An Appreciation

It’s Summer’s End weekend—or Lammas, or Lughansadh, if you prefer—and we are busily baking bread and baking in our sweltering home.

I’ve written before about what this Sabbath means to me, but I’m putting together the final lesson of Atheopaganism U., and I have many feelings now that I thought I’d capture while they’re fresh.

First, I’m struck by how interesting, thoughtful, and committed to their own growth and process this first class of students has been. They come from wildly different backgrounds and circumstances, but all are explorers, curious, looking for how a spiritual practice consistent with their values can best integrate into their lives.

Secondly, this process has been really rewarding. I never meant to set myself up as a “teacher” and I’m really uncomfortable with that sort of framing—especially when I see so many self-described “Pagan teachers” out there huckstering like mad—but it feels more as though with Atheopaganism U., I have entered a shared journey with this cohort of people and we have explored ideas and practices together. I have learned much from them, and felt a warm sense of shared humanity as we moved forward through the course.

Ironically, I also feel grateful to Facebook, because it was their new “mentorship” function for groups that got me to thinking about how best to organize and communicate the material on the Atheopaganism blog: that led to my decision to create a class.

So I feel grateful today, as well as sweaty. What began as an experiment has resulted in new friendships, shared good times, and a vehicle for people who want to dive deeper into Atheopaganism to do so in a structured and supportive manner.

I thank each and every member of the Atheopaganism U. inaugural class, and all the readers and followers and Facebook group members who make up this kind and thoughtful community.

You folks rock!




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!