Sunday Morning Post

February 13th, 2011 by sivodd

Valentine’s Day: Love… actually?
Valentine’s Day didn’t begin with a pair of star-crossed lovers or a hallmark greeting card campaign — it started with a bunch of half-naked Romans running through the streets  whipping women with strips of goat hide to cure their infertility.

In ancient times February 15 was the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which also included one other rather interesting  tradition: a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a box. The lucky, or not so lucky, girl would then be the fellow’s sexual partner during the remaining year. Often the lady would receive a gift or a greeting in the name of Juno, a Roman goddess. Was this the precursor of the Valentine’s Day card?

Unsurprisingly, the church didn’t quite like all this carrying on so they did what they usually did with deeply ingrained pagan festival — they rebranded it. The date was changed from February 15 to February 14, and the lottery was expanded to allow girls to pick names as well. Now, the names were of Christian saints and the lucky ones who drew the names had to imitate the saints’ actions for the rest of the year. It didn’t catch on. Read full story from tribune.com.pk

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Imagine, for just one minute, that vampires, witches and so on really do exist. Where would they go to meet each other? What sort of jobs would they do? In her day-job, Deborah Harkness is an academic historian of science; her novel started, she says, the day she asked herself that question. The resulting opus is 600 pages long, the hit of the 2009 Frankfurt book fair, the first volume in a projected trilogy; I don’t think we need even mention Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyer, or the entire walls of our suffering local libraries given over to “urban fantasy” and “dark romance”.

It probably is worth noting, however, that as a historian, Harkness specialises in the 17th century, the time when, as her novel puts it, “astrology and witch-hunts yielded to Newton and universal laws”; and that she decided, in answer to her own question, that nowadays vampires and witches would probably work, like her, as academics. Vampires would stick to science – the long hours in chilly labs would suit them. Witches would do well in the humanities. It’s a neat concept, and easy to see why the publishers were hooked. Read full story from guardian.co.uk

Spelling victory with magic
Supermen love superstition. Or so it seems in Karnataka politics. Yeddyurappa — named after a god; benefactor of temples; pilgrim of occult exotica from the sites of donkey sacrifice to the famous Rajarajeshwari temple in Taliparamba in Kannur district, Kerala — fears black magic is afoot, to bring him to a grisly end; if not politically at least personally. His nemesis and Voldemort is none other than senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah who is so offended by what he calls “character assassination” by the Karnataka chief minister he has threatened to drag Yeddy to court.

The shadowy world of politics has always been inhabited by dubious practitioners of the occult, upon whose advice, it is whispered in the corridors of power, politicians perform nocturnal rituals and pujas, wear saris to bed (as the late NTR did), wear talismans and visit powerful temples. Remember Dhirendra Brahmachari and Chandraswamy?

These days, the action has shifted to Karnataka; the current occult calendar going back to the eve of the trust vote on October 10, 2010. Within the Vidhana Soudha premises surfaced a voodoo doll, a lemon pierced with nails, chopped chicken heads and entrails, eggs, blood, vermillion and strings of coloured thread strewn all over. Read full story from expressbuzz.com

Build respect and tolerance
A WEEK before Chinese New Year, the Prime Minister and his family sent me a Salam 1Malaysia e-mail wishing me Gong Xi Fa Cai.

For those who haven’t received the message, he said this in his e-mail: “May the Year of the Rabbit bring blessings of much happiness, good health and prosperity always. With new beginnings comes new opportunities and as we usher in the Lunar New Year, it is my sincere hope that you achieve success and satisfaction in all your undertakings. Your accomplishments are reflective of our nation’s triumphs, and may we always excel beyond expectations!”

As a Christian, I credit the many blessings in my life to God. But as one who had a multi-ethnic education at the Methodist Girls’ School in Ipoh I accept his sincere greetings and look forward to getting a Salam 1Malaysia e-mail at Christmas too.

The fuss that was made by a non-Muslim aide in the Prime Minister’s Office over a cross at the annual Christmas tea party for Najib last year has not helped his 1Malaysia campaign.

The aide later apologised but the incident led to rumblings the next time the Prime Minister or one of his Cabinet members called on Malaysians to fully embrace the philosophy of 1Malaysia. Read full story from thestar.com.my

Gay couples may soon be able to tie the knot in church
The Coalition government is considering a change in the law to allow gay people to have marriage-style ceremonies in places of worship.

Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is expected to announce later this week that a ban on civil partnerships being conducted in religious venues is to be lifted.

The move, which could also allow hymns and readings from the Bible, is likely to be welcomed by gay rights groups but met with strong opposition from traditionalists within the Church of England, other mainstream religions and the Conservative party.

However minority religious groups such as Unitarians, Liberal Jews and Quakers, who already carry out ceremonies for gay people, will be sympathetic to the move. Read full story from guardian.co.uk

The revolution that has given Egypt new hope, pride and confidence
Akhem Hassan came so late to the revolution he thought he might have missed it, but on Saturday he discovered that it is far from over. For days, Hassan watched events unfold on television. Or rather, he fumed as the state broadcaster spewed forth a stream of lies about the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

“They said the demonstrators were paid by foreigners and agents of Israel,” said the 41-year-old driving instructor. “They said they only went to Tahrir Square because there was free Kentucky [Fried Chicken]. But we Egyptians were afraid of the government since the day we were born and no one would go against it just for free Kentucky.”

It took Hosni Mubarak‘s television address, though, to get Hassan down to the square. Like many of his countrymen, he had been expecting the Egyptian president to quit on Thursday night. When he didn’t, it was too much.

“I decided that for my sons’ future, I too must be brave,” he said.

Hassan arrived in Tahrir Square on Friday morning as the growing crowd seethed with anger at what was widely regarded as the regime’s duplicity after the near euphoria of the day before at statements from the army and politicians that Mubarak was about to quit. Read full story from guardian.co.uk

The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief, VS Naipaul, Picador
VS Naipaul travels through Africa to gauge and gain input on the beliefs of the continent. Much of Africa has changed because of the white man’s touch and the evangelical campaign. The natives are getting farther and farther away from their ‘paganism’ to embrace the new religion, which brings them ‘prosperity.’ India has received and withstood the onslaught. Africa seems to be shriveling under it. As Naipaul, the master of words travels from Uganda, to Ghana, to Nigeria and then finally South Africa, he observes unmistakable similarities of the practices of magic.

“To believe in the traditional African religion was to be on the defensive. There was no doctrine to hold on to; there was only a sense of the rightness of old ways, the sacredness of the local earth,” says Naipaul, whereas the new religions, Islam and Christianity, offered a philosophical base, a book, one god and global connectivity. Read full story from organiser.org

The boy who ‘went to heaven’
“MANY people all over the world would love for this to be their worst day.”

It’s tough advice from your dad to contemplate when your six-year-old has been left paralysed and fighting for life after a car crash you caused.

Incredibly, father of four Kevin Malarkey has not only seen more good come out of the horrific accident that almost cost his son’s life – but if he had his time again, he would not change a thing.

The story of Alex Malarkey, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, has not only made the New York Times’ best seller list, but has attracted interest from people around the world, particularly in Australia.

After hearing of his plight on the internet, people as far away as Afghanistan began praying for the little boy who suffered the most severe spinal injury, a broken pelvis and traumatic brain injury. Read full story from dailymercury.com

Horse owners warned plaiting could be for theft or rituals
A worried horse owner has issued a warning for people to be on their guard after she discovered one of her animals with a plait in its mane.

The owner, who lives near Shepton Mallet, but does not want to be named for fear of reprisals, fears her horse could have been targeted for theft by gypsies or travellers after similar incidents were featured in the equestrian press.

Horse owners claim the plaiting of a mane carried out by an intruder in daylight could be a signal for horse-stealers returning under covering of darkness. Feeling the plait in a mane could indicate the horse has already been checked as not being branded or micro-chipped and so is free from any identity coding that could prove it stolen when it later comes up for sale.

But other comments on websites say it could be a plague of My Little Pony fans just wanting to plait horses manes. And another correspondent states: “If they’ve got time to plait a mane they’ve got time to steal the horse.” Read full story from thisissomerset.co.uk

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