Creating Your Own Wheel of the Year

In Atheopaganism,  similar to many other Pagan paths, we celebrate eight Sabbaths, or holy days: the solar equinoxes and solstices, and the points between them. But I encourage folks to adapt this calendar to fit the circumstances of the places where we live, choosing our own names and meanings for these holidays as necessary.

Why your own? Because we all live in different climates, and the traditional Pagan/Wiccan Wheel doesn’t really reflect any except that of England and places with similar seasonal cycles. Ours is an Earth religion, and connectedness to our local seasonal cycles is essential: our celebrations should reflect the land on which we live, not somewhere else.

I live in coastal Northern California, where we have a “Mediterranean” climate cycle: rain in the winter and completely dry in the summer. Snow is rare and even when we get it, it is usually just a dusting on the mountaintops after a particularly cold winter night.

So I have created my own cycle of holidays, still using the equinoxes, solstices, and points-between dates, but changing up the meanings and rituals somewhat to reflect this land and its seasons. I have renamed many of the Sabbaths from their common Celtic names, because I don’t personally relate to that culture or history.

I can imagine a wide range of Wheels of the Year for different climates: for example, in the Southwestern U.S., where the tail ends of hurricanes bring spectacular thunderstorms in August, I could see the Aug. 1 holiday being a rain Sabbath, or a Festival of Lightning. And in the tropics, of course, the Sabbaths may be totally different and mark the cycles of monsoon seasons.

Recently, Jon Cleland Host published a synopsis of his holidays and their associations over at Humanistic Paganism. It’s a good idea, so below, using an adaptation of Jon’s “cheat sheet” format, is my Wheel of the Year (note: I don’t use Jon’s concept of the midpoint Sabbaths as “Thermistices” and “Equitherms” because the climate where I live doesn’t really work that way).

Note that Sabbath names are live links to all articles on the site about that Sabbath; there are also a few other links to craft projects or ritual articles in the table.

Winter Solstice (~ Dec. 21) Yule The Festival of Light; birth of the New Sun; beginning of the year; family and community. Yule Tree; Yule Log; lights, presents; stockings; watching Hogfather; singing carols

(~ Feb. 1)

Riverain The Festival of Water and beginning of Spring (first wildflowers appear) Sowing seeds; planning for the coming year; Rain Baby (corn dolly); rain hike; spring cleaning, Spring Fast
Spring Equinox (~ March 21) High Spring The Festival of Childhood, innocence, playfulness, lightness. Dyeing eggs; childhood games; focus on children in ritual; bright, childlike colors

(~ May 1)

May Day The Festival of Adulthood, sexuality, beginning of Summer Maypole; sexy/flirty games; May wine; rites of passage into adulthood
Summer Solstice (~ June 21) Midsummer The Festival of Enjoyment, relaxation, leisure, the long warm evenings, flitting about in the woods like fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream Have a party—preferably in the woods! Relax and enjoy life. Perhaps a trip to the beach. Rebuild Sun broom.

(~Aug. 1)

Summer’s End The Festival of Work and Craft; grain harvest, brewing, John Barleycorn, breadmaking, end of the fog cycle and beginning of Autumn and the hottest part of the year Bake bread; pick wild blackberries; brew beer or Yule mead; handcrafts
Autumnal Equinox (~ September 21) Harvest The Harvest, the grape crush, wine, feasting, completion of efforts Harvest feast with lots of wine!
Midpoint (~Nov. 6) Hallows The Festival of Death, mortality and morbidity, remembrance of Honored Dead, ancestry, beginning of Winter Hallows ritual; divination; burn the Rain Baby in the Hallows fire; light the Hallows fire with yew branch gathered from cemetery the year before; carve pumpkins

I invite you to do the same! Here is a link to a blank version of this template, so you can create your own.

I envision a time when Atheopagans who meet one another from different parts of the world might exchange information about the Sabbaths they observe, just as other Pagans share their tradition or path with one another. Each land is different, and we who live there are informed by the seasons we experience: let’s get connected to our local Earth cycles and celebrate!

Some Language I’m Not Going to Use Any More: An Apology

This post is an apology.

It has now been more than two years since I waded into the broader online Pagan conversation on behalf first of myself, and then of what has turned out to be the many Pagans who do not believe in literal gods. In those early days, the posts of myself and others like John Halstead and John Cleland Host were received in some quarters with bitter hostility.

As a result, I became defensive. And when I’m defensive, I’m often acerbic.

“Hard theists” and I aren’t going to agree cosmologically. We have fundamental disputes over the nature of the Universe itself, and those cannot be reconciled. However, we can treat one another with respect, and I have sometimes fallen down in this regard.

It isn’t helpful to describe someone’s “god experiences” as “delusions”. While I do, firmly, believe that such experiences are products of the brain, that’s not connotatively the same as the d-word.

So I’m not going to use that word in relation to the beliefs of theists any longer.

I’m going to forego “superstition”, too, although my understanding of that word is that it means “supernatural beliefs in which I do not share”, so it may technically be correct. Again, connotative meaning matters, so it’s off the list.

Things have changed in those two years. There aren’t very many voices any longer who are insisting that we don’t belong in the Pagan community, or that we are “blind” or “deaf to the gods”. We have a book out now, we’ve been recognized as a part of the community in the program of Pantheacon, and our conversation is now a part of the broader Pagan conversation.

I don’t feel as defensive these days. And as a result, I’m able to step back a bit and, therefore, to feel badly about times when I was sharper and more pointed than really was necessary.

To any I have offended, I am sorry. I ask your pardon.


Eggs and Sprouts

Reflecting here, on a mild day shortly after High Spring, on the currents of newness that have come to and through my life in the past few months. Feeling grateful.

For better or worse, my life will change significantly in the next few months. I hope it is for the better, and what better time for hope than the Spring? Here are some of the Eggs I am incubating and the Sprouts I see emerging, already born and angling towards the Sun.

Egg: With some luck, I will be starting a new job soon. If it’s the one I hope for, I’ll be working for a great organization with an exciting mission, doing something I’m good at, and paid well. May it so be.

Sprout: Since the launch of the Atheopaganism Facebook group, more than 300 people have joined and participated in helping our new path to grow. The group has been a civil, thoughtful, truly interesting place for conversations, and I am deeply grateful for each and every participant. May we continue to enjoy one another’s virtual company, and may the group and associated blog be helpful and supportive as people adapt Atheopaganism to their own needs and beliefs.

Sprout: At Pantheacon this year, among the many fine folks I had the distinct pleasure of meeting were some of the primary writers on non-theistic Paganism on the web. Jon Cleland Host and John Halstead are both fine people with thoughtful, intelligent approaches to their religion, and they have been supportive and encouraging of me and of Atheopaganism. Other significant writers on the topic such as DT Strain and B.T. Newburg of the Spiritual Naturalist Society have joined the Atheopagan Facebook group and participated in our discussions, and I look forward to meeting them in person one day as well. Ours is a small corner of the Pagan community and I’m honored to work with people of such heart, intellect and commitment as we work to build it.

Egg: Many have been encouraging me to compile and expand the Atheopaganism material into a book. I have only begun the outlining process, but would very much like to complete this project within a year. May it be so.

Sprout (barely peeking out): Last year at this time, I was holding open Atheopagan seasonal celebrations with friends. Due to a variety of circumstances I had to stop that for awhile beginning in September. But Nemea and I would like to start this up again and will definitely be hauling out the Maypole for another May Day dance.

Egg: Another book; I have been writing a third installment of the Jake Gittes story (of Chinatown and The Two Jakes fame), entitled Santa Ana Wind. I hope to have that novel completed this year. It will never see publication due to copyright of the character, but my friends will hopefully enjoy it. May it so be!

Between roosting and watering, I imagine this is enough to keep me busy for awhile!

How about you? What are you incubating and fostering this Spring?