By Kate Daley-Bailey….
I have the perfect gospel for Glenn Beck; a Saxon retelling of the Christian gospel with Jesus as a warrior chieftain written in “song” or epic form in the early part of the 9th century CE and was supposedly used to convert the pagan Saxons, after they had been conquered and forcefully baptized by Charlemagne.
This rendering of the Jesus story is no direct translation of a canonical gospel rather it is an actual retelling of the Jesus story. As an expert on the Heliand, the title of this Saxon gospel, G. Ronald Murphy, J.S. describes the text as “a reimagining of the gospel.” Murphy writes that the Heliand’s author, whose identity is still a mystery, “rewrote and reimagined the words and the events of the gospel as if they had taken place and been spoken in his own country and time.”
Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons by Dr. Gregory L. Reece
Before sparkly vampires like Edward Cullen, before Count Orlok of Nosferatu, even before Bram Stoker’s classic tale of Dracula, there were the vampire tales of European folklore. As Reece suggests, these early prototypes of the vampire are far-less glamorous that the stylized, Gothic vampires of Polidori, Le Fanu, and Stoker. They attack cattle as well as humans, resemble bloated ticks when exhumed, and they more physically favor our conception of a zombie than the modern day vampire. Not only does Reece present a thorough but enjoyable romp through the history of the vampire, he also explores research about various real-life vampire communities, such as work done by Joseph Laycock in Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampires. Perhaps the most fascinating chapter in Reece’s book, according to this reviewer, is his chapter on werewolves, a chapter which plays upon the concepts presented in folktales made familiar by The Brothers Grimm, Perrault, and Paul DeLarue.
By Greg Carey, Huff Post Religion….
This is the first installment of a three-part series. We’ve survived Harold Camping. We survived Y2K, albeit with less distress than our ancestors survived Y1K. The world has survived end-time predictors as diverse as Billy Graham, William Miller and Jonathan Edwards. Now we face the purported final year of the Mayan Calendar. Nevertheless, most Christian bookstores devote entire sections to the sort of “Bible Prophecy” literature that uses the Book of Revelation, among other biblical literature, to tell us that we are currently living in the last days.
By Kate Daley-Bailey….
For thousands of years, the Christian Church has identified “usury” as a sin… however various theologians and scholars living within these thousands of years disagreed over exactly what “usury” was and was not. A brief exploration of the term “usury” (and its multiple manifestations) may lead us to a better understanding of what was actually being prohibited by various religious communities, especially Christian ones.
By Kate Daley Bailey….
Harry Potter as Coded text? Not only does Rowling incorporate many overt references to the history and legends surrounding alchemy, she often employs the very methods of communication which noted alchemists used. Alchemists often employed symbols, animal images, anagrams, and various word games/codes in order to keep their finding secrets and safe. While Rowling is not facing the Inquisitors or angry monarchs, her use of codes (anagrams (i.e. Tom Marvolo Riddle/ I am Lord Voldemort) and backwards writing (the Mirror of Erised/Desire) are very compelling to her audience. The most readily identifiable mythic animal associated with alchemy is the Phoenix. The phoenix, the iconic ‘fire bird,’ embodies the ultimate symbol of death and rebirth. It also represents spiritual transformation. This mythical bird plays a defining role in the Harry Potter series, especially the first few books. Harry is particularly troubled when Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, grows very old and bursts into flame before his very eyes. He is even more perplexed when from the ashes a small baby phoenix is born.
By Kate Daley Bailey….
Ever wondered where J. K. Rowling got inspiration for her magical world of the Harry Potter series? Did you know that Nicholas Flamel was a real man and famed alchemist, who according to mystical lore had created the illusive Philosopher’s/ Sorcerer’s Stone? Alchemy, the ancient mystical practice of trying to turn crude metals into gold, while seemingly fantastic to modern people, was the precursor to Enlightenment Sciences and various forms of Christian mysticism. Not purely an entrepreneurial venture, alchemy was not only viewed as a path to fame and wealth but also a spiritual practice grounded in religious symbolism. Some modern readers view Rowling’s alchemical leanings as advocating witchcraft and thereby denounce the series as promoting what they see as an anti-Christian agenda. Ironically, much of the alchemical history, which Rowling utilizes, is linked to Christian mysticism.
Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
At the ripe age of “eighteen and three quarters” (his words), Paddy Fermor decided to take a long walk, in lieu of attending university. He determined to travel by foot from the Hook of Holland all the way to Istanbul (a city he always imagined Greek-ly, and referred to stubbornly as “Constantinople” or “Byzantium,” its first name as a Greek colony). The trip took some years, and it gave both flavor and form to the rest of his extraordinarily long and extraordinarily creative life. But he did not begin to publish his reflections on the journey until fully forty years later, and that generational lapse between a youthful excursion and a mature reminiscence is a central feature in what makes his writing so singular, and the genre he created so difficult to define.
By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
No, this year the story really was in the game. That seems relevant to anyone interested in the curious and complex trajectories of the sacred in contemporary American culture. As Gary Laderman has argued, in his book Sacred Matters, professional sports, to the degree that they contribute to our contemporary cult of celebrity, are bearers of profound spiritual resonance. But they are also highly complex choreographed events, what the student of religion is trained to see as ritual.
The Harry Potter series lure readers into their pages with promises of adventure and fantasy, all the while covertly educating us on how to live well. Disguised as pure entertainment, these children books instruct both children and adults on how to make good choices in difficult situations. This is not the first time fantasy has acted as a vehicle for conscious or unconscious moral instruction. One need only think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s tiny hobbit’s duty to face unbearable odds and evil in order to save Middle Earth or the inspiring words of Gandalf the Grey to see elements of moral education or mentoring in many faerie stories.
I bring this delightful and unexpected experience to Religion Nerd readers because I believe we often overlook this powerful art form which was once the prominent form of entertainment, communication, and the recorder of human histories. Watching Kween perform I was reminded of another poet and his epic poem so steeped in legend and history. Homer’s Iliad, that epic poem which so often catches our imagination on the big screen, was originally created to be orally transmitted to an audience by a professional and specialized performer or rhapsodist.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula… the Count is not much more than an inversion of his enemies, a demon, or a supernatural serial killer. In Anne Rice’s novel series, penned some 80 years later, the fledging vampire Louis is a tormented being… extraordinary and yet pitiful. Then some 25 years after Louis’ debut in Interview with a Vampire, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series introduces the Cullens family to the literary vampire scene… oddly enough, as moral exemplars. Investigating how an author presents vampire literature and how an audience of readers accepts the Other in literature may help cultural observers, like myself, to determine how a community defines itself. In particular, I am interested to see if there is a correlation between the method of narration used in vampire literature and the degree to which these so called Others are humanized in the minds of readers.