Fire Makes All the Difference

A guest post by Kaigi-Ron.

Fire makes all the difference.  I know this from two personal experiences – both of which didn’t have a fire the first night, but did on the second…and that one change transformed everyone and everything.

The first event occurred years ago, in another state.  We were going to share songs and stories around the campfire, as hominids have done for millennia…but that year, we were denied a permit for a fire in our campsite.  

Ever the innovators, we wove together a basket of branches, decorated it with strips of red cloth, and finished it off with a helpful sign that said “Fire”.  We all did our Pagan best to pretend it was a fire, really we did.  Some people tried to get into it, “warming” their hands in it.  But we all knew it wasn’t a real fire.  The bardic circle closed early, and we left to crawl into bed, feeling vaguely unfulfilled.

But the next night, we got an invitation from the American Indian tribe across the river – did we want to join them?   Oh My Goodness YES we said!  And it turned out They had a Fire Pit and They had a Permit and OMG we were going to actually have a FIRE!!

It was glorious: Shared food and drink, stories, drums, whistles, songs, masked dancers – everything we like…and it went on for hours.  This was what we came here for!

The scene roughly repeated itself at a more recent event.  The first night, we didn’t have all the equipment we needed to safely have a fire, so we didn’t.  While a small contingent of us ambled down to the fire pit late at night to have an Experience, it wasn’t quite the full experience.

It felt awkward and vaguely apologetic, like it was mostly just an acknowledgment that an experience was supposed to happen here.  As if we were acting out the words “Insert Genuine Pagan Feeling Here”.  Knowing that it wasn’t ever going to feel completely right…not that night, anyway.

But the next night, the rest of our fire equipment arrived!  We prepared eagerly for its coming, gathering tinder and clearing the debris around the fire pit.  We lit it with flint and steel, carefully placing the tiny glowing ember into the bird’s nest, then blowing on it to coax it into full life – Whoompsh!  It burst into a fireball and we placed it under the kindling…and in minutes, we had a roaring, vibrant FIRE!!

Again, it was glorious:  We shared our rituals, songs, stories, and dances all night long.  Just as our forebears have done since the day we first figured out how to control this beast.  A real, burning Fire of heat and light and smoke and ash – and real social connection.

Accept no substitutes!

Advertisements

A Reflection on Moon Meet

A guest blog entry by Kaigi-Ron.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the celebrants at the very first Moon Meet, and I am deeply grateful.

Events like this don’t happen nearly enough…sometimes it seems like we have more total eclipses than we do truly bonding, inspirational experiences such as this.

Note to Self: Do Everything Possible to Help Create More of These. I truly believe that this one thing will help make our poor, wounded world just a little bit better.

I learned things – about myself, about our emergent IRL Atheopagan community, and about obscure topics like soil drainage in California’s redwood hillsides. For example, did you know that those maddening, meandering, 4WD-only roads are actually planned that way So that when there is a storm or flooding of a waterway that courses through the area, erosion is minimized? Our host explained it to me in impressive detail as he took me back down to our temporary MM parking lot. (I think stuff like that is cool. But then, I’m a nerd.)

Anyway, I expected to meet cool people and participate in workshops and rituals. I expected to deal with the usual camping-in-deep woods issues, which for me (being, apparently, a delicacy for the local mosquitoes) meant remaining soaked in DEET 24/7.I expected the weirdness that is meeting a bunch of new people (whew! – they turned out to be immensely cool!).

But I didn’t expect to have a transformative experience.

I’d brought along a book that stood for everything awful that had happened to my family when my dad got sick, lost his mind, and joined a cult. I ritually slaughtered it. I destroyed it. And everyone else joined in and somehow spontaneously made up a song and we all danced and it felt even better!

And I thought after: But wait — aren’t you supposed to need Gods or Fairies or Forces or Energies or Woo[TM] in order for this kind of experience to happen?And there wasn’t a particle of any of that.

My Science Nerd Mind Declared This Was GOOD. Very Good INDEED. It was Real, it was something I could trust.

I think we Atheopagans may be onto something.

We may have finally whipped up the perfect blend of Ritual and Reason. We may have actually solved the conflict of Science vs. Religion! And I (an Atheist from childhood) can finally say “I have a Religion, too! One that isn’t based on BS, greed, patriarchy, Ponzi schemes, mind control or any other awful thing. YAY!!!”

And another thing I didn’t expect:

The Potbellied Pig who loved belly rubs and would lie there happily grunting probably for hours if you wanted.

Yeah, the Pig was cool, too.

Thanks to Kaigi-Ron for being a part of Moon Meet and for this report on her experience!

MOON MEET: A Weekend with Atheopagan Friends

Moon Meet 2017 was wonderful! A warm, fun gathering, where we shared meals, rituals, discussions, workshops and a vision for Atheopaganism as a growing path.

I went up to the site on Thursday, the day before the event began. Joined by so-helpful Atheopagans Orin, Jody and Collette, we helped site owner Jeffry to complete tidying the site, to decorate with paper lanterns, signs with inspirational quotes and white “Christmas” lights. At night, the forest became magical. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and shared community as the feeling of the event began to settle in.

On Friday, we continued to prep the site until the rest of the attendees began to arrive. Tents sprouted here and there. We prepared the ritual circle by building altars (thanks, Orin!), cropping overhanging branches and raking the ground down to the dirt to protect against the spread of fire, and installing an iron fire pit (thanks to Steve and Jonathan—so sorry your emergency wouldn’t allow you to stay).

Friday evening’s potluck meal was delicious. The spark arrestor for the fire pit hadn’t arrived yet, so we didn’t have a fire that night, but we enjoyed shared company with conversation and a Bardic circle of singing, recitations and other offerings.

Saturday after breakfast (thanks to Jeffry, Bethany and Sally for making sure we had coffee early!), we held our workshops: a ritual dance workshop with Dakini (thanks to Jody for drumming!) and after lunch, Jody and Collette’s workshop on ritual rhythm, vocalization and circle dancing.  Fun!

Thereafter, we had a discussion session to plan our ritual for that night. It was great to share a collaborative process where the suggestions of each participant were incorporated into the overall structure we settled on.

Then: taco night!

The sun set, and we went to make our preparations for the ritual, dressing in ritual clothing and gathering what materials we needed. The air was warm and still; Jody sparked the fire with a flint and steel, and when darkness had fully gathered, we processed into the circle, each asperged as we entered with orange blossom water with a sprig of rosemary.

What followed was meaningful and joyous. I don’t like to describe what happens in a ritual, as it rarely sounds as powerful as it is, so I will leave off the details. But suffice to say we grounded, toned, sang, circled the fire, invoked our aspirations, spoke our gratitudes, did some deep work, and communed with the full moon rising silver through the trees. Hours later, we completed the ritual and then some of us remained at the fire, just enjoying one another’s company. Deep conversations then; real human connection, as we have around pit fires for hundreds of thousands of years.

Sunday, after another abundant breakfast, we joined for a conversation about the future of our community and of nontheist Paganism as a path. There was general agreement: let’s do more of this! So we’re planning some of that, including a spring gathering next year and another Moon Meet next August. We discussed how to get the word out to more of the Atheist community. And we talked about the kinds of offerings that we might present at Pantheacon 2018; more on that soon.

For those of you who weren’t there, I hope that the takeaway from this report is to start to create some of your own opportunities for this kind of community-building. They don’t have to be huge and elaborate; just an opportunity for people to come together, share meals and learning and ritual space, and grow closer.

Atheopaganism is about being happier and better people, and working for a better world. A powerful way to advance those goals is to build community and increase human connectedness. Moon Meet definitely fulfilled those goals for me, and I believe it did for the other attendees as well.

Success! A step forward. If you wanted to come but weren’t able to make it, I hope you will consider coming next year!

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to EVERYONE who helped make the first Moon Meet a success. THANK YOU!