Roman poet Ovid, owls, superstition and love


Ascalaphus is turned into an owl. Engraving by Johann Ulrich Krauß, 1690

This picture is a 1690 engraving by Johann Ulrich Krauß. It shows a story much older than 1690. It is an illustration to the long poem Metamorphoses by Roman poet Ovid.

In book V of Metamorphoses, Ovid writes about a minor god in Greek polytheism, Ascalaphus. He was the custodian of the orchard of Hades, the god of the underworld. Hades had abducted Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. The supreme god Zeus decided that Persephone had the right to return to her mother, if she had not eaten anything in the underworld. Persephone had just eaten a few pomegranate anils. The only one who has seen that was Ascalaphus. He told the other gods. That meant that Persephone had to stay in the underworld, at least for six months of the year.

Persephone was so angry that she changed Ascalaphus into an owl by sprinkling him with water of the underworld river Phlegethon. The Johann Ulrich Krauß engraving depicts this metamorphosis from humanish divine form to owl.

The engraving caption says that Ascalaphus becomes a ‘Stein-Eule’. The modern German name for this owl species is Steinkauz. The English name is little owl. Ovid does not specify which owl species Ascalaphus became.

K. Sara Myers wrote in the American Journal of Philology that he became a screech owl. However, these American owls were unknown to Ovid and other Roman empire age Europeans.

Ovid writes in Metamorphoses, book V, lines 549-550 (translated):

So he became the vilest bird; a messenger of grief; the lazy owl; sad omen to mankind.

Deane Lewis writes:

Introduction

Throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them. Owls have been both feared and venerated, despised and admired, considered wise and foolish, and associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth and death. Speculation about Owls began in earliest folklore, too long ago to date, but passed down by word of mouth over generations.

In early Indian folklore, Owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy. This theme recurs in Aesop‘s fables and in Greek myths and beliefs. By the Middle Ages in Europe, the Owl had become the associate of witches and the inhabitant of dark, lonely and profane places, a foolish but feared spectre.

Unfortunately, at some times and places in human history, including India and Zimbabwe, superstitious prejudices have arisen against owls. These prejudices can be overcome by education about these interesting and useful birds. Apparently also in ancient Rome, when we read Ovid’s lines, there was anti-owl prejudice.

Deane Lewis mentions differences between Greek and Roman mythology on owls:

In the mythology of ancient Greece, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, was so impressed by the great eyes and solemn appearance of the Owl that, having banished the mischievous crow, she honoured the night bird by making him her favourite among feathered creatures. Athena’s bird was a Little Owl (Athene noctua). This Owl was protected and inhabited the Acropolis in great numbers. It was believed that a magical “inner light” gave Owls night vision. As the symbol of Athene, the Owl was a protector, accompanying Greek armies to war, and providing ornamental inspiration for their daily lives. If an Owl flew over Greek Soldiers before a battle, they took it as a sign of victory. The Little Owl also kept a watchful eye on Athenian trade and commerce from the reverse side of their coins.

Athenian tetradrachm from after 499 BCE

This photo shows a tetradrachm coin from ancient Athens, after 499 BCE. On one side, Athena, the protector goddess of the city. On the other side, the little owl, the goddess’ bird.

Greek 1 Euro coin with little owl, 2002

This photo shows a Greek 1 euro coin with a little owl, from 2002.

‘While the owl was seen by the Greeks as a protector, the Romans saw it more as a harbinger of doom’, this blog says. So says Paul D. Frost; and the British Bird Lovers site.

Diana Lewis also mentions ideas about owls in Ovid’s Roman empire, different from ancient Greece:

The Roman army was warned of impending disaster by an owl before its defeat at Carrhae, on the plains between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

According to Artemidorus, a second century soothsayer, to dream of an owl meant that a traveller would be shipwrecked or robbed.

Another Roman superstition was that witches transformed into owls, and sucked the blood of babies.

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Faroe Islands religious homophobic politician


This 2012 video from the USA says about itself:

Pastor Advocates Electric Fence for Gays

CNN’s Gary Tuchman talks to church members about their pastor‘s controversial anti-gay sermon.

From PinkNews in Britain:

Christian MP wants to roll back same-sex marriage to ‘correct wrongdoings’

By Nick Duffy, August 16, 2019

A Christian MP in the Faroe Islands has pledged to roll back same-sex marriage, if his party returns to power.

Same-sex unions have been permitted in the Faroe Islands, a self-governing region of Denmark which is home to 50,000 people, since 2017.

However, Centre Party MP Bill Justinussen has vowed to roll back the law, if his party returns to power in the August 31 elections. …

The right-wing lawmaker’s party has never won more than three of the 33 seats in the Faroese Parliament (Løgting), but has served in government on a number of occasions as a junior coalition partner.

Same-sex marriage passed the body by a vote of 19 to 14 in 2016, after polling suggested that around two-thirds of residents supported the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

A year later, a London-based gay couple accidentally became the first to tie the knot there.

Leslie Travers and Richard McBride, 48 and 37, had wanted a quiet, fuss-free wedding, and did not find out they were the first gay couple to be married in the country until their union attracted attention from local media.

Others same-sex weddings have since taken place.

The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda became the first region in the world to roll back same-sex marriage in 2018, passing a law to re-ban unions after weddings had already begun.

However, same-sex marriages became legal for the second time in October 2018, after a second court ruling struck down the fresh law.

Same-sex weddings have been permitted in Denmark itself since 2012.

Much Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual abuse


This video from the USA says about itself:

Did leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse?

In San Francisco, a woman is suing the Jehovah’s Witnesses for failing to protect her from a known child abuser when she was a child. The Center for Investigative Reporting has shed light on accusations that religious leaders led a cover-up of child sex abuse. Special correspondent Trey Bundy of the CIR’s Reveal reports on how the organization is using the first amendment to fight these charges.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

More than ninety reports of sexual abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belgium

The Belgian branch of the Reclaimed Voices foundation, which defends the interests of victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, received more than ninety reports in six months. That writes the newspaper Le Soir.

The federal public prosecutor conducts research in Belgium into sexual (child) abuse within the religious community. At the end of April, the Belgian headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kraainem were searched. The judiciary was looking for reports on, eg, internal court cases.

Own courts

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own kind of courts, committees of “elders” within the faith. They pass judgment on members’ sins. The maximum punishment is banishment from the community. A spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belgium tells Le Soir that the organization wants to cooperate with the federal public prosecutor.

In the Netherlands, the religious community has so far not cooperated with the police and the judiciary. …

Reclaimed Voices in the Netherlands have received more than 300 reports of sexual abuse since the end of 2017.

See also here.

United States exorcist pastor’s sexual abuse


Not only in the Roman Catholic church there is a problem of exorcism as a pretext for sexual abuse. And not only among some fundamentalist Protestants in the Netherlands. Also, among some Protestants in the USA, as this 25 July 2019 video says:

Pastor Told Abuse Victims He Needed To ‘Suck’ Demons Out Of Them

“Multiple victims have come forward to accuse a New Jersey pastor of sexually assaulting them as part of exorcism rituals.

“Three men have come forward claiming Rev. Dr. William Weaver performed sex acts on them when they came to him for private counseling at Linden Presbyterian Church”, Newsweek reported Thursday. “Weaver, 69, would allegedly tell the men that he needed to ‘suck’ out demons through their semen, citing Native American rituals and a verse from Ephesians telling Christians to ‘put on the full armor of God.’”

Read more here.

Salvation Army child sexual abuse scandals


This 5 December 2017 video from Australia says about itself:

Salvation Army child sex abuse survivor speaks out

Merrin Wake was born into one of Australia’s most recognised charities. By speaking out, she hopes other officers’ children will confront the Salvation Army and get redress for their sexual abuse.

Read more here.

At the first public hearing on child abuse in shelters of the Australian Salvation Army, gruesome details became known. Young boys were locked up in cages for days, raped, beaten and in one case a boy was forced to eat his own vomit: here.

Translated from Dutch daily Trouw:

Three victims of abuse at the Salvation Army received compensation last year, according to an investigation by Trouw. They are not the only ones, according to the Christian organization.

By Rianne Oosterom, July 3, 2019, 1:00 AM

The Salvation Army has reached a settlement with at least three victims of child sexual abuse within the churches of the organization. In two of the three cases it concerned crimes committed by Army officers.

Several representatives of the organization knew about this, but did not intervene. The Salvation Army acknowledges that in addition to these three abuse victims “a few more cases are known from the past” to whom compensation was paid. The organization does not want to say exactly how many victims that is.

Together the victims received just under 30,000 euros. One of them, Richard Bos, thinks that the Salvation Army is getting off the hook too easily. He received much lower compensation than the other victims, 2500 euros. “In my case, they are getting away with a slap on the wrist”, he says. …

Bos feels humiliated because he showed the courage to remind the Salvation Army of his own past after all the alarming reports of abuse in the Catholic Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I wanted to break the silence”, he says. That is why he went to the leadership of the Salvation Army with his sister, also a victim, last year. ..

The organization did not consider actively warning about this or reporting these matters to the police. …

The letters to the Compensation Fund show that the two officers who committed the abuse were both transferred to other churches. …

In the nineteen seventies in Winschoten, Richard Bos was abused as a little boy by an officer. He keeps feeling dirty. “It is like taking a shower forever and not getting clean. I brush and scrub and polish and scrub, as if I always want to scrub my past away, but the history stays with me.”

Saudi beheading for opposing banning of music?


This 16 February 2018 video, in Arabic with English subtitles, says about itself:

Male-female interaction (free mixing) allowed in Islam (Shaykh Hasan ibn Farhan al-Maliki)

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Saudi Arabia wants to kill religious reformer for his ideas about Islam”

Human Rights Watch warns that the Saudi authorities want to impose the death penalty on a moderate religious thinker based on a series of vague indictments. The Islamic cleric has been detained since September 2017, according to the human rights organization because he is calling for reform of religious rules in Saudi Arabia.

This Hassan Farhan al-Maliki is said to have criticized, eg, clergy who ban music. He is said also have argued for freedom of religion. His opponents believe that his ideas are in conflict with Wahabism, the conservative tendency of Islam followed in Saudi Arabia.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi authorities call him an extremist who has insulted the rulers of the country.

“Does not match with statements of crown prince

The prosecution of the clergyman is not in line with the statements by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, human rights activists say. Bin Salman has said that he wants to introduce a more moderate version of Islam into Saudi Arabia and thus open up the country to the rest of the world.

“Reforms only really take place if thinkers like al-Maliki can express themselves freely without fear of being arrested or even executed“, says Human Rights Watch.

“Now the Saudi authorities want to put a man to death because he criticizes clergy who ban music. Meanwhile, Saudi leaders pay millions to public relations corporations to show how progressive they are by allowing concerts by western artists in Saudi Arabia.”

More criticism

International criticism has been made of the reform policy announced by the Saudi crown prince two years ago. Critics say that little has changed in practice and point to all the intellectuals and clerics who have been arrested since bin Salman said he wants to introduce a more moderate Islam.

Including jailing the women activists who made it possible for women to drive cars in torture prisons, threatening them with beheading.

The crown prince was also criticized for having been involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia still fighting the war in neighboring Yemen.

TRUMP DEFENDS ‘BIG BUYER’ SAUDI ARABIA President Donald Trump shrugged off his own government’s report that Saudi Arabian leadership ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, stressing that the Middle Eastern kingdom is a “big buyer” of U.S. products. [HuffPost]

Misogynistic Chilean bishop resigns


This 14 June 2019 video says about itself:

Chile bishop resigns after suggesting there is a reason the Last Supper had no women

A Chilean auxiliary bishop appointed by Pope Francis less than a month ago has resigned, just weeks after he made controversial comments about the lack of women in attendance at the Last Supper.

Carlos Eugenio Irarrazaval was appointed by the pope in an effort to rebuild the church’s credibility following a pervasive sex abuse scandal that exposed hundreds of allegations now being investigated by Chilean criminal prosecutors.

The archdiocese of Santiago did not specify the reasons for Irarrazaval’s departure in its statement, but said the pope had accepted the bishop’s resignation “in favour of unity and for the good of the church”.

The bishop’s short tenure began with a television interview in May, in which he said there were no women seated at the table at the Last Supper and that “we have to respect that”.

“Jesus Christ made decisions and they were not ideological … and we want to be faithful to Jesus Christ”, he said in reference to the lack of women in attendance. He also said that perhaps women “like to be in the back room”.

According to the Bible, the Last Supper was Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion, depicted in many famous works of art.

The comments sparked a backlash among women’s groups and critics of the church in Chile at a time when confidence in church leadership in the once staunchly Catholic nation has plummeted. Pope Francis earlier this year accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati as archbishop of Santiago, the highest-ranking member of the Catholic church in Chile, after he was caught up in the country’s sex abuse scandal.

The church’s credibility has been harmed in much of the world by abuse scandals in countries including Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States and Poland.

In Chile, prosecutors say they are investigating more than 150 cases of sexual abuse or cover-up involving more than 200 victims.

Irarrazaval will continue to serve the church as a pastor in Santiago, according to the Archdiocese of Santiago. Irarrazaval could not be immediately reached for comment.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Chilean auxiliary bishop quickly gone after insulting women

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the auxiliary bishop of the Chilean capital Santiago. Carlos Irarrázaval had only been in his job for 24 days, but soon got into trouble.

In a TV interview, the auxiliary bishop had said that there were no women at the Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles, and therefore there was no role for them in the church. It was supposedly a “non-ideological” choice by Jesus. The auxiliary bishop also said that women may “like to stay in the back room”. He had previously caused controversy by his remark that people should let bygones be bygones with regard to a major abuse scandal in the Chilean church.

Women’s organizations and critics of the Catholic Church responded indignantly to the comments by Irarrázaval. He now says he will leave to preserve the peace and unity of the Archdiocese of Santiago.

Irarrázaval had especially been appointed by the pope in an attempt to restore peace to the Chilean Catholic community, which was shocked last year by the news of large-scale abuse by priests. The Chilean Public Prosecution Service is conducting criminal investigations into more than 150 clerics who allegedly abused children or concealed such crimes.