Making a paganism from pop culture

Another level of New Age syncretism:  Going to a Star Wars filming location to await the Mayan apocalypse (scheduled for tomorrow) because “the force is strong here.”

At the center of the rebel base where Luke Skywalker took off to destroy the Death Star and save his people from the clutches of Darth Vader, Guatemala is preparing for another momentous event: the end of an age for the Maya.

Deep inside the Guatemalan rainforest stand the ruins of the Maya temples that George Lucas used to film the planet Yavin 4 in the movie “Star Wars,” from where Skywalker and his sidekick Han Solo launched their attack on the Galactic Empire’s giant space station.

This week, at sunrise on Friday, December 21, an era closes in the Maya Long Count calendar, an event that has been likened by different groups to the end of days, the start of a new, more spiritual age or a good reason to hang out at old Maya temples across Mexico and Central America.

“If it is the end of the world, hopefully Luke will come and blow up that Death Star,” said Alex Markovitz, a 24-year-old consultant and Star Wars fan from Philadelphia, looking out over the site of Skywalker’s rebel base. “I see why they shot here. It doesn’t look real. It looks like an alien planet.”

Once at the heart of a conquering civilization in its own right, the ancient city of Tikal is now a pilgrimage site for both hard-core Star Wars fans and enthusiasts of Maya culture eager to discover what exactly the modern interpretations of old lore portend.

In the 1960s, a leading U.S. scholar said the end of the Maya’s 13th bak’tun – an epoch lasting some 400 years – could signify an “Armageddon,” though many people trekking to the old temples believe it could herald something wonderful.

Discovered in 1848 when locals unearthed human skulls whose teeth were studded with jade jewels, Tikal draws tourists from around the globe. Visitors this week said they felt a powerful presence in the blue skies above them.

“The force is strong here,” said Jimena Teijeiro, 35, an Argentine-born self-help blogger. “The world as we know it is coming to an end. We are being propelled to a new age of light, synchronicity and simple wonderment with life.”

Maya scholars and astronomers have dismissed the idea the world is on the brink of destruction but mystics and spiritual thrill-seekers have flocked to feed off Tikal’s energy. Park guards said they had to throw out 13 naked women who were dancing and chanting around a fire pit near the temples last week.

“Something big is going to happen,” said the president of Guatemala’s Star Wars fan club, entrepreneur Ricardo Alejos. “The Maya were an incredibly precise people. Something big is going to happen and we’ll find out what in a few days.”

via Maya apocalypse and Star Wars collide in Guatemalan temple | Reuters.

The next paganism currently being constructed may well combine mysticism with pop culture, which has become our main medium of  thought and sensibility.

Apocalyptic madness

The Lutheran journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto has written a piece about the current apocalyptic mood and the religious weirdness this is inspiring.  You should read the whole article.  What struck me, though, was this account of some original reporting of his, in an interview with a leader of that Japanese cult that unleashed the sarin gas a few years ago.  Here is another kind of syncretism:

In Japan in the 1980s, a semi-blind charlatan by the name of Shoko Asahara founded a “neo-Buddhist” sect called Aum Shinri-Kyo. It recruited primarily graduates of leading universities and gained worldwide infamy by producing huge amounts of Kalashnikov rifles and developing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. In 1995, they set off a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system killing 12, injuring 54 and affecting thousands of others, a misdeed for which Asahara was sentenced to the gallows; he is now awaiting his execution.

What was that all about? In an interview one of his top lieutenants told me that it was the purpose of this crime to trigger World War III between Japan and the United States, which would result in the destruction of the universe. Why would a bunch of young scientists wish to do that? “Well,” he said, “the Lord Shiva has commanded us to give him a helping hand;” Shiva is the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. When he’s done, Brahma, the Creator, would be able to begin a new cycle of creation.

So here we had a “Buddhist” sectarians killing in behalf of a Hindu god, and to top the syncretistic madness, they explained this in Christian terminology. With his hands on a Bible, Asahara’s white-robed henchman informed me that he and his co-religionists were Christ’s soldiers in the Battle of Armageddon. But who was Christ to them? “An incarnation of Shiva, the god of destruction,” he said.

via The Tsunami and the Apocalypse – Article by Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.


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