Friday, March 31, 2006

Witches as Wise Women: Power of Storytelling

As a teller of stories, I now find myself choosing more stories with witches in them. This is related to a fresher understanding that characters like Baba Yaga of Russian fairytales and the witch in Hansel and Gretel surprisingly point to the culmination of a lifetime of feminine knowledge and wisdom.

In many traditions, wise women and witches were healers -- equally wise and dangerous -- who were burnt at the stake not for their wickedness, but for their power, and for daring to use the gifts of know-ledge and wisdom.

Baba Yaga is often represented in images as comic as they are scary, which is why children both yell with laughter and shudder at her description. When we read between the lines we find that she is not evil, but certainly is frightening.

The witch in Hansel and Gretel dies, right? Well, she does and doesn't. Most versions of the story -- except for some sanitized ones that have little sense of the symbolic -- don't say 'she died'. Full Story

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The New Paganism

There is a new Paganism taking root around the world and it manifests itself as environmentalism or more explicitly, Pantheism, a doctrine identifying the Deity with the universe and its phenomena, Fundamentalist Environmentalism, if you will.

Pantheism is a metaphysical and religious position, it is the view that "God is everything and everything is God, the world is either identical with God or in some way a self-expression of his nature” Similarly, it is the view that everything that exists constitutes a "unity" and this all-inclusive unity is in some sense divine.

Dr. Michael S. Coffman President of Environmental Perspectives said: “Diametrically opposite to Christianity, Judaism and Islam pantheistic beliefs make no allowance for a one true God who created all things of nature. Instead, pantheism holds that all earth and all of nature is god, comprised of many gods and goddesses, all of whom demand total worship and obedience from every human. Failure to do so will evoke the wrath of these gods. Over the past 30 years, these pantheistic beliefs have gradually dominated the environmental policies of both the United States and the United Nations. And, they are interwoven into every environmental international treaty, especially the Convention on Biological Diversity.” Full Story

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Greeks Can Worship Ancient Greek Deities

Athens. Greek court allowed association of worshippers of ancient Greek deities to be set up, Radio Svoboda informs.

At the moment Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Athens, Hermes, etc. are being worshipped by 100,000 Greeks.

Until now Ministry of Culture banned them from conducting public worship at archeological sites and their gatherings were often secretive.

Greek Orthodox Church is severely criticizing worship of ancient deities.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Seven Sisters Bookstore Offers More Than Books

For Oxford residents and Miami University students accustomed to Barnes and Nobles and Borders, the Seven Sisters Bookstore is a throwback to the smaller quaint shops of the past with its own mystical flavor.

As opposed to selling conventional books and gourmet coffee, Seven Sisters specializes in a variety of products from the mundane to the extraordinary.

The bookstore and serenity center moved into the former Brew Pub building Nov. 15 and opened its doors to the Oxford community Jan. 22.

The store, which offers free wireless Internet, is also an alternative to other bookstores. It offers a variety of new age and metaphysical books as well as jewelry and soaps handcrafted by local residents.

"We try to encompass spirituality," Moon said. "I don’t want to say we’re just one thing because there's a lot more than just Pagan and Wicca." Full Story

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Wiccan Podcast

With a listening base of about 2,000, extending as far as Turkey and Australia, "Wicked Podcast" is really picking up speed. Sorcha (Adria Smith) and Storm (Richard Smith), a husband-and-wife team from Greensboro, created this Wiccan and Pagan podcast one year ago.

Each week they interview a slew of interesting people, including authors, witches, pagan musicians and even a pagan podcaster from Japan. The couple's appearance on the podcast scene has resulted in a pool of enchanted listeners. Full Story

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pagan Student Group Holding Spring Celebration

The Pagan Student Alliance is holding a spring celebration at noon Saturday at Pecan Park. Ostara, or the Spring Equinox, will be celebrated with free food, face painting, dancing and drums. The theme this year will be faeries.

Ostara celebrates the coming of Spring and focuses on renewal and rebirth.

“Many of the similar familiar to our culture are found in the Ostara rituals: bunnies, eggs and other fertility symbols are associated with the day,” Sara Croft, Amarillo senior and president of PSA, said. Full Story

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Friday, March 24, 2006

'Witch' Teacher Sparks Riot

Nelspruit - High-school pupils who accused a teacher of bewitching them ran riot on Tuesday after Mpumalanga education officials and the school governing body refused to dismiss her.

Police had to use teargas and fire rubber bullets to disperse rampaging pupils at Z B Kunene Senior Secondary School in KaNyamazane outside Nelspruit, and release teachers who had been held hostage in the staffroom.

"We received a call about a hostage situation at the school and when we arrived pupils started throwing stones at us," said Constable Floral Hlatshwayo of KaNyamazane police on Tuesday. Full Story

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Voodoo Magic May Be Stumped by Bird Flu

Along the back roads of Abomey, bird flu is more than just a public health hazard. It threatens a way of life that has survived for centuries: voodoo.

And despite chasing evil spirits, people here are at a loss as to how to counter the potential devastation of a deadly virus.

Abomey, once as famous as Timbuktu, is known for two things: the birthplace of the African slave trade and of voodoo.

Benin's king seems worried about the bird flu virus spreading across Africa and infecting birds in Benin, wedged between Nigeria and Togo in western Africa. "We're almost sure to catch it," Majesty King Behanzin II said in French.

"I hope a vaccine arrives quickly," he said, sitting in his palace, where the walls are said to be sealed with human blood. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Widow Mourns In Pagan Community

Roberta Stewart will return with her husband to the circle cast for their wedding ceremony almost two and a half years ago.

The six cords that bound the couple's hands together in the traditional Wiccan hand fasting ceremony are buried there in the Virginia Highlands.

It is where Stewart says she will scatter his remains.

"Our cords are buried up there so it's a very sacred spot to us," the Fernley resident said.

Stewart's husband, Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart, died on Sept. 25 when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan. Both were Wiccan before they met. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Witch’s Tale and Wonder in Hampton

The year was 1637, roughly 100 years before Ben Franklin stuck a key on a kite and made a shocking discovery. New England didn’t have streetlamps, iPods, or CNN.

Storytelling was popular, and mythsabounded.

The Pilgrim colony at Plymouth is 17 years old, and everyone seems to agree the region is one prime piece of real estate. About this time, William Cole may have been in his 50s, and his wife, Eunice (Goody was short for a term meaning "good wife"), may have been in her 30s.

No records indicate Goody actually may have injured someone. The only accusations against her seem to be that she was charged with slanderous speeches, and that she once lunged at her neighbor. She was probably very aware of her neighbors shouting heartwarming statements such as, "That witch is after my children! Full Story

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Out of This World

Before she died, at the age of 81 in 1944, the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint stipulated that her paintings were not to be shown in public for 20 years after her death. Perhaps she felt that the world was not yet ready for them. In some respects, the world never will be ready for the occult symbolism and spiritualist gibberish that her work was derived from, and from which she gained her inspiration.

Although the same peculiar beliefs attend the work of pioneering artists such as Mondrian, Kandinsky and Malevich, they never suggested, as did Af Klint, that their work was guided by an imaginary "leader in the spiritual world". For Af Klint, this was a certain Ananda, who in 1904 told her "she was to execute paintings on the astral plane".

By all accounts, Af Klint was a sober, well-balanced woman. Her art and beliefs, however, were extreme. Regarded as a clairvoyant from childhood, she was a medium and one of Sweden's first followers of the theosophical teachings of Madame Blavatsky, and later of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophic movement. Full Story

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Shamanism, Oldest Healing Tradition In The World

Few cultures in the world lack an indigenous tradition of faith healers. While in broad outline Nepalese shamanism has been influenced by Tibetan and Indian traditions, a great variety of local Himalayan forms have evolved, corresponding to the diverse ethnic groups in the country. These practitioners are more commonly known as “Jhankri” and “Dhami.” The term shaman is of Siberian origin, encompassing a tremendous variety of forms. Shamanism is a spiritual practice of ancient civilizations and cultures and is the oldest healing tradition in the world.

A shaman is a man (or, less commonly a woman) who mediates between this world and the supernatural realm of ghosts, demons, witches, ancestors, and the like. The shaman’s task is to restore the proper relationship between the two worlds when it has been upset, usually garbed in a long robe and a headdress of peacock feathers protected by straps or bells, ironmongery, and cowries and armed with a flat, double-sided frame drum. Full Story

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wiccans Wait For Symbol On Headstones

Roberta Stewart said her husband was known by his National Guard unit as a practicing Wiccan, someone who was proud of his faith and willing to share it with others.

When Sgt. Patrick Stewart was killed in a helicopter attack in Afghanistan, military personnel at his funeral helped mark off a memorial circle in red, white and blue tape. Friends from his Nevada unit spoke about how important both his service and his faith were in his life.

So when Stewart found out the family couldn’t put a Wiccan pentacle on her husband’s military gravestone, she was devastated.

Officials said while they are currently processing requests from two denominations for the Wiccan pentacle, or five-pointed star in a circle, so far no decision has been made.

That has irked some Wiccan groups, who say the department has been dragging its feet for years on recognizing their religion. Full Story

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Witches: Followers Of The Craft Speak Out

Witches are peaceful herbalists who live a private life, care for the Earth and all living creatures, and follow Paganism, which they view as the original religion.

The lifestyle of a modern witch has been explained by two Fenland followers of the Craft following a recent Citizen feature.

The article revealed efforts are being made, via a website, to bring witchcraft to Wisbech and it reflected on some of the legends surrounding Fenland witches in days gone by.

Now two 21st century witches in the area have contacted the Citizen to contradict myths. We are keeping their names and identities secret, at their request, to preserve their privacy, and we are calling them Hazel and Margaret. Full Story

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

From Baptist to Wiccan

It’s not easy being one of the only witches at Harvard, but then again, being a witch has never been easy for Quincy House resident Devon G. Castillo ’08. Converting to Wicca was challenging for Castillo, who was raised by conservative Southern Baptist grandparents.

Castillo, who always felt slightly out of place in church, disagreed with parts of the Christian faith and turned to Wicca, a neo-pagan, earth-centered religion.

“It was sort of wild [when I converted].” Castillo says. “My grandmother thought I was possessed.”

Conversion was difficult, but Castillo says it no longer divides him from his family. “At the same time though, I wouldn’t be like, ‘Hey grandma, wanna come to my full moon ritual?” he says. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Last Bastions Of Paganism Tell All

Christianity took a long time to get to Lithuania. It wasn’t officially adopted until the 14th century. And once it got here, it suffered quite a bit, and then again much later during the Soviet regime. But though it may be dominant, it still hasn’t fully replaced the belief system Lithuania started off with, as you can tell just by taking a look at Vilnius Romuva, a community of 30 self-identified pagans.

Romuva was founded in 1967 during a summer solstice festival. In 1992, shortly after re-independence, it was officially registered with the Ministry of Justice as a Baltic faith community.

“We are all pagan when we are born as all belong to the Earth,” says group leader Inija Trinkuniene, 54. “Paganism is the natural state of man.”

Paganism is a polytheistic religion, and as such, has, some would say, little in common with the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And as we all know, “pagan” (from a Latin word that means “village people”) has some serious derogatory connotations. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

1692 Salem Was Ripe For Witch Trials

Horizons Town Talk speaker Rose Earhart -- yes, she's related to aviator Amelia Earhart -- was painting an all-too-vivid picture of Salem, Mass., and its road to the famed witch trials of 1692.

"Living conditions were abominable in Salem," said Earhart, who has penned an acclaimed historical novel on the subject and who lives in an allegedly haunted house in Salem.

"It was cold eight to nine months of the year. Damp with rain or snow a lot of the time. Foggy or misty. Dark. And the homes were hutlike -- one or two rooms at most, with no windows because windows were only for rich people.

Amid groans from the audience, Earhart raised the angst a notch when she started to address the claustrophobic religious atmosphere of the Puritans.

"The biggest fear of a Puritan was that someone, somewhere, might be happy. If you were happy, you'd go to hell. And they believed that before you were born, either God or the Devil had claimed your soul." Full Story

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Truly Bewitching

Daughters, they say, are a reflection of their mother’s compassion, strength and energy. Very rarely would a consensus be achieved in the nature and nurture debate — when life sets out a journey so alike for each one of them.

Indeed, it is not just the mother-daughter relationship that bonds Ipsita Ray Chakraverti and her daughter Deepta, it is also the spirit bond of wicca.

Ipsita has already authored books like Sacred Evil and Beloved Witch. Deepta, a student of King’s College, London, and a practising lawyer in UK returned to her roots to answer her true calling.

However, she prefers to be called a wiccan first and a lawyer later. Deepta seeks to combine both, though. “People will come to me for magic in law.” Full Story

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Altared Spaces

Enrique Ugalde goes down on one knee and scoops up a precious necklace. It was given to him after he studied with a Huichol peyote shaman from Mexico — not an easy guest list to get on. Ugalde leans in and places it on the top level of his three-tiered altar.

A few minutes before, the altar was an old computer desk he found at the Goodwill bins for $10. First he covered the desk with a cloth he had lying around. Then he added a few glass-cased devotional candles and hid one of his surround-sound speakers underneath it. Sage smoke rises into the folds of the white parachute that covers his ceiling, and he gets to work.

Altars come in many forms: think of Abraham’s butcher’s block in the Old Testament, or the altar as bookshelf in modern synagogues and as kitchen table in Roman Catholic churches. Shrines to the dead sometimes resemble altars, while the “glory wall” —a collection of photos of the owner posing with celebrities or politicians — is a common way for people in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to express their power.

But if anything captures the uncommon spiritual practices of Portlanders it’s the home altar. Full Story

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Justices Reject Intervention In Wiccan Tax Case

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to let Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal organization that specializes in religious freedom cases, intervene in a Wiccan challenge to a tax exemption for Bibles, religious publications and ceremonial items.

The brief order offers no explanation. The Wiccan Religious Cooperative of Florida argued in papers filed with the high court that interventions are not permitted once a case gets past the trial court stage. Full Story

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Update: Wiccan Request Gains Support

The battalion commander in charge of the Nevada National Guard unit that lost Sgt. Patrick Stewart in Afghanistan in September said Thursday that he believes the Department of Veterans Affairs will act favorably on a request to allow a Wiccan religious symbol to be used for Stewart's memorial at the Fernley veterans cemetery.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Robert Harington also said he supports the efforts of Roberta Stewart, the widow of Patrick Stewart, to win approval to use the Wiccan symbol of a pentacle on her husband's memorial plaque.

Harington said he does not object to the use of the symbol -- a five-pointed star with one point facing up enclosed in a circle -- in a veterans cemetery.

"I don't think any American soldier would object," he said. "We have a mixing ground of American society in the armed forces. We have soldiers from every walk of life and every faith. We are all accepted in our community." Full Story

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

The "Akelarre" Or Witch Gathering

Witches, otherwise known as "sorginak" in Basque, are deeply embedded in Basque folklore. The world of Basque witchery goes back to very remote times; some women were dedicated to collecting wild herbs and berries to use the same for healing; they also worked as wizards, fortune-tellers and quacks.

Due to the fact that they were so well acquainted with herbs, they could also use the same to produce the contrary effect, provoking death due to unexplainable reasons at the time, when people thought that death had been caused by a spell. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fallen Guardsman's Wiccan Faith Unrecognized

Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart gave his life for his country when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan in September.

But those wishing to honor Stewart, who should have his name on the memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, 34 miles east of Reno, would have a difficult time doing so.

The space reserved for Stewart, right next to Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, his comrade from Sparks who also died in the attack as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, is vacant.

Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion -- and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward -- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's plaque is installed. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Which Witches Are Black And Which Are White?

A brooding full moon haunts the air as a figure clad in black hums through the air on a straw broomstick.

A pointy black hat billows in the wind as the figure circles in the air, landing on some unsuspecting child’s doorstep.

This scene is typically brought to mind when someone utters the word “witch”.

However, a new BBC Radio Cymru series, Ias Oer, is looking to bring reality to the mystery surrounding the lore.

Ias Oer presenter Catrin Fychan looks at how modern day witches are not the wicked witches from the big screen, but look no different from anyone else. Full Story

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Witchcraft Lawsuit Moves To County

The number of lawsuits in the Kane County courts that allege witchcraft at Delnor-Community Hospital has risen to four.

Shelley Standau, the former Woodstock resident who launched the allegations of witchcraft with a federal lawsuit in March 2005, has moved her lawsuit to Kane County. A federal court judge dismissed the case in late January for lack of jurisdiction.

Standau’s new lawsuit alleges the same claims of therapy involving tarot card use, sexual promiscuity and self-mutilation as in the former federal lawsuit. She is seeking an undefined amount of damages from the hospital and Leticia Libman, a St. Charles psychologist employed at the time by the hospital on its St. Charles medical campus off Route 25. Full Story

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Goddess Is My Co-Pilot

Entering author Karen Tate's apartment is like discovering an intact pyramid. On the walls, in curio cabinets — everywhere — are Egyptian artifacts and goddesses large and small, in headdresses and gold leaf. A 6-foot statue of Sekhmet sits guard in the entry (although Tate says the lion-headed goddess on the throne is temporary, soon to be moved to her garden in the desert).

As an advocate of goddess spirituality, Tate has traveled much of the world to visit places where figures from ancient mythology, such as Isis, Astarte, Artemis and Diana, were venerated. Much of her art was brought back from these trips.

Now she has written a book, "Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations," to help other seekers of the divine feminine to journey along those same paths.

Interest in the divine feminine has soared. Full Story

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Lore Of Witchcraft

Is there magic in a simple blancmange powder? The question is more suitable as the subject of a spoof and none-too-sober undergraduate debate than as a serious matter for the police and the Royal Court of Guernsey.

But the last trial for witchcraft in the island took place only about 90 years ago and centred around that very question. Amazingly, the prosecution was successful and secured the maximum prison sentence then available for such a 'crime'.

Early in the morning of 16 January 1914, PC Adams was called out to the harbor master's office in St Sampson's. A local woman, Mrs Houtin, had banged on the doors of the office 'in an agitated state', demanding police protection and sobbing with terror because 'a spell of witchcraft had been put on her' for non-payment of a £3 debt and unless she paid immediately, she had less than a week to live. Full Story

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Toil And Trouble, Let's Tax The Witch

Authorities in Romania are stirring up a witches' brew of trouble for wizards and warlocks, whose tax-free spells are costing the treasury millions of dollars a year in lost revenue.

Eyes of newts and toes of frogs are, according to Bucharest bureaucrats, now liable to WAT — Witches Added Tax.

In the land where vampirism, spells, hexes and curses are taken for granted by some — and where Bram Stoker set his Dracula novel — it is the taxman who has his fangs out for what is described as a "massive area" of black income. Full Story

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sacred Evil, By An 'Official Witch'

A horror movie sans ghosts and witches! Sounds uncommon, but 'Sacred Evil' by Ipsita Ray Chakraverti is all set for release across the country with a message.

Based on a story from the book "Sacred Evil- Encounters with the Unknown," by Ipsita herself, the film will focus on the art of witchcraft and seek to sensitise society to the plight of women in small towns and villages who are wrongly harassed.

Ipsita, who claims to be India's "first official witch", hopes the film will bring the issue out into the public domain and dispel myths about the "much abused" witchcraft or 'dakini vaidya' as it is known in India. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Tree Of Life, The Sun, The Goddess

The best folk art brings the lore of our Neolithic ancestors to life, uncovering hints of ancient knowledge that is often hidden before our very eyes. A new exhibition in Manhattan’s East Village, a beautiful and intellectually engaging show, is the kind of undertaking that could change the way you look at folk art forever.

"The Tree of Life, the Sun, the Goddess: Symbolic Motifs in Ukrainian Folk Art," now at the new Ukrainian Museum, taught me how to "read" a bride’s costume. It allowed me to see symbols that evolved from at least as far back as the Linear and Trypillian cultures from 6000-3000 BCE.

The bride’s wraparound skirt seemed at first to be covered in flowers, but they are really sun symbols. Her shirt’s white-on-white embroidery is covered in tree-of-life motifs and climbing vines, a variant of the same symbol. Her sash has a tree of life that sprouts, transforming itself into a goddess motif, while a smaller horizontal band of quadripartite sun symbols marches across another part of the sash. While these symbols relate to fertility and protection, the coral beads were added to ward off evil.

All these pagan symbols reside in textiles and ornaments dating from the late 19th to early 20th century from a country that was converted to Christianity in 988 CE. Full Story

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