Snake on the Magazine: The Angont

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

The Huron people of America tell the story of the angont. First, if you’re like me, let’s start with who are the Huron? According to my anonymous peeps at Wikipedia.Org, “The Wyandot and Huron are indigenous peoples of North America, known in their native language as the Wendat. Modern Wyandots and Hurons emerged in the 17th century from the remnants of two earlier groups, the Huron Confederacy and the Petun, who were located on the southeastern corner of Georgian Bay in what is now the Canadian province of Ontario before being dispersed by war. Wyandots and Hurons today live in various locations in Canada and the United States.” Now that we’ve taken care of that, what is an angont?


Glad you asked. An angont, or specifically THE Angont, is a huge venomous snake. Well, how big is it? It’s SO big that it can stretch forth from its hiding place, generally caves, lakes, rivers, and old growth forests, and overwhelm travelers, and inflict disease and death upon any that come within its gigantic radius. You’re saying, that’s pretty wicked. I bet people steered clear of any area they thought the Angont was in, didn’t they?

Yes and no. Like all giant death-dealing creatures, it is said that its skin is a potent component for shamanistic magics. Needless to say, ill luck befell anyone who encountered the creature. Even worse, it’s said that talismans made from the Angont’s skin brought the bearer bad luck. Yet, people still sought it out. It’s like an evil plague bearing Unicorn that could casually crush you, and instead of having only healing stories behind its coveted horn, it has terrible tales in regards to using its body parts. Between you and me, I don’t get it.

Magical Buffet Mythology: Chac

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

This month’s Magical Buffet Mythology is chock full of Chacs…and Chac. Confused? Welcome to the religious practices of the Mayans.


Chacs are minor rain deities. Initially there were four Chacs, one for each of the directions, north, south, east and west. How many are there now? You tell me, I can’t find two sources that can agree. Chacs appear to look like old men and animal hearts were sacrificed to them during festivals.

The Chacs answer to Chac, the rulers of all the minor Chacs. That makes him THE rain god and patron of agriculture. He is often shown wearing a mask and holding an ax. During festivals humans, particularly children, were sacrificed to him to ask for rain and to receive prophecy.

Yes, unlike my Tanit article where the sacrifice was unconfirmed, humans were sacrificed to Chac. We all know that I’m not an expert. We all know that, don’t we? Well, I am not, so take this as the uninformed opinion that comprises 98% of what I write.

Is human sacrifice cruel? Yes. Should human sacrifice be practiced in modern times? No. Were the Mayans a bunch of barbarous evil doers? Absolutely not. Spiritual belief exists to provide people with answers. As the world grows smaller and science makes advances spirituality exists to provide answers to internal questions; questions of morality and a quest to understanding ourselves and the divine.

There was a time when the world was large, complex, and filled with mysteries. A few important questions like, why does it rain? How can I guarantee rain to sustain my people? That’s where Chac and his Chacs come in. How do we show Chac that our desire is strong? That we’re willing to put our trust in him? Perhaps by sacrificing the untapped potential of our young? Cruel, yes, but it does convey a strong message.

So let’s leave the sacrificing in the past, but cut Chac, Chacs, and the Mayans a little slack.

Ten Questions with Kerr Cuhulain

1. What drew you to Wicca?
When I was a child I was wild about Greek and Roman mythology. Back in the late sixties when I was a teenager, I was exploring various different religions, not really knowing what I was looking for, developing an interest in Celtic lore. Then I came across Diary of a Witch by Sybil Leek. And there it was. I’ve been a Witch ever since.

2. What made you decide to become a police officer?
There was a military history on my father’s side of the family (and for many generations on my mother’s side as well). My father had been a flight sergeant in the RAF during WWII and wanted me to become an officer, gentleman and pilot, something he hadn’t achieved. I went off to do that in the Canadian Armed Forces, then realized once I’d got there that it was his dream, not mine. I had a high school associate who had gone on to be a Vancouver cop and this interested me. I signed up with the VPD and spent nearly 29 years there.

3. Why was it important to you that people knew you were a Wiccan and a police officer?
When I first became a cop I didn’t realize until I’d told some people about my beliefs that I was the first Wiccan cop to “come out of the closet.” I found out pretty quickly and defending myself turned into two and a half decades of anti defamation work for the Pagan community. It was important for the police and the public to see that I didn’t resemble the stereotypical image that was being presented by our detractors. Officers of Avalon is an extension of that, showing the world what Pagans in the emergency services are doing for the public on a daily basis.

4. What was the biggest surprise when you started letting people know your religious preference?
The reaction outside of the court rooms was one that comes to mind. I recall the first occasion that I used an affirmation in court, rather than taking an oath on the Bible. Afterwards I was approached by one of our detectives outside of the courtroom and the following conversation took place:
“So, you’re an atheist?”
“No.”
“But you took an affirmation. You aren’t religious.”
“I’m very religious. In fact, I’m a priest.”
Similar incidents occurred almost every time I made a court appearance for the first few years. It is interesting how many people in this culture equate Christianity with religion or religion with scripture. Many of those who challenged me over my practice of taking affirmations did not seem to grasp the fact that a person could be religious and not Christian.

5. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the Officers of Avalon?
On 15 December 1999 Corporal Tricia Mullensky of the University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth) Police Department created the Yahoo e-group Officers of Avalon as a “way for Pagan law enforcement and emergency personnel to talk, discuss, vent or ask questions to others of like mind. In its infancy Officers of Avalon was a small e-group where Pagans in the emergency services could chat. Its obscurity protected it from the predators and proponents of “spiritual warfare”.

That all changed on 12 May, 2002, when Tim Flanagan (Bogota (NJ) Police Reserves) posted the following on the Officers of Avalon e-group:

“The black officers have their organization, the Irish, the gays, etc. Why not us? They all started with just a few members. Don’t you think it’s about time we came out of the closet?… We are good people, and I know that there are many, many of us across the Us who don’t know who to turn to, … This small group can be the start of something big for every Wiccan police officer in the US…”

The initial burst of enthusiasm expanded the membership. Things looked promising: A person came forward to set up a web site. There was a lot of discussion about incorporation, conventions, and other exciting prospects. This all got us a lot of publicity in newsletters, web sites and Llewellyn’s 2003 Wicca Almanac. Suddenly Officers of Avalon wasn’t simply an obscure e-group any more.

Little else changed however, and that became a problem. I had joined Officers of Avalon in March of 2001. I was asked to be a spokesperson and accepted. I was content to sit back and let others run the show as I already had a very full schedule. Unfortunately, at that stage in the development of Officers of Avalon, things were being decided by the time consuming process of consensus. The result was that many of these marvelous ideas did not move forward.

Then things started to really go wrong. The webmistress suddenly disappeared. She dropped off the e-group, did not respond to any form of communication (e-mail, snail mail, phone). I won’t speculate as to why she did this: We really have no idea. The web site stopped working and no one could fix it as the webmistress was the only person with the passwords. There were concerns expressed about this on the e-group but little action was taken. The leadership at the time continued to send messages to the webmistress that went unanswered.

Ultimately the domain lapsed. The webmistress chosen by the leadership had obtained the domain name for our organization, and no effort had been made to turn it’s ownership over to the organization. So when the domain expired the former webmistress was the only one who could have renewed it. When she did not, a Russian entrepreneur snapped it up immediately and offered to sell it back to us for $1200 US.

Meanwhile, as columns by Christian journalist Michael Coren in the Toronto Sun proved, some radical elements within the evangelical Christian community had noticed the existence of Officers of Avalon. They weren’t happy about it. Some of them had been trying for years to defend their position by claiming that the followers of religions other than Christianity were all dysfunctional flakes. Officers of Avalon is living proof that they are wrong. Our members are professional emergency services personnel and an example of the possibilities open to the Pagan community. As a result we became a target for such fundamentalists. Radical Christian web lurkers began to pop up, post and run on our old e-group. A fundamentalist Christian used my name in an e-address for a hate literature site called the “Encyclopedia of Satanic Wicca”. This was brought to our attention by a Christian expert on the occult, Tony Kail. The world isn’t a simple place and it became painfully obvious to us that a simple e-group wouldn’t meet our needs any more.

As a result of all this quite a number of members were starting to write to me, both on and off the e-group, asking me what to do. I was not part of the leadership structure at that point, just a spokesperson and a very visible personality in the community. There obviously wasn’t an effective leadership. I contacted Mullensky and voiced my concerns. She had a lot going on in her life at the time and agreed to let me take the mess over and try to straighten things out.

I took over immediately. I set up a Preceptory system and appointed a Grand Preceptory (our board of directors). We got down to work. Our Chancellor General began to draw up our bylaws. We got the control of the original e-group turned over to the organization and secured all of the other domains available (officersofavalon.com and .net). The organization at this point had no funds at all, so it wasn’t possible to buy the original domain back. When the Russian entrepreneur that had grabbed our original domain name saw that we weren’t going to buy the original domain name back he handed it over to a Spanish porn site webmaster, likely as a means of pressuring us to cave in to his demands. We did not bow to this pressure. Our Inspector General, assisted by Tara Ravensong, a member of the High Tech Services Unit (HTSRU) of the Orange County Sheriff‘s Department Reserve, created a new web site at www.officersofavalon.com.

Our second objective was to build the organization that Tim Flanagan first proposed and turn it into an effective tool to further our interests. On 11 September, 2003, the Grand Preceptory of Officers of Avalon learned that we had succeeded in our efforts to incorporate our organization: We are now incorporated in the state of Nevada and have a mailing address in our Treasurer’s home town in Wisconsin. What had been talked about for two years we accomplished in a little over 2 months. Our Treasurer General set up a bank account and began to collect dues.

This is just a start. Together we’ve responded to people like Michael Coren. We’ve joined forces against fanatic “occult experts” disseminating misinformation to our non-Pagan colleagues in our work places. Our combined efforts shut down the objectionable “Encyclopedia of Satanic Wicca” web site. Yet there is a lot more problems to be solved and we are uniquely situated to deal with them.

Officers of Avalon isn’t just an e-group anymore. It has become a benevolent association for Pagan professionals in the emergency services. As always, we will continue to offer Pagan cops, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and rescue personnel a safe place to vent, to share ideas and to disseminate information that affects us. We will move beyond the electronic realm and provide opportunities for our members to interact in person, through gatherings and conventions. We are a network like the IPA that can offer members contacts and refuge in cities around the world. A newsletter is being planned and we are looking for organizations and individuals willing to sponsor us. At the time of writing a number of fund raising schemes are being set in motion to help us achieve these goals. Through our disaster relief project, Avalon Cares, we supply funds to people all over the world who are in need.

As Coren and the Toronto Sun discovered, we are spokespersons for the Pagan community. We are proof that many of the guardians of our society are Pagans. We are a shining symbol to the Pagan community of infinite possibilities.

At the time that I first went public about my Wiccan beliefs I didn’t know I was the first police officer to do so. I found out very quickly. It was a lonely feeling. Nearly 25 years later, in March of 2001, I discovered Officers of Avalon and said goodbye to that loneliness. It has become my second family. I’m very protective of it.

6. I’ve started asking many of our interviewees this question. What challenges do you see facing the Pagan community? How can the community resolve those issues?
This community is both growing and aging rapidly. It’s not just a few people meeting in isolated living rooms any more. We have to find large sites to celebrate the turning of the year, create services for people of all ages in the community, provide leadership, counseling and chaplaincy duties, legally marry people and legally bury them in Pagan grave sites. We need to put differences aside and embrace these responsibilities.

7. You’re a frequent contributor on The Witches Voice website. What do you find appealing about that community?
It’s an excellent venue to disseminate information. It’s creator, Fritz, has done an excellent job in creating and maintaining it.

8. TJ Hooker, Miami Vice, or The Shield?
I’m laughing as I read this. You’ve no idea how many people ask my opinion on police shows like these, assuming, I suppose, that if I spend all that time out there on the mean streets I must love police work so much that I’m going to go home and watch all of these shows. The very last thing that I want to do after a stressful shift is go home and watch programs that (a) remind me of the stresses I’ve been facing all day and (b) in no way resemble actual police work. I must confess that as a result, I’ve only a vague idea of what these shows you name are about or who the characters are. I was proud to have served and protected my communities (mundane and Pagan) as a patrol officer, an ERT team member, a hostage negotiator, a gang squad officer, a child abuse investigator and an officer in the mental health emergency services unit. I still do as a police dispatcher. I leave it up to you to decide.

9. You’re such an inspiration to so many people, who inspires you?
In no particular order: Sun Tzu, Miyamoto Musashi, Charles Dickens, Bruce Lee, Gerald Gardner, Amber K, Margot Adler, Selena Fox, Doreen Valiente, Ann Moura, Kristin Madden, Christopher Penczak, Edain McCoy and Fritz Muntean.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Ask you a question? OK. How am I doing?

Excellent.

Kerr retired from the Vancouver Police Department in November 2005 after serving with them for 29 years. He was awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal. Kerr’s past job assignments within the VPD include the Emergency Response Team, Hostage Negotiator, Child Abuse Investigator, Gang Crime Unit, and the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit. Kerr is currently working as a police dispatcher for ECOMM for Southwestern BC . Kerr has been a Wiccan for 39 years and has been involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crimes investigation for the Pagan community since 1986. Kerr was awarded the Shield of Valor by the Witches League for Public Awareness. Kerr is the author of the Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca, Wiccan Warrior, Full Contact Magick, Witch Hunts, and Magickal Self Defense, with more on the way. Kerr has a column on anti-defamation issues and hate crimes on The Witches’ Voice web site called Witch Hunts (http://www.witchvox.com/_x.html?c=whs). Kerr is the current Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon (www.officersofavalon.com), an organization representing Neo-Pagans professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians).

Profile: Prance the Witches Path

Article provided by Prance the Witches Path

Our mission statement is our profile, and our goals are to try to educate through our actions. We believe that setting the proper example of our way of life and spiritual path is the key to educating the public of who we are. As spiritual people on this path known as “the Craft”, we acknowledge our roles within this greater global community. We are a Pagan Resource and Networking Council Educated through Human Experiences Working Independently to create Harmony Embracing Spirituality Pagans against teaching hate. This is not only our group name, but also a part of our mission statement. We are non-tradition specific, yet, we welcome all traditions to be a part of this journey.

Some of our goals include, but are not limited to; trying to help to build community, not bridges. We have been active within the Craft community for over 15 years. PRANCE was our original group, and has evolved, and grown into what it will become this coming Ostara. We are excited about this new venture, and hope that this excitement will be contagious and a spring board as well, into a new direction of the Craft. Those who have known us and been a part of the past, know of our commitment and dedication to our cause. Although there is the word “independently” in our name, it does not define the role we would assume. We are capable and ready to work with others of like-mind. The keyword to this group would probably be “networking”, as that is what and how we have previously worked. Many positive projects and ventures have manifested in the past, and we look forward to a new era of joint ventures and coming together for the greater good. Our final words on this would probably be, “Welcome to Prance the Witches Path!!!. Forever in the service of the Lord and the Lady. In love and Light.”

To learn more visit: http://www.myspace.com/gwaineandtia or http://www.prancethewitchespath.org/

Matt Looks in a Mirror

By Matthew

The mirror is often regarded with much superstition, and for good reason, the mirror reveals the reflection of the soul. One very common superstition claims that if you were to break your reflection in the mirror you will have seven years bad luck, this actually goes a bit further because causing any disturbance in your reflection is said to cause disturbance in your spirit. Indeed, Vampires traditionally do not cast reflections, because they have no soul.

Another interesting bit of mirror weirdness has to do with Gypsies. My Aunt Pamela has a nice home that was disrupted by the Gypsies who moved in next door. Never you mind that the Gypsies had no reason whatsoever to lay a curse on Auntie Pam, but she flipped out anyway. So she put mirrors up in all of the windows facing the Gypsy house, hoping to reflect the curse back to the sender. I’m not sure if it worked, but the house did feel very peaceful after that! I’m not sure where this practice came from, but she also placed a small pile of salt and a black quartz crystal in the windows too. God only knows how the Roma family felt about that.

A good magical exercise is called soul gazing. To do this simply shut out all light except perhaps a candle positioned behind you, so that you see your reflection in the mirror but not the light source. Gaze softly into your eyes. Soon you will see fuzziness around your reflected skin. Just observe and watch what happens, you should see changes starting with your eyes and then it’s almost like an overlap of images. Two faces occupying the same space.

When I do this, I often see myself as another person entirely, maybe a past life, or even an ancestor, but I almost always end up disappearing entirely if I gaze long enough, seeing the wall behind me. Maybe I’m a Vampire (!), or just a victim of optical illusion. Either way the mirror can act as a doorway to the subconscious, so those images that you might see are the language of the deepest part of you. Give it a try; you can learn a lot about yourself and your subjective reality this way.

As I understand it, the difference between Soul Gazing and Scrying is that by Soul Gazing you are actively gazing into your reflection, gazing into your soul, while by scrying you are staring into the abyss of a mirror that is casting NO reflections at all. In my own practice scrying has been totally replaced by soul gazing sessions due to the great success that I’ve had with it. The only trick is to learn what the meaning is behind the different faces and symbols that you might see. These symbols can only be interpreted by you, because it is your subconscious that is speaking, your ancient reptile brain.

Happy gazing!

Matthew has studied “witchcraft” as practiced in many different cultures, including Haiti and Peru, for well over 15 years. Matt has received great honors and even a few “secret” initiations for exceeding in study with Mambos, Curanderismos, and other Priests and Priestesses of indigenous faiths – who often question his status as a white American male.

The Goddess, Wicca & The Qabalah

by Sorita d’Este

“She is called the Spirit of Life and through Her do all men understand Wisdom.”
Zohar, 13th century

The Goddess occupies a central role in a number of magickal traditions. These include obvious instances such as the Wiccan tradition, and also less obvious ones such as the Qabalah. In Qabalah the Goddess is commonly known as the Shekinah, a Hebrew word which comes from the root shakhan, meaning “to dwell”. This meaning fits in with the Qabalistic idea that a fragment of the Shekinah is present within every living person, literally the divine spark of the Goddess in all of us!

The best known image in the Qabalah is the glyph of the Tree of Life, representing both the universe and man, and embodying the old magickal axiom of ’As above, so below.’ The Shekinah is sometimes described as the Tree of Life itself, as in Proverbs 3:17-18, which declares:

“Her ways are of pleasantness, and her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her.”

On the Tree of Life the Shekinah is also particularly associated with the sephira of Binah (“Understanding”) at the top of the feminine Pillar of Severity. Significantly this Pillar is also known as the Black Pillar, and is on the left as you look at an image of the Tree of Life. Balancing this is the masculine Pillar of Mercy or White Pillar. In Wicca these pillars are represented on the altar by the black and white candles of the goddess and god, which are positioned in the same manner, showing their Qabalistic roots. This symbolism of the pillars is also referred to in the Great Rite, and discussed further in the book I wrote with my partner David Rankine, WICCA: Magickal Beginnings.
The Tree of Life can be seen as a symbol map on which different magickal traditions can be mapped, this is particularly true of the Wiccan tradition. Amongst the many divisions and layers of the Tree of Life we can see many parallels with the Wiccan tradition.

Looking at the act of blessing the salt and water to consecrate the magick circle in the Wiccan tradition, we see it is full of Qabalistic significance. The water and salt are blessed, corresponding to the lower spheres of Malkuth (the salt) and Yesod (the water). Yesod is the sphere of the Moon, representing the astral and subtle realms, so by uniting the salt and water you are symbolically uniting the astral and the physical realms. The resulting salt water is also symbolic of the sphere of Binah, the Great Mother, which corresponds to the sea. So from a symbolic perspective the blessing of the salt and water and lustration represents the blessing of the circle with the energy of the mother goddess (Binah), and the journey between the worlds (union of Moon and Earth, Yesod and Malkuth).

The magick circle itself is another symbol shared by Wicca and Qabalah. One of the Qabalistic creation myths (from ninth century CE Germany) tells of how the Shekinah is the circle of fire who surrounds God, and that through their union the universe, human souls and angels come into being. In fact the Shekinah is seen in two forms in Qabalah, as the Greater Shekinah and the Lesser Shekinah. As the Greater Shekinah she is the great goddess who unites with god to create the universe, considered to be unmanifest and omnipresent, and is also known as the Superior Mother, who can be seen as the Great Mother Goddess of Wicca. A description of the Shekinah translated by MacGregor Mathers in The Kabbalah Unveiled shows the similarity in perception of the goddess with Wicca:
“From Her do they receive their nourishment, and from Her do they receive blessing; and She is called the Mother of them all.”

The relationship of the goddess and god, so central to Wicca, is also seen repeatedly on the Tree of Life. As well as the feminine and masculine pillars, it is also seen in the balanced pair of Sephiroth at the top of the pillars, Chokmah (‘Wisdom’) and Binah (’Understanding’), and in the relationship of the central solar Sephira of Tiphereth (’Beauty’) with the bottom Sephira of Malkuth (‘Kingdom’).

Malkuth has many titles and it is also equated to the Lesser Shekinah. This is because Malkuth is the sphere of the elements, and corresponds to the physical world we live in, and nature. Hence we see titles for Malkuth such as the Bride, the Queen and the Mother of all things. As the Bride, Malkuth is said to be married to the Husband sphere of Tiphereth, symbolising the union of the sun god and the earth goddess as also seen in Wicca. Tiphereth as the child of Chokmah and Binah also corresponds to the Child of Promise, reborn at Yule.

These Sephiroth of Chokmah, Binah, Tiphereth and Malkuth can also correspond to the great unpronounceable name of Qabalah, the Tetragrammaton, usually pronounced as Jehovah or Jahweh. This name is comprised of four letters, IHVH, and these letters have many attributions. Amongst these attributions are Father – Mother – Son – Daughter; Fire – Water –Air – Earth; Past – Future – Space – Present. A cursory glance immediately shows have familiar concepts from Wicca are also seen with these attributions, such as Fire and Air as the masculine elements and Water and Earth as the feminine ones. Likewise the relationship between the mother and daughter is emphasised by them both being attributed to the same letter, Heh, which is repeated in the unpronounceable name.

Returning to Tiphereth, the Solar Sephira, it has a unique and interesting position on the Tree of Life, at the centre of the glyph. It is connected by paths to all of the other Sephiroth apart from Malkuth. This means there are eight Sephiroth around the sun, mirroring the symbolism Wheel of the Year, where the sun passes through the year and the eight Sabbats.

So whilst this is only a brief glimpse, hopefully it demonstrates that the Tree of Life can be found in many places with many layers of symbolism and meaning, and that wherever you look, the Goddess is universal.

Sorita describes herself as a student of “life’s little mysteries”. She is an author, researcher and publisher and works from home which is near the English / Welsh borders in Monmouthshire (UK).
She is the author of 8 books on mythology, magick and folklore, including her latest book “Practical Planetary Magick” which she co-wrote with David Rankine which was released in early 2007.



To learn more, visit: http://www.avalonia.co.uk/

Which Religion has the Best Cell Phone?

In the land of “bling” (as the kids say), you see all kinds of stuff getting the “bling” treatment.  Diamond encrusted jewelry, tricked out cars, and super snazzy cell phones are all items to denote wealth and status.  Which is why I was intrigued to see Computerworld.com’s headline, “Which religion has the best cell phone?”  The column by Mike Elgan is an entertaining look at the ins and outs of cell phones for the faithful.
 
Like Elgan, I was shocked to learn that there may be no Christian cell phones.  There are accessories galore for the cell phone savvy Christian to get their phone on, but no 100 percent Christian phones.  He was also unable to find Hindu or Sikh cell phones, which is a bummer because I might give up my crappy pay as you go phone if I could get a cool looking cell with Kali on it.
 
So who were the big three?  Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists.
 
In third place was the Jewish cell phone.  This essentially is a phone about denial to help Orthodox Jews be good boys and girls.  In second was the Muslim cell phone.  This is genius because if you’re Muslim stuck in a foreign city, how do you know exactly when to pray and which direction Mecca is in?  Well, with the phones listed in the article they will remind you to pray, help you locate a mosque, and will point you towards Mecca!  I have to admit, despite not being Muslim I wouldn’t mind having a phone that would point towards Mecca…that’s just cool!  With the way things are going these days, I’m guessing it would come with a government listening device already installed for everyone’s convenience!
 
Finally, Elgan gave first place to the Buddhist cell phone.  I’m not sure what Buddha would think of it, but if this gold-plated, jade accented bad boy was available in the U.S. you would see it in every hip hop video on MTV.  To get a good look at this Nokia, check out this Trendhunter.com article.

Fun with Pew

From May 8 to August 13, 2007 the Pew Forum conducted a nationwide survey of 35,000 adults to put together the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey.  The Pew Forum website lays out the data in all sorts of fun interactive ways.  You can view the overall results, you can select a single religion and view the demographic characteristics of the faith, you can compare key characteristics of the faiths, and my favorite, you can bring up a map of the United States and it will show you each state’s population for different faiths.
 
I found the results shocking.  I know that Christianity is the dominant faith in the U.S., but I was not prepared to see that Jewish (which included Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Other) accounted for only 1.7%.  I find that really hard to believe.  Even harder for me to wrap my brain around is Muslim, what I thought was a fairly widely found faith, made up only 0.6%, and that includes Sunni, Shia, and Other!  The map function seemed like a function in stereotyping.  The bulk of the Jewish population is to be found in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida…you know, where Jews go when they retire.  Just like the south was the heart of the spreading Evangelical movement and Mormons are all in Utah.  Does our nation really conform to what I was thought were terrible stereotypes?  According to Pew, yes, yes it does.
 
Aside from rocking my world, what is the purpose of the Pew Forum survey?  Well, there is much to be learned from the data collected, such as religious trends in our country, cultural influence, etc.  For instance, the survey shows that our younger citizens are turning away from the religious beliefs of their parents.  “The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.”

Some other interesting tidbits from the report:
 
~Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
 
~The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population.
 
~In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.

~Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among those blacks who are unaffiliated, three-in-four belong to the "religious unaffiliated" category (that is, they say that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives), compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall.

If you find yourself with a little time, I encourage you to visit the site and view some of the survey and play with some of the neat features.  It’s an eye-opening experience.

I Beat MTV….I Rock.

That’s right, I beat MTV.  In Issue 14 I interviewed Raven Digitalis.  At the end of March MTV did a piece featuring the author.  I beat them by months…months I say!  Raven is an awesome guy and a lot of fun so I thought I would post the link to the article here, and I’ll even post the one to my interview too.
 
MTV article here.
 
Magical Buffet interview.