Atheopaganism

An Earth-honoring religious path rooted in science

The Dimming Sabbath, 2022

After much struggle to find a worthy name for this cross-quarter holiday, I have borrowed a suggestion from a member of the Atheopagan Facebook group and gone with Dimming, with its corresponding Brightening in February.

“Dimming” says what this holiday is: yes, it’s summer, but the days aren’t so long now. Where I live, a long, wan late summer will persist well past Harvest (the autumnal equinox), though if we’re lucky we will get a rain storm in September or so.

Dimming is filled with meanings, both traditional and in my personal Atheopagan observances. It is the time of the first harvest festival, typically associated with harvests of grain and the various industries that go with grain such as baking and beer-making. So I consider what my “early harvests” are from the hopes and plans I dreamed up ‘way back at Brightening-time. Subsequent harvest festivals will follow at Harvest and Hallows.

Harvesting is a lot of work, and I associate this Sabbath, too, with work and creativity: technology, science, art, engineering. These aspects (mostly) of the modern era are often ignored in mainstream Paganism even though we all benefit by them; a failing I lay at the feet of modern Paganism’s largely unspoken “harkening back to Ye Goode Olde Days” prior to industrialization. I certainly need a time to recognize these critically important aspects of our modern life in my wheel of the year, and this is where I do it.

Finally, as I map my wheel of the year to the arc of a human life, this is the point of middle age: a time when many are achieving longterm goals, sending children out into the world, sitting at prominent positions in their careers. I celebrate the middle-aged members of my community at this time of year.

My first harvest this year is the sale of my book, Round We Dance: Joyous Living Around the Year and Throughout Life, to Llewellyn Worldwide publishers. This feels like an acknowledgement that non-theist Paganism is here to stay and is well represented by Atheopaganism. I’ve now written over 25,000 words with four months left to deliver a manuscript, so I feel I’m in good shape. The book will be a great complement to the first Atheopaganism book and will be chock-full of craft projects, ritual ideas, recipes and themes for celebrating the Sabbaths of the wheel of the year, rites of passage throughout life, and personal ritual practices. It will be a guide to starting or enhancing a thriving naturalistic spirituality.

We are also coming up on the tenth anniversary of the Atheopaganism Facebook group, which is when Atheopaganism first went from being a practice of a handful of us to a community. I’ll be posting a special report on how far we have come on that day, and I’m collecting short statements from Atheopagans on what Atheopaganism means to them for publication as well. Send yours to atheopagan@comcast.net!

I’m still seeking full-time work (shout out to my Patrons, who are so generously contributing to help Nemea and me stay afloat during the job search!), and have an interview for a wonderful job tomorrow that I am REALLY hoping to land. THAT would be a fantastic Harvest for the fall!

How about you? What are you harvesting and celebrating right now?

Into the Season of Harvest

We picked our tomatoes this week. They were all ripe and ready to go, so Nemea cut them off the plants and we have them in our kitchen now. Other than a basil plant we keep indoors, this is our harvest: grown in half wine-barrels, the tomatoes are fine varieties, rich and filled with flavor.

The light has become more oblique, now, and the days end more quickly. Summer’s Waning is long past and Harvest looms on the 20th. Though it’s 96 degrees F. (35.5 C.) outside, Autumn is coming. Autumn is here.

I can feel it in the land. After months of no rain, the brown hills creak and ache. We’re in a drought, and many of the creeks are dry beds. The oaks–tenaciously green despite it all–huddle in the ravines and wait, patient as an oak can be, for water to return to the sky.

It’s the time of year I think about plans I made back in February; about seeds I planted in March and tended in May. This year didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped, but whose has, honestly? This is a challenging time.

And yet.

Yet.

Yet despite all of this, the Earth is spilling forth food for us. The trees breathe oxygen into the wind for our lungs. A roof protects us from that blazing, life-giving Sun, and we live, day by day.

Harvest.

I look around our new place, the result of but one of the three existential crises that piled onto us in May, June, July. We had to move, and we found a place despite the terrible market, and it is good. The rich colors and textures of our accumulated treasures dot the main room, and our wedding broom, tied with dozens of colorful ribbons, hangs over the back door.

It’s home. More than the other place was, really. Home, and home’s comforts.

The days have begun to draw down and I reflect that this Harvest is the last before I will turn 60. In my wheel of the year, which follows not only growth cycles but human cycles, Harvest is the Sabbath of the elderly, of achievement. It is becoming my Sabbath, very soon.

There was woman, a songstress named Kate Wolf, who lived in my area and died too young. I saw her perform once, too young to appreciate what I was seeing. She wrote this, after she learned she had leukemia:

It’s an unfinished life that I find lies before me

An open-ended dream and I don’t want to wake.

I’ve crossed so many rivers in search of crystal fountains

I’ve found the truest paths always lead through mountains

I’ve seen water on the sky

And fire burning on the lake.

You said to me, “I cannot make you happy

Like a wounded bird

You must find the strength to fly.

Time may paint the treetops with colors of the rainbow

But you cannot find the end, no matter how you try.”

I think of this song now, and it seems to be a summing-up of things: of years, of struggle, of wisdom gained at terrible cost. We live in times when we must all face such monumental forces, and still glean the kernels of happiness, the moments of joy, or risk losing the point of this precious life we are given.

So, Harvest. I gather the rich fruits of friendship and love, the scant grains of money, the steady pulses of living this life moment by sensual moment, dripping with vanishing sweetness, and I remind myself that I am doing the best I can, that these gifts are not to be taken for granted.

May the table groan and the cornucopia overflow. May the juice and wine pour. May the fruits of labor be delivered.

May you and I and all humans arrive at a moment like this one, brimming with gratitude for the unlikely gift of this unfinished life.

Summer’s Waning

So I’ve finally settled on a name for the August Sabbath…or two of them, really, because I like “Dimming” quite a bit as well.

It’s not really “Summer’s End”–at least, not where I live–although I can still consider it the beginning of the autumn season. Hot days lay ahead, especially in September. But it is undoubtedly Summer’s Waning–the days are notably shorter than at Midsummer, and the sky has begun to find the hard blue of autumn.

Summer’s Waning is an elusive holiday, particularly since it has no Overcultural corollary. Defining what it means and how to celebrate it can be tricky. But here is what I have come up with thus far.

First, it is the First Harvest. It is the time when the grain comes in, and thus all things grain-related become seasonally appropriate: bread, beer, grain spirits. Where I live, the blackberries have become ripe and it’s time to go picking, to bake cobblers and pies. And gardens are spilling out tomatoes, peppers, squash and leafy greens.

As the First Harvest, it is also a time to celebrate Work. Just as Midsummer is a leisurely holiday of ease and relaxation, when harvest time comes it is all hands on deck to bring in the grain and growing things. So I celebrate work at this time of year: vocation, right livelihood, labor.

I also associate this time of year with technology and invention. Our earliest tools were food-gathering tools, and technology plays an enormous role in our lives now: lengthening lifespan, allowing instantaneous communication across the globe, exploration of space. Though Paganism remains rooted largely in a romanticized aesthetic of pre-industrial Europe, our world today is dominated by technology, and we should have a time to celebrate the feats of discovery and invention that have so improved our lives over the centuries. It’s a good time for backing up files, de-fragging the hard drive, and so forth.

Finally, as I map the arc of a human life onto the Wheel of the Year, Summer’s Waning equates to middle age, when the height of vigor has been passed but (hopefully) rewards have begun to be reaped in terms not only of comforts, but wisdom.

As such, given that I am middle-aged, and searching for work, it is of particular interest to me this year. I’m not sure what all the things are that I will do to celebrate it next weekend, but celebrate I shall for certain. Perhaps a ritual meal and invocation of work that is a good fit for me in the near future.

Summer’s Waning (or Lughnasadh, or Lammas, or Dimming) is traditionally celebrated at the beginning of August, but the actual midpoint between the solstice and equinox is around the 7th, so there is still plenty of time for you to plan your celebration. Bake some bread! It only takes two weeks to brew a batch of beer. Back up those desktop files you’ve been meaning to put away, and drink a toast to having work that sustains you (if you do).

Celebrate, knowing the long days are waning. Winter is on the horizon.

An Appreciation

It’s Summer’s End weekend—or Lammas, or Lughansadh, if you prefer—and we are busily baking bread and baking in our sweltering home.

I’ve written before about what this Sabbath means to me, but I’m putting together the final lesson of Atheopaganism U., and I have many feelings now that I thought I’d capture while they’re fresh.

First, I’m struck by how interesting, thoughtful, and committed to their own growth and process this first class of students has been. They come from wildly different backgrounds and circumstances, but all are explorers, curious, looking for how a spiritual practice consistent with their values can best integrate into their lives.

Secondly, this process has been really rewarding. I never meant to set myself up as a “teacher” and I’m really uncomfortable with that sort of framing—especially when I see so many self-described “Pagan teachers” out there huckstering like mad—but it feels more as though with Atheopaganism U., I have entered a shared journey with this cohort of people and we have explored ideas and practices together. I have learned much from them, and felt a warm sense of shared humanity as we moved forward through the course.

Ironically, I also feel grateful to Facebook, because it was their new “mentorship” function for groups that got me to thinking about how best to organize and communicate the material on the Atheopaganism blog: that led to my decision to create a class.

So I feel grateful today, as well as sweaty. What began as an experiment has resulted in new friendships, shared good times, and a vehicle for people who want to dive deeper into Atheopaganism to do so in a structured and supportive manner.

I thank each and every member of the Atheopaganism U. inaugural class, and all the readers and followers and Facebook group members who make up this kind and thoughtful community.

You folks rock!

 

 

 

Summer’s End—The Sabbath of Work

There were three Menne came out of the West
Their fortunes for to trye
And these three Menne made a solemn vow
John Barleycorne must die.

Welcome to the end of summer and the beginning of autumn!

…though it may not feel to be so where you live. Where I am it is HOT and going to be hotter for the next two months…but I can see in the coloring of early leaves and the hard blue of the sky that the Wheel is turning, that Autumn is coming on.

This holiday, titled Lammas by the Catholic Church and Lughnasadh by the Irish, Scottish and Manx people, has historically celebrated the first of the three harvests: the grain harvest. Barley and wheat and hay come in at this time, and it is an appropriate time for bread-baking, beer-making, and celebrating the various technical crafts and arts that humans have created from time immemorial, be they thousands of years old or simply modern, as the technologies that took us to the Moon.

For this, too, is an eternal anniversary of this season now.

Capture3

Here, in the season of golden grain, we sing songs about barley and wheat and their wonderful products, and think about what it might have been like to sing such songs with aching in our arms after scything and loading grain all day…

Summer’s End is a glorious time, a time for celebration of hard work and work well done, of the great artistry we bring to our toil, be it agricultural or technological, traditional or contemporary. A good time for celebrating the working people of the world as well as the inventors of the world, the innovators, the geniuses in matters great and small. It is a time for a great party after a hard day of labor–gardening, perhaps, or a beach cleanup. Options abound!

So bake that bread—Here is a recipe. Enjoy it warm, with honey and butter, and with a malt beverage. Feel the warm air of the season and drink a toast to dear old John Barleycorne…


And little Sir John in the nut brown bowl
And he’s Whiskeye in the glass
And little Sir John in the nut brown bowl
Proved the strongest Manne at last.
The Huntsman he cannot hunt the fox
Nor so proudly to blow his Horne
And the Tinker he can’t mend Kettle nor Potte
Without a little Barleycorne.

 

 

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