Earthpages.ca

Think Free


5 Comments

The Rosary – Aid or distraction?

The word rosary refers to any planned prayer recited on a string of beads. Rosaries in this sense have been prayed all over the world in different religious traditions for centuries.

Before the introduction of beads, prayers were counted on pebbles or fingers.

Some believe that the Catholic holy rosary was adapted from earlier Muslim prayer beads, introduced through the Crusades. Others say the holy rosary existed prior to the Crusades.

Probably no one really knows just how or when the Catholic rosary came into being.

According to Catholic legend, which many Catholics accept as fact, the Blessed Virgin Mary mystically appeared to St. Dominic in 1214. The story goes that Mary gave Dominic the holy rosary saying,”One day through the rosary and the Scapular I will save the world.”¹

Many other Catholic saints reportedly had subsequent visions, from the Middle Ages to modern times. These visions usually conveyed an urgency in spreading devotion through the rosary.

In October 2002 Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries.

The Catholic mysteries of the rosary are based on key moments in the life, death and afterlife of both Jesus and Mary as portrayed in the New Testament.

Crucifijos de los Rosarios

Crucifijos de los Rosarios by Nathan Gibbs via Flickr

To me, the rosary is a useful tool for quieting one’s thoughts, providing one needs that kind of help. When I first became interested in Catholicism in the early 1990s, I prayed the rosary fairly often for a while. Sometimes I would receive tangible graces that I associated with the Virgin Mary, sometimes I had slightly different types of experiences.

But over time, the rosary began to feel like so many rattling words. It became more of a distraction than a devotional aid. That’s probably because as I grew older, contemplation came more easily, and the repetitive words seemed like superficial chatter over the calm I’d already found.

However, I may still sit in church for a while if parishioners are praying a rosary. I may even join in for part of the prayer. Like other preset prayers, the holy rosary is a good backup for those stressful days when one is more distracted (from God) than usual or when, perhaps, one just feels called to pray that way.

Some Lutherans and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans pray variations of the rosary, but it remains a predominantly Catholic practice.²

¹ See these links.

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary#In_non-Catholic_Christianity | For more about the Catholic holy rosary, see this.

Related » Goddess vs. goddess, Hail Mary Prayer, Virgin Mary


Leave a comment

Radha – From milkmaid to goddess

Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr

In Hinduism Radha (Sanskrit = fortunate or successful) is an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. She appears on Earth as the female ghopi (cowherdess and milkmaid) who leaves her husband to become the playmate of the Hindu god Krishna.

Her loving and playful relationship with Krishna has become an integral part of the Indian popular imagination, comparable to Romeo and Juliet had Shakespeare not written a tragedy.

Radha is also interpreted on a higher, mystical level, symbolizing the soul‘s loving surrender to God. Contemporary Vaishnava religion in W. Bengal regards Radha as the ultimate female principle, the Goddess or Shakti.

While writing this I couldn’t help but note a loose parallel to Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the Bible story, Mary was a humble teenager soon to be married to a carpenter (Joseph). Like Radha, she got a divine call. But she didn’t leave her husband nor humanity immediately to dance in the ethereal realms with God. Instead, she stayed on Earth and lived a real, difficult life, to the extent of watching her human/divine son die at the hands of some of the Jews and occupying Romans. Only after that terrible ordeal do both ascend to be with God.

An image like Radha dancing with Krishna in astral realms might be appealing to some wanting to sugarcoat or, perhaps, escape the world as quickly and easily as possible. But for those who believe that salvation comes from going through not only the joys but also the grind of life, the Christian story, as lamentable as it can be, may seem a bit more real.


6 Comments

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Madonna by Raphael, an example of Marian art

Madonna by Raphael, an example of Marian art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the New Testament, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, wife of St. Joseph.

According to Catholic teaching, Mary was conceived immaculately, meaning that she was born without the taint of original sin. This idea is often confused with the idea of the Virgin Birth. Wikipedia clarifies:

The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary concerns her own conception in her mother’s womb, not the virgin birth of Jesus

Catholics also believe that Mary always was and will be a virgin. That is, Mary and her elderly husband Joseph remained perfectly chaste throughout their lives.

The Virgin Birth refers to Mary’s conceiving Jesus after she freely chose to accept God’s miraculous intervention, through which she would become pregnant. This event took place before her marriage to Joseph. The angel Gabriel came to her and proposed the choice she had to make. After she accepted God’s will for her, Mary probably suffered from the misunderstanding of Joseph and others who initially saw only scandal.

The Greek Orthodox Church accepts devotion through Mary but not the idea of her immaculate conception.

From reading the New Testament and Apocrypha, many believe that Joseph and Mary had sex and four other boys and two girls after Jesus.

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, temper...

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that Mary bore only Jesus. For believing Catholics, the “other Mary” mentioned in the New Testament bore James and Joseph, the so-called “brothers” of Jesus. And Catholics say the term “brother” (Greek: adelphos) is in keeping with a common Old Testament usage, meaning “close relation” (kith and kin). So “brother” in this sense means spiritual instead of physical brotherhood.

Unlike some feminists and New Age enthusiasts, Catholics believe that Mary is a mediator between Christ and mankind, not a goddess. The idea that Mary is a mediator between mankind and God has been traced to the 3rd century CE.

When praying to Mary through the Holy Rosary, Catholics do not worship her but, rather, request that she intercedes for them—as in the Hail Mary Prayer, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Some Protestants and Fundamentalists believe that Catholics have got it wrong because, so they assert, Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. But, quite ironically, many of these very same people freely ask their friends and associates to “pray for them,” which clearly is a request for intercession.

Catholics often reply to this Protestant and Fundamentalist charge by asking: If we can ask souls on Earth to pray for us, why not souls in heaven?

In the New Testament Mary instructs Jesus to perform his first miracle at a wedding ceremony at Cana (John 2: 1-11). Jesus hesitates – “it is not my time.” But at Mary’s insistence he ends up performing the miracle (turning the water into wine).

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 431 the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, a Greek term meaning “The Mother of God.” Mary became widely venerated throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Devotion during this period was so enthusiastic that sometimes monks and religious were taken as mad persons. And maybe some were.

The doctrine of Mary’s bodily assumption (her rising at death) into heaven was formed around the 6th century CE by orthodox theologians. It became sanctioned by the Catholic Church in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.

The idea of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception was hotly disputed in the Middle Ages but generally accepted by the 16th century. The doctrine was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, stipulating that Mary was born free from “all stain of original sin.”

Many lay and religious persons around the world claim to have witnessed apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the most publicized being those at Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorge.²

Some religious scholars and lay people, alike, equate Mary with the Egyptian Isis, the Roman Demeter, the Hindu Kali or the Chinese Kwan Yin, among a host of other goddesses. Likewise, C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell equate Mary with various goddesses, envisioning all as archetypal images of an underlying and (some say) sexist “feminine principle.” But even a casual study of these various female deities reveals striking differences. And to equate them as if they were all the same, as some New Age enthusiasts and depth psychologists do, seems facile.

Medal of the Immaculate Conception (aka Miracu...

Medal of the Immaculate Conception (aka Miraculous Medal), a medal created by Saint Catherine Labouré in response to a request from the Blessed Virgin Mary who allegedly appeared rue du Bac, Paris, in 1830. The message on the recto reads: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you — 1830”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary is depicted musically in Stabat Mater, the “standing mother” (at the foot of the cross of her crucified son). The composers Palestrina, Pergolesi, Rossini, Haydn, Verdi and Dvorak have written unique works, each called Stabat Mater. While Pergolesi’s work is the most popular, all compositions are based on the same New Testament account of Mary’s grief while witnessing Jesus’ execution at the hands of the occupying Romans.³ Since 1727, the devotional poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa (“A mother standing, grief-stricken”) has been set to a plainchant melody in the Catholic Mass.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_birth_of_Jesus

² For more, see http://www.marypages.com

³ Over the centuries there has been much heated debate over who actually killed Jesus. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barabbas

Related Posts » Adam, Anima, Assumption, Brahman, Fatima, Goddess vs. goddess, Great Mother, Greek Orthodox Church, Hail Mary Prayer, Heaven, Icon, Infallibility, Knight, Koran, Madonna, Nicene Creed, Sister


4 Comments

Anima

La vera anima del genio crudele by Shock2006 via Flickr

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was a clever guy. Whenever he created a new concept, he almost always adapted previously existing ideas. This gave his overall theory a kind of historical resonance and, one could say, mythic appeal.

The same strategy is often used by rock stars, film and TV producers, fiction writers and corporations (e.g. Alice in Chains, The Omega Man, Stargate Atlantis, East of Eden, Apple Records and Apple Inc).

Jung’s idea of the anima is no exception. Historically, the word anima may refer to:¹

  • the Latin term for the “animating principle”, see vitalism
  • the Latin translation of Greek psyche
  • Aristotle’s treatise on the soul, de anima
  • in Christian contexts, the soul
  • spirit

In Jung’s psychological theory the anima is the unconscious contrasexual component of the male Self—that is, the man’s supposed “inner woman.” The anima presents itself to consciousness in a series of archetypal images, with a primitive sexual figure usually emerging first. As a man develops, this primitive symbol is followed by increasingly refined, “higher” images.

English: The Wicked Witch of The West, melting...

The Wicked Witch of The West, melting after being doused by Dorothy. From the first edition of The Wizard of Oz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jung says the anima has dark and light forms. Like all symbols, it mediates both destructive and creative forces from the depths of the unconscious.

An example of the negative anima would be dreaming of a leather-clad Whipping Mistress who beats and binds male victims into submission. Some activists for contemporary sadomasochism movements claim that their behavior represents a socially safe redirection or “playing out” of the negative anima. However, many places where this kind of activity occurs are designated as “Common Bawdy Houses” and remain illegal. Another instance of the negative anima could be The Wicked Witch of the West or the blood-dripping Hindu goddess Kali, for whom horrific animal sacrifices regularly take place at Kali temples in India.

Jungian thought maintains that such images (and related practices) contain enormous potential for psychological growth, providing their energy is understood and positively redirected by the conscious ego.

Lady Di memorial

Lady Di memorial by osmotic_agent via Flickr

Positive anima symbols would be the archetypal image of the Fairy Godmother or the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin.

Historical embodiments of destructive anima-power arise in ruthless figures whose negative archetypal power dominates consciousness, such as Queen “Bloody” Mary of England. On the other hand, benevolent figures like Lady Diana Spencer and Mother Teresa each in their own way represent positive incarnations of the anima figure.

Jung also sees the Blessed Virgin Mary as a positive anima figure. For Jung, Jesus’ mother Mary is nothing more than an archetypal symbol of a vague “feminine principle.” Like other theories and belief systems claiming to embrace all religions within their own perspective, Jung’s rendering on this central aspect of Catholicism differs dramatically from the Catholic view, itself. And on this point Jung has been roundly criticized for simplifying complex religious and mythological data to suit his own purposes.

Related Posts » Animus, Great Mother

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_and_animus


1 Comment

Great Mother

English: A silver female statuette, possibly r...

A silver female statuette, possibly representing mother goddess, from tombs in Alacahöyük, an archaeological site in Turkey via Noumenon at Wikipedia

The Great Mother is an umbrella concept referring to the idea of “The Goddess” and different major goddesses around the world, usually but not necessarily related to vegetation, and by implication, fertility.

The celebrated archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) argued that behind all representations of prehistoric goddesses lies a single, Great Goddess.

Gimbutas identified diverse Paleolithic and Neolithic female representations that she believed depicted a single universal Great Goddess. She also recognized that these complex representations stood for a range of female deities (e.g. snake goddess, bee goddess, bird goddess, mountain goddess, Mistress of the Animals) that were not necessarily ubiquitous throughout Europe.¹

In a tape entitled “The Age of the Great Goddess,” Gimbutas discusses the various manifestations of the Goddess which occur, and stresses the ultimate unity behind them all of the Earth as feminine.¹

English: A mother goddess statuette from Canha...

A mother goddess statuette from Canhasan, which is an archaeological site in Turkey. This figurine, along with other mother goddess figurines found in Canhasan, is thought to be an evidence of a continual matriarchal society in central Anatolia during the Chalcolithic age - via Noumenon at Wikipedia

Gimbutas also believed that excavations from Neolithics sites in Europe and Lithuania suggest a society were women were dominant, in both the worldly and spiritual sense. Her views, although still debated among scholars, gave great impetus to aspects of the feminist movement, mostly among woman scholars, academics and intellectuals who shared her point of view.

Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother adopts Carl Jung‘s view that the Great Mother is an archetype expressing the anima.

The term was also used in the ancient world to refer to nurturing, life-affirming female deities worshipped in public places.

While in prison awaiting his execution, Boethius (circa 480-525) wrote Consolation of Philosophy, in which he’s visited by a female apparition called Philosophy. Boethius’ “eternal feminine” comforter and guide conforms to Jung’s idea of the anima, as does James Lovelock‘s choice of the name Gaia (Greek Mother Goddess) to depict his view that the earth behaves as if it were a self-contained living organism.

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, Statue menhir, St ...

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, the Grandmother of Chimquiere, the statue menhir at the gate of Saint Martin's church is an important prehistoric site in the parish via Wikipedia

In the contemporary and ancient sense, the Great Mother has a terrible side, wreaking vengeance and punishment on the sinful. In India, the bloodthirsty goddesses Kali and the bellicose Durga are regarded by many as manifestations of the Great Mother.

The Virgin Mary is often wrongly placed in this category, described by non-Catholics as a goddess. But representations of Kali and Mary, for instance, reveal clear differences. Kali, mouth dripping with blood, wears a garland of human heads which she has decapitated, whereas Mary stands serenely on top of creation (and the serpent), disseminating God’s graces from her hands. And there are still regular animal sacrifices at the Kali temple in Kolkata (where the distasteful odor of animal blood certainly did not elevate this author’s mind and soul to high places).

Other differences between Mary and non-Christian goddesses are more subtle. Mary and the goddess Isis, for instance, are both represented suckling their sons, and the Chinese bodhisattva, Kwan-Yin, also holds an infant. But, despite their representational similarities, the religious beliefs and metaphysical implications behind these female deities differ significantly.

In the simplest terms, Mary is a venerated saint who intercedes for God, while The Goddess is the source of all creation—that is, God or a manifestation of God.

Related Posts » Buddhism, Catholicism, Cybele, Demeter, Goddess vs. goddess, Greek Orthodox ChurchMedusa, Yoni

¹ The first citation is a paraphrase of a passage at Wikipedia that could have been written more clearly. The second, a direct quote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marija_Gimbutas


4 Comments

Goddess vs. goddess

Goddess

Goddess by junibears via Flickr

Goddess vs. goddess

Some popular writers like Barbara G. Walker argue that the ancient view of the Goddess differs from contemporary male interpretations. Not to be confused with goddesses, Walker says the Goddess was seen by the ancients as a Great Creative Source of All Being.

Nicole Loraux in Duby and Perrot’s A History of Women, Vol. I points out that, with the exception of Sappho, there’s a dearth of women writers in the ancient world, making our view of the ancient understanding of The Goddess come from mostly male accounts.

Walker says that contemporary spirituality would more correctly depict the Deity with female instead of male terms and images.

Along these lines, some feminist writers believe that the idea of the Goddess emerged before and is more authentic than male God imagery. Other feminists look back to cultures where the Goddess or women were apparently dominant (e.g. Samos, Amazonia) to promote alternatives to male-influenced God images.

Marija Gimbutas

The celebrated archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) argued that behind all representations of prehistoric goddesses lies a single, Great Goddess.

Gimbutas did identify the diverse and complex Paleolithic and Neolithic female representations she recognized as depicting a single universal Great Goddess, but also as manifesting a range of female deities: snake goddess, bee goddess, bird goddess, mountain goddess, Mistress of the Animals, etc., which were not necessarily ubiquitous throughout Europe.

In a tape entitled “The Age of the Great Goddess,” Gimbutas discusses the various manifestations of the Goddess which occur, and stresses the ultimate unity behind them all of the Earth as feminine.¹

English: A mother goddess statuette from Canha...

A mother goddess statuette from Canhasan, which is an archaeological site in Turkey. This figurine, along with other mother goddess figurines found in Canhasan, is thought to be an evidence of a continual matriarchal society in central Anatolia during the Chalcolithic age - via Noumenon at Wikipedia

Gimbutas also believed that excavations from Neolithics sites in Europe and Lithuania suggest a society were women were dominant, in both the worldly and spiritual sense. Her views, although still debated among scholars, gave great impetus to aspects of the feminist movement, mostly among woman scholars, academics and intellectuals who shared her point of view.

Jung and beyond

The Jungian Erich Neumann sees The Goddess as an archetype of the Great Mother.

Meanwhile, Naomi Goldenberg rejects Jung’s entire idea of the archetype, especially archetypes pertaining to an “eternal feminine.” Goldenberg says they constructs are overly generalized, unduly metaphysical and sexist.

In The End of God (1982) Goldenberg suggests the need for depth psychology to develop perspectives about the imaginal (symbolic, inspirational) and literal (physical, social and political) realities of women who find traditional goddess imagery to be an outdated patriarchal legacy.

Apart from the idea of ‘The Goddess’ we also find the minor, small-‘g’ goddess—that is, a female god. Contemporary archaeology points to a tremendous diversity of attributes for a plethora of goddess statues and images discovered around the world. And, to some, attributing all of these different manifestations to a single “Goddess” seems questionable.

Most scholars – male and female – agree that a good number of goddesses are localized, individual deities that emerged from other forms, while other goddesses are, indeed, more universal.

Perhaps most interesting, some goddesses are vindictive, petty, lustful and cruel, just like many of their male counterparts. Meanwhile, others goddesses and gods, alike, are nurturing, loving, chaste and compassionate. So the gender issue arguably could take the form of equality being the right for women to be just as kindly or nasty as men have always been (but this still doesn’t make being nasty right—for women or for men).

The Goddess is also understood as major small-‘g’ goddesses. These major goddesses are often associated with fertility deities in agrarian societies. Some suggest that small-‘g’ goddesses are prominent in matriarchal rather than patriarchal cultures.

Graham Harvey conveniently outlines several different attitudes toward the idea of the Goddess. First, it refers to a spiritual unity (Goddess) in plurality (Goddesses), where the plurality is encountered more often than the unity.

Goddesses

Goddesses by Leslie "LC" Cowger via Flickr

Second, Harvey notes that some contemporary women advocate traditional notions of “femininity” in contrast to the idea of “empowerment” as found within much Goddess theology.

Third, Harvey says Cynthia Eller implies that Feminist Goddess discourse dislocates women from ordinary time and traps them in an obsession with a comforting Golden Age.”²

Harvey also refers to Emily Erwin Culpepper, who is critical of glossing over diversity into some kind of mythic unity:

[With] any monotheism of ‘The Goddess’…She tends to become ‘The Great Mother’ and sweep diverse realities into one cosmically large stereotype.”³

The Virgin Mary

Many writers say the Virgin Mary is a goddess not unlike the Egyptian Isis or the Hindu Kali.

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by ...

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary (1714), Ceiling paintings made by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1654-1730) for the Karlskirche, Vienna via Wikipedia

Catholic teaching, however, clearly states that Mary is not a goddess, but a “mediatrix” (mediator) between God and mankind. While Catholic rosary devotions are directed to Mary, these emphasize her humility and “fullness of Grace.”

Unlike Isis, Mary is a saint and cannot bestow boons from her own power. Indeed, Catholicism clearly indicates that all honor, power and glory belongs to God.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marija_Gimbutas

² Contemporary Paganism: Listening People Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press, 2000, p. 82.

³ Cited in Contemporary Paganism, p. 83.

Related Posts » History, Great Mother


Leave a comment

Holy Rosary

English: Azzano San Paolo, Bergamo, Lombardy, ...

Azzano San Paolo, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy - procession on the Feast of the Holy Rosary by Luigi Chiesa via Wikipedia

The Holy Rosary is a Catholic devotion usually prayed on a circle of beads, with a short row of five beads and crucifix attached at the bottom.

One prays the rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only to venerate her and glorify the Lord, but also to implore the saint to pray to God on one’s behalf. This request for intercession can be for oneself, others, the whole world, and for all souls who ever existed and will exist.

A distinction can be made between the instrument itself (the loop of beads), and the type of prayer performed with them. For instance, Catholics often pray a special prayer called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, apparently given to St. Faustina, using rosary beads.

Before 2002, the full rosary consisted of 15 decades (ten beads per decade). A Hail Mary Prayer is said on each bead, with two extra prayers at the end of each decade. The first prayer is The Our Father, which is repeated on each large bead dividing the decades.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...

A sterling silver Catholic rosary via Wikipedia

Each decade celebrates a holy “mystery.” A mystery is a particular event in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The first group of mysteries involves the Joyful Mysteries (5 decades), dealing with the events leading to Jesus’ birth and growth to maturity.

The next group of mysteries are the Sorrowful Mysteries (5 decades), focussing on the period from Jesus’ arrest to crucifixion.

The third group is the Glorious Mysteries (5 decades), dealing with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as well as Mary’s assumption into heaven.

To these three mysteries, Pope John-Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries in October 2002. So the former group of three mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious) officially became four.

No one really knows for sure how the Holy Rosary came into existence. Some believe that it was adapted from earlier Muslim prayer beads, introduced through the Crusades.

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, temper...

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence via Wikipedia

Others believe that the Catholic rosary existed prior to the Crusades.

Catholic tradition, itself, says the Holy Rosary originated with St. Dominic (1170-1221 CE).

Not a few non-Catholics liken different goddesses to the Virgin Mary, and in a similar way, not a few people say that different types of prayer beads found around the world – such as Tibetan and Islamic forms – are equivalent to the Holy Rosary.

But this claim seems superficial because world religions are so different from one another.