Things End

I’m in an odd space right now.

On the one hand, excitement about The Book and the newness of all the Author Stuff like promoting it, doing interviews, etc. is really thrilling.

But on the other, beloved things are coming to an end, and I’m sad about that.

Pantheacon, which has been the largest gathering of Pagans in North America, has announced that 2020 will be its last year. The owner of the event is retiring and no one else has been willing to take it over.

Now, I’m skeptical that this will come to pass. There is enough of a population of people who love the event—and enough money to be made from it—that some person or group will come along and keep it going in some form. I hope that is the case.

Meanwhile, a ritual group that I have practiced with for many years, The Spark Collective, appears to be on its last legs. Attendance has plunged, and we are hemorrhaging money. We had conducted monthly ritual circles, but the Core Group, of which I am a part, has decided to cut back to quarterly gatherings in 2020 to see if we can succeed at that scale.

As I said, I’m sad about these changes. To me, they signal even fewer opportunities to spend time with people who share, by and large, in my values and worldview.

I led last night’s Spark ritual. The theme was Autumn: the Coming of Darkness, and the four directions I called corresponded to the phases of grief: Cherishing, Mourning, Surrendering, Remembering. As it turned out, what I ended up grieving in the tiny, less-than-critical-mass ritual was Spark itself, as it had been, with robust attendance and palpable energy in the room.

Things end. Even things that have existed for a long while. I just hope that new things then spring up to replace them which provide something like the context and experiential flavor of what has gone before.

All that said, I’m willing to do work to make it happen, too. I went onto the Spark Core group because I wanted to serve the community with those events and that space. If Spark is going away, I will have more time and energy available for other things. if Pantheacon is to rise again in a new form, I’m up for helping to make that happen.

Unlike members of major religions, we can’t just expect that religious community will be available to us simply by joining an existing church, temple or mosque. We have to create it. And—as with all human endeavors—that is often a process of two steps forward, one step back.

 

Out

As of tonight, I am out.

I acknowledged the publication of my book and publicized a radio interview coming up on Sunday to my entire friends list on Facebook, which includes professional and political associates.

For my entire career, I have kept my religious life out of my professional life. It doesn’t belong there, and the last thing I would want to do is to make anyone uncomfortable.

But now I’ve written the book, and I’m about to do an interview that could be heard by thousands of local residents, and honestly? I just don’t care any longer.

I’m out of the Atheopagan closet.

Now, I live in a progressive, tolerant, largely civilized area. This revelation is unlikely to hurt me. Not everyone has such a luxury, and I am fully cognizant of this.

But it’s an interesting moment for me. I have kept a careful partition between my personal life and my professional life for a very long time, in the name of maintaining my credibility.

But again: I don’t care any longer.

Ours is a worldview substantiated absolutely by science. A set of values that are moral and valid. And a practice that is meaningful, humane, and kind.

Nothing to be embarrassed by. Nothing to be ashamed of. However radically different it may be from the Christian substrate of this country, our way is one to be proud of.

So I’m out.

I’ll let you know how that works out for me.

 

Opening to Subtle Changes

A lot of what being a Pagan is about is paying attention.

Being connected to the world and to yourself means being aware of subtle feelings and changes in conditions that many around us simply may not notice.

Some of this is knowing the Earth lore for your region: what is the first tree to flower in spring where you are? What are the native wildflowers, and in what order do they appear? When do leaves begin to turn in the autumn, and which trees turn first?  Which asterisms (“constellations”) are ascendant at a given time of year? These are indicators–data points that can help us to notice that changes have arrived or are coming.

Some of it is watching, very carefully, for changes that happen so incrementally that the day-to-day changes are almost imperceptible: the changes to the angle of light and the color of the sky as autumn approaches, for example, and the timing of sunrise and sunset; the tiny daily changes in the cycle of the Moon.

In social situations, as well, paying attention to the emotional tone can help us to be effective navigators and communicators. Ask yourself, What does this situation feel like? What is the emotional signalling I am getting from this person? Simply paying attention to questions like this can result in better connection with others.

And within ourselves, knowing how we are feeling both physically and in terms of mood can reveal patterns, fears, and what makes us truly happy. Personally, as a man who lives with depression, being acutely aware of the state of my mood helps me to see patterns and to better manage my symptoms.

Much of what people have put down to being “psychic” or “witchy” over the ages really comes down simply to paying attention to what is happening around us. It is so easy to coast through our days consumed with our thoughts, but material reality is happening outside us and offers a lot of information which can help us to be better connected with the Sacred Earth, and with one another.

So seek to cultivate mindfulness in the moment–to still the inner voice long enough to see what the world can tell us. For not only ritual skills, but psychological skills and tools are useful for us as Pagans, navigating our world.