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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in christianity

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Journey with Hermes

I was in for some surprises in May of 2006, when I first visited Samos, a Greek island near the border with Turkey, to give a talk at a students’ club. I had been invited by Minas Papageorgiou—a student back then and now a writer, researcher and journalist—to speak about Mary Magdalene. He took me on a journey up a stream named Potami (pron. potámi), the Greek word for river. It turned out to be a magical place as the stream runs through a forest and forms small lakes and waterfalls.

Our journey into the wild started—appropriately—with a strange kind of pilgrimage. Soon after Minas and I started hiking, we saw a sign reading: Ancient Chapel, Transfiguration of the Savior. Standing in the shade of a big rock, it had an eerie feeling about it. The day was warm and bright, but no sunrays touched the 11th-century church, as if Helios, the Sun God, carefully avoided this uncanny place.

We pushed the blue wooden door and were instantly greeted by a pungent smell of candles and incense. With goosebumps crawling up my arms, I tried to resist the feeling of awe inspired by the tall, gray stone walls, which exuded an aura of mystery. “Non-believers aren’t supposed to feel awe in such places,” I carefully admonished myself.

Besides, we were not there to pay homage to the Christian Savior, whose painted image was inspecting us from the door of the sanctuary. We had gone with the purpose of observing the four columns which supported the center of the old building. They were round and smooth, their only decoration being the intricate Corinthian-style column capitals. Were these pre-Christian? Archaeologists believe that they may well be.

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, a French botanist and writer who visited Samos in the early 18th century, claimed that the columns came from the shrine of Hermes Kharidotes, “Giver of Grace (kharis)” or “Bringer of the Graces (Kharites).” In some places, during his festival, called Hermaea, the social order was temporarily reversed, as strictly defined roles came topsy-turvy. Among his many qualities, Hermes was also the Trickster, the Subversive One.

The foundations of that church were very old, dating probably from the 6th century CE. It was customary at the time to build Christian temples on top of Hellenic ones as the new religion was rapidly devouring the old one. We stared at the columns in silence, in the vain hope they might reveal their secrets. They didn’t, but an unexpected clue manifested as we turned back to walk out of the door. The evidence was there, right under our feet: the marble rectangular stone which formed the doorstep had a big circle carved in its center, which bore two holes. What else could that be but the base of an ancient statue? Similar stones can be seen in a host of Greek archaeological sites.

The name of the church was also telling: the Transfiguration of the Savior. The Greek word for transfiguration is metamorphosis, which is commonly used with the meaning of “transformation.” It rung a bell as Hermes (known to the Romans as Mercurius) is indeed a mercurial figure, a god with diverse roles and many faces, and a mediator between different realms. He was also considered the guide of souls to the underworld; his place of worship could have easily been transformed into that of the Christian Savior of souls…

That rather unorthodox pilgrimage was the beginning of our journey up the potami, a stream flowing into the sea just a few meters away from us. We began to walk uphill and soon reached a grove of olive trees and lemon trees, which seemed to relish the abundant touch of the sun and the presence of the life-giving water.

As our walk through the grove came to an end, Minas and I suddenly entered a different world. I stood gaping at the dreamlike landscape. The interplay of light and shadow created an otherworldly atmosphere. Hermes came to mind again, this time as the god of dreams, magic and alchemy. As a messenger of the gods, he could easily cross from one world to the other, from heaven to earth and into the underworld. I wondered what messages he had in store for us.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Where Does Religion Start?

Where and how does religion start?  With my mother's recent illness, I've been thinking about this a lot.  My mom is straight up Christian, go to church every Sunday, go to bible study, be a member of a circle.  She's involved.  Being part of her church gives her great joy and peace.  When she was going in for a surgery years ago, the minister from her church showed up and prayed with her.  I saw a change come over my mother, a peace and an acceptance.  It was beautiful.  However, I've only ever hated going to church, listening to ministers and all of it.  It all felt off to me.

My father, who passed 33 years ago, never went to church except for weddings and funerals.  He always told me god wasn't in a building.  Now being a farmer, he was close to the land and had a connection to the land.  Growing up, there was nothing better than outside chores.  I hated housework and loved being in the fields or with the animals.  I would rather clean the barn than the house.  Spending an hour cleaning the milk house was better than ten minutes of doing dishes.  The only time outside chores wasn't better was in the depth of winter when it was below zero. 

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Peter on Grief and Communities

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    I am so sorry for your loss, and can't possibly understand what you are going through. (My parents just "dropped dead" in their mi
Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, October 20 2017

Facing death, inmates create art to reflect their spiritual outlook. A Jew talks about what the formation of his identity. And an explanation of some of the principles behind so-called Chinese "alchemy" (which is, in fact, quite different from Western alchemy). It's Faithful Friday, our segment on faiths and religious communities from around the world. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Quaker and Pagan Means What, Exactly?

Since I began describing myself as a Quaker Pagan, I run into people who are suspicious of my claim to be both Quaker and Pagan. To these folks, Peter and I look like spiritual cheats, trying to sneak fifteen items through the clearly labeled Twelve Item Express Lane of a spiritual life.

“Cafeteria spirituality,” I’ve heard it described, expressing the notion that my husband and I are picking and choosing only the tastiest morsels of either religion, like spoiled children loading our plates with desserts, but refusing to eat our vegetables.

This isn’t the case. The term “cafeteria religion” implies imposing human whims over the (presumably) sacred norms of religion.  But Peter and I are both/ands not out of personal preference, but because we were called to our religion… twice.  By two different families of Spirit.

I can explain this best through my own story.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for sharing. I find the indifference gods and spirits have toward theology to be quite entertaining. Back when I was
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Very interesting and a lovely authentic piece of exposition concerning your faith. Thank you for sharing. I believe that the most
Limitations of the Christian Trinity (God as Mother)

As promised, an excerpt from my paper on the Christian Trinity. A few things to consider:


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  • Karen Nolan
    Karen Nolan says #
    Really enjoyed reading this -- more people, especially Christians, should truly, deeply wonder how Mary felt in giving life to Jes
Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, August 18 2017

What would Jesus think of modern Christians? A look at the role "surrender" plays in Hinduism. And talking about Buddhism with the writer behind Dear White People. It's Faithful Friday, our segment on news about faiths and religious communities around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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