Monday, October 31, 2011

Jesus Likes Halloween a Little Bit, Doesn't He?


Jeff Kinley
October 17, 2011
The Huffington Post

Every year Christians face a cultural dilemma, beautifully articulated by a 5-year-old boy's announcement to his parents upon returning home from school one day.

"Mom and Dad, Jesus hates Halloween!" Then, pausing, he mumbled, "But He likes it a little bit, doesn't He?"

And therein lies the conundrum of the Christ follower -- what to do with Halloween. Traditionally, Christians and anything related to the horror genre have not mixed well. Like oil and vinegar. Church and State. Alcohol and tattoos.

Some Christians even go so far as to claim Halloween is, in reality "Devil's Birthday." Really? Never mind the Bible doesn't say that. Note to self: File under "Christian Superstitions."

What that little boy was really trying to communicate was, "Mom and Dad, can I dress up like a pirate and get some candy this Friday night?"

But the dilemma remains concerning this perennial predicament. What are Christians supposed to do with the hoopla and festivities surrounding this evil holiday? Are we to ignore it? Pretend it doesn't exist? Lob "Gospel Grenades" of condemnation at those who celebrate it? Hand out religious pamphlets instead of candy to trick or treaters? Or offer an alternative, like a Harvest Festival, Fall Carnival or even "Reformation Day Celebration"?

Unfortunately, many people's only exposure to Christianity is when the "religious right" is condemning or complaining about something -- culturally or politically. However, that's changing in a lot of communities. Christians are waking up and engaging culture instead of merely vilifying it. The apostle Paul was a master at observing culture and redeeming it for God's purposes -- using customs, practices -- even idols and quotes from secular poets to illustrate biblical truth. While in Athens, he used a pagan Greek word for 'God' (theos) to build a verbal bridge communicating who the true God (Jehovah) was (Acts 17:23).

In reality, a lot of church members are huge fans of the horror genre in books and movies, and untold numbers wait with baited breath to catch the highly anticipated second season of AMC's The Walking Dead (or TiVo-ing it to watch after Sunday night Church).

Enter a new book: "The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within." Officially releasing this week worldwide, the title is sure to arouse curiosity, combining two seemingly contradictory terms. I wrote this book, in part because I've always been a fan of the horror genre. But anther dilemma: how to reconcile that to my faith without compromising or stretching the truth?

As it turns out, that part was easy as zombies are a powerful metaphor paralleling a core theological truth. George Romero, legendary director and godfather of zombie films, has said, "I've always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us."

Bingo, George. And that's precisely why zombies are so disturbing. We see a mirror of humanity when looking into their dark sockets. They're messy, smelly and they want to consume our flesh and brains. They don't go away just because you wish it so. They don't even stop chasing you when you shoot them, unless of course you shoot them in the head. They're just pure evil and you never know when they're going to lumber up behind you and bite a bloody hunk of meat out of your trapezoid muscle.

But back to the idea of "stinky Christians." The bite of this zombie metaphor cuts even deeper now. There's a spiritual parallel in their insatiable craving for self-satisfaction. The Bible describes this as the "old man" or "old self" (Rom 6:6), also commonly referred to as the "sin nature." It's the part of us that resists God and runs from Him. It even hates Him. It's the immaterial, mystical part of our soul that wants our own way over God's way. And though as Christians this evil entity has no legal authority over us anymore (Rom 6:6-11), we still feel it creeping up on us. Like, every day.

This creates tension. And confusion. And frustration. But Christianity typically avoids messiness. We don't like friction in our faith. We prefer order and predictability. Smooth sailing is our journey of choice. But God likes to throw a wrench in the gears every now and then, to challenge us. To get us to think. To engage. And to find new ways to live out faith our in the marketplace. In doing this, we Christians discover we aren't really any "better" than anyone else. This zombie inside us smells as putrid as any portrayed by Hollywood. And though we have accepted Christ's atoning sacrifice on our behalf (Col 1:13-14), we still struggle with many of the same temptations and sins as the rest of humanity (Rom 7:15-25). We become acutely aware of an inner beast that constantly moans and gnaws at our spirit.

"The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook" offers escape, survival and a win over the zombie inside. This book shows you how to slay the living dead within. With its unique blend of fiction, graphic novel inspired illustrations, and spiritual guidance, it delivers a fresh, relevant look at the doctrines of sin, grace, salvation and the inner conflict we all face.

In the end, this annual Fall dilemma is much deeper than culture, Halloween, TV shows and trick or treating. The real issue is "What do I do with this rotting corpse?"

Tricks in the Treats: The Myth of Poisoned Halloween Candy


Eryn Brown
October 29, 2011
Los Angeles Times

Every year, parents and police departments worry about tricks in their kids' Halloween treats: razor blades in apples, poison in candy bars.

But incidents of candy poisoning are very, very rare -- if they exist at all.

"There have never been any substantiated cases of strangers tampering with Halloween candy," said Susan Whiteside, in an email to Booster Shots Friday. Whiteside is a spokesperson for the National Confectioners Assn., which provides an FAQ on Halloween candy safety and coordinates with law enforcement to track reports of tainted treats.

The Los Angeles Times has written about popular misconceptions about tampered Halloween candy. In this report from 1985, Anne C. Roark noted that one L.A.-area hospital had been X-raying candy for four years and never found anything. Four years later, columnist Mike Spencer pounded the message home, calling candy poisoning "a myth."

Both stories featured the work of sociologist Joel Best. In the 1980s, Best was a professor at Cal State Fresno; today he teaches at the University of Delaware. He has devoted almost 30 years to debunking the "Halloween sadism" myth, addressing it in books and scholarly papers and at great length on his website (where you can find updated information, including a catalog of reports of Halloween poisonings that later turned out to have other explanations).

"Halloween sadism is best seen as a contemporary legend (sometimes called an urban legend,)" he writes on the website. "Contemporary legends are ways we express anxiety. Note that concerns about Halloween tend to be particularly acute in years when some sort of terrible recent crime has heightened public fears."

Best points out, for example, that the Sept. 11 attacks were followed by warnings against visiting malls on Halloween.

(For more on Best's work, check out this interview, posted on Tuesday, with USC sociologist Karen Sternheimer. This lengthy Snopes.com discussion of Halloween poisonings also mentions his research.)

It still makes sense to look over kids' candy haul before letting them dig in. This Halloween safety site from the Centers for Disease Control advises trick-or-treaters to "eat only factory-wrapped treats" and to "examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them." In addition to more predictable warnings, the Food and Drug Administration cautions against tasting raw cookie dough and recommends making sure juice or cider served at parties is pasteurized.

For the most part, the dangers lurk elsewhere: in those creepy decorative contact lenses that give you lizard eyes (which are often sold improperly and used incorrectly, according to the FDA); in fireworks; in choking; and especially, with inattentive or drunk drivers. Want a safe Halloween? Make sure your little Angry Bird, astronaut or witch looks both ways before crossing the street. Carrying a flashlight is a good idea too.

The Houdini Séance


By Stephen Wagner
About.com

It was the night of October 31, 1936. Halloween night. The men and women sat at the round table with joined hands. They awaited the message - the message they had hoped for every Halloween night for the past 10 years. But the message did not come.

Finally, one woman rose from the table and announced to the others - and to a listening radio audience - "Houdini did not come through," she said. "My last hope is gone. I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me, or to anyone...The Houdini Shrine has burned for ten years. I now, reverently... turn out the light. It is finished. Good night, Harry!"

The woman was Bess Houdini, wife of the famed magician and escape artist. And this was the last séance she would participate in to try to contact her dead husband. But the séances themselves did not stop. Every October 31, from 1927 up to the present day, a séance has been conducted with hopes of contacting the spirit of Harry Houdini. So far, the great Houdini has not made his presence known.

The Houdini séance has been a Halloween tradition since the first anniversary of his death. The magician died at the age of 52 on October 31, 1926 from peritonitis - an internal infection - as the result of a ruptured appendix.

Shortly before his death, Houdini made a pact with Bess that if he could, he would return and make contact with her from the other side. They devised a coded message that only he and Bess knew; this would prove that it really was Houdini breaking through from the afterlife. But after 10 séances in 10 years, Bess had not received her beloved husband's personal message.

Oddly enough, Harry Houdini did not necessarily believe that spirits of the dead could be contacted. Aside from his fame as a stage magician and astonishing escape artist, Houdini was just as well known - especially in the later part of his career - as a debunker of spirit mediums and phony séances. He felt, however, that if it were possible for anyone to come back, he would find a way to do it.

In the 1920s, spiritualism was at a new height in the US and Britain. There was a strong, popular belief in the notion that it was possible to communicate with the dead through séances and channeling psychics knows as mediums. The movement had begun in the mid-1800s, grew in popularity over 20 years, then slowly fizzled out toward the turn of the century as more and more mediums were exposed as frauds. But after World War I, there was a resurgence in the spiritualist movement as many families longed to contact those who had perished in battle.

And the mediums were right there to fill the need for a public so willing to believe. The best mediums were masterful tricksters and showpeople, and their séances were thrilling multimedia performances of spirit channeling, levitating tables, floating instruments that played themselves, written messages from the dead and spontaneous manifestations of ectoplasm. The performances were ingenious and succeeded in fooling many otherwise intelligent people. Houdini, being a magician and a rather ingenious fellow himself, knew that these séances were just clever hoaxes.


HOUDINI VS. THE MEDIUMS

Early in his career, however, Houdini wasn't above staging some phony séances of his own. According to Houdini: A Magician Among the Spirits, "Houdini hosted special Sunday night performances for the California Concert Company, a Midwestern medicine show, in 1898. During séances, Houdini floated tables and played musical instruments while tied to a chair. After the company disbanded, he and his wife Bess continued to give séances for local union halls and dime museums until they signed with the Welsh Brothers Circus later that same year. In 1899, Houdini's career skyrocketed and he left the medium business behind."

In the 1920s, Houdini became an active crusader against the spirit mediums he felt were exploiting gullible people who grieved for lost loved ones. As he traveled the country performing his act, he would seek out the local mediums and expose their deceptions. Because he was so well known, Houdini often attended these séances in disguise. In 1922, Scientific American magazine asked him to join a "psychic committee" to help investigate the claims of mediums. The magazine offered a cash prize of $2,500 to any medium who could produce a supernatural manifestation to the satisfaction of the committee. No one ever won the prize.

One of the most famous mediums to take on the challenge was a beautiful young woman named Mina Crandon, who gained renown as "Margery, the Boston Medium." But she too failed under the sharp eye of Houdini, who caught her levitating the table with her head and ringing a bell with her foot. Houdini later offered Crandon $5,000 if she could demonstrate any supernatural phenomena on stage in her home town of Boston. She declined the invitation.

Naturally, Houdini was not popular among mediums around the country, as he was a threat to their livelihood. His crusading also made him an adversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, esteemed author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, who was a staunch believer and advocate of spiritualism, and a defender of Mina Crandon. After Houdini and the Scientific American committee denounced Crandon, Doyle wrote an article for the Boston Herald criticizing the committee. Houdini, in turn, threatened to sue Doyle for his "harsh remarks."

ANNUAL SÉANCE

Since the Halloween night when Bess Houdini turned off the light at her husband's portrait, the séances to contact the dead magician have continued in many parts of the country, both officially and unofficially. It may be impossible to tell whether or not Houdini is really being channeled at any of these annual séances because the secret coded message Houdini devised with his wife has since been revealed - by Bess herself.

"The message was based on both sentimentality and an old vaudeville mind-reading routine," according to Houdini - magictricks.com. "The message was, 'Rosabelle- answer- tell- pray, answer- look- tell- answer, answer- tell.' Bess's wedding band bore the inscription 'Rosabelle,' the name of the song she sang in her act when they first met. The other words correspond to a secret spelling code used to pass information between a magician and his assistant during a mentalism act. Each word or word pair equals a letter. The word 'answer' stood for the letter 'B,' for example. 'Answer, answer' stood for the letter 'V.' Thus, the Houdinis' secret phrase spelled out the word 'believe'."

In 1929, a young medium named Arthur Ford claimed he had successfully received the secret message from Harry Houdini. Upon investigation, however, it was discovered that Ford's claim was a hoax. Bess, it seems, had inadvertently revealed the message to reporters more than a year earlier.

Even though Bess gave up the séances herself, she asked magician Walter B. Gibson to carry on the October 31 tradition. For many years, Gibson, along with several other magicians, held the séances at the Magic Towne House in New York City. Countless other "unofficial" Houdini séances have been held by local psychics across the country throughout the years - all in good fun, but with no definitive proof of so much as a "hello" from Harry Houdini.

Today, the official Houdini Séance is held at The Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And true to the times, they have been conducting séances on the Internet.

The Halloween Debate In Russia


Maria Kuchma
October 31, 2011
RIA Novosti

As Western youths flock to Halloween parties dressed as ghosts, zombies and witches, opinion polls show most Russians will ignore the event, with only a few people planning to celebrate a holiday many Russian officials and religious authorities claim is “Satanic."

Sixty-seven percent of Russians said they had no plans to mark one of the world's oldest – and most commercialized – holidays, according to a poll conducted by Russia’s Levada Center in late October.

Just 6 percent of Russians plan to attend Halloween parties on the night of October 31, amid growing concerns the psychological and social impact of the Celtic holiday is “destructive.” The low expected participation rate comes despite increasing Russian awareness of the holiday, which grew from 54 percent to 73 percent in the past five years.

Education officials and religious figures have fuelled fears about the Halloween celebrations, which date to Pagan times. Back in 2003, the Education Department of the city of Moscow recommended that primary and secondary school teachers ban Halloween at schools.

According to a recommendation issued by the department, the holiday stems from “rituals of Satanically oriented religious sects” and promotes “the cult of death.” Quoting psychologists, the document’s author concludes that Halloween celebrations “mystify and satanize a child’s mind,” leading to the “moral corruption of children.”

Halloween, which once marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter, gained popularity in Russia after the Soviet collapse, with the first Halloween parties held in Russian schools in the late 1990s, said Konstantin Ushakov, the editor-in-chief of the magazine School Headmaster.

“Before that time, we did not know anything about the holiday,” he said, adding that Halloween celebrations in Russia “were not prompted by any social or political reasons – people just wanted to have one more holiday.”

Following a global trend, the popularity of Haloween, which has long lost its religious meaning and is viewed by youths as an opportunity for fun rather than a Satanic party, has increased in big Russian cities since the fall of the Iron Curtain, but the Russian provinces remain largely untouched by Halloween fever.

“Banning Halloween?! It’s a witch-hunt and bigotry!” said a 26-year-old Muscovite, who identified herself as Yekaterina. She recalled her school Halloween parties as joyful events that had nothing to do with “Satanism.”

“Each group of students prepared some attractions for the party – a Panic Room, a fortune telling session, or a Haloween Pumpkins contest for example. We sang English songs and organized performances for our parents,” she said.

"I've always enjoyed Halloween," said Julia Planova, a Russian-born student from Ottawa. She said, however, that she understood why some people do not want children to celebrate the holiday.

“Many girls dress slutty for Halloween. Here [in Ottawa] for example, most people buy their costumes in sex shops," said Julia, whose family left Russia for Canada in the late 1990s. "Children’s moral values can certainly be damaged by such things."

“But ‘Satanism’ is all around," she added. "Take various films about vampires for example... Banning Halloween alone would not change anything."

'Secular' education

Besides the psychological threats allegedly posed by Halloween, opponents say the holiday should be banned from schools because under the Constitution, Russia is a secular state.

In July, the Education Department in Russia’s northern Republic of Karelia addressed a letter to local education authorities and school headmasters recommending that Halloween parties that “include religious elements” and therefore violate the “secular character of education” in Russia, be cancelled at schools throughout Karelia.

Instead, “new forms of school holidays based on Russian cultural values” should be promoted among children, the document reads.

Ushakov dismissed the argument that Halloween’s “religious” nature makes it unsuitable for schools.

“I believe that this argument is not relevant anymore, because the pressure of non-secular education [at schools] is quite strong,” he said.

A few years ago, the Russian authorities moved to introduce optional religious education at secondary schools, which is due to include a course on Russia's four largest religions, as well as on secular ethics. A subject called the Basics of Orthodox Culture has already been launched in some Russian regions as part of an experiment by the Russian Education Ministry.

The move, which was supported by more than two thirds of Russians, according to a 2009 poll by Levada Center, as well the Russian Orthodox Church and leaders of some other religions, sparked heated public debates. Many public figures, rights activists and other religious leaders have warned that the initiative would lead to discrimination and social divisions.

As for Halloween, Ushakov said he believed its celebration at schools was “quite normal.”

“There are many holidays that have pagan roots and I don’t see the need to link the holiday to any deep ideology,” he said. “If they want to celebrate – let them.”

Halloween is not the only holiday considered “improper” by Russian conservatives. The increasing popularity of St. Valentine's Day among Russian youths has also alarmed some high-ranking officials and religious authorities, who have warned of the holiday’s “negative influence” on the youngsters’ “spiritual security” and their “moral values.”

In 2008, Russia introduced an alternative to St. Valentine's, the Day of Family, Love and Faithfulness. The holiday, also known as the Day of Sts. Peter and Fevronia, the Orthodox patrons of marriage, is marked on July 8 with a daisy being its symbol instead of a red heart. Russia’s first lady Svetlana Medvedev is among the new holiday’s most active promoters.

A Critique of the Paranormal Theory of Ghosts in Light of the Church Fathers



By Demetrius (Co-Founder of OCPRS Toronto, Canada)

One of the most intriguing questions explored by most paranormal societies is whether or not there is life after death? “Ghosts” are thought to be the souls of the dead, bound to wander the earth. Countless stories and reports of ghosts have provided various circumstances and descriptions assigned to the belief in life after death. Science and philosophy have been used to explore the paranormal phenomenon of “ghosts” in one form or another. During the 18th century, the philosopher and empiricist, David Hume (b.1711 – d.1776), explored the question concerning life after death in one of his essays. A stout sceptic, Hume believed that “Nothing in this world is perpetual, every thing however seemingly firm is in continual flux and change, the world itself gives symptoms of frailty and dissolution.” Hume applied this view against the belief in a soul and life after death. Although far from answering the question surrounding an afterlife, there are other examples which do not dismiss the possibility of an afterlife so easily. The famous psychologist Carl Jung (b.1875 – d.1961) also explored the question concerning life after death. Jung believed that “All of the dreams of people who are facing death indicate that the unconscious, that is, our instinct world, prepares consciousness not for a definite end but for a profound transformation and for a kind of continuation of the life process which, however, is unimaginable to everyday consciousness.” These examples provide a sense of how important philosophy was and continues to be in science. Unfortunately, many paranormal researchers attempt to apply science to their questions with little regard for the philosophical implications. Due to the nature of such a question, the theological considerations are equally important, although less significant in the minds of most paranormal investigators. When religion or spirituality is taken into account by most paranormal investigators it is typically a non-Christian viewpoint.

The immortal soul is perhaps one of the most important underlying subjects spread across paranormal phenomenon today. Naturally, when science and technology are adopted by paranormal investigators, what emerges, are paranormal theories attempting to explore and answer the unknown. One such paranormal theory which has become popular is that “ghosts” are made up of energy, specifically an undetermined type of Electromagnetic energy. The technology used by paranormal investigators – EMF meters, Audio Recorders for EVP, etc. – seemingly supports the idea that “ghosts” are electromagnetic in one form or another. The paranormal theory also includes other areas of science in an attempt to validate the electromagnetic nature of “ghosts.” Many paranormal investigators have turned to Physics, such as the First Law of Thermodynamics in order to broaden the electromagnetic “ghost” theory.

FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS – Energy can not be created or destroyed but can change, from one form of energy to another.

The premise of the paranormal theory concerning “ghosts” is that the human body contains energy, and following death this energy changes from one state to another – the First Law of Thermodynamics. To support this, additional sciences are included to support the electromagnetic nature of “ghosts.” Among the variety of sciences, which are included, are Bioelectricity and Neuroscience. A brief explanation of these two other fields of science will also help explain the paranormal theory surrounding electromagnetism and “ghosts.” Bioelectricity examines electric potentials produced by living organisms, and this includes the human being. The field of Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary study including biology, chemistry, medicine, psychology, etc. and is the study of the nervous system. Both Bioelectricity and Neuroscience are closely related.

The energy identified to the human body, according to the sciences applied by paranormal investigators, are neurons. Neurons are electrically excitable cells that process and transmit information by electrical and chemical signals. They are at the core of the nervous system. Identified as energy, the First Law of Thermodynamics seems to support the idea that the energy changes from one state to another following death. In other words, the sciences provide an explanation to the paranormal theory of electromagnetism and “ghosts.” The science applied to this paranormal theory is very convincing. Or is it?

There are problems with this paranormal theory explaining the nature of “ghosts.” In order to explore these problems there are certain issues which need to be addressed. Since the underlying theme to such a theory is the exploration of the existence to an afterlife, it becomes necessary to compare what the teachings of the Holy Church Fathers are in such paranormal theories. Why the Church Fathers are justifiably used here to examine the paranormal theory in question is largely due to the fact that the paranormal theory about “ghosts” rests on religious beliefs concerning the soul and an afterlife. The philosophical and theological considerations belonging to the Church Fathers are therefore valid. By comparing the teachings of the Church Fathers to the sciences found in the paranormal theory regarding “ghosts” and their electromagnetic nature, many overlooked realizations will allow people to rethink what they think they know about the afterlife.

If the human body contains energy in the form of neurons, it becomes necessary to explore Neuroscience. For the sake of brevity, this science will only be examined in relation to the paranormal theory about “ghosts.” There are estimates which state that the human brain has billions of neurons. These cells work in a very complex way, transmitting electrical signals for various functions throughout the brain and body – the nervous system. This would suggest that the paranormal theory is describing the human soul as a complex and multi-celled distribution of energy. From St. Gregory Thaumaturgus’ On the Soul there is a description which describes the soul in a very particular way and does not find any similarities with the paranormal theory: “the soul is simple, best of all, by those arguments by which its incorporeality has been demonstrated. For if it is not a body, while every body is compound, and what is composite is made up of parts, and is consequently multiplex, the soul, on the other hand, being incorporeal, is simple; since thus it is both uncompounded and indivisible into parts.” Here, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus describes the soul in a singular nature that is not divisible. He is not alone in such explanations, and Tertullian is another Church Father who explained in his A Treatise on the Soul: “Being thus single, simple, and entire in itself, it is as incapable of being composed and put together from external constituents.” Once again, the singular and indivisible nature of the soul is described. The soul is a simple and singular essence and not something divisible or consisting of billions of cells. Once again, the paranormal theory implies that the human body contains an energy thought to be a soul, and that this energy is ultimately consisting of billions of neurons, each containing their own electrical signal. If these neurons represent the nature of the soul, this means the soul – as energy – is divisible. This conflicts with the teachings of the Holy Church Fathers. On the other hand, the human being is made up of corporeal and incorporeal natures – body and soul. The neurons are cells belonging to the corporeal body and not the soul. Some may argue that the soul acts through the nervous system. This argument, however, ignores the teachings of the Church which believe that the actions of the flesh can stain the soul, and therefore the flesh acts against the soul. In other words, one affects the other thereby revealing that body and soul are not the same thing. Even if paranormal investigators reject this argument since it belongs to the Church, they can not ignore their own beliefs which identify the circumstances or causes for ghosts and haunted locations. These include physical events affecting the soul, such as the belief that murder victims become restless spirits. In any case, the problems with the paranormal theory concerning “ghosts” and electromagnetism are not limited to Neuroscience.

Returning to the First Law of Thermodynamics, it is understood that energy can not be destroyed or created. If the soul is energy, as hypothesized in the paranormal theory, this would mean the soul is not something created. Again, the Holy Church Fathers offer descriptions about the soul which state something contrary to the paranormal theory. In St. Gregory of Nyssa’s On the Soul and Resurrection, “The soul is an essence created.” Tertullian also expresses this belief about the soul: “the soul originates in the breath of God, it follows that we attribute a beginning to it” (A Treatise on the Soul). Even the Nicene Creed indicates the creation of all things visible and invisible, and this would include the soul. If energy cannot be created, as the First Law of Thermodynamics suggests, this would mean that the human soul is not an energy recognized by science, or especially according to its created nature through God. Of course, the philosophical and theological considerations compared to the paranormal theory of “ghosts” does not resolve the beliefs held by individuals – especially paranormal investigators who gravitate towards many non-Christian beliefs and practices. Despite this, the next set of problems rest with the technology used to support the paranormal theory of “ghosts” and electromagnetism.

EMF (Electromagnetic Field) meters measure various fields of energy depending on the type of meter used. Electromagnetic fields which can be measured by such EMF meters are AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current). Keeping all the sciences previously explored in mind, a problem presents itself with EMF meters being used to detect “ghosts.” Since EMF meters are used to detect “ghosts” this would ultimately mean that the bioelectric energy contained within the human body changes from one form of energy to another following death. If EMF meters are designed to measure AC or DC electromagnetism, this would suggest that the energy change following death is either AC or DC electromagnetic energy. Why this is problematic is due to other technologies used to detect “ghosts” through different fields of electromagnetism.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum includes Infrared and Ultraviolet radiation and various cameras designed to capture such light energy are also used to support the paranormal theory about “ghosts” and electromagnetism. Infrared lenses and Full Spectrum Cameras are thought to capture the energy of “ghosts.” Comparing the Infrared and Ultraviolet radiation to how EMF meters measure AC or DC electromagnetic fields, Infrared and Ultraviolet energy therefore conflicts with the type of electromagnetic energy “ghosts” are thought to consist of. The various forms of technology used by paranormal societies measure different types of energy that are not consistent with one another. Sometimes these technological inconsistencies are ignored and lead investigators of the paranormal into misconceptions about the scientific theories they are barrowing.

Many paranormal investigators wilfully ignore the teachings of the Church Fathers and prefer to blend various scientific theories to their own beliefs barrowed from diverse non-Christian sources: Modern Spiritualism, the New Age, and other occult sciences. After all, the belief that ghosts are the spirits of dead people is mostly explored through religions and spirituality belonging to the non-Christian variety. The philosophical and theological considerations belonging to Christianity are either accepted or rejected. If accepted, this could help people understand and recognize that the current science applied to the field of paranormal phenomenon is misapplied. Instead, what is accepted as “science” within paranormal theories is really pseudo-science that ignores both science and philosophy. Simply borrowing scientific theories and applying them to paranormal phenomenon does not always make paranormal theories valid. What rests at the heart of most paranormal theories are personal beliefs drawn from non-Christian sources of spirituality. The sciences applied to paranormal theories are over-generalized and superficially mask the underlying premise of any such argument involving the belief in an afterlife.

Source

Heretics as Vampires and Demons in Russia (pdf)


Title: "Heretics as Vampires and Demons in Russia"

Author: Felix J. Oinas

Source: The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, (Winter, 1978), pp. 433-441

Published by: American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages

In English, heretic (Greek hairetikos "able to choose") means "a person who professes any heresy; especially, a church member who holds beliefs opposed to the official church doctrines."' The meaning of the word eretik, "heretic" in Russian is basically the same: "the follower of heresy, a person who deviates from the dogmas of the predominating church." The question regarding the Old Believers is not clear: some do and others do not include them as heretics.2 Primarily in the Russian north, "heretics "have developed into a heterogeneous group of sorcerers, witches, and vampires called eretik, eretnik, eretica, eretnica, erestun, and others. Zelenin includes heretics (eretnik) among sorcerers (Zauberer) and remarks that they do not belong to evil forces and do not have tails.3

In northern Russia and Siberia heretics appear after death as evil, blood-thirsty vampires. Efimenko defines the meaning of the word eretik current in the Senkursk district of Karelia as "a person who does not believe in God and who repudiates his laws, or who is not yet an Old Believer." He continues:

There were such people, who roamed around at night in villages, captured people and ate them. The eretiki were not alive, but dead. Therefore, if they really got on the nerves of the people, the people gathered at the grave of the one who was known as a sorcerer during his lifetime, opened it up with stakes, took out the eretik who was lying with his face downwards, and burned him in a bonfire or pierced his back with an aspen stick.... The person-magician (kudesnik), wizard (znaxar') or harmer (poreelnik) - who was called a "sorcerer" (koldun) in his lifetime, would become an eretik after his death, if he walks around at night and begins to eat people, as it has been going on for centuries. (186-87.)

This description shows that the eretiki appear as clear-cut vampires: sorcerers who become vampires after their deaths, devour human beings, and are destroyed by fire or stake.

Read the rest of the article here.

Video: Draculas, Vampires and Popular Culture

Severed Head, Walking Corpse


Saint Mercurius of Smolensk is an Orthodox Saint who is said to have walked after his head was decapitated. A legendary story of St. Denis also says the same. The latter is a mock story told by Voltaire in La Pucella d'Orleans. Dostoevsky, to undermine the authority of Voltaire, mentions this tale in The Brothers Karamazov through the mouth of the dissolute Fedore Karamazov (Part 1, Book 2, Chapter 2). He asks Elder Zosima: "Is it true, great Father, that the story is told somewhere in the Lives of the Saints of a holy saint martyred for his faith who, when his head was cut off at last, stood up, picked up his head, and, 'courteously kissing it,' walked a long way, carrying it in his hands. Is that true or not, honoured Father?" Zosima denies the veracity of the story, but maybe it is the detail of the 'courteously kissing it,' that he in fact denied.

Historically, there are many stories of severed heads surviving for minutes after an execution, but only one headless body that stood up and took a stroll - on October 20th 610 years ago.

When the feared pirate Klaus Stortebeker faced his executioners in Hamburg, Germany, he struck a strange last minute deal: If, after his beheading, his headless body could walk, however many of his 70 captive men he made it past would be freed. It was agreed, and then he was executed.

Then, according to legend, his corpse got up and walked past eleven of his men, before the executioner tripped him. Deal or no deal, all of the pirates were murdered that day, their skulls impaled and displayed as a waring to others.

In 1898 the mass grave of the pirates was unearthed during construction, and the skull believed to be that of Stortebeker was donated to the Hamburg Museum where it has been on display since 1922. Last year the famous skull went missing, stolen from its display cabinet. After a desperate search and many false leads, the skull was finally discovered and returned earlier this year, impaled to avoid being taken.

Commemoration of the Anonymous Confessor


According to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, on October 31st the Orthodox Church remembers the anonymous Confessor who suffered for the Faith during the reign of Julian the Apostate (361 AD). He was the son of a priest of the idols which a pious Christian deaconess, a friend of his mother, helped bring to the true Faith. Initially his father, upon hearing of his conversion, tortured him to renounce Christ. He miraculously survived, and when Julian died he managed to convert his elderly father to Christ. Having climbed the ladder of spiritual perfection, he died in peace.

The original source of this story is taken from the "Ecclesiastical History" of Theodoret (Bk. 3, Ch. 10), cited below:


A young man who was a priest's son, and brought up in impiety, about this time went over to the true religion. For a lady remarkable for her devotion and admitted to the order of deaconesses was an intimate friend of his mother. When he came to visit her with his mother, while yet a tiny lad, she used to welcome him with affection and urge him to the true religion. On the death of his mother the young man used to visit her and enjoyed the advantage of her wonted teaching. Deeply impressed by her counsels, he enquired of his teacher by what means he might both escape the superstition of his father and have part and lot in the truth which she preached. She replied that he must flee from his father, and honor rather the Creator both of his father and himself; that he must seek some other city wherein he might lie hidden and escape the violence of the impious emperor; and she promised to manage this for him. "Then", said the young man, "henceforward I shall come and commit my soul to you."

Not many days afterwards Julian came to Daphne, to celebrate a public feast. With him came the young man's father, both as a priest, and as accustomed to attend the emperor; and with their father came the young man and his brother, being appointed to the service of the temple and charged with the duty of ceremonially sprinkling the imperial viands. It is the custom for the festival of Daphne to last for seven days. On the first day the young man stood by the emperor's couch, and according to the prescribed usage aspersed the meats, and thoroughly polluted them. Then at full speed he ran to Antioch, and making his way to that admirable lady, "I have come", said he, "to you; and I have kept my promise. Do you look to the salvation of each and fulfill your pledge." At once she arose and conducted the young man to Meletius the man of God, who ordered him to remain for awhile upstairs in the inn.

His father after wandering about all over Daphne in search of the boy, then returned to the city and explored the streets and lanes, turning his eyes in all directions and longing to light upon his lad. At length he arrived at the place where the divine Meletius had his hostelry; and looking up he saw his son peeping through the lattice. He ran up, drew him along, got him down, and carried him off home. Then he first laid on him many stripes, then applied hot spits to his feet and hands and back, then shut him up in his bedroom, bolted the door on the outside, and returned to Daphne.

So I myself have heard the man himself narrate in his old age, and he added further that he was inspired and filled with Divine Grace, and broke in pieces all his father's idols, and made mockery of their helplessness.

Afterwards when he bethought him of what he had done he feared his father's return and besought his Master Christ to nod approval of his deeds, break the bolts, and open the doors. "For it is for your sake", said he, "that I have thus suffered and thus acted. Even as I thus spoke," he told me, "out fell the bolts and open flew the doors, and back I ran to my instructress. She dressed me up in women's garments and took me with her in her covered carriage back to the divine Meletius. He handed me over to the bishop of Jerusalem, at that time Cyril, and we started by night for Palestine."

After the death of Julian this young man led his father also into the way of truth. This act he told me with the rest. So in this fashion these men were guided to the knowledge of God and were made partakers of Salvation.

Source

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Animation: 'The Tell Tale Heart' (1953)

The Tell Tale Heart - UPA (1954) from glasscapsule on Vimeo.


The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1953 American animated short film directed by Ted Parmelee and narrated by James Mason. The screenplay by Bill Scott and Fred Grable is based on the 1843 short story of the same title by Edgar Allan Poe.

The plot focuses on a murderer whose increasing guilt leads him to believe he can hear his victim's heart still beating beneath the floorboards where he buried him. Seen through the eyes of the nameless narrator, the surrealistic images in the film help convey his descent into madness.

Paul Julian served as both designer and color artist for film, and Pat Matthews was the principal animator.

Greek Girl Burned Alive In Satanic Ritual


October 24, 2011
Johannesburg

A South African girl was in a coma Monday after being doused in petrol and burned alive in a Johannesburg park, in what police suspect was a satanic ritual, local media reported Monday. Provincial police spokeswoman Captain Pinky Tsingane said Theologo and her friend were tied up, doused with petrol, and set on fire as a "sacrifice". “What kind of a person does this?” the tearful mother asked. According to Theologo, she was told that the people who burnt Kirsty and Bronwyn had even joined Kirsty’s and Bronwyn’s church in a bid to befriend them.

Kirsty’s family said four young men had gone to an isolated hill with Kirsty and her friend Bronwyn. The two girls, who had been attending a youth service at their church, were offered alcohol that Kirsty spat out because it had tasted strange. Bronwyn, who is believed to have finished the alcohol, began vomiting. One of the men allegedly started dancing while Kirsty laughed. “Suddenly, she (Kirsty) felt wet and the dancing guy lit a match, threw it at her and said ‘laugh at this’,” said Kirsty’s mother, Sylvia Theologo.

While Kirsty was burning, one boy cut a third girl's hand and held it over a Bible so that the blood could soak it, according to one of the girls who was in the group, she told the Theologo family the boys had decided that the two would be sacrificed in a satanic ritual. As the flames engulfed her, her face and head were bashed with rocks and, as she tried to breathe, her throat and lungs were badly burnt. Kirsty suffered third and fourth degree burns both inside and outside her body. The teens were left to burn, after the group left, the girls managed to break free and walk 10 blocks home in their conditions the teenagers were driven to South Rand Hospital by their pastor.

"My sister had no skin left on her face, she had wounds to her head and and her nose had been crushed in," Theologo's sister, Samantha Saunders, told Eye Witness News. Kirsty Theologo is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday after 75 percent of her body was burned from the waist up, her sister, Samantha Theologo, told the local Daily News. Doctors are worried about Kirsty Theologo’s recovery, Samantha said, because her lungs and throat were damaged.

Kirsty’s mother said prayers and the support that the family had been receiving were keeping her strong. “It’s hectic. I couldn’t sleep… I’m praying. I just want my baby girl to be okay. She’s such a good girl. She’s gonna come back, she’ll bounce back. “I have people calling me from Greece, Portugal and America… The support has been really good,” said an emotional Theologo.

-------- ---------

Meanwhile in Britain, authorities rescued at least 400 African children who were brought to the country often for use in blood rituals conducted by witch doctors, according to a report in the BBC earlier this month. The report cited a cultural belief in the power of human blood in so-called juju rituals.

"Our experience tells us that traffickers can be anybody. They can be people with power, people with money or people involved in witchcraft," Christine Beddoe, director of the anti-trafficking charity Epcat U.K., told the BBC. "Trafficking can involve witch doctors and other types of professionals in the community who are using those practices."

Why Young People Are Attracted to Wicca


By Catherine Edwards Sanders

In April of 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs approved the use of the Wiccan pentacle—a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle—on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. military burial grounds. The pentacle joins a list of 38 other approved religious symbols including an atom for atheists, the humanist emblem, and various forms of the Christian cross.

Wicca, long considered a fringe spiritual practice, has entered the mainstream and the number of practitioners has skyrocketed over the past decade. According to the American Religious Identification Survey1 conducted every decade by the City University of New York, the number of Wiccans in America was seventeen times larger at the beginning of this decade than it was in the early 1990s. Not only are there military personnel who practice Wicca, but many high school and college students do as well. Wiccans on college campuses have been forming their own clubs for years.

If we hope to engage this growing segment of our society—particularly the young people who practice Wicca—typical Christian tactics such as organizing boycotts, letter-writing, and shunning Wiccan believers, must become a thing of the past. Too often, Christians have refused to treat Wiccans as their neighbors and have been content to remain ignorant about what Wiccans really believe and why they believe it. We know that Paul on Mars Hill and other members of the early church looked with compassion on the pagans in their midst and effectively engaged them in conversations about the gospel. We must do no less with modern-day pagans.

Neo-paganism, or simply paganism, which includes the modern practice of witchcraft, also known as Wicca, is an overarching term for earth-based spirituality that incorporates nature worship into a polytheistic worship of ancient gods and goddesses. Wicca is also known as “The Craft,” and most Wiccans believe in the manipulation of divine or cosmic forces through rite, ritual, and spell casting.

It is important to note, however, that Wicca is not a form of Satan worship. Wiccans worship and invoke pre-Christian deities and, like the ancient pagans, engage in earth worship. Wiccans will say that Satan is part of Christian and Jewish theology. There are Satan worshippers in the United States, however, who sometimes call themselves witches, which can be confusing. Wiccans do not deliberately invoke Satan. Whether or not they do so unwittingly is another matter.

Statistics tell us that three-quarters of practicing pagans are women. Estimates of the total numbers of practicing Wiccans in America vary wildly, as people can be reluctant to reveal their spiritual inclination publicly. Conservative estimates put the number at somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000. A poll2 conducted by a large pagan group put the number at almost 800,000, whereas some Wiccans claim that they number in the millions. Wicca is clearly on the rise and these numbers reveal a growing spiritual hunger for something that is not being met by traditional means.

Why Wicca, Why Now?

I spent a year crisscrossing the country researching the answer to this question for my book Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality.3 All of the young people I met were interested in spirituality, but not necessarily organized religion.

Why is Wicca on the rise and why does it appeal particularly to young people? First, young people are drawn to Wicca because it has no orthodoxy and has no concept of absolute good or absolute evil. This is greatly appealing to impressionable young people. There are some common practices, rituals, and sayings, but for the most part practitioners can add and subtract to it at will. It is a perfectly postmodern religion. One high school student said she liked Wicca because it was “malleable” and allowed her to create her own religion as it suited her.

Second, I found that young people turned to Wicca because they desperately wanted to believe in something that was “real.” Too many had the false impression that Christianity was simply a collection of rules or nothing more than a boring church service. Teenagers often lacked a robust understanding of the Incarnation and had no concept of the Trinity. This lack of biblical literacy had led them to become easily impressed by magic and by the occult experiences in Wiccan rituals and practice.

Third, Wicca appealed to these young people because it promotes glorification of self. Unlike Christianity, in which God is essentially separate from creation, the gods and goddesses that Wiccans invoke are not. For instance, a young woman who might be feeling angry will take part in a ritual in honor of the Greek goddess of war Athena through which she can vent her anger, and another who might hope to fall in love will petition the goddess Aphrodite. Much of Wiccan ritual is designed to help women, in particular, draw on the power within—which is usually represented by the type of goddess they invoke. These young women enjoy worshiping goddesses, in part because one of their main complaints about the church is that they feel it is patriarchal.

Fourth, many young people embrace Wicca because they, like adult Wicca devotees, are bound by and to a passionate love of nature. Wiccans love the earth and care deeply for the environment. Some feel that the American church has been silent when it comes to stewardship of the environment.

Some of the complaints that Wiccans voice about the way Christianity is practiced have some merit, and I found that most Wiccans took issue with Christian behavior rather than with the gospel itself. Many of them had been disappointed by a pastor or wounded by someone in the church, and some of them had asked difficult questions about Christianity that no one had taken time to answer. Others simply refused to believe the gospel message. When conversing with Wiccans, it is important to approach the conversation with a gentle and humble spirit and to admit where the church might have failed them, but also to explain to them the glorious message of the gospel.

Encouraging the Seeking Spirit

I have found Wiccans to be voracious seekers of knowledge. We must encourage this seeking spirit. They have one thing in common with Christian believers, and that is that they believe in the spirit world and thus want to live their lives according to some kind of spiritual practice. This common interest is a great place from which to launch a dialogue with a Wiccan.

In Acts 17, Luke describes Paul’s interactions with the pagans in Athens. He waded into a pool of pagan thought and spent time there. Acts 17: 22–234 reads, “’Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’” Paul took time to walk around Athens and study the Athenian rites and rituals, their gods and goddesses. He did not simplistically condemn these men and women without knowledge of what they believed; in fact, he even complimented their religiosity!

If we find out that our children, friends, or other family members are interested in Wicca, the best approach is first to listen and find out what interests them about this belief system. Why are they drawn to it? What does it seem to offer that Christianity does not? It is important to become familiar ourselves with the practice of Wicca to engage in a conversation about it properly.

Parents must be able to give an articulate response about what they believe and why they believe it. It is usually not enough simply to ban the practice of Wicca in the home or to forbid any interaction with Wiccans. That usually motivates a young person to explore further—in secret. I met countless college students who couldn’t wait to get to college so they could join the Wiccan club on campus away from their parents’ watchful eyes. If a Christian parent forbids pagan practices in the home, it is vital that they also engage their children in meaningful conversations about their beliefs and gently challenge them with the message of the gospel. I found that young people are yearning for such meaningful conversations with their parents.

When talking to Wiccans, let them know that Christianity is real—that Christians believe that God became flesh, dwelt among us in the form of Jesus Christ, and left the Holy Spirit for His followers as a real presence of God here on earth. No god or goddess that Wiccans worship became incarnate, died once and for all for our sins, and rose from the dead. The gospel message is good news!

It is also important to point out gently where Wicca is inconsistent. Without a God who is perfectly good, there are no absolutes, no standards by which to measure what is just or unjust. Wicca borrows from Christian values of right and wrong. Wiccans might get upset at how women have been treated, but on what do they base their anger—that treating women poorly goes against their personal taste? Christians believe mistreating women is wrong because God said so. Christians also believe that all life has dignity because we are made in God’s image. Wiccans don’t believe this, but without this belief they have only shaky ground on which to condemn injustice.

When it comes to the environment, it is important to note that the Bible teaches that God delights in His creation, so we, then, are to be good stewards of His creation. Scripture reveals a God who created man and woman from dust, blessed this earth with His presence by taking on material flesh Himself, and promised a renewed earth. We must be honest and admit that professing Christians have not always treated God’s creation with the care we should. It is not too late to start, however. Projects such as restoring a local wilderness area or including creation care in a Sunday school curriculum are simple. We should not be surprised at how much this genuine concern for creation would interest the Wiccan community and pique their curiosity.

As the number of Wiccans continues to grow, it is more important than ever for Christian believers to treat Wiccans in the same way we would treat believers of any other faith. If you meet a Wiccan and find yourself filled with fear, stop and pray. We have no reason to fear—for the power that is in us is greater than that which is in the world! I hope that this Halloween, Christians will pray for their Wiccan neighbors and reach out to them with the love of Christ.


NOTES

1. Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keyser, American Religious Identification Survey (The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2001), 13. See also http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/aris/aris_index.htm
.

2. Kathryn Fuller, Covenant of the Goddess, “Wiccan/Pagan Poll Final Results,” Press Release, October 7, 2000, www.cog.org/cogpoll_final.html
.

3. Catherine Edwards Sanders,
Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2005).

4. All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

Source: This article first appeared in the Effective Evangelism column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 5 (2007).

How to Make a 10th Century Byzantine Costume


Frankie Smith
October 21, 2011
eHow

Byzantium was one of the more advanced civilizations in the world, forming the Eastern half of the mighty Roman Empire until its fall in the middle of the 15th century. The styles of this century centered largely around the tunic, which was worn in a variety of lengths. To recreate the look of this period, you can select from a simple, tunic-only peasant style outfit or add the more opulent draping overgarments of the wealthy.

Instructions

Things You'll Need

Colored tights
Linen tunic
Belt
Long robe, optional for men
Roman-style sandals
Fabric, 5 feet by 60 inches
Measuring tape
Chalk
Scissors
Fabric glue
2 pieces of material, 4 feet square each
Needle and thread
Ribbon, 4 feet by 1 inch

The Basics

1 Pull on your colored tights. Both men and women wore these for much of the 10th century in Byzantine.

2 Put on your tunic. Women should opt for a slightly longer tunic than men. Start with a long tunic, as length can be adjusted with a belt.

3 Cinch the belt around your stomach. Pull the waist of the tunic so that it hangs over the belt.

4 Put on your sandals, if you are going for the peasant look, and you're ready to go.

5 Complete the look, for men, by adding a long robe or semicircular cloak. For women, add a stola -- a long, flowing, outer garment -- over the tunic to achieve the look of a wealthier Byzantine.

A Cape for Him

1 Measure 120 inches across and 17 inches deep, using your measuring tape. Mark the spot with chalk.

2 Draw a semicircle from one side of the fabric to the other, using the chalk. Then draw a smaller semicircle inside the first, measuring approximately 10 inches across.

3 Cut out the semi-circles you have drawn, and finish the edges using fabric glue.

4 Drape it over your shoulders to complete the look.

A Stola for Her

1 Sew the two square pieces of fabric together at the sides, using a needle and thread, with the finished side of the fabric facing inward.

2 Cut a semicircle, approximately 10 inches across, to form the neck hole.

3 Sew along the shoulders to close the top.

4 Fold the ribbon in half to locate the midpoint. Turn the stola right-side out, and use fabric glue to attach the ribbons at the center of each shoulder.

5 Place the stola over your head, wrap the ribbon around yourself so it crisscrosses in front, and pull it behind your back. Then bring the ribbon around your waist to the front again, and tie it.

Video: King of the Hill - "Hilloween"



Episode Name: Hilloween
Air date: 10/26/1997
Episode 4, Season 2

Summary:
Junie Harper, a conservative church member, declares that Halloween is a Satanic holiday, and gets the school to shut down Hank's "Haunted House" on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state. Luanne and even Bobby start to believe Junie when she says that Hank is a Satanist, and Hank has to fight against Junie's attempt to cancel Halloween for the whole town.

If video does not work, view here.

Some will wonder why I post this episode of "King of the Hill". To me it is just a comedic look at a very real issue. Christians for the most part have demonized this holiday and in doing so either hand it over to the devil or stimulate extreme reactions by their extremist attitude.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Truth About Halloween


Despite my article a few years ago clarifying the true origins of Halloween and a proper Orthodox attitude towards it ("Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction", see also my Halloween Resource Page), many Orthodox Christian clergy and faithful still embrace and promote a false version promoted by fundamentalists of recent times to senselessly scare people away from ANY participation in the holiday. The only thing we should fear in this instance, however, is falsehood and bearing false witness when presented with the truth. Below is a more balanced version concerning the truth about Halloween, whether one likes the truth or not.

By Catherine Beyer

What is Halloween?

Halloween is a secular holiday combining vestiges of traditional harvest festival celebrations with customs more specific to the occasion such as costume wearing, trick-or-treating, pranksterism, and decorations based on imagery of death and the supernatural. The observance takes place on October 31.

Though it was regarded up until the last few decades of the 20th century as primarily a children's holiday, in more recent years common Halloween activities such as mask wearing, costume parties, themed decorations, and even trick-or-treating have grown quite popular with adults as well, making Halloween an all-ages celebration.

What does the name 'Halloween' mean?

The name Halloween (originally spelled Hallowe'en) is a contraction of All Hallows Even, meaning the day before All Hallows Day (better known as All Saints Day), a Catholic holiday commemorating Christian saints and martyrs observed since the early Middle Ages on November 1.

How and when did Halloween originate?

The best available evidence indicates that Halloween originated in the early Middle Ages as a Catholic vigil observed on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.

It has become commonplace to trace its roots even further back in time to a pagan festival of ancient Ireland known as Samhain (pronounced sow'-en or sow'-een), about which little is actually known. The prehistoric observance marked the end of summer and the onset of winter, and is said to have been celebrated with feasting, bonfires, sacrificial offerings, and paying homage to the dead.

Despite some thematic similarities, there's scant evidence of any real continuity of tradition linking the Medieval observance of Halloween to Samhain, however. Some modern historians, notably Ronald Hutton (The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, 1996) and Steve Roud (The English Year, 2008, and A Dictionary of English Folklore, 2005), flatly reject the commonly held notion that November 1 was designated All Saints Day by the Church to "Christianize" the pagan festival. Citing a lack of historical evidence, Steve Roud dismisses the Samhain theory of origin altogether.

"Certainly the festival of Samhain, meaning Summer's End, was by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish calendar, and there was a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen," Roud notes, "but however strong the evidence in Ireland, in Wales it was May 1 and New Year which took precedence, in Scotland there is hardly any mention of it until much later, and in Anglo-Saxon England even less."

Earliest Halloween customs

The earliest documented customs attributable to Halloween proper grew out of the tandem observances of All Saints Day (November 1), a day of prayer for saints and martyrs of the Church, and All Souls Day (November 2), a day of prayer for the souls of all the dead. Among the practices associated with Halloween during the Medieval period were the lighting of bonfires, evidently to symbolize the plight of souls lost in purgatory, and souling, which consisted of going door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for "soul cakes" and other treats. Mumming (or "guising"), a custom originally associated with Christmas consisting of parading in costume, chanting rhymes, and play-acting, was a somewhat later addition to Halloween.

Again, however, despite the obvious similarities between old and new, it's an overstatement to say these Medieval customs "survived" to the present day, or even that they "evolved" into modern Halloween practices such as trick-or-treating. There's no direct historical evidence of such a continuity. By the time Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America in the mid-1800s, mumming and souling were all but forgotten in their home country, where the known Halloween customs of the time consisted of praying, communal feasting, and playing divination games such as bobbing for apples.

The secular, commercialized holiday we know today would be barely recognizable to Halloween celebrants of even just a century ago.

Is Halloween Christian, Pagan, or Secular?

The most straightforward answer is "secular." People who celebrate this day in a religious context generally do not call it Halloween, and the common practices associated with Halloween such as costuming and giving of treats are secular celebrations.

Christian Origins – All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day

However, Halloween evolved out of a Catholic holiday called All Hallows Eve, which occurs the day before All Saints Day, a general celebration of the saints on November 1.

In turn, All Saints Day originally was celebrated on May 13, and in the Orthodox Church is continues to be celebrated in late spring on the first Sunday after Pentecost, which in turn is seven weeks after Easter. Pope Gregory III is commonly credited with moving it in the 9th century to November 1, although the reasons for the move are debatable.

Ancient Celtic Origins - Samhain

It is often argued, most commonly by neo-pagans and Christians who are against Halloween celebrations, that All Saints Day was moved to November 1 to co-opt a Celtic Irish celebration called Samhain.

Did the Catholic Church Co-opt Samhain?

There is no direct evidence to say they did. Gregory's reasons for moving it from May 13 to November 1 remain mysterious. A twelfth century writer suggested it was because Rome could support larger numbers of pilgrims in November than in May.

There are similarities. Samhain appears to have connection with the dead and may have involved communication with, placating of, or honoring of those who had died. All Saints is a celebration of dead saints, whom Catholics communicate with through prayer and offerings in the hopes of the saints acting as intermediaries between humanity and God.

However, Ireland is a long way from Rome, and Ireland was Christian by the time of Gregory. So the logic of changing a feast day throughout Europe to co-opt a holiday originally celebrated in a small portion of it has some substantial weaknesses.

What is Samhain and How Does it Relate to Halloween?

Historically, Samhain was an Irish Celtic harvest festival that marked the beginning of the winter season. It is not likely to have been held on a specific calendar day, but rather whenever the harvest was finished for the year.

Connections between Samhain and Halloween

There are a variety of Halloween traditions often credited to Samhain, such as costume wearing and the creation of hallowed out vegetables (predecessors to the jack-o-lantern). Readers are cautioned to be very wary of such claims. The Irish were non-literate before the coming of the Romans and even then left us no documents about their society. Most of what we know of them therefore comes from outside sources, often people who had never actually met the Irish or, more often, were writing hundreds of years after their pagan society had vanished.

In addition, the common claim is that ancient Celtic practices became folklore practices in the Christian period which is how they were transformed into modern Halloween celebrations. Again, the evidence is often sketchy, with most of it dating on a couple centuries back. Many of these claims of Halloween celebrations being ancient are therefore conjecture at best.

Samhain in Mythology

From the mythological stories (again, written many centuries after Christianization), Samhain appears to be a time of transitions when chaos reigns. The are references to the closeness of the Otherworld to the world of the living during this time, and it is commonly associated with divinations and remembrances of the dead. The mythology rarely if ever touches upon specific rituals performed by common people.

Modern Samhain Celebrations

Today, a variety of neo-pagans celebrate Samhain. Many celebrate it the night of October 31, but some calculate the date via other methods such as astrologically or even by when local harvests are completed. Some even refer to the holiday as "Halloween" rather than as "Samhain," which merely further confuses the issue.

Modern celebrations manifest in a wide variety of ways. First, they may reflect mythology and beliefs specific to the celebrating neo-pagans. Wiccans and Druids, who belong to two separate neo-pagan religions, might hold significantly different celebrations, for example. Second, they frequently reference Northern European folklore or Celtic practices as they understand them to have been (which may or may not align with what was actually historically).

Modern Samhain celebrations are certainly not part of an unbroken pagan tradition. In fact, they post-date the secular emergence of Halloween.

Is Halloween Satanic?

Only in certain circumstances, and not historically.

Halloween is most directly related to the Catholic holiday of All Hallows Eve, although it has picked up a variety of practices and beliefs most likely borrowed from folklore. Even the origins of those practices are often questionable, with evidence dating back only a couple hundred years and older records being suspiciously mum about what might have been taking place around the end of October.

None of these things have anything to do with Satanism. In fact, if Halloween folk practices had anything to do with spirits, it would have been primarily to keep them away, not attract them. That would be the opposite of common perceptions of "Satanism."

Satanic Adoption

When Anton LaVey formed the Church of Satan in the mid-20th century, he stipulated three holidays for his version of Satanism, the first organized religion to ever label itself Satanic. The first and most important was the Satanist's own birthday. The other two are Walpurgisnacht (April 30) and Halloween (October 31). Both dates were often considered "witch holidays" in popular culture and thus linked with Satanism. LaVey adopted Halloween less because of any inherent Satanic meaning in the date and more as a joke on those who had superstitiously feared it.

Conclusion

So, yes, Satanists do celebrate Halloween as one of their holidays. However, this is a recent adoption. Halloween was been celebrated long before Satanists had anything to do with it. Therefore, historically Halloween is not Satanic, and today it only makes sense to call it a Satanic holiday when referencing its celebration by actual Satanists.

Sources and Further Reading

• Adams, W. H. Davenport. Curiosities of Superstition and Sketches of Some Unrevealed Religions. London: J. Masters & Co., 1882.
• Aveni, Anthony. The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
• Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
• Opie, Iona and Tatem, Moira. A Dictionary of Superstitions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
• Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
• Roud, Steve. The English Year. London: Penguin Books, 2008.
• Roud, Steve and Simpson, Jacqueline. A Dictionary of English Folklore. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
• Santino, Jack. "Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows." The American Folklore Center, Library of Congress, September 1982.
• Santino, Jack (Ed.). Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.
• Skal, David J. Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury, 2002.
• Wolfson, Jill. "Halloween Handwringing." Salon.com, 29 Oct. 1999.

Source

American's Belief In The Paranormal (Infographic)

Today's GoFigure infographic explores our fascination with ghosts, aliens and paranormal experiences.
Source:LiveScience

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Myrrhgushing Miracle of St. Demetrios in 1987: A Testimony


It was October 26, 1987. The time was past 10:00 p.m. The city was celebrating the memory of the contest of its patron saint, St. Demetrios, and the freedom from the nearly five hundred years (1430-1912) occupation by the Ottomans. The Church of St. Demetrios with open doors received its nightly venerators, who were kneeling in front of the silver casket with the holy relics of the Myrrhgusher. At that moment there must not have been more than thirty to forty people in the church. A circle of about ten women were in front of the shrine, chanting the Paraklesis of the Saint. The only clergyman who attended, was the young and newly-ordained deacon of the church with his deaconess-wife. The then head of the church and now Metropolitan Panteleimon of Beroia, Naousa and Campania, had ordered them to be there and wait for him.

Suddenly, the women singing the Paraklesis began to yell. The deacon ran to them and the women, with mixed feelings, showed him the casket. It was literally bathed in an oily myrrh formation (we say myrrh because the smell was incomparable). One could have said with certainty that someone poured onto it at least two "buckets" of aromatic liquid (I use the word "buckets" to mean that the quantity of myrrh that slid down the solid walls of the silver casket to the embossed depiction was great).

The deacon for a moment was baffled: the Saint is gushing myrrh! Without any doubt at all about the miracle, and finding himself in a state of joy, surprise and excitement, he ran to bring cotton from some furniture of the sanctuary. He returned running and started wiping with cotton the myrrh from the outer walls of the shrine and gave parts of this fragrant cotton to pilgrims. He would wipe it up and the myrrh would not stop, but kept mystically flowing, without any visible source. Characteristically, one fact made an impression: with a large piece of cotton he wiped the myrrh of a smooth area of ​​the casket. The cotton wiped away the myrrh, like when you wipe a glass with a dry cloth, pressing it well and removing moisture that can exist on it. A woman wiped with the palm of her hand on the part of the shrine that had just been wiped. The deacon, with amazement, saw her hand wet by the oily yellow myrrh!

Meanwhile, the scent flooded throughout the church and overflowed from the open doors to St. Demetrios Street, attracting passers-by who rushed in to see what was happening and from where came this fragrance. Everyone headed to the casket with the relics of Saint Demetrios, who was not placed in the tomb (it had not yet been constructed), but in front of the iconostasis.


The pleasant surprises did not stop there! The pilgrims found that all the icons of the church, wherever they were, in the shrines or church, flowed myrrh. Indeed, the deacon saw pilgrims take out paper towels and wipe the glass protected icons of the church and the paper towels turned yellow from the myrrh which "ran" from both sides of the glass, interior and exterior. The size of the miracle did not leave the slightest room for doubt. We did not understand what we were witnessing, it was like a dream in the mist, but we lived it! We touched it with our hands, we saw it with our eyes, we smelled it with our sense of smell!

In a short time there formed a line of people with tears in their eyes venerating the casket of the Myrrhgusher, who realized why he was so nicknamed.

Meanwhile there arrived to the church the head priest and other clergy. They unlocked the openings of the casket and found the holy relics of the patron saint of Thessaloniki. Though fragrant, it was the particular scent of sacred relics. The fragrance of myrrh was different and distinctive.

The blessed Metropolitan Panteleimon II Chrysofakis of Thessaloniki, attributed the miracle of the myrrhgushing of St. Demetrios to this fact: That evening, at the gala ceremony at the University for the freedom of Thessaloniki, the keynote speaker ignored in his speech entirely the Saint and there was no reference to him. Saint Demetrios spoke with his myrrhgushing that he never left the city of Thessaloniki, so now he is always present, and this is what saved her from slavery and from earthquakes, but complains when Thessalonians prove ungrateful and distance themselves from Christ and His saints.

24 years have passed since then. I was the then deacon of the church, and now a priest in Thessaloniki, and I write the facts as I remember. That moment was like living a mystery. I cannot describe what I felt! Joy, surprise, excitement, enthusiasm ... I cannot determine exactly. However, it is the events that reinforce belief that fill us with joy, hope and a sense of the presence of Christ and the saints. Our faith is "alive".


Fr. Christos Kotios
Vicar of the Holy Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos
Saranta Ekklesies, Thessaloniki

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Paul Did Not 'Invent' Christianity


Greg Carey
October 26, 2011
The Huffington Post

It's not rare to encounter people who claim that Paul "invented" Christianity. The basic idea is that Jesus taught a pure and ethical form of Judaism that focused on God and gracious living, while Paul developed a religion that worshiped Jesus rather than God. Though this idea literally makes no sense historically, it's gotten a lot of run. Even the occasional serious academic book "blames" Paul for perverting Jesus' message in inventing Christianity.

One easily appreciates the appeal of this position. In the first three Gospels -- Matthew, Mark and Luke -- Jesus speaks continually about the kingdom of God. He does not ordinarily speak about himself. In the fourth Gospel, however, Jesus talks about himself all the time. Even ancient Christians recognized this phenomenon. Writing around the year 200, Clement of Alexandria described John as "a spiritual Gospel" on the grounds that it relayed not the literal history of Jesus' career but its spiritual and theological significance. How did followers of Jesus move from a religion focused upon Israel's God and God's kingdom to a religion devoted to the person of Jesus? For many, the Apostle Paul fills that gap.

However, every bit of evidence we possess demonstrates that Paul did not, in fact, invent Christianity. Let's begin with how Paul came to follow Jesus in the first place. The book of Acts claims that Paul, having already persecuted some believers in Jesus, has a visionary encounter with the risen Christ. Paul himself describes that encounter as an "apocalypse," or a revelation. In any event, Acts agrees with Paul that the new apostle turned for support to a community of believers that already resided in Damascus.

If Paul invented Christianity, how did that community in Damascus come to exist? Paul's "conversion," as some call it, occurred within just two or three years of Jesus' death -- and already communities of Jesus followers were spreading beyond Judea and Galilee into Samaria, Syria and other parts of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Moreover, a look at Paul's missionary career debunks the notion that Paul invented Christianity. Having joined the believing community at Damascus, Paul later goes on to Syrian Antioch. The believing community there -- Acts refers to them being called "Christians" -- supports Paul and his partner Barnabas in their missionary activities (Acts 11:19-26). Obviously, the church would not have supported Paul if his teachings represented a radical departure from what they already knew.

Paul's next base of operations was Ephesus, a grand city in what is now southwestern Turkey. Again, the church in Ephesus existed prior to Paul's arrival, and Paul used Ephesus as a base of operations for his work to the west.

Finally, we have Paul's letter to the churches in Rome. This is the only surviving Pauline letter that addresses a church he has never visited -- again, we see an influential church that Paul had no role in founding. He hopes to visit Rome, build a relationship with the churches there, and rely upon their support for an ongoing mission to Spain (Romans 15:23-24).

So we have a pattern. From Damascus in southern Syria, to Antioch in northern Syria, to Ephesus in Asia (today, Turkey), to Rome and hopefully on to Spain, Paul extends his missionary work to embrace the entire northern Mediterranean rim. As he does so, he relies upon churches located in major cosmopolitan cities to support his mission. All of these churches existed prior to and independent of Paul's mission, yet they support him. This could not be the case were Paul inventing a dramatically new interpretation of Jesus.

Many people note that Paul rarely quotes Jesus or appeals to stories from Jesus' life. That is true. Apart from the traditions of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, Paul explicitly refers only to Jesus' teaching concerning divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10) and the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). But he also insists that his teaching is consistent with that of Peter and the other apostles (1 Corinthians 3:22; 15:3-11; Galatians 1:18).

And while Paul rarely mentions specific examples from Jesus' sayings and ministry, his core values strongly reflect the influence of Jesus' teaching. Jesus taught his followers to lead by serving; so did Paul. Jesus promoted love as the greatest virtue; so did Paul. Jesus announced the coming kingdom of God; Paul taught that the kingdom would fully manifest itself upon the risen Jesus' return (1 Corinthians 15:24). Jesus' ministry involved an outreach to "sinners," prostitutes, lepers and other outcast persons; Paul extended the good news to Gentiles.

None of this is to deny the different sense one receives when one compares the Jesus stories to Paul's letters. Obviously things have changed from Jesus' ministry among Jews in Galilee and Judea to Paul's mission to Gentiles around the Mediterranean. For Paul, Jesus' resurrection required a dramatic reinterpretation of many things, including the significance of Jesus' ministry. However, Paul did not invent that idea; instead, he shared it with many other believers who were founding churches and cultivating communities far beyond his own reach.

13th Century Byzantine Prayer Book Written Over Text of Archimedes


Thirteenth-century manuscript, overwritten with prayer book, deciphered after years of painstaking work.

Alison Flood
October 26 2011
Guardian.co.uk

Years of painstaking work by scientists to expose a manuscript hidden for nearly a thousand years have shed new light on the genius of Archimedes, antiquity's greatest mathematician.

Known as The Archimedes Palimpsest, the manuscript is a Byzantine prayer book from the 13th century which was assembled using pages from several earlier manuscripts – one of which contained several treatises by the Greek mathematician Archimedes that were copied in 10th-century Constantinople. These were first discovered in 1906 by the Danish Archimedes scholar Johan Ludwig Heiberg, but as the text had been scraped away to make room for the prayer book he was only able to partially read them, and the book then went missing until it was auctioned – in a much more damaged state – at Christie's in New York in 1998. Bought by an anonymous American collector for $2m (£1.25m), it was deposited at Baltimore's Walters Art Museum, where scientists, conservators, classicists and historians have been working on uncovering the secrets of oldest surviving copy of Archimedes' works.

Using multispectral imaging and an x-ray technique which picked up the iron in the ink that had been scraped away, they discovered that Archimedes, working in the third century BC, considered the concept of actual infinity, something thought to have only been developed in the 19th century, and anticipated calculus. As well as seven treatises by the ancient Greek mathematician, including the only surviving copy of his The Method of Mechanical Theorems and Stomachion, new speeches by the classical Athenian orator Hyperides and a lost commentary on Aristotle's Categories from the second or third century AD were also found beneath the text of the prayer book.

The manuscript is now being displayed in an exhibition at the Walters, and Cambridge University Press is publishing later this month the two-volume book The Archimedes Palimpsest Project, which lays out the findings with images of the manuscripts, transcriptions of the texts and new readings of Archimedes' work.

The book's editor Michael Sharp called the discovery, in the treatise The Method of Mechanical Theorems, that at one point Archimedes considers the concept of actual infinity "very important for the history of mathematics and science". It sees Archimedes claiming that two different sets of lines are equal in multitude, although it is clearly understood that they are infinite, an approach which is "remarkably similar" to 16th and 17th-century works leading to the invention of calculus, according to the Walters Museum.

"The passage which makes this clear is one that Heiberg, the Danish mathematician of the early 20th century, had been completely unable to read. Since the concept of actual infinity has been crucial to the entire subsequent study of mathematics and physics, this is a particularly important new insight," said Sharp.

The palimpsest also contains the only existing copy of Archimedes' treatise Stomachion, in which he tries to discover how many ways 14 fixed pieces can be recombined to make a perfect square. The answer is 17,152 combinations. "Stomachion means bellyache – in antiquity you didn't call them brainteasers, you called them bellyachers. It's very interesting: not only is it completely different to his other works [but] it has been shown that it is actually the first work to develop the science of combinatorics – the maths of combinations which lies behind the mathematics of probability," said Sharp. "Before we knew this it was thought that combinatorics arose in the 17th or 18th century."

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