The Moment of Brightening

There comes a time in the winter when, finally, you realize: the days aren’t so short any longer.

That point may coincide with the first sprouts of Spring peeking up from the ground, or the first buds on the trees. Or not: maybe it’s just snowing and freezing and wintering like hell, and Spring seems the farthest thing from possible.

Still, the light is growing. It’s not December any longer.

That brightening (thanks to Kendra Hicks of the Facebook Atheopaganism group for this term for the season) is the entire point of the seasonal Sabbath that is upon us now.

It goes by many names, and that is apt, because how we experience it varies so much by climate. Wiccans call it Imbolc or Brighid, after the Irish goddess and Christian saint; many Atheopagans develop their own names for it–mine is Riverain, the Festival of Water, because February typically marks the heaviest rainfall of the year where I live. True to form, we expect rain for most of the next week.

To me, this Sabbath marks the beginning of Spring–however tenuous, however wild the weather. For the light is definitely returning now, and where I am, daffodils and milk maids have made their appearances.

In Atheopaganism, we encourage people to adapt the “Wheel of the Year” of holidays to specific meanings that are consistent with the rhythms and cycles of the climate where the practitioner lives. So it is fine that my Riverain isn’t the same as someone else’s Brightening, or Imbolc, or Brighid. What is important is that they are gateways into deeper relationship with the Earth. 

When Atheopagans from different climates meet, they may well ask one another, “How do you celebrate your Sabbaths?” And that will open into a conversation about land and water and sky and creatures, and those will tell the stories of the places we come from.

So enjoy the season of brightening. Celebrate it as it seems most apt to you, be it by casting seeds upon the snow, or taking a hike in the rain, or crafting a Rain Baby to go through the cycle of the growing year with you.

In my Riverain ritual this year, we poured rainwater to splash and dance in a silver chalice, and recalled the age-old association of this time with the hearth and with repair and sharpening of agricultural tools by striking a small sledge hammer on an anvil. With every rich clannngggg of the hammer, I felt echoes going back through time, to days when we were better connected to the cycles of the Earth because we were so much more vulnerable to them in our daily lives.

And then we sang, because singing together is always a good and bonding and energy-building thing. It feels good. It helps to make a ritual powerful. We passed clear rainwater to sip and followed it with rich red wine.

We were together, contemplating the abundant, giving Earth, and giving thanks.

May you also enjoy meaningful and pleasurable observances of the season with those you love!

 

 

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Raineth Drop and Staineth Slop

Winter is icumen in, Lhude sing Goddamm
Raineth drop and staineth slop and how the wind doth Ramm
Sing: Goddamm!

—Ezra Pound

This parody of the famous 13th century English round “Sumer is Icumen In” perfectly reflects how many of us experience the month of January. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark, and it just…keeps…going.

In the mainstream Christian culture, there isn’t a thing to celebrate after New Year except for a couple of long “official” weekends with little if any widely acknowledged ceremonial significance, until Easter in March or April*.

That’s a very long drought between celebrations.

Pagans get a Sabbath at the beginning of February, commonly called Imbolc or Brighid. It is the earliest breath of Spring, when it can first really be seen that the days are lengthening again. I call it Riverain, as it is the height of the time of water in my region, but that’s a topic for another post.

Today, I speak of SLOGG.

SLOGG is a holiday whose express purpose is to break up the monotony of January and give us a chance to throw a party. As I described last year, it is an occasion for silly hats, board games and drinking the Scandinavian fortified mulled wine glögg.

That’s it. The significance of the holiday is that we are tired of being bombarded by the elements and it’s time to have some fun. Reason enough! So schedule a SLOGG party for the third Saturday in January (that would be the 19th this year), or perhaps a week later, and celebrate!

Here is a recipe for glögg to help with your festivities. Enjoy!

 


*  Except in places which celebrate Carnival prior to Lent

In the Cold Midwinter

Today, the Wheel turns again: a new year is born and the sun begins its long swing back to warm the northern hemisphere.

It has been a challenging year for me. I have been unemployed the entire time, and survival has been a severe struggle. But one bright spot in my life has been Atheopaganism and the growth of our community.

I wrote over a hundred posts to the website this year, on topics ranging from sigils and candle rituals to rites of passage to sexual ethics in the Pagan community. We had guest posts on various Atheopagans’ practices, and we selected a beautiful symbol for our tradition: the suntree.

On Facebook, our community has swelled to more than 1,200 members, always with active, interesting conversations and exchanges, and a shared tradition of the Friday Night Virtual Fire most weeks. It’s a warm group, supporting each other in various ways, and we have celebrated births and other announcements happily.

We’ve held gatherings for rituals and socializing, and presentations at Pantheacon. I’ve made new friends. And my personal practices have evolved and deepened.

In all, it’s been deeply satisfying, the Atheopaganism of 2018. I’m grateful to each of you who has been a part of it.

These dark nights are rich for contemplation. We see so much of the worst of humanity displayed to us these days, and perhaps it’s my contrary nature, but that leads me to think about the very best of us: freedom, and courage, and kindness, and wildness, and creativity, and care.

My effort in this world is for these things. For liberation in the societies of humanity, and humble devotion to the green glories of the living Earth. For pleasure and joy, and responsibility and dedication. For courage and integrity and service.

And speaking from the standpoint of one who has been unacknowledged recently by those we see as credentialing us—jobs, capitalism, enterprise—I say we have value beyond what we are paid for. I say that what we stand for things that are important, economics notwithstanding.

Who you are is a jewel, a treasure. What you bring to the human table is needed and of value.

It is the longest night, but not the last. We will pass on into the next cycle of being.

May your Longest Night be passed in warmth and comfort and surrounded by love. And may the coming year be your best yet!