Nuns ordered to end 'damaging' activities
Nuns ordered to end 'damaging' activities
NUNS involved in Womenspace have been ordered to put an end to community activities at the Brisbane centre that have scandalised the Catholic Church.
A report compiled by canon law expert Sister Patricia Scully found there was no "formal supporting of witchcraft" at the Church-owned centre at Kedron.
However, the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, said the continued operation of certain activities at Womenspace would damage the reputation and Christian mission of the orders and the Church itself.
He said he was "most unhappy" the pro-abortion Children by Choice organisation had held its annual general meeting there recently.
He said he doubted the leaders of the three congregations of nuns involved in Womenspace the Presentation Sisters, who own the property, the Josephites and the Sisters of Mercy were aware it was taking place.
"The leaders of the religious congregations will sit down and consider the damage that has been caused through management that wasn't as comprehensive as it should have been and will make appropriate decisions in the light of that," Archbishop Bathersby said.
"Now the decision might be 'there is too much risk in this' although religious sisters don't normally step away from risk 'and therefore let's get out'."
He indicated the most likely outcome would be an overhaul of the administration of Womenspace to ensure the Catholic Church, which at present has effectively only two votes out of seven on the management committee, was not embarrassed and scandalised by any future activities.
Archbishop Bathersby, who has been under fire from conservative Catholics for not reining in the more radical elements within the archdiocese, rebutted suggestions he had taken a weak option in allowing the congregations to deal with the Womenspace issue rather than imposing a directive.
"I think I have taken effective action," he said. "I think it will achieve the best possible result for the religious congregations and for the Church.
"I don't think it's a weak way by any means. If I'm weak going that way, Christ was weak too."
The Scully inquiry, commissioned by Archbishop Bathersby after The Courier-Mail reports of Womenspace activities caused concern about paganism and witchcraft, was not a rigid canonical investigation.
Nuns named in the report were not compelled to give evidence and were not questioned about their faith and adherence to Church doctrine.
Archbishop Bathersby said he had not considered the possibility that the nuns involved in the feminist organisation might have lost the focus of their faith.
"I more or less am leaving it to the leaders of the religious congregations to tell me that if need be," he said.
"But if a person has completely pushed aside Jesus Christ and has gone into witchcraft, well then, they're out of the orders, out of the congregation."
(c) Wayne Smith
The Origins Of Christmas Traditions
The Origins Of Christmas Traditions
December 20, 2001
By MEGAN CLAIR, The Hartford Courant
Some 5,000 years of human history have left us rich in rituals that date to ancient Egypt or Romans, the Druids or the Norse and beyond.
The Christmas Tree
The custom of decorating Christmas trees goes back to the ancient Romans, who decorated fir trees with pieces of metal during Saturnalia, the winter festival honorin Saturn, the god of agriculture. Ancient people worshipped the sun as a god and thought winter arrived every year because the sun god was sick and weak. The solstice marked the turning point and meant the sun was getting stronger.
The Yule Log
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from winter solstice through January by burning large logs and feasting for the duration of the fire, which lasted up to 12 days. The Norse believed each spark signified another new pig or calf to be born in the coming year. Pagans light the Yule on the eve of the winter solstice and let it burn for 12 hours for luck. The Yule tree later was replaced by the Yule log, with candles on it.
Candles and Lights
Pagan solstice rituals included lighting fires to encourage increased strength in the waning sun god as he reached his lowest point in the southern sky. Fires were replaced by candles, and candles by holiday lights.
Gift giving also is linked to ancient Rome's Saturnalia celebration. Revelers gave candles and garlands to those whom they wished good luck, prosperity and happiness.
Many pagan societies worshipped a hearth god, clad in red, who appeared on the hearth to bless those who pleased and to curse those who did not. Food and drink were left as offerings.
The Egyptian god Bes was a rotund, bearded, gnome-like patron of children. Bes, whose symbols included bells and drums, punished the wicked as swiftly as he amused the good and the just.
In Germany, the pagan god Odin was worshipped in mid-winter. He was a fearful god, believed to make nocturnal flights through the sky to observe people and decide who should live and die.
In Scandinavian folklore, the Norse god Baldur was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe, but when his mother Frigga's tears were transformed into the white berries on the mistletoe, Baldur's life was restored. In gratitude, Frigga, goddess of love and beauty, is said to have kissed anyone who passed beneath the mistletoe.
Druids thought mistletoe had miraculous healing powers and used it during solstice ceremonies as a fertility symbol because it bore fruit during the winter.
A number of cultures, including Roman, Norse and Germanic people used evergreens, symbolizing the endurance of life through the fierce winter, to make wreaths in the shape of an eternal sun.
Wassailing is linked to an old English horticultural ritual honoring apple trees by sprinkling cider or liquor over the roots in mid-winter to ensure a good crop and fruitful year. The word carol derives from choraulein, a Greek circle dance to flute music. The popular dance spread to Europe, and the French substituted song for the flute.
The Twelve Days of Christmas This derives from the ancient Egyptians mid-winter festival celebrating the birth of Horus (the prototype of the earthly king), son of Isis (the divine mother goddess). The 12 days reflected the Egyptians 12-month calendar year.
(c)MEGAN CLAIR, The Hartford Courant
Finding faith in the longest night
Finding faith in the longest night
Wiccans celebrate winter solstice
By TOM HEINEN
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Dec. 20, 2001
Wiccans and followers of other nature-based faiths across Wisconsin are reaching back to the dawn of time today to celebrate the winter solstice with sunlight, songs, flames, feasts and prayerful reverence.
The public is invited to an interfaith, multicultural Winter Solstice Celebration sponsored by Circle Sanctuary. More than 200 people are expected for the event, from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday in the meeting hall of First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison. For details call (608) 924-2216.
Some people held observances Thursday and last weekend.
Some also will celebrate the solstice season - often termed the Yule - for the next few days.
The Wiccan religion has caught the public's attention in recent weeks because of controversy over the state's hiring of the Rev. Jamyi Witch at Waupun Correctional Institution as Wisconsin's first Wiccan prison chaplain.
But for the solstice, Wiccans are turning from the news spotlight to sunlight and firelight.
This year, Dec. 21 marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Although winter is technically just beginning, pagans have revered this day across the millenniums as one of hope and rebirth of the dying sun because the hours of daylight start increasing until the summer solstice in June.
At Newgrange in Ireland, a beam of sunlight bears testimony to the ancient roots of such reverence. On the winter solstice, it travels down a shaft into the heart of a huge, stone-walled, 5,000-year-old burial mound that was built before either the more famous megalithic ruin known as Stonehenge in southern England or the pyramids in Egypt.
At Circle Sanctuary - a Wiccan church and community that has existed on a 200-acre nature preserve about 30 miles west of Madison since 1983 - a 2-foot oak Yule log, decorated with holly, dried pine boughs and mistletoe, blazed during a winter solstice eve ceremony Thursday.
The greenery symbolized the continuity of life. The flames symbolized the passing of the old solar and calendar years, the rebirth of the sun, and the welcoming of the new year, said the Rev. Selena Fox, an international consultant on nature-based religions and Circle Sanctuary's founder and senior minister.
"Solstice sun, shining bright, shortest day, longest night," the group chanted, using a chant that Fox wrote earlier this year.
They rang bells and danced. And they offered prayers for greater understanding among the peoples of the world.
"Clearly, we need to find ways for people of many religions to understand each other better and work together for a healthier and more harmonious, peaceful world," said Fox. "And that is really at the core of what my life and the Wiccan religion is about."
More than 60 participants in the Circle Sanctuary community will gather there Saturday for a private Yule log ceremony, Yule tree decorating, singing and a holiday feast. A public ceremony will be Sunday in Madison.
More about Wiccans
The Wiccan religion, one of several Pagan faiths that have been revived, revitalized and/or created in the modern era, draws from ancient Celtic and northern European folk-religion practices as well as from the classical civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt and Mesopotamia, said Fox.
Within such religions, people have different ways of conceptualizing divinity, Fox said. It ranges from recognition of a divine spirit within all living things to the existence of a unifying creator whom many call The Divine.
Some pagans believe in a single divine entity, though polytheism is more widespread.Not only isn't Satan worshipped, he doesn't even exist in Wiccan theology, Fox stressed.
"Some recognize an all-encompassing sacred force but approach that force by honoring male and female dimensions of the divine - Mother Goddess and Father God," said Fox.
Some, but not all Wiccans are reclaiming the word "witch" as synonymous with healer and keeper of the wisdom of nature, Fox said. But others reject it because it has been used in a negative way to persecute pagans.
Estimates of Wiccans and those on similar paths in the United States vary from 200,000 to 5 million, Fox said. The international Circle Network that she operates has been in touch with more than 5,000 Wiccans in Wisconsin, and she believes there are at least 5,000 other pagans in the state.
Gloria Villanueva, a Wiccan from Racine, said she and other pagans she knows use the darkness of the winter solstice for reflection and personal improvement.
Fox and Villanueva noted that some symbols of nature-based religions are very recognizable.
"What I think is really interesting is that so many of our Christmas customs today really have their roots in pre-Christian times," Fox said. "Certainly the idea of greenery - of bringing greens into the homes, of decorating our homes and our public buildings with greenery to represent renewal and the continuation of life - that was done not only amongst the Celts and the Scandinavians, it was done amongst the ancient Romans and Greeks."
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Dec. 21, 2001.