Living in a Sacred World

Nature is magnificent.

Daily, we have sunsets and sunrises, trees and birds and all sorts of magnificent creatures. Frequently, we have new-burgeoning crescent Moons or full Moons or waning, deep-into-the-night Moons, casting their silver magic across the land.

Rarely, we have sundogs and auroras and eclipses and comets.

Experientially, we have mountaintops and forest walks. We have riversong. We have ocean waves and orgasms and the soft, warm glow of a hallucinogen coming on. We have the sweat of exertion and the exultation of dance, the thrill of skin on skin.

We have seasonal rituals and rich, alive moments of intimacy.

We have love and connection and deep conversation, and all the complicated joys they can bring us.

And of course, we have the works of humanity: art, culture, architecture, song, poetry.

We live in a Sacred world.

This is such a simple thing. And yet the overculture, obsessed with an imaginary World Beyond, completely misses this simple, essential point. We have not learned to embrace it. We have not learned to take the time to savor what it means simply to be alive.

We are blessed with the gift of Life on this beautiful, exquisite planet. We must respond with cherishing of all that it offers.

As Atheopagans, we walk the Earth with appreciation and caring. We know ourselves both as stewards and stewarded, both offspring and caretaker. We know we are magic, rich with our individual gifts and talents.

And we see that magic in one another. We know that other people are full of extraordinary and unique gifts. That even some of the most damaged and suffering people have beauty inside them.

Re-sacralizing the world can be challenging. Cities are sacred, too: they are often the least environmentally damaging way to accommodate millions of people. And they are hotbeds of culture, innovation, art and science.

We must learn to look at our world through a lens of love. A lens that only sees the profane when it sees cruelty, injustice, and unwarranted violence.

We pray to no listener, pray for ourselves to hear:

Praise to the wide spinning World. Praise to Space, and Time, and to all the wonders of the Cosmos. May all be honored, all be sung, all be loved.

So be it!

 

 

The Atheopagan Suntree and Its Meanings

In summer of 2018, the Atheopagan community went through a process of selecting a symbol for our path. Many designs were submitted, and after several rounds of voting, we settled on this: the Suntree.

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I’ve been wearing a Suntree now since last August—the very first example of the beautiful laser-cut wooden versions created by community member James Morganstern (which you can still order, if you’re of a mind). I get compliments on it often–it’s a friendly design, apparently, and I’m not the only one to think so.

I’ve found new meanings in the Suntree since we chose it–happy coincidences, if you will, or apophenia (seeing meaningful patterns where they were never intended, which is a major perceptual foible of our human brains).

But they make me happy, and I thought I’d share them.

First, there is the green tree of the Earth and the golden rays of the Sun: the two most significant presences in our lives. I love that our symbol embodies the Sacred Earth and Cosmos, the Great Below and the Great Above.

Next, there are the numbers. The Sun has eight rays which equate to the eight Sabbaths of the Wheel of the Year. And when you add the five branches of the tree, you get 13: the number of Atheopagan Principles!

Of course, all of this is just pattern-projection onto a symbol for which few, if any of these meanings were originally intended. But that doesn’t make the symbol any less meaningful for me. In fact, it kind of tickles me that the very phenomenon that leads people to believe in supernatural phenomena helps me to see meaning in our symbol.

I found it heartwarming to see so many people wearing Suntree buttons at Pantheacon last year, to smile in the hallways at each other, even if we didn’t recognize one another otherwise.

Small as we are, we’re a community and an identity, and we have a symbol that captures much of what we’re about.

That makes me smile.

 

 

In Which I Have Nothing of Value to Say

As I have noted previously, I am a white guy. Really, really white. 23andme.com tells me that I am 99.4% northwestern European in derivation. I get that this limits my perspective in a variety of ways, and so the following may be of no value other than for the questions.

I lead with this acknowledgement because often, the perspective of (straight, cis-gender) white guys is considered the “baseline” from which all other perspectives are variations. And that’s just nonsense.

It isn’t logical and it isn’t moral. Even in Anglophone countries, those people aren’t even in the majority; it makes zero sense that their views should be considered the norm.

Recently, we had a bit of a dustup in the Atheopaganism Facebook group, in which one (white, male) person exhibited a lot of cluelessness about the nature of racism (protesting about “racism against white people”), which he fortunately later copped to and expressed openness to learning more about, and another (white, male) person expressed an actual profession of racism.

The former was suspended for 24 hours to think about what he had said. The latter was simply banned immediately.

We do not roll with that shit at all.

We don’t have many people of color (as we label such folk in the U.S.) in the Atheopaganism group. Some, but not a lot. And this reflects what I see in both the Pagan and atheist communities: lots and lots of white people, and not much else.

And I wonder: why?

There is a ton of conventional wisdom on this topic: suggestions that atheist circles don’t contain many people of color because churches have often been key organizing principles in their communities.

But that seems to be changing, and fast. Though Black Millennials are less religious than in previous generations, for example, they are still the most religious subgroup of Millennials. And some of those who have left Christianity have gone directly into a non-Euro-centered witchcraft rooted in their ancestral heritage.

So: is it just that some people of color* who are leaving mainstream religions but pursuing other paths are avoiding Pagan circles because they are creating their own, non-Euro-dominated circles?

Maybe.

But what about atheism? I was at the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference last November and it was white as a pile of Richard Spencer’s tendons, preferably carefully rendered from his body in as painful a manner as possible.

What about the PoC who are leaving mainstream religions and becoming “nones“? Why aren’t they joining atheistic groups and communities much?

Could it simply be that they don’t find a big crowd of white people to be a go-to choice for where they want to explore their spirituality?

Or could it be that there is a Euro-centric subtext to the culture and operation of such spaces–including the Atheopaganism Facebook group–that they find off-putting?

Or both?

I. Don’t. Know.

I can see merit in any of these theories.

What I do know is that I love my PoC friends, some of whom are Atheopagans. And it would be great, in my view, to have the perspective of a more diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities inform our conversations and the unfolding of our constellated religious paths.

So…what can we do to invite and encourage that?

I do what I can to be as ardently and visibly anti-bigotry as I can in our community. It seems to work in relation to LGBTQ folk, of whom we have many.

Not so much with people of color.

I have no answers to any of these questions, and if I did, they wouldn’t be worth anything, because I have the aforementioned pile of Richard Spencer’s tendons problem.

So I don’t know. I mean I really don’t, and it’s entirely possible that I can’t. But I’d sure like to hear from people who do, and can.

PoC readers, do you have recommendations, wishes, or analysis? I’m not asking that you “speak for your people”, just for yourself: what would help you to feel comfortable and welcomed in Atheopagan spaces?

 


*And let’s be clear: “people of color” is a YUUUUUUUUUGE category which includes far more than people of African derivation. What about those of Asian and South/Central American or Mexican origin? Not seeing tons of those folks in atheist, Pagan, nor Atheopagan circles, either.