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Osogbo: Speaking to the Spirits of Misfortune

Ocha'ni Lele. Inner Traditions/Destiny, $16.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-62055-098-4

Packed with personal stories and traditional tales, the latest offering on practices of the Afro-Caribbean Lucumi religion by accomplished author Lele (Sacrificial Ceremonies of Santeria) examines the role of osogbo, or misfortune, in human lives. Students of Yoruba culture, Lucumi cosmology, and Santerian practices will find a rich selection of over forty sacred pataki stories that illustrate the power of misfortune to not only break things down, but also build things back up again, perhaps better than before. Lele also studies this process of spiritual evolution in his own life, as he faces the Stage IV cancer diagnosis of his beloved goddaughter Rebecca. Lele doesn't leave the stories to speak for themselves, but gathers them together under the Lucumi ontology, which he spells out with precision and care. Newcomers to the Lucumi vocabulary may find the material challenging at times—Lele elaborates on 256 spirits in the odu of the diloggun (divination patterns), for instance—but he always provides explanations and definitions, including an excellent glossary, that make the work accessible to all. (May )

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

Marcus J. Borg. HarperOne, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-226997-3

Because "context matters," religion scholar Borg (The Heart of Christianity) reviews the itinerary of his spiritual journey toward his life's convictions. An expert on the historical Jesus who has written 14 books (including a fine novel), Borg bases his biblical exegeses in scripture, reason and tradition; another three-legged stool—memories, conversations, and convictions—shapes this forthright book. He explores how he came to his opinions, from boy to man to elder of 70, beginning with his birth in Minnesota to conservative, Republican, Lutheran parents in a mixed marriage (his mother was descended from Norwegians; his father, Swedes). He became a scholar, a liberal Episcopalian in Oregon, the husband of a priest. He intertwines his considerable knowledge of the Bible and of Christianity with exploration of his life at lectern and in pulpit. He writes honestly and clearly, defining as he goes, always educating. He does not shy from laying out controversies among contemporary Christians, especially progressives v. conservatives, and he analyzes Jesus, the Bible, and the Cross. He closes with wonder: "Imagine that Christianity is about loving God." (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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