began with the image of a sign. It simply said “One”. It was pearlescent white with pale blue letters and some wavy lines of pale blue around the letters. What followed was a frightening scenario of the twisting of a beautiful and true idea into an excuse for a cruel totalitarianism. It was shown to me as a possible future, one way future possibilities could collapse into a reality. I was told this could be the state of affairs in two hundred years.

It is a tenet of many spiritual disciplines that we are one with all other human beings, one with all other life forms and one with the Earth and the Universe. It is a beautiful teaching and can lead to selfless behavior as well as the ability to see things from another’s point of view. So far so good. We are told that when the true sage reaches enlightenment she becomes one with all and perceives a continuum between herself and All That Is. Modern physics teaches that any particle that has ever touched any other particle in the universe is aware of that other particle into infinity despite any huge physical distance.

In this future possibility of reality that I saw, a (nearly world) government is set up with a mandatory state religion in which this Oneness is the central idea. There is an invisible central power which decides what the denizens of this world must do all in the name of “The One”. It is a cruel existence in an environmentally ruined land, lacking uniqueness and diversity. It is a horrible perversion of a beautiful idea.

In retrospect this premonition sounds like an Ayn Rand novel of some sort. Alas I am not a Libertarian but tend more politically to the Green Party. But this is what I saw.

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Horrible animal slaughter in the name of religion!  This is a brutal and inhumane custom that brings shame on all those that participate. To kill harmless animals in the name of God is an abomination. This mass slaughter runs counter to Hindu principles of reverence for life. I try to be very open minded about the beliefs of others but this just makes me sick. I can’t see any bright side to this whatsoever.

I commend the actress and animal activist Brigitte Bardot for standing up for animals.

‘WORLD’S BIGGEST ANIMAL SACRIFICE’ BEGINS
By Deepesh Shrestha
AFP
November 24, 2009

Up to a million Hindu devotees have gathered in a village in Nepal to
witness the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of animals in a mass
sacrifice that has drawn widespread criticism.

Worshippers travelled long distances, many coming from India, to attend the
two-day Gadhimai festival, which honours the Hindu goddess of power and
takes place once every five years in southern Nepal.

A huge cry of “Long Live Gadhimai!” went up after the village temple’s head
priest launched the event with the ritual sacrifice of two wild rats, two
pigeons, a rooster, a lamb and a pig.

The crowd then rushed to a nearby field where 250 sword-wielding butchers
were waiting to begin the mass slaughter of about 20,000 buffalo, brought by
devotees to be sacrificed near the holy temple.

“This is a very special day for Hindu devotees,” head priest Mangal
Chaudhary Tharu told AFP as the Gadhimai festival began.

“All the people who came here to worship Gadhimai have been waiting a long
time for this day. I am very proud to be part of this event,” added Tharu,
the fourth generation of his family to serve as a priest at the temple.

An AFP reporter at the scene said up to a million devotees were crammed into
the area for the festival. Many were from India, where some states have
banned animal slaughter for religious purposes.

Mahesh Yadav, a Nepalese farmer who arrived at the site with a black goat
tethered to the back of his bicycle, said he wanted to thank the goddess for
giving him a son.

“I had seven daughters in a row so I promised the goddess I would sacrifice
a goat if she gave me a son,” he told AFP.

“Eight years ago the goddess listened and my son was born.”

Nepal’s government has refused to put a stop to what it says is a
centuries-old religious tradition, despite a vocal opposition campaign from
local animal rights activists who say the slaughter is needless cruelty.

Their cause is supported by the well-known Indian animal rights activist
Maneka Gandhi and by the French film star turned campaigner Brigitte Bardot,
who this month wrote to Nepal’s president urging him to put a stop to the
festival.

Armed police have been deployed around the temple grounds and there were
fears of clashes between animal rights activists and festival-goers.

But the campaigners appeared to have stayed away after making a last-ditch
appeal to the government to stop the event over the weekend.

The buffalo slaughter took place in a huge field surrounded by three-metre
wall, and will be followed on Tuesday by the ritual sacrifice of around
300,000 goats, sheep and birds.

Many festival-goers scaled the wall to get a better view of the killings,
carried out by volunteers using specially-built bamboo cages to prevent the
animals from escaping.

Jaya Lal Thakur, a 34-year-old local barber, said he paid 210 rupees ($4.90)
for a licence to work at the festival and had already slaughtered dozens of
buffalo.

“This is the second time I’ve slaughtered buffalo at the Gadhimai festival.
I don’t get paid to do it but I believe it will bring me salvation,” he told
AFP.

“This is a rare opportunity and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

At one point police used batons to disperse the crowds and prevent a
stampede, an AFP reporter witnessed, but there were no casualties and the
event appeared mainly peaceful.

Nepal’s government has provided 4.5 million rupees ($105,510) in funding for
the festival, a lucrative event for organisers, who sell the hides to
contractors after the slaughter.

The meat is distributed among local people, some of whom set up stalls
selling sweets and drinks.

Authorities have banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in the area, but
reports said five people including one Indian national died at the weekend
after drinking home-brewed alcohol.

————

My recommendation is to go to the Nepalese Embassy website and complain vociferously: http://www.nepalembassyusa.org/contact.php

Anil Bhanot speaks out in the Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/nov/25/gadhimai-animal-sacrifice-nepal

Another article from the Guardian:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/24/hindu-sacrifice-gadhimai-festival-nepal

Two so-called witches are in the news. The first from England from the Guardian:

Britain’s last ‘witch’ may be pardoned

By Bonnie Malkin and agencies

Last Updated: 11:01am GMT 28/02/2008

Helen Duncan

Campaigners will submit a petition to the Scottish Parliament today calling for the last woman convicted under the Witchcraft Act to be pardoned.

Helen Duncan spent nine months in Holloway prison after being convicted at a trial in 1944.

Her conviction followed a seance at which the spirit of a dead sailor was said to have disclosed the loss of the battleship HMS Barham with most of her crew.The sinking had been kept secret by the authorities to maintain wartime morale, and was not disclosed for several months.A petition to the Westminster Government last year failed to secure a pardon, and the new petition urges the Scottish Government to urge the Home Secretary to reconsider the case.

The 1735 Witchcraft Act was repealed by the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951.

Scottish Parliament researchers said it was a common misconception that Mrs Duncan was convicted of being a witch.

“In fact, the 1735 Witchcraft Act was originally formulated to eradicate the belief in witches and its introduction meant that from 1735 onwards an individual could no longer be tried as a witch,” said their research paper.

“It was, however, possible to be prosecuted for pretending ‘to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, or undertake to tell fortunes’.

“Supposed contact with spirits fell into this category.”

A second petition asks MSPs to urge the Scottish Parliament to grant a posthumous pardon to all people convicted in Scotland under all witchcraft legislation.

The petitioners claim around 4,000 people were convicted, 85 per cent of them women.

The Witchcraft Act was in force between 1563 and 1736, and the top county for witchhunting was the area that is now East Lothian.

Torture was used to extract confessions as late as 1704, said the petition, and those convicted were almost always strangled before their body was burnt.

The petition states: “Many of today’s professions have their roots in tradition and what could be seen as mystical wisdom.

“Professions such as mediumship, herbalists, midwifery, reiki and many alternative therapies, to name just a few.”

And from Saudi Arabia via the BBC:

Pleas for condemned Saudi ‘witch’

By Heba Saleh BBC News

Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft. In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice. The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read. Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent. Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened. ‘Undefined’ crime The US-based group is asking the Saudi ruler to void Ms Falih’s conviction and to bring charges against the religious police who detained her and are alleged to have mistreated her. Its letter to King Abdullah says the woman was tried for the undefined crime of witchcraft and that her conviction was on the basis of the written statements of witnesses who said that she had bewitched them. Human Rights Watch says the trial failed to meet the safeguards in the Saudi justice system. The confession which the defendant was forced to fingerprint was not even read out to her, the group says. Also Ms Falih and her representatives were not allowed to attend most of the hearings. When an appeal court decided she should not be executed, the law courts imposed the death sentence again, arguing that it would be in the public interest.

Before I go any further with my commentary, may I ask my readers to go to a petition to save this woman’s life.

What is a witch? Is it someone who practices Wicca, an animist faith of Earth-based spirituality? That could certainly be one definition. But it probably does not define either of these women. A dowser is also sometimes called a witch, but certainly neither of these women are or were being persecuted for dowsing. No, in both cases the definition would be one who practices sorcery, usually a woman, a sorceress.

In the English case, Helen Duncan, apparently through mediumship, had sensitive knowledge which she could not have obtained through her five ordinary senses. In the case of Fawza Falih there appears to be no evidence whatsoever that anything criminal, paranormal or otherwise has occurred. Indeed, if a woman could cause impotence in a man with a withering look, surely there would be no rape, and far fewer unwanted pregnancies or babies in the world. In fact Saudi Arabia is a place where the rape victim is punished, often by death, and the perpetrator goes free or gets a slap on the wrist.

Even in countries that have a veneer of equal rights for women, the appellation of “witch” or “bitch” is commonly used to marginalize powerful women. Although women make up 51% of the US population there has never been a woman president. Why? Because powerful women get marginalized by being called these names and by being held to a different standard than men.