Summer’s End—The Sabbath of Work

There were three Menne came out of the West
Their fortunes for to trye
And these three Menne made a solemn vow
John Barleycorne must die.

Welcome to the end of summer and the beginning of autumn!

…though it may not feel to be so where you live. Where I am it is HOT and going to be hotter for the next two months…but I can see in the coloring of early leaves and the hard blue of the sky that the Wheel is turning, that Autumn is coming on.

This holiday, titled Lammas by the Catholic Church and Lughnasadh by the Irish, Scottish and Manx people, has historically celebrated the first of the three harvests: the grain harvest. Barley and wheat and hay come in at this time, and it is an appropriate time for bread-baking, beer-making, and celebrating the various technical crafts and arts that humans have created from time immemorial, be they thousands of years old or simply modern, as the technologies that took us to the Moon.

For this, too, is an eternal anniversary of this season now.


Here, in the season of golden grain, we sing songs about barley and wheat and their wonderful products, and think about what it might have been like to sing such songs with aching in our arms after scything and loading grain all day…

Summer’s End is a glorious time, a time for celebration of hard work and work well done, of the great artistry we bring to our toil, be it agricultural or technological, traditional or contemporary. A good time for celebrating the working people of the world as well as the inventors of the world, the innovators, the geniuses in matters great and small. It is a time for a great party after a hard day of labor–gardening, perhaps, or a beach cleanup. Options abound!

So bake that bread—Here is a recipe. Enjoy it warm, with honey and butter, and with a malt beverage. Feel the warm air of the season and drink a toast to dear old John Barleycorne…

And little Sir John in the nut brown bowl
And he’s Whiskeye in the glass
And little Sir John in the nut brown bowl
Proved the strongest Manne at last.
The Huntsman he cannot hunt the fox
Nor so proudly to blow his Horne
And the Tinker he can’t mend Kettle nor Potte
Without a little Barleycorne.



In Summer Heat

Today was very warm: 94 degrees F.

That’s not hot for the tropics, or the North American Southwestern desert. Not hot for many places, I acknowledge.

It gets a lot hotter here: over 110, now and then.

But it was warm, and the house felt stuffy and hot when I got home.

It’s deep summer. Berries are ripe and gardens are producing and grain has “growne a long, long beard, and so become a Manne”. Peaches and apricots and cherries are glorious, and days are still long, though they are shortening.

Summer’s End approaches.

Now, I’ve wrestled with this Sabbath. It seems as though there is so much going on at this time of year that celebrating a Sabbath can easily get lost in the shuffle. There is no mainstream culture holiday at this time, of course, and that doesn’t help.

Others have given up on a holiday at this station of the Wheel of the Year entirely. But I think it is time, here in the brightness of the Sun, once again to remember that we are connected to Nature, that we are in a cycle of waxing and waning Sunshine: to take up a wand or a knife, a chalice of beer or barleywine or mead, a loaf of fresh bread, a smouldering censer and to give thanks, to say to soil and sky and trees and creatures and fellow humans that we mark this moment in the passage of Planet Earth around the life-giving Sun.

Beyond this, in my view this full-sun, bright and luminous holiday is a time for art and craft: for celebration of technology and artistic skill: the brewing and smithcraft and toolmaking and engineering and coding and chemistry and metallurgy that have enabled us as humans to achieve so much.

Traditional Paganism largely ignores these modern aspects of our evolution. Its romantic focus on Ye Olden Times has led it to choose blindness to the aspects of human development which have facilitated and supported the advent of modernity…which, for all its faults, has also advanced the ideas of individual value and liberty, of the equality of all people, and the modern environmental movement.

Yes, we have done much harm. But we have achieved marvels, and to deny this is also to miss a key part of the story.

In five days, it will be 50 years since the moment humans became interplanetary travelers: when we set foot on the Moon, the very sacred Moon we so love as it sails through our nighttime skies.

I remember that moment. I was 7 years old, and we were traveling across the Midwestern US, in a motel room in Nebraska. The blurry television screen had a green cast. But there he came, down the ladder, and the caption blinked: LIVE from the MOON

It was an extraordinary achievement: one we could so easily replicate today, with the computing and rocket technology we have available now. But we lack the will, and considering the challenges we confront, perhaps that’s for the best.

I write to you here on a miracle of technology, born of the innovations and genius of many women and men, past and present. Daily, in both work and play, I use tools whose origins extend back into antiquity. Summer’s End gives me a moment to appreciate all those innovators, all that genius, from the homo habilis who flaked an Acheulian handaxe from a quartzite core to the women and men who put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.

We are tool-using apes with language and sentience. This is an extraordinary thing. At Summer’s End, I reflect on this as I enjoy the fruits of our innovation, from beer to bread to broadband Internet and antidepressants.

A libation and a deep toast of dear old John Barleycorn to all who brought us these, and to those who bring us grain and bread and tools with which to solve our problems this very day.

Happy Summer’s End!



A Solar Reflection

It’s the day after Midsummer—at least, here in the Northern Hemisphere—and it’s hot and sunny, as one would expect. Meanwhile, the chaos weather of global climate change goes on: Banff had 25 cm of snow last night.

I had a quiet Midsummer: set out my Sun Broom to soak up the sun and wove some additional lengths of wild rye into it; contemplated my Focus for awhile.  The day became very hot and we mostly lay about under a fan with our clothes off.

These are the longest days of the year, and those many hours of daylight bring a sense of possibility with them: so much time to do things, so much potential. And yet there is also a feeling of leisure, of relaxation: with so much time, why rush?

For myself, around now is when I feel the urgency of the world recede. It’s not that it isn’t there—witness the horrific concentration camps the Trump kakistocracy is jamming migrant children and families into, and the latest news on global warming—but for a moment, it seems with these warm and luxurious days, the oppressiveness of the news and the facts of our global situation recedes. And I feel almost…optimistic?

Yes, crashes are coming—or, rather, in progress: an economic crash as capitalism collapses under its own metastasized weight; an ecological crash as the planet warms, biological communities unravel and mass extinctions take place; and a human population crash as our ability to flog food out of the soil deteriorates with increasing climate chaos, rising oceans drive waves of climate refugees into areas that can’t support them, and idiot xenophobia keeps migrant agricultural workers away from the crops they would otherwise pick.

Yes, that’s happening.

Still, I look at what is happening in culture and I can’t help but to be encouraged. Awareness—and disapproval—of racism, sexism and homophobia are skyrocketing as older generations die off. People who embrace those ideas are kicking up dust right now, but they’re dying, and good riddance. And credulity in gods and the supernatural is plummeting. It’s going to take awhile, but people who believe in evidence and critical thinking and the social contract are on the ascendant.

And then, there’s us. We naturalistic, Earth-revering Pagans, including Atheopagans.

We are, I believe, collectively forming the embodied and implemented answer to the age-old conflict between science and religion: between loyalty to the factual truth and feeding the parts of ourselves that need stories, and rituals, and meaning.

And we’re doing so around values of kindness, inclusiveness, wonder and joy, both lived and advocated for.

I believe that counts for something in the world. I believe that the healthier we are as people, the louder our voices for those healthy and kind and Earth-loving values are, the more of an impact we have, even in the midst of the crashes.

People are tenacious. They are singularly difficult to extirpate, even in an ecological collapse. Inevitably, survivors migrate to somewhere more benign and set up shop, with their innovative minds and clever adaptations, and they make a go of it once again.

I intend and believe that our values and practices are informed by the lessons of history: that they are what we need to bring forward into the new cultures that will be born after capitalistic consumer culture can no longer be sustained.

So, as I said: optimistic. The long days leave me looking at Long Time, and understanding that a time of collapse and damage and ignorance isn’t the end of the story. Rather, it is an opportunity to begin writing the coming chapters.

Thank you for joining this journey with me—for helping to inform and develop Atheopagan culture and practice. Even here at the ends of many things, we are not powerless, and we are not defeated.

I’ll close with a chant I wrote for fire circle rituals, and sing pretty often (I’ll put up a YouTube video with the tune tomorrow, if anyone is interested):

We believe in a better world
We believe in justice
We believe in a better world
We believe in peace
We believe in a better world
We can heal our Planet

We won’t bow down.

We won’t bow down.