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Religiomagical Syncretism and Co-option

To: alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.misc,alt.pagan,alt.pagan.magick,alt.lucky.w
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Religiomagical Syncretism and Co-option (was "Hoodoo Chruches"...)
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 01:12:21 GMT

nagasiva yronwode wrote:
> 50001013 Vom Happy Lunatix! Friday the 13th
> blackman99:
> >>>> are there 'hoodoo churches' that integrate the Devil and
> >>>> the saints and Jesus and Mary and Jehovah and Buddha and
> >>>> the magic as part of a religiomagial whole? this is more
> >>>> of what I imagine to be my OWN framework (exceedingly
> >>>> syncretic and inclusive, both of religion and magic, the
> >>>> 'bad guys' and the 'good guys' -- so called -- from all
> >>>> those religiomagical cultures which I favour).
> >>>>
> >>>> I didn't ever get the impression such churches existed.
> sri catyananda :
> >>> No, actually, "Hoodoo Chruches," as you call them, are pretty
> >>> well known.
> apparently so, though not which include the Devil and the Buddha
> and magic as overt theological and cosmological elements. there
> seems to be an iconographic syncretism going on, as well as
> concealed magical practices outside overt religious ritual.
> blackman99:
> >> ...I'm still dubious that any (even nominally) Christian church
> >> would so integrate the Devil as part of its 'Good Guys' or 'people
> >> with whom to make contracts'.
> sri catyananda :
> > Perhaps you are asking for more syncretism than i offered.
> I expected so, yes.
> > The idea that i was trying to put across was that certain Christian
> > churches (Spiritualist churches, in this case) integrate figures not
> > normally associated with Christianity into their pantheon. In the case of
> > Blackhawk, the Indian warrior, there are even praise-songs for him and
> > special feast days.
> this makes a good deal of sense, yes.
> > I did not, however, say that these churches integrate the devil
> > into worship services.
> nor did I. but I was wondering how your characterization of Christians
> summoning the Devil at the crossroads fits within their religious
> practices, whether it is overtly recognized as a religious ritual
> within the hoodoo church, 

If by "the hoodoo church" you mean Spiritualist churches, i don't think
that summoning the Devil at the crossroads would be part of the worship
services. However, please see Hyatt's 1930s interview with the man in
New Orleans who described a religious meeting during which people
"chose  Lucifer" and ate a ceremonial meal of rice, tomatoes, and
raisins which he called gris-gris. 

> how the Devil is characterized by these
> people, etc. 

Variously as a teacher, friend, scary bad guy, trickster, bargainer,etc.
Not usually as "ultimate evil" in the Fundamentalist Christian sense so
popular today. 

> this is a continuation of your characterization of the
> meeting with the crossroads deity/being as a religious rite as part of
> a whole religious tradition.

Yes, i understand, but this is not a matter of "if it's done in a church
building it is religious and if it is not done in a church building it
is not religious." Even everyday Catholics who light candles at home
would tell you that the church BUILDING is not what makes a rite

Speaking of Mexican Cathoic amulets containing Buddha images, you write:

> when you say they 'incorporate Buddha', then I start wondering how
> much?, what parts of the Buddha?, which Buddha?! etc.

As i explained, all of the Mexican Catholic artifacts containing Buddha
in my collection depict the seated, obese Big Eared Buddha who is one of
the Seven Luck Gods and is in turn derived from the Chinese Hotei
Buddha, who is in turn derived from the Chinese wealth god Hotei, patron
of the rice harvest. ("Big Ears" in Japanese is apparently a pun meaning
"fortunate," hence in Japanese iconography this Buddha has extended ear
lobes that hang down to his shoulders.)

The Seven Luck Gods of Japan are

HOTEI: the "fat" or "laughing" who personifies mirth and merriment.
BISHAMONTEN: the watchman
FUKUROKUJU: the god of longevity
JUROJIN: the god of scholarship
DAIKOKU: the god of nutrition
EBISU: the god of fishing
BENZAITEN: the goddess of music.

(Note that Fukurokuju is the Japanese form of the Chinese star-god of
longevity, the one with the big, bald head.) 

> > A sidelight to these Mexican syntheses, by the way, is that the 
> > Buddha shown in Mexican Catholic devotionary artifacts is invariably 
> > the already-syncretic Japanese form of the Buddha that derives from 
> > the Chinese wealth god Hotei. :-)
> is Ho Tei considered an historical Buddha by some Buddhists?

I often heard the Chinese version of this figure referred to as "Hotei
Buddha" by Chinese American shopkeepers in San Francisco in my youth,
from the 1950s onward, much as they would have described a different
figure as "Amitaba Buddha" -- that is, seemingly as a real Buddha. In
fact, you and i heard the Taiwanese folks at the Sebastopol flea market
say the same thing. I asked, "Who is he?" pointing to a Chinese Hotei
with money and a rice bag and the woman said, "Buddha." You asked,
"Isn't he called Hotei?" And she said, "Yes, Hotei Buddha, lucky
Buddha." Whether this conflated name is also common in Japan, i have no
idea. (The reason i mention Japan is that the Mexican figures we are
discussing here are not actually Chinese Hotei Buddha iamges, but rather
the so-called Big Eared Biuddha of Japan.)

> if so, do you happen to know which and when this began?

Not a clue. 

cat yronwode 

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