April 22, 2012

Catholics are not true Christians? Thoughts on division within the Christian Community

Lord of the Miracles Proccession (Lima, Peru)
Largest Catholic gathering in South America (1 million)
Having grown up in Peru until the age of 13, I thought that the Catholic Church was the only form of Christianity that existed.  When I was younger I recognized certain terms such as Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah ’s Witness, Evangelical, etc, but these types of Christians were only a myth, or rather a really elusive endangered species which you knew it existed but had never actually seen one. Occasionally you would hear stories of a friend of a friend who once talked to one, but generally, unlike the rest of the world, other Christian sects have not achieved success south of the United States as the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until I moved to the states and later got interested in religious studies (secularly) that I learned about the plethora of beliefs out there. 

From my endeavors and intellectual discussions regarding Christianity , one of the most surprising acts done by certain Christians are their rejection, opposition, disapproval, superiority,  and rarely (but existent) borderline hate against the Catholic  religion,  labeling their followers not true Christians. The truth is that this is very much a common belief in the non-Catholic Christian community, and while their expression of it might not be as direct or loud, from conversations over the years with plenty of individuals, it has become evident to me that such belief is alive.  I’m currently an agnostic atheist, and so I do not find any criticism towards Catholicism offensive (in fact, I encourage it), but from an analytic perspective, it’s extremely amusing to see the amount of misunderstanding of why the catholic church is what it is now. 

February 8, 2012

Hinduism: Social Stratification in Ancient India

Before the arrival of the Aryans sometime in 1500 B.C.E., India consisted of agricultural communities that lacked true social class. Around the 3rd millennium B.C.E , the Harappan civilization rose up around what today is Pakistan and northwest India, perhaps indicating the manifestation of the ruling elite; however, even then social class was not attached to individuals, but functioned under the jati system. Ancient Indians gathered up in towns and villages that eventually became kingships, each ruled by its own council of members – an elite group composed of hereditary bloodlines based on power and wealth. Each kingship or jati was composed of hundreds or thousands of nuclear families that performed similar functions for society; off course occupations varied within a single jati in order to sustain its population, but in general, each jati had a specific economic role within its system, perhaps under the control of larger kingships, like the cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Each jati belonged to a form of unwritten social class dictated by their function in society; this meant that if a whole community changed its occupation to one that ranked higher (or lower) in the social scale, then the whole jati transitioned social levels.

November 15, 2011

Fairy Folklore and Mythology in "A Midsummer’s Night Dream"

Oberlin Opera Theater's  "A Midsummer Night's Dream".  2007
Thought to be written in 1594 or 1595, “A midsummer’s Night Dream” is one of the most well-known plays of the literary world, perhaps due to celebrated fame of its author – William Shakespeare. Born in the mid 16th century, today Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest writer of the English language, with a repertoire of poems and plays that has achieved worldly prestige and has made him a literary figure.  “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” tells the story of Lysander and Hermia’s unpermitted love, along with Demetrius’ struggle to woo her despite him being the subject of Helena’s amorous obsession (Wells and Taylor XV, 401); however, the plot’s entertainment is attributed to a different set of juxtaposing characters that intervene in the affairs of these young lovers – the fairies. Drawn from European legend and folklore, Shakespeare took inspiration from a variety of fairy lore and mythology that makes itself present throughout the play.

November 10, 2011

Deconstructing Seid: A Form of Magic in Norse Paganism

Völva  from Fredrik Sander's 1893 Swedish 
edition of the Poetic Edda
Seid, or seiðr in Old Norse, or seidhr, seidh, seidr, seithr, or seithis in its anglicized versions, is a type witchcraft associated with women belonging to the pagan culture of the Norse in pre-Christian times. Mythologically, in the Ynglinga saga, written in 1225, it is stated that Freyja – the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and war – is the one who introduces seid to the Æsir (the first gods), when she and the Vanir (the second gods) join pantheons. An example of seid magic appears in Völuspá, the first poem of the Poetic Edda, written sometime in the 10th or early 11th century; it depicts a vision of the creation of the world, and its approaching end as narrated by a völva addressing Odin – the ruler god.[1] Mainly known by its Icelandic term, a völva, or vǫlva in Old Norse, or vala in English, was a type of female prophet/shaman throughout Norse paganism.[2] Alternatively, the term spákona or spækona were also used to describe a practitioner of spá (prophecy).[3] Völvas were workers of various forms of indigenous magic and divination; most importantly, völvas were famous for being seiðkonas – practitioners of seid.[4] By analyzing the the mythology, archeology, and sociology of the North, one can try to conceptualize what this mysterious form of witchcraft known as seid was all about.