Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule

You might remember that I really loved Jason Mankey’s book “Witch’s Wheel of the Year”. If not, I loved it. I made sure to keep an eye out for what would be published from him next. When it turned out to be “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule”, I reached out to Llewellyn for a copy, even though I expected it to just be a repacking of the Yule stuff from “Witch’s Wheel of the Year”. I was wrong.

Considering how great “Witch’s Wheel of the Year” was, I should have known that Mankey wouldn’t just phone it in for “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule”. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer abundance of enthusiasm Mankey for all things winter holiday. Normally I don’t look at reviews or ratings for books I plan on reviewing, but I couldn’t help but notice that many readers were disappointed in the lack of laser focus on Yule. I suppose it’s a fair criticism, considering the title is “Llewellyn’s Little Book of YULE”, however, what some found a weakness I found a strength. Just like in “Witch’s Wheel of the Year”, Mankey is effortlessly inclusive, working to make sure all holidays from right after American Thanksgiving through the New Year. In a world of overlapping religions and traditions, “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule” does an excellent job guiding you in ways to incorporate as many, or as few, observances as you wish.

Honestly, don’t go into the holiday season without “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule” by Jason Mankey.

You can learn more here.

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Byzantine Intersectionality

Today we are talking about an academic work exploring the Byzantine empire that is an accessible read and incredibly relevant for today. “Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, & Race in the Middle Ages” by Roland Betancourt is an eye-opening, thought provoking work.

Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” (Oxford Dictionary) It was coined in 1989, but obviously marginalized identities existed before then.

Betancourt utilizes literature, religious texts, and art to examine lives of transgendered monks, sexual consent and the Virgin Mary, slut shaming of society women, race around the Ethiopian Eunuch, and same sex desire in the lives of monks and the story of Doubting Thomas. Medical texts of the time show that late term abortions and sex affirming surgeries were part of the era.

Honestly, this review is not doing the book justice. “Byzantine Intersectionality” by Roland Betancourt is a riveting read that made me view the past differently, and in turn, think more deliberately about our future. I think everyone should read this book.

You can learn more here.

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Pro-Life Evangelical Leaders Publicly Endorse Biden

On October 2nd, prominent pro-life evangelical leaders launched www.prolifeevangelicalsforbiden.com and are inviting other evangelicals to join in signing a public statement. They acknowledge disagreement with Biden on abortion but believe that Biden’s overall agenda is closer to what they call a “biblically balanced agenda” than that of Donald Trump.

Prominent signers include John Huffman, board chair emeritus of Christianity Today, (one of the most prominent evangelical magazines in the country), Richard Foster, author of the best-selling Celebration of Discipline, Jerushah Duford, Billy Graham’s granddaughter and Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller seminary.

The signers are diverse: a Trump voter in 2016; a life-long Republican who refused to vote for Trump or Clinton in 2016; people who never before in their life publicly said how they would vote and never before endorsed a Presidential candidate until this year.

Their statement/petition, featuring some of the signers is as follows:

As pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with Vice President Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion. But we believe a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end.

Many things that good political decisions could change destroy persons created in the image of God and violate the sanctity of human life. Poverty kills millions every year. So does lack of healthcare and smoking. Racism kills. Unless we quickly make major changes, devastating climate change will kill tens of millions. Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism, and climate change are all pro-life issues. As the National Association of Evangelicals’ official public policy document (FOR THE HEALTH OF THE NATION) insists, “Faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda.“ Therefore we oppose “one issue” political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.

Knowing that the most common reason women give for abortion is the financial difficulty of another child, we appreciate a number of Democratic proposals that would significantly alleviate that financial burden: accessible health services for all citizens, affordable childcare, a minimum wage that lifts workers out of poverty.

For these reasons, we believe that on balance, Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore, even as we continue to urge different policies on abortion, we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president.

Richard Mouw, President emeritus, Fuller Seminary

Ronald J. Sider, President emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action

Brenda Salter McNeil, Reconciler, Professor, Pastor

Jerushah Duford, Speaker, author, Billy Graham’s granddaughter

John Huffman, Board Chair emeritus, Christianity Today

Roberta Hestenes, Former President, Eastern University

Claude Alexander, Bishop

Joel C Hunter, Faith community Organizer

Richard J. Foster, Author, Celebration of Discipline, Founder, Renovare

Myron S. Augsburger, President emeritus, Eastern Mennonite University

Ray Bakke, Professor of Global Urban Mission

David Black, President emeritus, Eastern University

Bryant L Myers, Professor, Fuller Seminary

Manfred Brauch, President emeritus, Palmer Theological Seminary

John Perkins, Founder, Christian Community Development Association

You can learn more and join these signers at: www.prolifeevangelicalsforbiden.com

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The Pagan Book of the Dead

Didn’t I just publish a review of a Claude Lecouteux book? Yes, yes, I did. There is already another book? Yes, yes, there is. Is it too much? No, no, it isn’t. Theoretically, you can have too much of a good thing, like fried food or sugar (not that I reign that in). However, when it comes to Lecouteux, you can NEVER have too much of a good thing, and his latest, “The Pagan Book of the Dead” is a very good thing.

“The Pagan Book of the Dead” explores the afterlife from a variety of cultures and sources and how it evolved. Medieval Christian depictions of the afterlife were apparently the English-speaking world’s first torture porn. I have trouble handling horror (movies or books) and dude, the crazy ways a soul could be tortured was/is messed up! Rarely did I see anything about heaven, occasionally I would read about forgiveness, but primarily, that afterlife is all about torture. And although medieval Christianity takes the taco for discussing afterlife as primarily torture, they don’t own the exclusive rights to unhappily ever afters. In fact, one of the biggest features of “The Pagan Book of the Dead” is that unlike most of Lecouteux’s books, which focus on English, French, and German texts, this book also has texts from Arab countries, Nicaragua, and Asia. Believe me, they can be just as judgmental and punitive.

Which highlights one of the things I loved about this book, which is not only its inclusion of other cultures, but other formats. Along with the traditional tales (fairy or otherwise) you have come to expect, Lecouteux also features Gypsy folktales and songs as sources. With these extra inclusions he crafts an even better tapestry of the interconnectedness of our stories and the universality of many of our themes and symbols.

I am not 100% certain, but “The Pagan Book of the Dead” MAY be my new favorite Claude Lecouteux book.

You can learn more here.

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Travels to the Otherworld and Other Fantastic Realms

If you’ve been a reader of The Magical Buffet for any time at all, you know that I am a lady that LOVES herself some Claude Lecouteux. He has written numerous books about medieval beliefs and magic (many that have been reviewed on this website!). This time he, and his co-editor Corinne Lecouteux, are exploring the various realms of the medieval world with “Travels to the Otherworld and Other Fantastic Realms.”

In the introduction the Lecouteuxs (Lecouteuxes? Lecouteuxi?) explain that as you might expect, distance traveling in medieval times was dangerous business. Obviously, people wanted to hear about it, but instead of dry travelogues, people wrote tales of adventure and romance in these mystical distant lands. From the introduction, “To come alive, the stories need heroes whose epic deeds – real or legendary – have left their mark in human memory. While some of these figures like King Arthur, Roland, Siegfried, and Melusine have survived in popular consciousness, how many others are no longer remembered at all today!

Travelers’ tales open up an unusual world for us; they allow us to discover mythic geography and meet people from the far ends of the earth. In its own way, each tale reflects the reactions of the human being when faced with the unknown. The letters of Alexander of Macedonia to his mother Olympias and his teacher Aristotle are a perfect example of this. Out of these letters emerge alarming creatures of unparalleled strangeness.

But journeys did not only take place in this world. In the Middle Ages, with its profound Christian imprint, the protagonists could also make their way into the Otherworld, the land of Faery; this is the case with Thomas of Erceldoune (also known as Thomas the Rhymer) or Guerrin Meschino.”

“Travels to the Otherworld and the Fantastic Realms” presents tales of traveling to the end of the Earth, traversing the globe in the name of love and/or vengeance, seeing the fires of Hell, and more! Along with these stories are rare illustrations from manuscripts and chapbooks.

If you want to voyage to ancient, magical places, “Travels to the Otherworld and Other Fantastic Realms” by Claude and Corinne Lecouteux is a beautiful resource.

You can learn more here.

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How the Church Fostered Science and Technology

I like to think of my readers as a rather well-informed, open-minded bunch, so I feel it’s fair to share that Christianity once being a main propeller of scientific discovery isn’t a shock to you. Yes, the church that we now associate with rejection of science was one of the driving forces for science in the past. The latest issue of Christian History Magazine explores this with “Science & Technology – How the church fostered science and technology”.

According to Christian History, this issue “features a collection of in-depth articles chronicling how the Scientific Revolution, that unfolded in Europe between 1550-1700 in Christians founded universities, laid the groundwork for modern science. Over the past twenty centuries, followers of Christ pursued scientific and technological innovation with Christian motives and understandings, that were both productive and controversial.”

The articles included are:

Divine power, wisdom, and goodness by James Hannam
The medieval flourishing of natural philosophy in Christianity

Natural adversaries by David Lindberg
Has Christianity always warred with science?

The condemnations of 1277 by James Hannam
Debates over Aristotle’s role in scientific exploration

To make whole by Glenn Myers
Hildegard of Bingen, naturalist and apothecary

What is so great about Albert? by Michael W. Tkacz
The preserver of scientific riches

Understanding God through light and tides by Nicholas Jacobson

Faithful friar or scientific sorcerer? by Richard Oosterhoff
Roger Bacon on experimental science

Christian History Timeline: Faith and Science by the editors
A few of the highlights of Christian exploration of science that we touch on in this issue

The clergy behind science as we know it by Jennifer Powell McNutt
Enlightenment-era pastors didn’t oppose modern science. They helped advance it

Science vs. religion by James Ungureanu
What is really at war here?

A world of love and light by Edward B. Davis
Christian theology shaped modern science through the work of Johannes Kepler and Robert Boyle

The “religion of geology” by Edward Hitchcock & Edward B. Davis

Drinking from a fount on Sunday by Geoffrey Cantor
Michael Faraday’s experiments advanced the study of electricity

Freedom from dualism, by Tom Topel
On several occasions Maxwell indicated his view on the relationship between his faith and physics

“I know that my Redeemer liveth” by Jennifer Woodruff Tait
George Washington Carver sought to understand God’s creation and develop its benefits for others

God made it, God loves it, God keeps it by the editors and interviewees
We talked to four scientists who are believers—three with distinguished careers and one embarking on the journey.

Interested? Christian History Magazine is free to view online! You can explore all of this and their past issues too!

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Christianity and Judaism: How One Faith Became Two

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine has released with the topic, “Christianity and Judaism: How One Faith Became Two”. The entire issue explores division and reconciliation in arguably the most profound and heartbreaking expression in the history of man, religion and what is His story – that of the God of the Bible and the Father of both Christians and Jews. Here are some of the intriguing discussions from the issue:

Faith divided: How one faith became two—and how their conflict began by Eliza Rosenberg, postdoctoral teaching fellow in world religions at Utah State University

People of Torah: Rabbinic Judaism 101 by The Editors

Gentile tales: How a limited protection of Jews evolved into persecution by Miri Rubin, professor of medieval and early modern history at Queen Mary University in London

Looking for demons: “Golden mouthed” saint preached against Jews by Matt Forster, director of admissions and communications at Houston Graduate School of Theology and frequent contributor to Christian History

Larger than life: Christian thinkers Adopted Jewish symbols—but mistrusted their sources by Edwin Woodruff Tait is a Christian History contributing editor

Kabbalah: A surprising point of meeting by Harvey J. Hames, professor of history, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

“Never shall I forget”: From 1933 to 1945, Germans—some of them Christians—murdered six million Jews by Chris Gehrz is professor of history at Bethel University and coauthor of The Pietist Option.

Jews, lies, and Nazis: Did Luther pave the way for Hitler? by Eric W. Gritsch (1931–2012), Maryland Synod professor of church history at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

A land called holy: The founding of the State of Israel opened new questions for Jewish-Christian relations by Robert O. Smith is director of Briarwood Leadership Center, Argyle, TX

Nozrim and Meshichyim: Messianic Judaism combines Jewish and Christian influences, but not without controversy by Yaakov Ariel is professor in the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Experiencing Messianic Judaism by Paul Phelps has attended Messianic congregations both in America and in Israel. He is the father of Michael Phelps, network administrator for our sister company, Vision Video.

“Our Jewish life”: Jewish thinkers, writers, leaders, and artists with lasting impacts by Jennifer A. Boardman is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary with a concentration in Christian history.

Sorrow and blessing: Two theologians seek to illuminate the difficult history in this issue by Ellen T. Charry is professor emerita of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and is working on a project about Jewish-Christian relations tentatively titled “Who Is the Israel of God?” Holly Taylor Coolman is assistant professor of theology at Providence College. Her current research focuses on Christian theologies of the Jewish people.

You can read the issue here.

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In the Garden

Throughout the years I’ve reviewed many books about plants; herbalism, growing them, trees, culinary herbs, and many more perspectives. However, recently I was approached about the opportunity to review a book about plants written from a unique perspective, the Bible. “In the Garden: An Illustrated Guide to the Plants of the Bible” discusses trees and shrubs, edible plants, medicinal and aromatic plants, and flowers from the Old Testaments and New Testaments.

Why the Bible? As it’s pointed out in the introduction, “The Bible is full of metaphors that come from plant life: sowing, pruning, tending, reaping, and storing; seeds, stalks, fruit, chaff, and leaves.” That, “A study of the plants in the Bible also gives us an appreciation for the scope of the narrative of God’s people in Scripture,” and that, “a careful study of the meaning of words in the Bible brings our imaginations into worship of our King.”

So, you don’t practice a Judeo-Christian religion. Why bother with this book? Because it gives us, particularly those of us who love nature but aren’t knowledgeable in Scripture a new perspective to many plants. Each plant outlined in the book has a corresponding piece of Scripture and history of the plant. At the end, there’s even some ideas for growing your own Biblically inspired garden!

“In the Garden” is 128 pages of beautiful full-color illustrations by Becky Speer in a slim hardcover format. This would make a lovely coffee table book and an excellent gift for anyone who is intrigued by plants.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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Are You Willing to Take Up the Shepherd’s Staff — and Help Spread Love & Peace

By James Twyman

Set aside your computer for a moment and see if you can guess who wrote these words: “I made a mistake. Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated, but our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. What was really needed…were ten Francis of Assisi’s.”

I love asking this question and I’m not surprised when people give credit to revolutionary characters like Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When I tell them they’re wrong their answers become even more interesting – Napoleon, George Washington, etc. “How about John Lennon?” someone recently asked.

“You’re close,” I said, “but only because their names sound similar. The answer is Lenin, not Lennon – the architect of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin.”

Lenin? Is it possible that the communist leader who referred to religion as “medieval mildew” and called the clergy “gendarmes (French policemen) in cassocks” had fallen in love with a twelfth century Italian mystic who gave everything he owned to the poor in order to live the Gospel of Jesus as perfectly as he could? Clearly St. Francis has inspired millions of people for more than eight hundred years, to the point that statues of the saint occupy gardens everywhere you look today, but how did an atheist like Lenin become so enthralled?

Maybe Lenin has something to teach all of us in this regard. The end of the quote is: “What was really needed in Russia were ten Francis of Assisi’s,” but we could just as easily substitute that in our own world today – and it would be just as true.

Does it sound like a ridiculous dream in the world of bullying, fake news and racist attacks? When you know a little about the history of Europe, especially at the time of St. Francis, you realize things weren’t that different – the pope was at odds with the Holy Roman Emperor, city states were constantly at war with other city states, and tension between the very rich and the very poor was at an all-time high.

Which leads to the question Vladimir Lenin seemed to be asking – Are we trying to solve the problems of the world with the same thinking that got us into trouble? If so, maybe ten radical people like St. Francis of Assisi are enough to turn things around.

Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Was Mead’s thinking influenced by St. Francis when he wrote: “Pure, holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world?”

When you examine the current direction of the world — especially politically — it’s easy to agree that the current wisdom isn’t so wise, so maybe thinking outside the box isn’t such a bad idea.

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has taken considerable heat for challenging the status quo. She encourages us to “love with conviction” and “wage peace,” the same ideas St. Francis would have expressed if he was alive today. But at least she is willing to stand for these ideas on a national stage, inching these concepts forward, planting seeds in the minds of people who may not have viewed the world from this perception.

So I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring, but not as a Presidential candidate. I want to take up the challenge issued by Lenin and become one of the ten St. Francis’s needed to turn the world around.

Here are a few things I’ll need to do if I’m to accomplish my goal: Be willing to give everything for love; think less about my own comfort and more about the wellbeing of others; and finally, challenge my own limiting beliefs and be willing to see everyone through the eyes of love. If I can do that, even in some limited way, maybe others will make a similar decision and step forward in their own way. All I need are nine more.

St. Francis’s example directly challenged the powers that ruled Europe eight hundred years ago, and yet his vision is celebrated today. He lived at the end of what we now call the Dark Ages, but he was also one of the inspirations that initiated the Renaissance, an era of great light and creativity.

Is it possible that hundreds of years from now people will look back at this time in a similar way, calling it another Dark Age? And if they do, will they also celebrate the few dedicated people who stepped forward just as St. Francis did? Are we on the cusp of a New Renaissance?

About James Twyman:
James Twyman, bestselling author of “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis”, will bring his stirring new musical on “St. Francis Brother Sun, Sister Moon” to Broadway on February 20-March 1, 2020. And with the beloved saint as his model-he will travel a continent penniless, on foot and with whatever food, housing and further transportation that God will provide to get him there, presenting the play in 10 cities along the way. Twyman is also the NY Times bestselling author of 15 other books including “The Moses Code” and “Emissary of Light”. He has also recorded more than 18 music albums including the Billboard chart bestseller “I AM Wishes Fulfilled” along with Dr. Wayne Dyer; as well as produced or directed seven feature films. For more information on Twyman, and the “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” Musical Tour stops and performances– and “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis”–visit: www.JimmyTwyman.com

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Women of the Reformation

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is available now. I wanted to bring it to your attention due to its look at women who played a role in well, Christian history.

This issue, #131, titled: Women of the Reformation: Lesser-known stories, features women who are not as well known, including a printer, Margarethe Prüss; preachers, Katherine Schütz Zell and Marie Dentière; pamphlet writer, Argula von Grumbach; mystic, Ursula Jost and others, alongside Katie Luther, who pioneered the brand new role/profession of pastor’s wife and Anna Bullinger, whose husband Heinrich’s courtship letters formed the basis of the only lengthy excerpt from a male theologian in this issue.

Prominent queens of the sixteenth century are included in the issue, such as Marguerite de Navarre and Jeanne d’Albret of France and all the six wives of England’s Henry VIII – the three Catherines, two Annes, one Jane and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.

Articles in this issue are:

No simple story by Jennifer Powell McNutt – How women’s roles changed in the sixteenth century

“Honorable and holy” by Heinrich Bullinger – Bullinger’s book on Christian marriage was a best-seller

Like mother, like daughter? By S. Amanda Eurich – Marguerite de Navarre and Jeanne d’Albret shaped French religion for generations

“A very useful epistle”: Marie Dentière by Mary B. McKinley – In 2002 Dentière received belated recognition; her name was added to the Wall of the Reformers in Geneva.

Our first woman reformer by Peter Matheson – Argula von Grumbach proclaimed “no woman’s chit-chat, but the Word of God”

Not a soap opera by Calvin Lane – The women of the English Reformation were active participants in a theological drama

She would follow only Christ by Elsie McKee – From pamphlet writing to pastoral counsel, Katharina Schütz Zell fought for her right to speak

“Christ is the master”: Margaret Blaurer by Edwin Woodruff Tait – Blaurer was of use to the church as a single woman.

Dangerous pamphlets by Kirsi Stjerna – Margarethe Prüss helped advance the radical Reformation through her publishing

“God my Lord is even stronger” by Rebecca Giselbrecht – Exemplary women of the Reformation with confidence in their convictions

“The gates of Hell cannot prevail” by Argula von Grumbach – Von Grumbach’s letter to the University of Ingolstadt protesting the arrest and exile of Arsacius Seehofer for holding Lutheran views, excerpted here, became her most famous and best-selling piece of writing

Issue #131, contains 14 feature articles and shorter side-bar articles; a chronology timeline; an archive of rare artwork & photos; a ‘letter to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CH editorial staff. The magazine is available on-line and can be conveniently read on screen at: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine.