Superstition and Other Silliness: March 2004 Archives

March 31, 2004

Goat Collecting Buddhist

United States: Usually when goats are mentioned around here it's in the context of silly buggers killing them. This time it's a wingnut goat collector who blames his obsessive goat collecting problem on his religion — Buddhism.

State officials are investigating a man whose goats and his religious convictions against killing them have collided in a possibly inhumane and definitely stinky way.
There were three goats on the farm Chris Weathersbee's mother bought seven years ago. Now there are 300 — including 70 living in his house, much of which is covered with a mix of goat droppings and hay.

March 29, 2004

Child Witches Murdered

Angola: Many children seem to be cursed these days in the impoverished hinterlands of Angola — accused of witchcraft by their loony fundie families, then systematically abused, abandoned and even killed for imagined acts of witchcraft.

The scale and viciousness of the attacks on so-called criancas feiticeiras, or child witches, confounds even hardened human-rights workers in the war-haunted country, and some said the abuse is one of the most disturbing outbreaks of domestic violence seen in Africa in recent years.
In Uige, a sleepy hill town near the Congo border, children's advocates said that a teenager accused of sorcery was set ablaze by a mob that included his own relatives. Another boy was buried alive, beneath the corpse of a man he allegedly hexed, rights workers said. The luckier children are merely banished from their homes. They roam the streets like pariah dogs, surviving hand-to-mouth off food scraps from the markets.

March 28, 2004

Don't Panic

United States: An American Airlines flight had to be cancelled after someone describing themselves as a psychic warned there might be a bomb on board. The plane was searched with sniffer dogs after the psychic called in the tip. Nothing was found but, by the time the search was done, the crew were out of hours and unable to operate the flight.

The purported psychic's call was unusual, conceded Doug Perkins, local administrator for the federal Transportation Security Administration director.
But in these times, we can't ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures," he said.

Psychic tip prompts bomb search on plane - CNN, 27th March 2004 (via Electrolite).

March 24, 2004

In typo veritas

A group of scientists, teachers and astronomers plan a giant scale model of the Solar System, with the Earth located at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire. Saturn would be placed in Lancaster, but according to the local paper, the intention is to encourage children to develop an interest in science and astrology! City joins the solar system - Morecambe Today, 24th March 2004.

March 22, 2004

Religious Leaders Urged to Stop Spreading Lies

Angola: Religious leaders, who cause more problems amongst HIV ravaged areas than anything, have been urged to drop their prejudicial whining and to get off their arse and help people instead.

Angola, emerging from almost three decades of civil war, faces the threat of a massive spread of HIV/AIDS and religious leaders must join the fight against the pandemic that has ravaged much of Africa, Christian Aid said.
Official statistics put prevalence rates in Angola at between five and seven percent, but Rachel Baggaley, head of Christian Aid's HIV unit, said the figure could soar to over 20 percent within five years if the country did not act immediately.
The church and other faith-based organisations have a massive role to play in HIV prevention and care, she said. The church is part of the problem. Church leaders often stigmatise people living with HIV and are not compassionate or open about HIV.

March 18, 2004

Darwin's remedy

United States: Azogue, a popular folk medicine is causing concern among authorities in New Jersey. Felix Mota, voodoo priest and owner of a botanica, who refuses to sell it, explains:

It speeds the magical effects of spells cast for the loveless, the luckless, and the sick, some believe. It is a talisman to the gambler, a protector against the evil eye. Some sprinkle it in rooms, cars -- even baby cribs -- for protection.

The problem? It's mercury.

Researchers say mercury is used in two ways: as part of an organized religion, such as Santeria, Espiritismo, or voodoo, where priests imbue it with spiritual power in certain rituals, or in cultural or superstitious practices in which people believe it brings good luck.
People buy it to put in candles -- candles for money, for love, to pray for somebody, Mota says. He used to put a drop of mercury in perfume or bath oils, to spread over the body for good luck, but he doesn't anymore.
I tell people, 'Don't use it. It's so dangerous.'
One woman Mota treated six or seven years ago had swallowed mercury at the instruction of a santero, a Santeria priest, before she came to the United States.

Mercury as Folk Potion Sickens Users, Pollutes New Jersey Waterways - The Miami Herald, 16th March 2004.

Losing by a nose

Taiwan: Forget the fact that President Chen Shui-bian has made a mess of the economy and annoyed neighbouring countries, according to a fortune teller, he will lose the forthcoming election because his nose is too small.

The size of a leader's nose has a direct relation to the fortunes of the country they lead," said Fan [Yun], who mans one of the many small fortune-telling booths that line a pedestrian underpass near the Hsin Tien Temple in Taipei.
Everything about Chen's face is small and that's why the last four years have been so bad, she said, referring to the economic downturn that hit the island's economy a year after Chen swept to office in 2000.
Never mind the fact that Chen's face was graced with the same nose when he trounced his opponent, Lien Chan of the Nationalist party, four years ago.

Others disagree - it's not his nose that signifies defeat, but his complexion which indicates he will win.

To gauge a person's fortune, you have to look at their complexion and Chen's appears very bright as you can see from his ruddy cheeks, said Cheng Wen-kuei, a fortune teller who said he has been in the business for more than 20 years.

Astrologers don't want to miss out on the free publicity either.

Born in 1950, the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, Chen will not gain much help from the heavens in 2004. This is the Year of the Monkey, which usually spells difficulties for tigers, say the fortune tellers.
On March 20, Chen's luck will flow like the Yellow River, dirty and unclear, said Joe Lee, who sits at a small fold-up table in the underpass, reading from the astrological chart he has drawn up for the president.
Chen's term as president will end on that day, said Lee, who said he had accurately predicted the date on which the United States launched its strike on Iraq last year.

And let's not forget Feng Shui. Chang Hsu-chu, Chinese Geomancy Research Association chair, thinks the Nationalist challenger Lien Chan will prevail, because of where his ancestors were laid to rest:

Lien and his running mate James Soong's ancestral grave sites are both located in the First Public Cemetery in Taipei's Yangmingshan. The area is shaped like a dragon and widely known as a dragon cave, which is believed to bring prosperity to the offspring of those laid rest there, according to Chang.
Besides, Chang points out that the Lien family burial itself resembles the shape of a phoenix and the tomb of his late father is situated right on the wing of the phoenix.
Grass and trees are two important harbingers in geomancy. The lush green in the surrounding area of the Lien family burial is a sign of good fortune, he says.

Taiwan president's nose too small for re-election - Swissinfo, 18th March 2004; Graves, noses clues to election outcome - The China Post, 17th March 2004.

Update: Chen won.

March 17, 2004

Slow news day

I wondered how long it would take before the newspapers asked astrologers about the significance of the newly-discovered, might-be-a-planet, Sedna. What's surprising is that it isn't a US tabloid, but The Scotsman! They asked three astrologers about it, and Anna Estaroth of The Astrology Centre in Edinburgh told them:

In Sedna they've chosen an Inuit goddess rather than a Greek one. At the moment we have a whole issue about sea conservation and the ruining of our fishing industry and Sedna is supposed to be the goddess of abundance. On the plus side you might argue there is a symbolism for improving our fish stocks and also we don't want to lose our fishing industry, so it's symbolic that she's turned up at this very crucial stage.

Morelle Smith only party agrees:

To me, what immediately comes to mind is the interconnectedness of the whole planet. On the negative side, we have the unpredictability of terrorist attacks and the uncertainty of weather, climate and a variety of ecological changes, some of which are a direct result of humanity's abuse of the Earth and its natural resources. On the positive side, we have contacts, communication and relationships with people from parts of the world that only a handful of years ago we knew very little of, so we are able to see our similarities and points of contact with all other human beings, however different their customs, cultures etc; the internet has been invaluable here.

It's written in the stars - The Scotsman, 17th March 2004.

God Equation Total Bollocks

United Kingdom: Dr Stephen Unwin, Manchester University graduate and professional wingnut, has calculated that there is a 67% chance that God exists.

Dr Stephen Unwin has used a 200-year-old formula to calculate the probability of the existence of an omnipotent being. Bayes' Theory is usually used to work out the likelihood of events, such as nuclear power failure, by balancing the various factors that could affect a situation.
The Manchester University graduate, who now works as a risk assessor in Ohio, said the theory starts from the assumption that God has a 50/50 chance of existing, and then factors in the evidence both for and against the notion of a higher being.
Factors that were considered included recognition of goodness, which Dr Unwin said makes the existence of God more likely, countered by things like the existence of natural evil — including earthquakes and cancer.

Aloysius finds the whole claim a bunch of old cobblers.

March 13, 2004

The Earth, It Burns

United States: What weird fetish involves not allowing your feet to touch the earth? Isn't that the sort of loony direction Howard Hughes was heading before he popped his cogs?

For days now, the job at Eisenhower Park in Nassau County has been to follow the order from the White House through the Secret Service and down to the park workers:
The president's feet are not to touch the dirt...

March 12, 2004

Education a vaccine against superstition

Christian researchers have been disappointed to discover that education is the main factor in people rejecting imaginary friends. They divided unbelievers into five categories - U1 to U5 - with U5s least likely to accept religion.

More than 39 percent of the U5s had a master's or doctoral degree, compared to 14 percent of the total unchurched population. And over one-fourth of the U5s had a doctoral degree, compared to only 4 percent of all the unchurched.

They gave an example of one of these terrible people, 'Mark J.', who stated The more education you receive, the more you realize that religious beliefs just don't make sense. And Christians turn him off Christianity more than anything else:

The Christians I know pray for everything, he lamented. I can't stand it when they pray for trivial things that just aren't important. In my mother's church, some of the people were praying for their new pastor to find a good place to live. Isn't that ridiculous?

U5s Are the Most Educated Among the Unchurched - Church Central, 11th March 2004.

March 11, 2004

The Masons Have Had a Rough Couple of Days

United States: On Monday night, a ritual inside Patchogue, New York's Southside Masonic Lodge No 493 ended with the accidental killing of a new initiate. Another member shot him in the face. The shooter was carrying two guns, one with blanks and one with live ammo, and grabbed the wrong one during the ritual — doh! Both the shoter and the initiate were old enough to know better.

The shooter, a 76-year-old Mason, Albert Eid, was carrying two guns, a .22-caliber handgun with blanks in his left pocket, and a .32-caliber gun with live rounds in his right pocket.
He reached into his right pants pocket, pulled out the wrong gun and shot William James, a 47-year-old fellow Mason, in the face, killing him, the authorities said.

March 9, 2004

Aristide a Victim of Voodoo

Haiti: The Telegraph isn't exactly renown for its journalistic integrity, and in a prime example of their love of Bugger the facts. What's the spin? we have the delightful story of President Aristide's kidnapping by the US military ignored in favour of voodoo being at fault.

The rise and fall of Mr Aristide, its first democratically elected leader and an ordained Catholic priest who adopted as his symbol the cockerel, a voodoo icon, illustrates this. Mr Aristide, whose library contained many books on the national religion, was guilty of the voodoo equivalent of hubris and then struck down by its version of nemesis, several voodo priests said this week.

March 6, 2004

Headology in action

Mexico: Catemaco is known for its witches, and last Friday was a particularly important day for those who seek their services. And some, at least, have heeded the words of Granny Weatherwax:

He puts on a black cape and hood when required to undo somebody else's black magic and shows off scars he says he acquired when he almost lost control of the devil.
Rafael Aguirre attends his patients in a bright white, air-conditioned room, wearing a three-piece white suit with a tie and breast pocket handkerchief - his celestial aura augmented by piped music.
Aguirre acknowledges that much of his gift has nothing to do with devils or saints and boils down to a talent at psychological manipulation. But he insists the work is for the good of his patients.

Witchcraft, Capitalism Thrive on Magi - The Ledger, 6th March 2004.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Superstition and Other Silliness category from March 2004.

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