17 JUNE 2004

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Madonna's involvement with the mystic religion Kabbalah continues to strengthen, with the megastar revealing that, inspired by its teachings, she would now like to be re-named Esther.

The name Esther is derived from the Persian name Satarah, meaning "star".

"I was named (Madonna) after my mother," she explains. "My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and I wanted to attach myself to another name. This is in no way a negation of who my mother is. I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name."

The singer's elucidations come in an interview with the US television channel ABC News, in which she finally talks about the religion she has espoused for some years now. She admits she used to bring a lot of chaos to people's lives by being selfish, but that now: "If it's traditional to be a decent human being, then I'm traditional."

Her husband Guy Ritchie had given his own views on Kabbalah a few days before, describing it as "simply an extension of the way most of us try to live our lives. It's just about being a decent person".

Guy admitted he'd had misgivings when introduced to Kabbalah by his wife, but that these were dispelled by talking to the founder of the Los Angeles Kabbalah centre, Rabbi Philip Berg. "I bombarded him with questions and lambasted his opinions," said Guy. "But I soon realised that he had this vast wealth of knowledge and scientific wisdom and he could answer any question I presented him with.

The religion, said to date back to the second century, is usually described as "Jewish mysticism", but Guy rejects that description. Its advocates say it offers a path to fulfilment based on spiritual and scientific laws of the universe.

The Ritchies carry their belief into all areas of their lives: Madonna wrote a top-selling children's book, The English Roses, inspired by what she'd learnt, saying, "It's a story about learning to appreciate what we have ourselves and not to be fixated on what other people have."

She also says in the upcoming TV interview, to be broadcast in the US on Friday, that her two children - Lourdes, who's seven, and three-year-old Rocco - are being taught good manners and how to clear up after themselves as part of the family's philosophy. "Gratitude, being grateful that is, that has to happen," explains the multi-millionairess.


Madonna, Guy and three-year-old Rocco emerge from the Kabbalah centre in Los Angeles. Guy admits he was cynical when introduced to the religion by his wife but has since embraced it. Kabbalah advocates say it offers a path to fulfilment based on spiritual and scientific laws of the universe
Photo: Rex
Click on photos to enlarge

The singer and her seven-year-old Lourdes - who appears to be wearing a red Kabbalah thread on her wrist - leave Gwyneth Paltrow's New York home this week
Photo: Rex

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