Savoring Cicadas, for a Good Cause

Who says cicadas aren't good for anything? Certainly not Occoquan Bible Church, which raised $3,200 for its building fund in a cicada-eating marathon at the church's Memorial Day picnic.

Six volunteers, ages 14 to 45, downed 150 cicadas cooked in various styles and flavorings -- sauteed, breaded and chocolate-dipped. For each bug eaten at Cicada Fest, munchers received $1 or more from friends, family and co-workers who had signed up as sponsors.

In the pastor's challenge, a special category, Senior Minister Kyle Austin secured an additional $1,000 in pledges when he ate a live cicada, declaring it "crunchy but tasteless." Associate Pastor David Snittger raised $500 when he swallowed a chocolate-covered one that he described as "squishy."

Matthew Davis, 17, ate the most bugs of anyone -- 50. Event mastermind Brad Silver came in second with 40. Proceeds go toward a $2 million sanctuary, for which the nine-year-old congregation hopes to break ground in September.

Orthodox Jews in a Tangle Over Wigs

The Jewish Orthodox code of modesty requires married women to cover their hair in public, and many do so with human-hair wigs that can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Last month, a leading Israeli rabbi created worldwide turmoil by prohibiting women from using wigs made of hair from India, pending an investigation. Orthodox wigmakers prize Indian hair for its rich texture, but Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv said he was worried that the hair had been cut as an offering to Hindu gods, which would make the use of such hair idolatrous and anathema under Jewish law.

Rabbinic authorities from Israel and the United States have been dispatched to India to investigate whether Hindu women who participate in ritualized hair-cutting do so as part of a religious ceremony. Orthodox women, meanwhile, have appealed to their rabbis for guidance and hurried to find "kosher" wigs or begun wearing scarves or other hair coverings.

Yaffa Wigs in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of the largest suppliers, has been "inundated with calls" and has sold out its synthetic alternatives, manager Leah Schwartzberg told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Everybody wants synthetics" just to be safe, she said, and retailers "are begging us" for them.

Christians Most Avid Lottery Players

Who is more likely to buy a lottery ticket, a Christian or a non-Christian?

"Christian" is the correct answer, according to a study of the relationship between faith and lifestyles by the Barna Group, a California-based evangelical research organization.

In a survey of 1,002 adults released last month, researchers found that 15 percent of born-again Christians -- those who have made a public profession of Jesus as their savior -- and 23 percent of other Christians bought lottery tickets in a typical week. That compared with 10 percent of adherents of non-Christian faiths and 12 percent of atheists and agnostics.

New Medium for Ancient Message

One of the oldest mendicant orders of Catholicism is making its spirituality more accessible on the Internet, including the use of MP3s to provide examples of its music.

The Augustinians of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, which covers the East Coast of the United States, have added other features to their Web site as well, including a chat area ("weblog") for online discussions, prayers in English and Spanish and a complete book of Augustinian saints -- including Augustine of Hippo, the 4th-century church father for whom the order is named.

"We wanted to give people the opportunity not only to discover but to experience Augustinian spirituality online," said Michael Dolan, communications director for the province, whose priests and brother members often serve parishes and schools and have missions in Peru, South Africa and Japan.

To view the site, go to


This month's spotlight: National Aboriginal Day, Canada.

Date: June 21.

Description: This day honors the aboriginal peoples of North America -- the Inuit, the Metis and the more than 600 groups across Canada known as the First Nations. Churches began recognizing aboriginal contributions to Canadian life and culture more than 30 years ago by introducing a day of prayer at the summer solstice, a sacred day for many aboriginal people. In 1996, Canada's governor general proclaimed June 21 a holiday, and since that time National Aboriginal Day has grown in popularity.

More information: and

Religion 101

Why do I see references to "Buddhas" rather than the Buddha? I thought there was just one.

Buddha is not a personal name but a term that refers to anyone who has achieved enlightenment, or nirvana. Siddhartha Gautama, the prince who discovered life's truths under a Bodhi tree 2,500 years ago and for whom Buddhism was named, was not the first Buddha, nor will he be the last, according to Buddhist belief. He is, however, the only Buddha of the current historic era, which could last millions of years.

Have a question on religious traditions or practices? Send an e-mail to

-- Compiled by Bill Broadway

Saturday in Religion: A new look and a new sound at a historic church near Rock Creek Park.