Hail, the Magnificent Sun!

These are the kindest and best of days. The evenings grow long, the air is mild. Here where I live, anyway, life is good.

For our ancestors, too, these were good days. Planting and early tending of crops were over. Early lambs and hunting of spring animals were abundant. After the long, anxious wait of winter, this was a time to enjoy life.

The energy of Midsummer night is a long-understood atmosphere in Western culture. It means air warm enough for all-night goings-on outdoors. It means woods and meadows and moon-dappled hilltops. Nights for mystical and amorous adventures!

Wherever you live, I suspect you know what I mean. The long, lovely evenings.

At noon on the longest day is the time to salute the Sun, whose energy drives Life on planet Earth.  Among my observances, I harvest long stalks of dry wild rye to bind into my Sun-broom, a ritual tool with which I spread (metaphorical) Light throughout the year…pretty handy to have in December, when the dark of the year brings gloom into the house before the candles and lights of Yule. And I lay a couple of bright crystals* in the sun to warm and catch the light, to carry the light of the Sun on my Focus (altar) throughout the year.

Ritually, I find this is a great time of year for a feast with friends, enjoying the rich bounty of early fruits and vegetables. If circumstances permit and fog doesn’t come in from the coast…naked feasting! Perhaps some drumming and/or dancing first. A time to feel that delicious air on our skins.

I’m only starting to plan a Midsummer celebration with a couple of friends, but all of this is on the table.

All hail the glorious Sun!

 

 

*Given the destructiveness of mineral mining, I will no longer buy mineral specimens. But I have a few quartz crystals I’ve accumulated over the years, and I use these. If you don’t have any, I encourage you instead to use glass bottles of water to capture “sun water” for ritual use, rather as I do with the moon.

 

What About Those Who Insist Their Gods Are Real? A Policy Statement.

Though I generally try to avoid engaging with them, there are those in the broader Pagan community who are quite adamant that their gods are real and that anyone who doesn’t think so isn’t a Pagan. Some of them feel the need to rail at people like Atheopagans and call for our expulsion from Pagan community. So I thought I would spell out my exact orientation to such folk, so my position is clear.

Primarily, my inclination is to ignore them. They’re wrong, but they’re entitled to their opinions. If their beliefs make them happy, great. Though given the sour and caustic tone of some of them, there is reason to doubt this is the case.

I don’t care that other Pagans believe in gods. They’re welcome to do so, in my book, even though I believe that is in the process of dying out.

When it comes to the bigotry factor, however—the suggestion that there is something wrong with us because of what we believe and practice, or that it’s “not a real religion”— I will stick up strongly for our rights both to what we do and believe and to belong in both Pagan and atheistic communities. My only reason for engagement with strident god-believers who refuse to live and let live is in insisting that mine is a religion as well, and I have a right both to call it one and to a place in community. I have never argued that they have no place there, and this is a fundamental difference in values between us: inclusivity vs. exclusivity on the basis of cosmology and/or praxis.

I do not feel the need to try to establish that at some level, we are all talking about the same thing using different labels. We aren’t. We have a fundamental cosmological disagreement. “Real” for purposes of my writing means “existing in some sense external to the mind”. The memory of my mother, therefore, is not “real”, while, when she was alive, my mother was real.

Rocks are real. Gods are not. So the evidence suggests, and so I believe.

Do ideas “exist” in some sense? Well, certainly. But certain ideas are not privileged with “reality” more than any others. Zeus has exactly the same amount of real existence as does Wilbur the Pig or Gandalf. They are memes, not things or persons.

There are those who disagree with these ideas and will be angered to read them. My suggestion for them is simple: go away. Read something else. I don’t write this blog for you; I write it for those of largely similar views, so that together, we can develop and explore our Atheopagan spirituality.

I hope this clarifies where I stand.

Community Doesn’t Just Build Itself

So, there was a blogosphere dustup about whether Paganism is “dying”, complete with defensive denials, gross oversimplifications, and quite a bit of ridicule all around.

All of which rather missed the point, in my opinion.

My guess is that—in developed nations, anyway— if you looked at any subculture not made up exclusively of the young, you’d find numbers dwindling. Populations are graying, and that means that many kinds of communities are shrinking.

And make no mistake about it: the American Pagan community is indeed getting older, on average, judging from what I see at Pantheacon. It seems that many second-generation Pagans, while they may enjoy being a part of the community, are less interested in actually practicing Paganism. As one such twenty-something said to me, “rituals aren’t really my thing.”

Is this a basis for panic?

Not in the least.

Demographic changes are driven by mathematical forces. Populations of particular groups will swell and ebb, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Young people will make their own choices. Perhaps as they grow older, they will come to find renewed value in observances and rituals…when they have their own children, perhaps.

We can’t do anything about that. All we can do is wait, and find out.

So if we want to be in Atheopagan community, we need to build it around ourselves.

Where I live, there are a reasonably large number of Pagans. An hour’s drive away, there are a lot of them. I know this isn’t true everywhere, but it doesn’t matter.

Generally speaking, we all have friends. We have people we wish to share in community with. For the most part, people enjoy social gatherings and occasions, and even if they aren’t Pagans, even if they aren’t atheists, they may well still find value in celebration of the beginning of autumn, or of the longest day of the year. A delicious dinner with a short ceremony beforehand may be just the thing to draw your circle of friends closer together, to build community.

Atheopagan ceremony has certain advantages in this regard: you’re not asking people to “believe something weird”. You’re not expecting them to invoke goddesses and gods or to pretend that they are doing magic. You’re just taking a moment to settle in and become present, to acknowledge the qualities you’d like to infuse the moment, to sing a song, perhaps, or light candles, or do some other symbolic act that represents the meaning of the season, and then expressing gratitude and closing.

Such events can bring groups of friends closer together. They can develop and strengthen true community. It’s can be a slow process, but incredibly worthwhile.

Community doesn’t build itself. And I think a lot of Pagans have been cruising along in their circles of like-minded friends and family, not making much effort towards building it.

Whether you’re new to this or a longtime practitioner, I encourage you to do your part.

We can’t do anything but useless hand-wringing or head-in-the-sand denial over whether Paganism is growing or shrinking. But we can build Atheopagan community—whether it calls itself that or not—and make our lives richer, and the world a better place.

So let’s get to it, shall we?