Jul 17, 2017


Meet the Makers of Motherpeace Tarot, the Feminist Deck That Inspired Dior’s Resort Collection

A skeleton, huddled in a fetal position, encircled by a molting snake decorates the opening look of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior Resort collection. Picked out in colorful threads at Dior’s Paris ateliers, the original image was drawn almost 40 years ago—it’s the Death card in the Motherpeace feminist tarot deck. An unlikely, inauspicious image for a fashion show, even one set in the wilds of the Santa Monica Mountains? Not according to Karen Vogel, who cocreated Motherpeace Tarot with Vicki Noble in the late ’70s. In fact, Chiuri’s choice of the Death card is downright uncanny. “It’s not necessarily about physical death,” says Vogel. “[It’s about] the beauty of the shedding of the skin that a snake does, that we can transform our lives. It’s about transformation and renewal that’s really beneficial.” An apter visual metaphor for Chiuri, who has set off on her own at Dior after working alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli for nearly three decades, is hard to conjure.

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Christian Dior himself knew from magic. He was a devotee of the tarot and is said to have had his cards read before each of his fashion shows. But the decks he used would have been distinctly different from Motherpeace with its strong female archetypes, more than half of whom are of color. Noble and Vogel researched the goddess-based cultures of indigenous peoples around the world to make their illustrations. “We put women back into history,” says Noble. They also made their deck round, changing not so much the structure of the tarot, but the form. Since they self-published in 1981 and hand-collated the first 5,000 decks, they’ve sold upwards of 300,000, but Motherpeace has remained fairly esoteric. Noble chalks that up to the usual resistance to feminist work, especially matriarchal feminism (which posits a pre-patriarchal gynocratic age marked by peace, not war). “We knew lots of women at Ms. Magazine who had cards in their desks, but the cards were never featured in the magazine because they’re offbeat.”

Nearly four decades later, the culture just might be catching up to Motherpeace. Beyond Chiuri and Dior, Vogel says she’s noticed a renewed interest in the deck. “Separately but related, I’ve been hearing people using the word patriarchy, when it used to be fringe terminology,” she says. “And there’s a renewed sense that it’s okay to be a feminist, for sure.” We just might be able to chalk that up to President Trump.

What a hunter-gatherer diet does to the body in just three days

Mounting evidence suggests that the richer and more diverse the community of microbes in your gut the lower your risk of disease. Diet is key to maintaining diversity and was strikingly demonstrated when an undergrad student went on a McDonald's diet for ten days and after just four days experienced a significant drop in the number of beneficial microbes.

Similar results have been demonstrated in a number of larger human and animal studies.

Your gut microbiome is a vast community of trillions of bacteria that has a major influence on your metabolism, immune system and mood. These bacteria and fungi inhabit every nook and cranny of your gastrointestinal tract, with most of this 1kg to 2kg "microbe organ" sited in your colon (the main bit of your large intestine).

We tend to see the biggest diet-related shifts in microbes in people who are unhealthy with a low-diversity unstable microbiome. What we didn't know is whether a healthy stable gut microbiome could be improved in just a few days. The chance to test this in an unusual way came when my colleague Jeff Leach invited me on a field trip to Tanzania, where he has been living and working among the Hadza, one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer groups in all of Africa.

Drinking more coffee leads to a longer life, two studies say

Greater consumption of coffee could lead to a longer life, according to two new studies published Monday.

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One study surveyed more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries, making it the largest study to date on coffee and mortality, and found that drinking more coffee could significantly lower a person's risk of mortality.

The second study was more novel, as it focused on non-white populations. After surveying over 185,000 African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites, the researchers found that coffee increases longevity across various races.

People who drank two to four cups a day had an 18% lower risk of death compared with people who did not drink coffee, according to the study. These findings are consistent with previous studies that had looked at majority white populations, said Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine, who led the study on nonwhite populations.

Pope’s Confidantes Pen Blistering Critique Of Steve Bannon’s View of Christianity

Two of Pope Francis’ close confidantes have published a scathing rebuke of how a certain strand of what they call religious “fundamentalism” has become fused with politics in America.

The Vatican-vetted article, published in the Rome-based Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica, calls out “evangelical fundamentalists” and explicitly mentions President Donald Trump, who identifies as a Presbyterian, and his adviser Steve Bannon, who identifies as Catholic.

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The article attacks the decades-old partnership between two strands of American Christianity ― fundamentalist evangelicals and Catholics who are brought together by the “same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.” Although these two groups differ on a number of theological issues, they have come together since the 1980s and 1990s over issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, according to the AP.

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One of the most worrisome aspects of this alliance for the pair is how it encourages hatred of different ethnicities and conflates Islam with terrorism. This view of the world stands in stark contrast to Pope Francis’ interfaith outreach and his repeated calls to build bridges, not walls.

Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science

A Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a Buddhist walk into a bar and order some magic mushrooms. It may sound like the first line of a bad joke, but this scenario is playing out in one of the first scientific investigations into the effects of psychedelic drugs on religious experience – albeit in a laboratory rather than a bar.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have enlisted two dozen religious leaders from a wide range of denominations, to participate in a study in which they will be given two powerful doses of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.

Dr William Richards, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland who is involved in the work, said: “With psilocybin these profound mystical experiences are quite common. It seemed like a no-brainer that they might be of interest, if not valuable, to clergy.”

The experiment, which is currently under way, aims to assess whether a transcendental experience makes the leaders more effective and confident in their work and how it alters their religious thinking.

House GOP Bill Would Allow Churches to Endorse Political Candidates

Churches should have the First Amendment right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans, who quietly tucked a provision into a sweeping spending bill that would deny the IRS money to enforce the 63-year-old law prohibiting such outright politicking from the pulpit.

Republicans repeatedly have failed to scrap the law preventing churches and other non-profits from backing candidates, so now they are trying to starve it. With little fanfare, a House Appropriations subcommittee added the IRS measure to a bill to fund the Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies.

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Some Democrats say the measure comes too close to mixing church and state. They say religious leaders already have First Amendment rights, just like anyone else. But if they want to get political, they don't have a constitutional right not to pay taxes.

Some also worry that the measure could upend the system of campaign financing by allowing churches to use their tax-free status to funnel money to political candidates.

Fukushima's Nuclear Waste Will Be Dumped Into the Ocean, Japanese Plant Owner Decides

Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), told foreign media that nearly 777,000 tons of water tainted with tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear process that is notoriously difficult to filter out of water, will be dumped into the Pacific Ocean as part of a multibillion-dollar recovery effort following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. That year, an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, killing over 15,000 people and leading to a series of meltdowns at the TEPCO-owned Fukushima No. 1, or Daiichi, nuclear power plant, causing it to spew radiation that has plagued the region ever since. While much progress has been made to clean the area, the company has only just resolved the debate over what to do with the water that was used to cool the plant's damaged reactors, causing it to become tainted with tritium.

"The decision has already been made," Kawamura said, according to The Japan Times.

"We could have decided much earlier, and that is TEPCO's responsibility," he added, according to Reuters.

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Tritium is relatively harmless to humans in small doses, and Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Agency Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told The Guardian last year that the tritium in Fukushima's tanks was "so weak in its radioactivity it won’t penetrate plastic wrapping." Dumping tritium-contaminated water into the sea is not at all an uncommon practice at nuclear power plants, but it's been met with opposition by local fishermen, who say their industry has suffered enough in the aftermath of the environmental crisis.

Shroud of Turin Has Blood of Torture Victim, Possibly Jesus Christ, New Research Discovers

Researchers in Italy analyzing the world-famous Shroud of Turn, which some believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, have discovered that the relic carries the blood of a torture victim.

Elvio Carlino, a researcher at the Institute of Crystallography, said last week in an article for Catholic News Agency that the small particles analyzed "have recorded a scenario of great suffering, whose victim was wrapped up in the funeral cloth."

The nanoparticles in question have a peculiar structure, size and distribution, which are not typical of the blood of a healthy person.

The particles showed high levels of substances called creatinine and ferritin, which are found in patients who have suffered multiple traumas like torture.

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The findings from the research were published on June 30 in the U.S. scientific journal PlosOne. The article is titled "New Biological Evidence from Atomic Resolution Studies on the Turin Shroud."

Ancient religious stones hiding secret message only visible at night

Archaeologists led by Dr. Andy Jones of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit found 105 engravings on an axe-shaped stone called a “quoit” which lies on Hendraburnick Down, near Davidstow.

The site appears to have been used during the late Neolithic era, which is regarded as the end of the Stone Age, as well as the early Bronze Age, around 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

It was used for strange rituals involving the “smashing” of quartz blocks

“During the field work it became apparent that the rock art was far more extensive than had first been thought, and that it was most evident when viewed in low sunlight from the southeast or by moonlight,” the academics wrote in the journal “Time and Mind.”

5,000-year-old 'House of the dead' discovered between Stonehenge and Avebury

A "House of the Dead" dating back more than 5,000 years could contain the remains of the ancestors of people who built Stonehenge, archaeologists believe.

A Neolithic long barrow burial mound at Cat's Brain, in Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire, is being excavated by the University of Reading in the first full investigation of such a monument in the county for half a century.

The long barrow, lies in the middle of a farmer's field halfway between the two major stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge, and its existence has been known for decades after a geological survey found the evidence of deep trenches.

The inner building, however, was thought to have been ploughed flat, and it was not until a drone was sent up recently that anyone knew part of it still survives.

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