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#1 | Back to Top06-09-2013 07:27:08 PM

Valeli
Thorn of Death
Registered: 12-05-2006
Posts: 481
Website

Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Hey all.

So, I'm taking a comparative religion course this summer, because Georgetown's nursing school requires religion credits. I think that's silly, but I'd etc-love to go there, so I'll put up with their demands. I didn't really think about what course to take at all... I just grabbed the summer one that didn't start in AM hours. It ended up being about eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shinto, Daoism, etc). But I have a term paper to go to a religious service of /any/ religious tradition I'm not familiar with, and must do a small write up about that/the tradition's beliefs/symbolism in the service/etc.

I was pretty bummed out about this at first. Going to a synagogue or mosque or temple and blatantly taking pictures while asking people "so, what do /you!/ believe?" struck me as the most unnatural horrible thing ever.

To be fair though.... it's probably not a horrible idea. If I could set aside my dislike of interviews and class presentations. I'm not particularly ignorant about religion or philosophy, but I certainly don't know all about it. That was totally brought slam-in-my-face when this course showed me how Buddhism is totally derived from Hinduism, and yet I never knew this. I never knew how their respective images of reincarnation differed either. So... I certainly didn't know quite as much as I thought. Maybe I'm not comfortable with this assignment, but I started thinking it wasn't necessarily a bad one.

As for me specifically, I actually tracked down a Wiccan group near me. They seem to be doing a Litha/midsummer festival soon, and while I'm not positive this will work, I'm hoping to do my assignment on that. Wicca is something that, honestly, I know nothing about beyond the most stereotypical info. So beyond satisfying my contrarian nature by doing something I'm sure no one else will choose, I think it would actually be pretty interesting and a good chance to learn more about how other people look at stuff. From the (very) little I think I know, it strikes me as one of a few religions that are able to possibly mesh well with science/generally accepted fact. More or less. And I find those things interesting. I personally see religion as answering substantially diferent questions overall. Science isn't capable of answering things unless they're capable of being disproved, almost by definition. So I don't feel religion itself will ever be entirely irrelevant. Maybe that's a bit skeptical of me. But I simply don't think science will ever be able to answer every relevant question we have about ourselves, no matter how many fantastic advances and no matter how much substantial understanding it does bring. Note I'm not dismissing science in the least. Science is great. I hope to work in a fairly scientific job myself, and embrace the scientific method and all that. These things just are ultimately separate though, imo.

Science can tell how, but it can never get to the /real/ why. Why do we see colors? Perfectly answerable question if you reframe it as "how". But /why/ do we see color? That still strikes me as separate. We have rods and cones in such and such positions, and the breaking of pi bonds does such and such. Ok. Great. Not just great, amazing even. When you consider all the small details that have to go down just right for something so basic to work... and these details typically always go right for all of us. It's pretty amazing. But still, /why/? Maybe it's not an answerable question - maybe you can only ask "why" so many times before you reach a point of absurdity. Personally though, I think it's still worth asking. Not just in the particular context of eyesight of course, but in terms of broader metaphysical questions. Maybe there is no good answer, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not worth anyone's thought.

As for this thread, I was just wondering about you guys.

Pretend you had the same assignment. Is there any religion you'd pick to learn more about? Any particular reason? Or what are your thoughts on religion in general? How does religion differ from pseudo mystic philosophy (ie: Christianity vs the neoplatonism of plotinus and porphyry, with all of it's ascensions and logos/legein).

I don't know if anyone's really interested in this. Even if you aren't though, pretend you're in my place, and were stuck taking a similar course "just because you had to". What sort of service would you go study and why?

Last edited by Valeli (06-09-2013 08:00:30 PM)

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#2 | Back to Top06-09-2013 08:38:54 PM

Nova
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Registered: 05-02-2012
Posts: 535

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Most of the "why" questions about the structure of the body or its components can be traced back to natural selection.

Valeli wrote:

I don't know if anyone's really interested in this. Even if you aren't though, pretend you're in my place, and were stuck taking a similar course "just because you had to". What sort of service would you go study and why?

I'd go to a Southern Baptist church because that was the religion I was raised in, and while I hate those motherfuckers, it would be an easy A.

Last edited by Nova (06-09-2013 08:40:34 PM)


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#3 | Back to Top06-09-2013 08:42:50 PM

Valeli
Thorn of Death
Registered: 12-05-2006
Posts: 481
Website

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Most of the "why" questions about the structure of the body or its components can be traced back to natural selection.

Agreed. Totally.
I'm definitely (DEFINITELY!) not arguing against the merits of science or anything.

But aren't there so many more why questions than that? There's always something to push back. Even with natural selection. It makes sense as is. There's a logic underlying it. A set of rules, under which natural selection makes perfect sense, and those most fit to reproduce get to do so. But.... why? You can take almost any question to the point of stupidity, as per a baby who asks why after every, single, explanation given (note, I'm not saying that every question of this type is stupid, because that's not the case imo, although no doubt a few are).

PPS: Going to southern baptist wouldn't work under my guidelines, because you say you're already familiar. Personally, I never met a southern baptist person until I went to college, and it was... a bit of a shock. Shock is strong. Let's just say disconcerting. I mean, they were all super nice people. I have nothing bad to say about any of them. Except that they seemed a bit crazy to me.... I disagree (strongly) with some of their beliefs. I remember this one girl who had a very negative opinion of homosexuals. But she was still a really nice girl. She was nice to all the gay people I know too. So... I disagree with her stongly, but literally have nothing awful to say about her at all. I mean, she had her beliefs. She was aware not everyone agreed. She kept quiet around people she knew it would irritate, because she didn't want to tell them how to live their lives unless they (for whatever reason) felt like talking to her about it. None ever have, as far as I'm aware. But the point is that she was quite tactful, despite her beliefs.

Last edited by Valeli (06-09-2013 08:56:44 PM)

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#4 | Back to Top06-09-2013 08:55:23 PM

Nova
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Registered: 05-02-2012
Posts: 535

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Valeli wrote:

Most of the "why" questions about the structure of the body or its components can be traced back to natural selection.

Agreed. Totally.

But aren't there so many more why questions than that? There's always something to push back. Even with natural selection. It makes sense as is. There's a logic underlying it. A set of rules, under which natural selection makes perfect sense, and those most fit to reproduce get to do so. But.... why? You can take almost any question to the point of stupidity, as per a baby who asks why after every, single, explanation given (note, I'm not saying that every question of this type is stupid, because that's not the case imo, although no doubt a few are).

And that's the point where one must let go of "why" and accept that it simply is. Filling in the blanks of our understanding of the universe with spirits or gods is called "the god of the gaps argument," and it's not a sound argument at all.

PPS: Going to southern baptist wouldn't work under my guidelines, because you say you're already familiar. Personally, I never met a southern baptist person until I went to college, and it was... a bit of a shock. I mean, they were all super nice people. I have nothing bad to say about any of them. Except that they seemed a bit crazy to me....

Good point. In order to find a religion I am not familiar with, I'd have to find some practicing Zoroastrians or something, or really go into some pretty esoteric small-congregation stuff. I'm pretty well-read on the primary contemporary religions.*




(* Know your enemy.)


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#5 | Back to Top06-09-2013 08:58:42 PM

Valeli
Thorn of Death
Registered: 12-05-2006
Posts: 481
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Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

(* Know your enemy.)

lol. I bet I'd like you. Even if I didn't.

I remember the god of the gaps thing from back in college.... One of my senior courses was on um... what was it (obviously I didn't pay enough attention). It involved reading darwin's book on the origin of species and then this book by some creationist/pseudo creationist. I forget the title, although I remember it well enough I'd recall it if someone brought it up. (Basically, it was just some book on intelligent design which, personally, I think is a load of nonsense). My final paper was horribad. Despite disagreeing with ID, I argued that we should ignore darwinism despite it's obvious logic, the same way people had previously ignored the Eleatic school of phil(being is, not being is not and cannot be). .... yeah. It was that bad. But I committed to it. And the commitment counted enough for a B, apparently. Commitment plus good writing managed a B+ somehow <.<

I kind of concede the point I guess... some things do really fall apart if you just resort to your imagination to fill in the gaps between logic. I don't know if that's necessarily what happens to /everything/ though. This probably deserves more attention than just a super fast reply. Personally, what I would like to think, is that rather than just "imagination" a lot of people were able to fill in spots between the gaps ala plato, using reason. Or, at worst, pseudo reason.  So it's something more than just a pretty story. That's my own personal take/bias, at least. Even within the realm of reason, what is reasonable to us now is completely different from what was reasonable circa 1200 AD. And who has a clue what will be "reasonable" circa 3000 AD, right? I can't even begin to imagine the thing's we'll know for fact then, and what we'll still be speculating about. I'm fairly sure we'll still not have answers to all the "why's" though.

Maybe there is no great discoverable answer in our lives. But, in my view, the lack of a great answer doesn't imply the presence of a bad question.

Last edited by Valeli (06-09-2013 09:49:35 PM)

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#6 | Back to Top06-09-2013 09:02:36 PM

Nova
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Registered: 05-02-2012
Posts: 535

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Valeli wrote:

(* Know your enemy.)

lol. I bet I'd like you. Even if I didn't.

Dawww. emot-biggrin


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#7 | Back to Top06-10-2013 02:14:30 PM

Kita-Ysabell
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Registered: 11-18-2012
Posts: 818
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Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

If you need help finding wiccans...

I have a friend, not in your area, that I could probably put you in touch with, from what I can tell he's pretty devout, but a lone practitioner.  If I remember correctly, he was annoyed that there were too many teenage girls trying to be edgy in the covens he tried to join.  And there's CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) if there's a Unitarian Universalist church in your area, they've always seemed really open to talking about their faith and practices, (from my admittedly limited experience) although obviously, they'll be likely to have a different perspective from pagans or wiccans who aren't also Unitarian Universalists.

Given your assignment... I'd probably go with Shinto.  I got into a little fairly shallow research at one point, and the way it's practiced in modern Japan is really interesting.  Mind you, I'd probably end up writing more about "how does Japan define 'religion'" than about mythology and whatnot, because that's just more interesting to me.

Other than that, I've been really intrigued by liberal fundamentalist Christianity in the US.  But then I saw Unitarian Universalism grouped with them, and I was like, what?  UU isn't Christian.  Universalism was.  Unitarianism kind of was.  But when the two merged, they ditched the whole "believing in God" thing.


"Et in Arcadio ego..."

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#8 | Back to Top06-10-2013 04:29:23 PM

TheOnlyFlorence
Revolution Televisor
Registered: 09-16-2012
Posts: 454

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Need something obscure? How about Asatru?

It's basically Germanic-based paganism coming from the Nordic line. It's different enough to not be mainstream, and provides some really good reads, as far as research books goes. http://ohtori.nu/forumstuff/emotes/emot-hist101.gif Recommending highly.

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#9 | Back to Top06-10-2013 07:09:38 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Nova wrote:

Filling in the blanks of our understanding of the universe with spirits or gods is called "the god of the gaps argument," and it's not a sound argument at all.

It certainly is not.  Saying "I don't understand this, therefore God did it" has a whole bunch of layers of wrong.  In fact, many religious leaders discourage god-of-the-gaps reasoning, for the exact reason that they don't want new scientific discoveries to cause crises of faith.

But there is a real issue, which Valeli is pointing to, with whether science can really answer every "why" question.  Can your science explain why it rains?  Yes, it's because water evaporates, cools, and condenses into raindrops.  Okay, can your science explain why water evaporates?  Yes, it's because heat causes water molecules to overcome the surface tension of the liquid and escape as gas.  Can your science explain why there is such a thing as heat?  Well, heat is sort of the same thing as the motion of particles, so heat exists because particles move.  Can your science explain why particles move?  Er, actually, we have some trouble understanding motion, and why the laws of motion are what they are, and whether they were always that way.  Can your science explain why there are laws of motion at all?  No, no it can't.  Not at present.

You can "why" backwards forever.  So you have to either:
A) suggest that there's an infinitely long chain of whys, all of which may ultimately be explained by science;
B) create a finite, paradoxical loop of whys that cause each other; or
C) postulate that there is a thing, perhaps called God or the Unmoved Mover, that can't be explained -- at least, not by science -- and is the end of the chain of whys.

I believe A, but all three of these possibilities bother me, and that's why I think I see where Valeli is coming from when he says that science can't get to the "real why."  It's the same reason that math can't get to the last number.

--

On the more specific topic of the thread!!  I've been exposed somewhat to Wicca already through some friends, so it wouldn't be unfamiliar enough for me to study.  (It's a shame, because my friends sure do love talking about Wicca, including with outsiders -- the same way that many people enjoy sharing things that are important to them with others.)  If I could pick whatever I wanted, I think I'd pick some kind of Benedictine monasticism, possibly the Trappists.  I'd like to know how their faith is related to the rigors they put themselves through: how it is that living the way they do serves God, and how they feel it enriches their lives.  But it might be tricky to get some of them to talk about it.  emot-biggrin

Last edited by satyreyes (06-10-2013 07:11:42 PM)

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#10 | Back to Top06-20-2013 09:50:29 AM

Riri-kins
World's End
From: Cloud Nine
Registered: 09-22-2008
Posts: 2346

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

I would like to learn more about either the Ancient Egyptian cult of Bastet or voodoo.  I actually learned that voodoo is not about skulls and chicken blood during RoseCon twenty-ten.


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#11 | Back to Top06-21-2013 06:16:01 PM

Yasha
Bitch Queen
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
Website

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Riri-kins wrote:

Bastet and Voodoo

I don't know as much about Bast's cult as I would like, but I know some about Voodoo. I'll work up a little history/explanation. I am not an expert, and I wouldn't call myself a practitioner, just someone curious who likes the idea of a religion where you make bargains rather than ask for presents.

Keep in mind that Voodoo and Hoodoo are different things-- Voodoo is the actual religion, Hoodoo is comprised of ritual spells, candles, oils, and charms that are strongly associated with the Voodoo but play no part in the religious aspect. Voodoo is religion, Hoodoo is magic. I am not as educated on Hoodoo as I would like but I know my way around a little.

Like I said, I'll work something up. Voodoo is pretty universally misunderstood and I'd like the chance to clear up misconceptions.


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#12 | Back to Top06-24-2013 08:50:08 PM

SexingTouga24/7/365
is on a BOAT!
Registered: 12-10-2006
Posts: 2267

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

This topic looks neat. Are there any religions where women share equal roles or footing with men in pratice?


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#13 | Back to Top06-24-2013 09:40:16 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
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Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

You know I've given myself a headache trying to find a religion that does treat women as equals. I think, at least philosophically, some of the eastern religions like Taoism say women are equals. But in practice, I doubt it. I know a lot of women who go into Wiccan and such do it because women have power, albeit different from men, in that religion.

I think voodoo does actually treat women as equal to men. Their priesthoods are accessible equally, and though the gender roles exist (women have vain gods, etc) they don't imply that a women is beneath a man because she made dinner


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
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#14 | Back to Top06-25-2013 07:05:30 AM

TheOnlyFlorence
Revolution Televisor
Registered: 09-16-2012
Posts: 454

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Giovanna wrote:

You know I've given myself a headache trying to find a religion that does treat women as equals. I think, at least philosophically, some of the eastern religions like Taoism say women are equals. But in practice, I doubt it. I know a lot of women who go into Wiccan and such do it because women have power, albeit different from men, in that religion.

Asatru seems to have some decent support for women being as good as men, but I'd need to read up a bit more on that.

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#15 | Back to Top07-13-2013 10:19:01 PM

Yasha
Bitch Queen
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
Website

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

http://ohtori.nu/forumstuff/emotes/emot-black101.gif INCOMING http://ohtori.nu/forumstuff/emotes/emot-black101.gif





The religion formerly known as Voodoo/Vodou/Vodun/Vodoun D:

(please note that thereís a million different ways to spell all of the names and such-- I just tend to use the ones Iíve seen most often, or like most)

History

Iím going to start off by saying that Haitian Vodou is what Iím more familiar with, not the offshoot from New Orleans, although I will mention it here and there. And the first place to go to explain Haitian Vodou is the history. Just painting in broad strokes here, nothing too intensive. Everybody knows where-ish Haiti is, and that back when it was called Saint-Domingue it was occupied by plantation owners and such who used slaves from Africa. Wikipedia has information on exactly which tribes made up the population, but for our purposes, itís enough to say that from the late 17th century to the late 18th century Haiti had a pileup of different African belief systems that crashed into various belief systems from the West (most importantly Catholicism) and ended up creating a new religion. This is generally called syncretism (definition: the combination of different forms of belief or practice) although some practitioners dispute that labelís application to Vodou, because Catholicism wasnít quite melded into the African tribal beliefs; instead, it provided a cover for the beliefs, so that a slave-owner, seeing his slaves at worship, wouldnít think twice because it was a picture of St. Peter, where the slaves themselves knew that this picture of St. Peter was meant to represent Papa Legba (weíll get into who he is later).

Vodou became the shared secret religion of pretty much the entire nation of slaves. And when those slaves rose up, it was said that the revolution was kicked off by the ceremonial sacrifice of a black pig to Erzulie Dantor, represented by the Black Madonna, protector of her children, and wild, relentless enemy of all who would harm them.

So the country itself has roots in the religion. Vodou is very important to Haitian history, and the history of New Orleans. While all that is fascinating too, Iíll skip most of it, just touching on Francois Duvalier (or more familiarly, ďPapa DocĒ), who came into power as President in 1957. Papa Doc misappropriated Vodou to control the populace under his tyrant regime. Wikipedia summarizes it best:

His rule, based on a purged military, a rural militia and the use of a personality cult and voodoo, resulted in the murder of an estimated 30,000 Haitians and an ensuing "brain drain" from which the country has still not recovered. Ruling as President for Life from 1964 until his death in 1971, Duvalier was succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, nicknamed "Baby Doc"

Oh, and Baby Doc wasnít much better. Better, yes, but not by much emot-frown

New Orleans Vodou, of course, comes from the slaves from Haiti being taken to New Orleans and continuing the practice there. The differences between New Orleans Vodou and Haitian Vodou are a few different demi-deities, the Vodou Queens like Marie Laveau, and the stronger emphasis on Hoodoo (as I said in my other post, the ďmagicĒ as opposed to the religion).

Inside a Vodou Humfo

The organization of the priests/priestesses and such is pretty simple. At the top, you have your houngan or your mambo; houngan is male, and mambo is female. They are equal regardless of gender, and they basically perform the functions of a priest. They lead the ceremonies and they are in charge of the humfo, which is the temple itself. They also provide services to people-- curing supernaturally based illnesses and telling fortunes, for example-- for money. Money is a big thing, as you would expect in a former slave state that has never been particularly wealthy or had a decent standard of living for the majority. The houngan or mambo is the one who brings in the money to feed and clothe the rest of the temple. Oh, and they had to buy the land and pay for the building of the humfo too. Itís a good thing they make a lot of cash from curing illnesses, although Haitian doctors donít tend to agree.

There are other posts in the humfo, roughly equivalent to quartermaster or choir director and such, but we wonít get too deep into that. The humfo holds some of the congregation who have been spiritually called to serve the loa (later, later); these people are referred to as the hunsi, and they also live in the humfo. So the houngan or mambo (dammit Iím just using mambo from now on) has a lot of responsibility, bringing in cash to provide for these people, and it can also be a status issue. The more hunsi you can support, the better a mambo you must be. And when people can see that youíre better, well, you get even more money.

The humfo isnít really like a church, because itís also the living quarters for the mambo and her hunsi. Itís more like a building where an extended family all live together, which happens to have a couple of rooms set aside for worship.

Now the actual humfo building itself usually has a covered courtyard (referred to as a peristyle) where the ceremonies are performed. Exactly where it is on the property depends on the taste of the mambo. The columns holding up the roof are all brightly painted and covered with designs, and the one in the center, called the poteau-mitan is the pivot for the circular ceremonial dances, and often has offerings (cigars, whiskey, flowers, beautiful dresses, it goes on like this...) laid at the base of it. The base is usually embedded in a wide cement cylinder, to make a sort of table to set things on during the ceremony. The poteau-mitan is said to be the ladder that the spirits use to come to visit us, and itís important to show it respect. Sometimes thereís seating outside of the peristyle, so that the members of the congregation who donít want to dance can stay seated and watch.

Also, there is a room in the house set aside for the loa and the things that have been given to them, sometimes called the bagi (or other names ad infinitum, seriously, Kreyol is terrible for different ways to say the same thing or different spellings of the same sound). No one else lives in this room; it belongs to the loa. There are many altars inside, covered with offerings; bottles that have had fabric and sequins glued to them, jars, jugs, rattles, embroidered flags, basins full of water, chickenís feet, and all the rest of it. These are things made for the loa, sometimes brought out during ceremonies, if the mambo wants to call a particular loa. Sometimes the specific garments or accoutrements the loa need when they appear are kept in this room. I would imagine itís kind of creepy, actually... and Iíve heard, although I canít remember where I heard it, that you should never have your personal bagi or altar in the same room where you sleep, and more importantly have sex (!). The loa might get jealous and become angry with you. emot-gonk

And thatís about it. Aside from some drums hanging from the peristyle roof, or maybe some decorations, it looks like any other house.

But when the ceremonies happen, be ready for a wild time. The loa like to possess their worshipers; the term is generally translated as ďmountĒ, as if of a horse. Indeed, the person being mounted is referred to as a cheval. Iím not going to diagram out a ceremony for you, but Iíll at least sketch it-- a ceremony begins with an invocation of the loa by drumming and chanting songs specific to them, performed in the correct order. Then sacrifices are made (which may be as simple as putting a pack of smokes on the altar) and thereís a circular dance afterward, at which time the possessions happen. After that, a meal is shared amongst the worshipers, partly to show that the sacrifices are appreciated, and partly to ground the worshipers before they go back to their normal lives.

Neat, huh? So letís take a look at just who might possess you in a Vodou ceremony.

God and the Loa

Letís get one thing straight right off-- Vodou says that there is a God, and he did make us all, and he does care for us and want us to love and help each other, just like some other God you may be familiar with. It should be noted here that Vodou doesnít actually have an evil counterpart to God-- in short, there is no devil. And in Vodou they recognize that God, Gran Met or Le Bondye (spellings argh okay just assume six more spellings for every Kreyol word), is a very busy guy, and while he loves us, heíd get totally overwhelmed if he had to listen to each and every single prayer. And thatís where the loa come in! Theyíre kind of like saints. Scary saints that you bargain with and kill animals for!*

I kid, theyíre not that scary. Mostly. What they are is powerful, with each one responsible for different things. Who does what is awfully complicated, and as Alfred Metreaux says in his book, Voodoo in Haiti, a list of all the loa is quite frankly impossible. There are just too many of them. Weíre gonna do like he does and just hit the high points; the loa wonít mind, theyíre pretty understanding for demi-deities.

To make things a little easier, theyíre broken down into the nations. Iím going to go with the nations that Mambo Racine outlines on her website, because theyíre the orthodox version-- Rada, Petwo, and Gede.

First up, the Rada nation.

The Rada loa are considered to be the oldest, and the safest, most benevolent, of the loa. Their tempers have been cooled by age, some say. They come first in the ceremonial order and the color associated with them is white. Effectively, what this means is that when you open a Vodou ceremony and start to call on the loa, the Rada must come first (or youíre insulting them, and they do not like that)** and if you have particular business with a Rada loa, you should wear white if the loa you want doesnít have his or her own favorite color. There are also certain rhythms beaten on drums made of specific materials, but since none of us is going to be a drum maker and I donít have a lot of info on why this is done, Iím going to leave it alone and only note that this is the case for all of the families. The part of the ceremony that welcomes the Rada is slower, more cerebral, and gracefully disciplined.

The individual loa themselves would take another post as long as this to identify and explain, so Iím going to give a few quick character sketches instead. These are not complete! These are just introductions, and if you want to know more, thereís a list of links at the end of this post.

Papa Legba - the most important of all the loa, he belongs to both Rada and Petwo. When you invoke the loa, you must always invoke Papa Legba first (and last), because heís the one who allows you to communicate with the others. Heís a bit of a trickster and a storyteller, an old man who walks with a cane, master of crossroads and guardian of gates. He likes to be given rum, rice and beans, yams, big straw hats to keep the sun off, and mirrors, among other things. His color is white when he is invoked as Rada and red when Petwo.

Damballa and Ayida Wedo - mainly seen as a snake, Damballa is the father of life and god of the sky. He is said to carry souls to heaven on his back. His wife Ayida is also a snake, the Rainbow Serpent, and represents wind, fire, water, and fertility (among other things). They embody peace, harmony, and creation. Damballa and Ayida love anything white-- an egg sitting in a mound of flour, salt, jasmine flowers-- and while Damballaís color is white, Ayidaís colors are white for Rada and blue for herself. Damballa and Ayida hate alcohol, though, and will be offended if you give it to them.

La Sirene - Queen of the sea, loa of vanity, music, the moon, and wealth. She owns all the wealth under the sea and lives with her husband Met Agwe in a beautiful palace there. Sheís beautiful, elegant, and very vain, but she is also generous to those who serve her, making them wealthy. Beware offending her, though, as she will take all her wealth back, and has been known to drown people. She likes champagne, gin, melons, and will take an offering of a mirror and comb so that she can better admire herself. Her colors are white and pale blue.

Erzulie Freda - the loa of beauty, luxury, love, gambling luck, cleanliness, and flowers. Erzulie Freda can be a demanding mistress; as Iíve heard, she asks for more and more opulent offerings until finally she realizes that there is nothing on earth that can sate her, and collapses in tears. She is the embodiment of femininity and compassion, but she tends to favor men, and becomes jealous of women. Itís said that she acts more like a mistress than a wife, despite having three husbands (one of them also being Met Agwe, La Sireneís husband). Her colors are white, pink, blue, and gold, and she loves desserts, jewelry, dresses, make-up, and pink flowers.

Thatís enough for a sample. Letís move on to Petwo nation.

Petwo are the younger, more aggressive counterpart to Rada. Aptly, their color is red. They are considered to be ďhotĒ, where the Rada are ďcoolĒ. Do not make the mistake of thinking of them as evil; they are often invoked for good purposes, just as the Rada can be invoked for evil, and while some of them are evil, most of them are just powerful. A fierce group but also a protective one, and very magical in nature. Their part of the ceremony is fast, wild, and exciting!

Itís worth noting that Papa Legba is invoked again here, as a member of Petwo, and always as the first of them though he is not considered the head. That title would be jointly held by Don Petwo and someone Iíve mentioned already, sister of Erzulie Freda and patron of the Haitian revolution, Erzulie Dantor.

Kafou - Kafou is a Petwo aspect of Papa Legba, although this doesnít mean he is Papa Legba-- more like a twin. He is the other controller of crossroads, the other gatekeeper, the one who lets injustice and misfortune pass into the world, as well as magic. He is a sinister loa, respected but not liked, as his presence usually signals the arrival of evil loa and spirits. He denies being a demon, however violent he may be. He is also a master of charms and sorcery, and despite his unpleasant nature, has an understanding of the problems and trials of humanity, and will help people to cope with personal problems. I think I can safely say that itís not wise to try to make bargains with him, although he must always be respected; he is, after all, a force of creativity, even if we donít like what he creates.

Erzulie Dantor -  the Mother of the Petwo nation, sister of Erzulie Freda. Loving and protective toward her children, she becomes aggressive with outsiders and dangerous to her enemies. Sheís described as a black woman with two scars on her face, and is the patron of lesbian women, although men and women both worship her because of the protection she brings and her ability to avenge wrongs. She has had her tongue cut out, has the ability to vomit blood, and should Erzulie Dantor hand you a basin of blood, itís not because sheís pleased with you. Run. In the songs dedicated to her, she is shown to be an implacable enemy who, although she may fall, will bring you down with her. Her colors are red, blue, and gold, and she likes daggers with double edges, red wine, Creme de Cacao (but only sometimes), silver jewelry, and outfits of blue denim.

Don Petwo - the Father of the Petwo nation. Historically speaking, Don Petwo (Pedro) was a Spanish slave out of Africa, a practitioner of Vodou who introduced a fast, aggressive style of dance to the rituals, and became deified after his death for his part in helping to instigate uprisings and plots against the government. For this reason, Don Petwo is a symbol of revolution and resistance, and much beloved. He is associated with the element of fire, and likes the color red and the sacrifice of a black pig.

Simbi Makaya - A member of the Simbi family, who are all great sorcerors, Makaya is the best of them, the master magician of all the loa. Heís a powerful and protective loa, a messenger of Papa Legba, although heís a mercurial fellow. In contrast to the rest of his family, who are somewhat shy, Simbi Makaya is talkative and gregarious, which fits as heís the loa of communication. Anything that moves at the speed of light is also his domain, like nerve impulses. Heís all or nothing, either with you or against you, and if heís against you, youíre in a lot of trouble! His colors are red, green, and black, and he likes cigars, raw meat, whiskey, and whips as offerings.

(Please note: ďMakayaĒ is also an offshoot of the true Vodou that is concerned with personal power rather than worship, and its leaders are called bokor, which has the connotation of sorcerors who are not necessarily good. A Makaya bokor speaks to some of the same loa, but cannot perform the ceremonies of Vodou, as he isnít initiated in it.)

Now, last but definitely not least, my favorite nation - the family Gede, the Ancestral Family of all.

The Gede are the family of the dead. They encompass all of our ancestors, and they really know how to have a good time. Being dead, they like to make a mockery of sex, often telling bawdy jokes or exposing their genitals to shock and outrage us. Theyíre also incurably foul-mouthed-- and, strangely enough, thereís a reason for that. Back in Saint-Domingue, if you were a slave, you didnít ever dare to do anything that would give offense to your master and cause you to be punished. Once youíre dead, though-- let Ďer rip with the swears! On top of that, the Gede have the sexiest dances (the banda), and the best wardrobe-- top hats, glasses with missing lenses, rotting lace dresses, anything thatís way past its prime. One thing they arenít, though, is aggressive. Theyíll make fun of your habits in bed, but in general theyíll never try to hurt you. They might steal your wallet though. What are you gonna do to them? Theyíre dead!

Can you see why I love them? Itís like I found my family emot-biggrin

Anyway, despite their seemingly shallow lust for life, the Gede are a mystical bunch, and will sandwich good advice or even prophecy between a lewd joke and a sexy dance step. Theyíre led by Baron Samedi (also known as Papa Gede) and Maman Brigitte, and each cemetery has its own Baron and Brigitte-- respectively, the first man and woman buried there. There are many, many Gede, and most of them are personal loa rather than the widespread ones Iíve mentioned so far, so weíll just stick to the big two.

Baron Samedi - Okay, so Baron has a lot of misconceptions surrounding him. Heís not at all an evil guy, and he doesnít create zombis. Bokors create zombis; Baron is the one making the dead rot so they donít get up again. When you see him, heís always wearing a top hat and a pair of sunglasses with a missing lens, and while his clothes are shabby, theyíre always stylish, usually a tux. Papa Gede loves to dress snappy, even if he does sometimes have cotton stuffed in his nose, like they used to do for corpses. Baron is the guy you want in your corner if youíre deadly sick, because if he doesnít dig your grave, you donít die. Heís also the guy you want to ask for if you have a kid you want to protect. He loves all children. Be careful if youíre a girl, though-- Papa Gede loves to chase tail, and you might just get more than you bargained for! I know of at least one practitioner who believes she regularly gets it on with Papa Gede.

Thereís a whole lot more to say about Papa Gede, but Iíll just touch briefly on a few of his other aspects-- Baron Cimitiere, Baron Kriminel, and Baron LaCroix. Cimitiere is the especial protector of cemeteries, a spooky trickster whom Papa Doc was said to imitate. Kriminel is a murderer sentenced to death, and he represents swift judgement. Heís also the only Gede I know of who is violent, trying to stab people when he appears, or bite them if he doesnít like their offering. LaCroix is, in contrast, suave and sophisticated, a ladiesí man, an absurd humorist, and a reminder of lifeís pleasures and your own individuality-- all around a more agreeable fellow.

Baron Samediís colors are purple, black, and white, and he likes peanuts, rum infused with hot peppers, black coffee, and cigarettes.

Maman Brigitte - Despite Papa Gedeís roving eye, Maman Brigitte never seems to get mad at him for it. No one says this, but itís my personal belief that sheís just as wild. emot-wink In every other aspect, sheís a match for him-- sheís a powerful healer in her own right, and she is the ultimate judge of your soul. She protects those that worship her and punishes people who harm them. Speaking of punishment, sheís really fond of that hot pepper-infused rum, to the point that the proof that sheís really there is that the person possessed by her has to rub that rum on her ladyparts without showing pain! Maman Brigitte is truly syncretic, having been adopted from indentured Irish and Scottish workers who venerated St. Brigid. How do we know? Well, sheís white, for one. Not many loa are. Also, one of her songs mentions that she came from England. Some people say thatís impossible, but dude, where the hell else did she come from then?

Anyway, despite her costume being a wedding dress, sheís sometimes seen as the patron loa of sex workers, and despite her status as mother of the dead, sheís still a mother and thus associated with fertility. I have heard, too, that sheís also associated with ill-gotten gains. Her colors are also black and purple, and she likes the aforementioned rum, unfiltered cigarettes, coffee, doves, black roosters, and peppered bread.

Ha. Well, Iíve spent hours on this already, but no more. That about covers Vodou as a very brief overview. If you want to know more about it, here are my sources:

Links:

http://www.ezilikonnen.com

http://www2.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti … iglist.htm

http://www.rootswithoutend.org

Books:

Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Metreaux - First published in 1959, itís still a great reference covering Vodou from an anthropological aspect.

The Haitian Voodoo Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan - This book is fantastic for someone who would like to practice, though itís less scientific in nature.

And here are a couple I havenít read that are highly thought of:

The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis - an ethnobotanist goes to Haiti to investigate two cases of zombis, and ends up finding out just how deeply Vodou is embedded in the lives of Haitians.

Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston - An account of Vodou by someone who was actually initiated into it and not just an observer.


Any questions?



*In Haitian practice, a sacrificed animal is made into food for the congregation-- something that didnít translate well to New Orleans practice.

**The order that the families are called in is based on the pecking order of the tribes that the slaves belonged to; each of the loa was once a deity from another tribeís religion.


(A/N: Several hours well spent. Hmm, yes. :strokes chin: )


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#16 | Back to Top07-14-2013 02:53:01 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

It hardly needs saying, but the above is amazing and thank you!!  etc-love

What happens to offerings made at an altar?  Simbi Makaya may very well like raw meat, but I imagine he doesn't like it so much after it's been sitting out for a few days and it's stinking up his house.  Even nonperishable offerings need to go somewhere eventually.  What does the humfo do about offerings?  And what do you do about offerings you make yourself at your personal shrine?

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#17 | Back to Top07-14-2013 04:29:21 AM

Yasha
Bitch Queen
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
Website

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Aw, shucks. cool

satyreyes wrote:

What happens to offerings made at an altar?

In mainly Haitian traditions, these offerings go to support the humfo. The blood from a live sacrifice belongs to the loa, but the meat belongs to the hungry. In mainly New Orleans traditions, you never touch a sacrifice again after you offer it to the loa because it will offend them; the meat is disposed of. This pretty much only works because America is comparatively rich; in Haiti, I have heard that they are not nearly as wasteful of the offerings to the loa, using them after the loa have had time to enjoy them. It really depends on the tradition of Vodou.

Meals cooked for the ancestors or for the loa are a little different. After you have given the loa time to "eat" (usually until the next morning), you throw it away in a sacred place such as a crossroads or at the foot of a tree, and be careful to wash the dishes well, with salt.

Nonperishable items like dresses or jewelry should go to the bagi as they now belong to the loa.

The once that I participated in a Vodou ceremony, the live sacrifice was skipped, and in its place the Mambo did paintings of veves (the symbols of the loa) with cornmeal and coffee grounds and took the "life energy" from the participants instead. They called it a vegetarian ceremony because of this. Afterward, we left other offerings; as it was the Day of the Dead, and the celebration was for Gede, we left the aforementioned sunglasses missing lenses, cigarettes, and the rest. We did not take them back at the end of the night.

So there's some wiggle room. I would say do what you believe is right. Don't act out of greed; leave the offerings to the loa if you can afford to do so, but if you can't, I suspect they understand so long as you give them a good long while to enjoy the offering first. Then again, I have also heard people say that you must never, never take an offering back from the altar. As in any religion, the true way to follow it is whatever the believer believes it is.

I think that covers your questions emot-keke


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#18 | Back to Top07-14-2013 11:47:07 AM

dlaire
A Whole Orange
From: Poland
Registered: 04-08-2007
Posts: 2322

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

satyreyes wrote:

You can "why" backwards forever.  So you have to either:
A) suggest that there's an infinitely long chain of whys, all of which may ultimately be explained by science;
B) create a finite, paradoxical loop of whys that cause each other; or
C) postulate that there is a thing, perhaps called God or the Unmoved Mover, that can't be explained -- at least, not by science -- and is the end of the chain of whys.

Well, if I were a mighty God with all the power and knowledge possible, my world would not have any paradoxes. If I created the world, everything would be part of one set of rules.
A lack of logic may indicate few things:
a) We see a paradox in something that isn't a paradox. We just can't understand that yet. Paradoxes aren't possible to exist in real world. Paradoxes are only mental assumptions that contradict each other so they are only mental exercises.
b) Paradoxes are made intentionally to make us more attached to belief than to science. We can't know the passwords to the God's operating system because then we would be too much similar to the Creator.
b) Paradoxes exist and show God's lack of absolute knowledge to predict errors. Well, it would mean (s)he's not perfect.
c) God's lack of power to patch mistakes. Programmers patch in their operational systems, so again, it would mean God isn't perfect. Or was perfect, but died.
d) He/She just is a Creator, not someone interested in reporting bugs and glitches. It would mean (s)he's not really interested in perfecting the world because (s)he doesn't care about us that much.
e) A paradox started to exist after the world had started to exist, maybe we explored too much and the world had to "render" itself more. The system wasn't prepared for messing up with it that much.

So basically, if paradoxes really existed, it would make me think a perfect, loving God doesn't exist. God's superpowers make him/her able to correct them, even if we created some.

Last edited by dlaire (07-14-2013 11:50:16 AM)

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#19 | Back to Top07-25-2013 11:18:35 AM

HelloSailor
New Student
Registered: 07-24-2013
Posts: 5

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

I've always wanted to know more about Roman paganism and its Etruscan roots. Too often it gets lumped in with Greek paganism, but there are a lot of differences between them that people seem to dismiss. (I knew I should've bought that book I saw about the Etruscans...)

As for paradoxes, I've always assumed (well, maybe not always) that they simply can't exist, at least physically. I'm not sure if Descartes wrote about paradoxes, but he talked a great deal about things that are a priori, like math and logic. I should look into that. My understanding of paradoxes though, is that they can exist in an abstract sense, like "this statement is false" and we can invent all the paradoxes we want, so long as they're only thought experiments and not actually real. In regard to the endless chain of "why's," I think "why" and "how" are just different ways to ask the same question, just that "why" can only deal with motives, but "how" deals with processes mental or physical. E.g., you can ask "why" about the reason someone chose a red cup over a blue cup, but not "why" about how his arm physically picked moved and picked up the cup. Conversely, you can ask "how" his arm physically moved to pick up the cup, but also "how" he came to the decision to pick one cup over the other.

And who knows. Maybe if what we would think is a true paradox somehow existed, we wouldn't be able to view it as one, because the laws of the universe would be changed to allow it. Maybe what's impossible for one universe is possible in another? Of course, I don't know how that'd work, but it sure is interesting to think about.

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#20 | Back to Top07-25-2013 08:52:09 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
Website

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

HelloSailor wrote:

I've always wanted to know more about Roman paganism and its Etruscan roots. Too often it gets lumped in with Greek paganism, but there are a lot of differences between them that people seem to dismiss. (I knew I should've bought that book I saw about the Etruscans...)

Oooh oooh Roman history you got me!!

What would you like to know? The Etruscans left very, very little in the way of records and so most of our information comes from Romans documenting the events and culture later. What we do know is that there was a huge difference in the philosophy of Etruscan, and then Roman, belief. Some of the huge differences:

Etruscan and as a result Roman gods were much more human than the Greeks made them. They could be influenced and they could be bribed. The Greeks imbued their gods with ultimate power over the universe and how things would play out. They had oracles but these figures were isolated and not part of the life structure of the normal population. Etruscans have a mysticism and 'Pagan' approach to their worship. There were prophets and oracles but they were not isolated as much, and they exercised more power to inform and influence. Etruscans and later Romans were huges on auguries, reading guts/tea/hands, or becoming intoxicated in some way they gets you closer to the gods, charms and signs over doors, etc. They felt they had power to predict and change the world through pagan symbolic gestures. But they could also bribe and bargain with their gods, or even trick them. The story of Caesar purchasing good auguries to encourage people to believe in him is a good example. If you bribed a priest to say auguries were good for you, you would probably not be thinking much about the God you just cheated. Romans however didn't disconnect in this way. Forcing the auguries made them just as legitimate as not, because they believed they had that kind of power. If Caesar can for the doves to fly as he likes, that God probably approves of his strength of will.

So basically the big differences are in how they worshiped. Etruscans and Romans had a very close relationship with their gods, Greeks placed them on more of a pedastal. Etruscans performed a great deal of 'magic' kind of practices, and didn't restrict these efforts to high priest or isolated oracles.

As far as the actual figures go, there's not much known about the Etruscans pantheon before it crashed into the Greek one and ended up the Roman pantheon.  It's pretty clear though that a lot of deities had equivalents so obvious (like a goddess of hearth) that no effort was really made to distinguish between the names they used. You can literally compare them side by side.

You could kind of branch the influences and where they met: Greek mythology was influenced by Egypt. Roman mythology was influenced by Etruscan mythology. The results of these lines of belief are they they're all very similar. Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and Egyptian mythology asll developed side by side in fairly closer quarters, so it's no surprise their pantheons are similar.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
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#21 | Back to Top07-25-2013 10:48:45 PM

HelloSailor
New Student
Registered: 07-24-2013
Posts: 5

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Giovanna wrote:

HelloSailor wrote:

I've always wanted to know more about Roman paganism and its Etruscan roots. Too often it gets lumped in with Greek paganism, but there are a lot of differences between them that people seem to dismiss. (I knew I should've bought that book I saw about the Etruscans...)

Oooh oooh Roman history you got me!!

What would you like to know? The Etruscans left very, very little in the way of records and so most of our information comes from Romans documenting the events and culture later. What we do know is that there was a huge difference in the philosophy of Etruscan, and then Roman, belief. Some of the huge differences:

Etruscan and as a result Roman gods were much more human than the Greeks made them. They could be influenced and they could be bribed. The Greeks imbued their gods with ultimate power over the universe and how things would play out. They had oracles but these figures were isolated and not part of the life structure of the normal population. Etruscans have a mysticism and 'Pagan' approach to their worship. There were prophets and oracles but they were not isolated as much, and they exercised more power to inform and influence. Etruscans and later Romans were huges on auguries, reading guts/tea/hands, or becoming intoxicated in some way they gets you closer to the gods, charms and signs over doors, etc. They felt they had power to predict and change the world through pagan symbolic gestures. But they could also bribe and bargain with their gods, or even trick them. The story of Caesar purchasing good auguries to encourage people to believe in him is a good example. If you bribed a priest to say auguries were good for you, you would probably not be thinking much about the God you just cheated. Romans however didn't disconnect in this way. Forcing the auguries made them just as legitimate as not, because they believed they had that kind of power. If Caesar can for the doves to fly as he likes, that God probably approves of his strength of will.

So basically the big differences are in how they worshiped. Etruscans and Romans had a very close relationship with their gods, Greeks placed them on more of a pedastal. Etruscans performed a great deal of 'magic' kind of practices, and didn't restrict these efforts to high priest or isolated oracles.

As far as the actual figures go, there's not much known about the Etruscans pantheon before it crashed into the Greek one and ended up the Roman pantheon.  It's pretty clear though that a lot of deities had equivalents so obvious (like a goddess of hearth) that no effort was really made to distinguish between the names they used. You can literally compare them side by side.

You could kind of branch the influences and where they met: Greek mythology was influenced by Egypt. Roman mythology was influenced by Etruscan mythology. The results of these lines of belief are they they're all very similar. Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and Egyptian mythology asll developed side by side in fairly closer quarters, so it's no surprise their pantheons are similar.

I've taken like... 8 years of Latin classes but I still only have a basic understanding of their religion (on the other hand, I have a pretty solid grasp on culture and politics). I've been really interested in the College of Pontiffs and what goes into being a priest, but nothing I've read has been very specific. The whole concept of augury is pretty cool, especially how quick thinkers can turn horrible omens into great ones. Like when Julius Caesar tripped when disembarking from a boat and fell flat on his face, but as he fell, he spread his arms wide to make it look like he was embracing the earth rather than something disastrous. And I knew Romans had a more business-oriented relationship with the gods, but I hadn't heard that story about Seazer, or that actually forcing (as opposed to making alternate interpretations of) the auspices was commonplace. Though that makes sense, since priests were really important in public affairs, and Julius was a total G.

The main things I've wondered about was how much of their pantheon was due to religious syncretism (like you said), how much was due Indo-European heritage, and how much was uniquely Roman/Etruscan (though due to the soupy nature of Mediterranean life I doubt we can say many things for certain). Like, Janus, Venus, Mars, and Vesta are the gods most distinguished from their Greek counterparts (Janus doesn't even have one), whereas Apollo, Mercury, Minerva, and the others are more in-line with the Mediterranean crowd. Too bad there's not more information on Quirinius, who, despite being a "major" deity, fell into obscurity and really no one worshiped him besides his high priest. His name's really cool and I wish I could unravel his mystery.

God, I really want my college to offer a class specifically on the Roman religion...

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#22 | Back to Top02-12-2016 11:25:01 AM

Astrinde
Tenjou Tilter
From: New Orleans
Registered: 01-26-2016
Posts: 89
Website

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Reading old threads to get to know the topics and folks here a little better - and Yasha, three years old it may be, but thank you so much for an excellent and comprehensive introduction to Haitian Vodou!  It's really nice to read something that expresses basic ideas of the religion, without being novel-length or requiring a dictionary at hand to understand it.

Yasha wrote:

The once that I participated in a Vodou ceremony, the live sacrifice was skipped, and in its place the Mambo did paintings of veves (the symbols of the loa) with cornmeal and coffee grounds and took the "life energy" from the participants instead. They called it a vegetarian ceremony because of this. Afterward, we left other offerings; as it was the Day of the Dead, and the celebration was for Gede, we left the aforementioned sunglasses missing lenses, cigarettes, and the rest. We did not take them back at the end of the night.

This sounds very, very familiar; were you by chance at La Source Ancienne, in New Orleans?  If so - that's my home, and I might well have seen you without realising there was another Utena fan in the house! emot-biggrin

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#23 | Back to Top02-12-2016 10:33:28 PM

Dreaded Claymore
Rose Bride
From: Sacramento, California
Registered: 01-28-2014
Posts: 116

Re: Religious Traditions You'd Like To Know More About

Astrinde wrote:

Reading old threads to get to know the topics and folks here a little better - and Yasha, three years old it may be, but thank you so much for an excellent and comprehensive introduction to Haitian Vodou!  It's really nice to read something that expresses basic ideas of the religion, without being novel-length or requiring a dictionary at hand to understand it.

Seconded! Yasha, that was amazing. emot-dance

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