Although it is predominantly peaceful, it has fallen victim to ignorance. People commonly tend to judge the religion based off fictional assumptions or false information. The typical representation of witchcraft portrays a witch having a villainous role. From the seventeenth-century Salem witch trials, to modern media, the truth about Wicca remains incognito. As a result, witchcraft is generally seen as evil or for devil-worshipers. Another huge factor in why Wicca is seen in such a sinful way is due to conflicting religious views. There are many individuals that are extremely faithful to their own beliefs.

The views of Christianity, for instance, have a predetermination set in stone that steer Christians away from associating with Wiccans: There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.(New King James Bible, Deuteronomy 18 10-12)

Disregarding other religious reasons, common misconceptions about Wicca can be understood after looking at a survey conducted at Macomb Community College, in Clinton Township, Michigan. As seen in the figure above, the evidence concluded that of the twenty students who participated, 85 percent of them were not familiar with Wicca. Although the religion may be heard of by many, it is understood by few….

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