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Burned as a Witch in Ireland in 1895

From Frazer’s Golden Bough:

In March 1895 a peasant named Michael Cleary, residing at Ballyvadlea, a remote and lonely district in the county of Tipperary, burned his wife Bridget Cleary alive over a slow fire on the kitchen hearth in the presence of and with the active assistance of some neighbours, including the woman’s own father and several of her cousins. 238 more words


Joseph Campbell's Hero Sets Out

A piece of the beginning and end of The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

Whether we listen with aloof amusement to the dreamlike mumbo jumbo of some red-eyed witch doctor of the Congo, or read with cultivated rapture thin translations from the sonnets of the mystic Lao-tse; now and again crack the hard nutshell of an argument of Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairy tale: it will always be the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story that we find, together with a challengingly persistent suggestion of a more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told. 431 more words


Kiyozawa Manshi Chooses the Buddha

From the Japanese Shin Buddhist Kiyozawa Manshi’s “My Faith,” written five days before his death, in 1903:

study finally led me to the conclusion that human life is incomprehensible. 207 more words


What Scientology Tells Us About How Religions Begin

Lawrence Wright’s recent book on the history of Scientology is an immensely important document for studying how religions begin. While much of it fills the reader with the amusement or horror of a colossal fraud—and a fraud which consciously sought out the money and influence of celebrities—Wright is also honest enough to include sections like the following, where he summarizes a Franciscan friar who has testified in court on behalf of Scientology. 1,194 more words


"One day the Gestapo hanged a child": God on Trial at Auschwitz

The oldest book about religion on my shelves is Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. The note inside still says that I read it in the fall of 1996, just after I turned seventeen. 466 more words


Understanding Religion

I’d been interested in religion and mythology long before 2004, when I first read this opening page of Mircea Eliade’s History of Religious Ideas. But from that day until now I have still not come across so brief and powerful a statement about why the study of religion is important, whether for scholars or believers, or for those who are both. 288 more words


A Twelfth Century Love Letter: Heloise Remembers Abelard

An amazing passage from a letter of Heloise to Abelard, those twelfth-century lovers who ended up in a nunnery and a monastery after their affair was discovered. 363 more words