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Individual Practice and Shared Community -

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Manage episode 371469960 series 2634748
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S4E23 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder, science based paganism. I'm your host, Mark,

Yucca: And I'm Yucca.

Mark: and today we are talking about individual practice with shared values in paganism.

Yucca: Yes. And it, we kind of danced around coming up with this topic because we started with the idea of talking about correspondence, which is something very, very common in many different pagan traditions. And immediately, Coming to, to the place of going, well, in Atheopaganism, there isn't really a shared, there's, we don't have a book, right, that says this color means this and this direction means that.

It's kind of, it's kind of up to every person and that's a, a really common theme with how we do our ritual, how we practice, how the wheel of the year looks, all of those sorts of things. And yet, We still are a community that still practices with each other and relates and shares values. So that's where we were coming from with this topic.

Mark: right, right. And I mean, a lot of us are solitary. A lot of us, you know, work on our own. And as you say, you know, we really encourage people to do this kind of DIY religion thing, right? Where you create the practices that work best for you. You create a wheel of the year cycle that reflects the natural world where you are and the climate where you are, you know, you create a focus that looks like.

The way you want it to and has the symbols on it that you find meaningful. You do rituals. I mean, you may use the format that I put out in my book or not, but you create rituals that are meaningful and symbolic in the matters, in the, the ways that, that are important to you. It's not like. You know, some of the mainstream religions where you the the rituals are predefined.

They're in a book. They're a thing that you're supposed to do. In some cases, you're not even allowed to do them. There's a priest class that has to do them for you. It's just it's not like that at all.

So, I was thinking about what kinds of topics we could do and so sometimes I will look to more mainstream pagan which is always an ironic term. Mainstream pagan books, right? And most of those books tends to be filled with magical correspondences like this herb means this particular thing.

This, this gemstone or mineral is good for this particular magical practice. This you know, these things are associated with these zodiacal signs, you know.

Yucca: directions,

Mark: The four directions, all of that kind of stuff. And we don't have any of that because it really is. What does it mean to you? Right? So, in my new book that's coming out, for example, I suggest some colors and symbols that you can use for Celebrations of the Wheel of the Year holidays, but they're entirely optional.

And, and so I say, if the winter solstice is all about blue and white for you, then decorating blue and white, it doesn't have to be red and green. Like everybody else does do what works for you.

Yucca: Thinking about the directions because for some people the directions are really important I would imagine that if I live where you do, Mark, I might associate the West with water, but for somebody who lives in New York, they're not gonna, West is not the water, right? East is the water.

Mark: That's right. If you live on the western shore of Lake Superior, then east is the water. There's no question about

Yucca: Yeah.

And, you know, for a lot of, if you're in Tucson, snow might not be something that you really associate with winter solstice.

Mark: no

probably not. Yeah. Unless you, you know, go up into the mountains to go skiing or something, but

Yucca: Right. Yeah. I mean, you go into the north, northern Arizona, that's a different matter, but, you know, not down in the low desert. So,

Mark: So all of this is to say that that led us into the conversation about, well, Ours is a highly individualistic practice, and that's by design, because it's not meant to be dogmatic. It's meant to be facilitative of your own spiritual experience and your own discovery journey, right? Of who you are and what, what is meaningful to you and how you relate to the world around you.

Yucca: right.

Mark: But that said, oh, go ahead.

Yucca: but that isn't going to be informed by things. Right? The, the red and green for solstice many people have grown up around that being the color scheme, and that's what they associated with, or the particular family that you come from had associations or whatever your cultural background, regional background, right?

Just because it's, Individual doesn't mean you have to remake everything. If something works for you from the background that you're coming from, great,

Mark: Mm hmm.

Yucca: Certain colors, certain smells, foods, all of those things, you know, we're, we're shaped by that. And that's not a bad thing, right? As long as we're conscious about that.

Mark: right. You can start with a blank sheet of paper and just invent it all for yourself, but you don't have to. And most of us don't, you know, we draw things that come from our life experience of, you know, growing up with particular sorts of practices at a particular time of year, all that sort of thing.

And that's all great. Right? Because it's meaningful and it resonates for us and it's, it's, it, it works for us emotionally. But then the flip side of all this is that we are in a community. It's mostly an online community, but increasingly we have people getting together in person as

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And so if all of our practices are super diverse and individualized, then what is it that glues us together as a community?

Yucca: Right.

Mark: Right? And so what we were talking about is the shared values.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: In atheopaganism, we have the four sacred pillars and the 13 principles. And in order to get into our online communities, you have to endorse the principles. We ask people as, as they, they enter our, as they apply to get into our Facebook group, for example.

You know, this is a feminist, anti racist, anti ableist know, pro science. anti fascist space. You endorse those values.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: if we don't get an answer or if we get the wrong answer, which we never do then you don't get in because we want to share community with people that fundamentally have a respect for the individual and a respect for the earth and and a respect for critical thinking and, and science.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: That's what we're about.

Yucca: to be clear, we're not going out into other communities and saying you've got to do it our way, but we're saying that this shared space that we've created here, these are the values that we have. And these are, this is what we expect here that that we share together. And then from there I mean, it's, it's amazing to see what people do share with each other and to see what what things people have in common and different approaches that people take.

And it's just, it's lovely,

Mark: And the beautiful focuses, the, the altars that they make you know, that are always so unique so specific to that person and, and what their aesthetic is and what their values are all of that. And so, to me, it's this real dance around The celebration and empowerment of the individual, as well as gathering together in community in a shared, a shared ethical and value system,

Yucca: Mm hmm. Mm

Mark: so that when we come together we know, hey, you know we're, we're safe with each other here, we're, we're all, we all care about the same stuff.

And, you know, we're, We know we're going to be respected. We know we're going to be appreciated for what we bring. We know that there's room for us, you know, whatever, you know, our, our diverse individual nature might be. All of that is just so important. And so that, that is the, the, the knife edge that we seek to walk.

Right. Right.

Yucca: well, there's been a, there's a really important key in all of this and that's the communication part. And that's something that we work really hard on both the online and in person community is to, to try to explain and be Open and try to understand when people are explaining the things. I remember when at Sun Tree for the shared ritual, there was explanation, right?

There wasn't any, at least there was very little, or if it was there, it was so familiar to me that I didn't notice it. That the expectations were spoken out loud. There wasn't this hidden script that everybody was following that is more common in more established religions, right? If you go to Catholic mass, nobody's telling you what to do.

Everybody is doing it and has been doing it that way for hundreds of years, right? But when creating new things and working with lots of different kinds of people with different kinds of practices, communicating between each other is really key so that we, we know it, we're on the same page. We're not working with different expectations,

Mark: Right. And, and the collaboration that goes into the creation of a shared ritual becomes a really important part of the process. I mean, there are times when you'll have like a ritual leader and they will either create a ritual themselves or they'll work with a subset of all the people that are going to celebrate it.

If you've got a ritual of 100 people, you cannot have a collaboration of 100

Yucca: you know?

Mark: to design a ritual. It would just be a big mess. But there's a consent piece where everybody agrees. Okay. You know, these, these are the folks that we have decided are going to do this thing for us. And we're going to go along with the, the practice that.

they've designed for us to go through for this ritual. And of course, there's always the opt out possibility. If something comes, I mean, I can't imagine what it would be, but if there's some part of a ritual that someone is uncomfortable with, they don't have to participate.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: they, and they can say, I'm not comfortable.

I'm, I'm stepping out.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So, yeah, I mean, when I was writing my new book one of the things that I thought about a lot was this correspondences piece because, you know, the proliferation of Wicca books and, and pagan books generally, often so much of the content of those books is about This color means this thing and, you know, burn a candle of this color with this sigil on it in order to accomplish this effect.

It's all very prescriptive.

Yucca: A lot of the short form media that gets shared to like the Instagrams and TikToks and things like that, a lot of them are really focused on that as well,

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: which makes sense because it's a, it's a little bite size something, right? Like it, it kind of lends itself to that, but then that's successful and then more people do it and then more people and then that's kind of awesome.

All there is.

Mark: Right. So, and, and I don't want to be prescriptive in that way. I don't want to tell people, well, for one thing, because in my worldview, such associations are arbitrary, you know, we, we do ritual in order to affect ourselves psychologically. And if you see red as a color of peace and calm. Then buy gum, use red as a color of peace and calm.

It's not up to me. It's up to you,

Yucca: Right. Yeah.

Mark: So the challenge, you know, part of the challenge in putting the book together was like, well, okay, what's the content of this book going to be? Because this is all about sort of a how to, whereas the first book was much more of a theory kind of book,

Yucca: Right.

Mark: more of a why and where's the science behind it and that stuff. The second book is much more about how to create rituals and examples and outlines and stuff like that.

Yucca: Right. Which is, it can be really helpful, right? Especially when somebody's coming into something like ritual with no prior experience going, what, so this is great. You're all saying, do it your own way, whatever works for you, but I have no idea what works for me. Right? Sometimes people just want, give me something to, to work with and then I can modify it.

But like, something, anything,

Mark: Exactly. And that's why I wrote the book that I did. The, because that's what I was hearing a lot, especially from folks coming from the atheist side into the community.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: Because one of the things that's really great about the neopagan community is that now it has more than 50 years of cumulative.

accumulation of lore and knowledge and wisdom and psychological insight into what works ritually.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And there's a, there's just a huge body of accumulated knowledge there that doesn't exist in the atheist community at all. The atheist community has a big, huge accumulated body of lore around skepticism and critical thinking and being less wrong and evidentiary standards and all that kind of stuff.

And all of that is very good when it comes to figuring out what's most likely to be true. It's not necessarily all that useful when impactful.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So that's one reason why atheopaganism is a marriage of those things, so that you can do both of those things and do them well.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And so that's, that's what the new book is, is basically intended for, is to give people some, some benefit of that. Experience that's been accumulated over all that time that I've managed to learn in my 35 years in the, in the community.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So, I was thinking, maybe we could round this out with some like unusual examples of associations that we have like personal associations that might not be the ones that would be necessarily expected by people, but that we have on our own?

Yucca: I'm gonna have to think about that. Do you have any off the top of your head?

Mark: Well, I kind of do. The, the, the first one is, in creating my wheel of the year the February holiday, which is often in the sort of Wiccan framework associated with snow, and in some cases with little sprouts of green coming up through the snow, or all that kind of stuff. In my area, that's not what it is at all.

What it is is torrential cold rain. Just a lot of rain and, you know, refilling all the agricultural ponds and getting all the creeks thundering and the river filling up and all that. So, I named the Holiday River Rain.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And to me, it is the festival of water. And so I associate it with all of those kind of flowy, emotional sort of qualities psychologically, as well as with its more traditional association with infancy and new beginnings, you know, planning for the future sort of envisioning what, what can come later on through the, the harvesting process.

So that, that's one that comes to mind for me immediately. Have you, have you found one?

Yucca: Well, I suppose maybe the bug association I have with summer solstice. I one that I mean, there's a logic to it there for me, right? Because that's, that's when they're out. That's when all the bees are out. That's dance. That's the you know, that's when they, you see the wing dance coming out.

And but I think a lot of times folks kind of, many people are very uncomfortable. With insects and arthropods and that sort of thing. So I think that gets left out of a lot of practices or views of nature. Unless it's a honeybee or a butterfly. People and a dragonfly. People like those three, right?

But most other ones, they're like, oh, I don't know how I feel about that weird, like, cricket thing or that.

Mark: Jerusalem crickets or tarantula hawks.

Yucca: those are what I was thinking. Yeah. Tarantula hawks are our state insect actually.

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: beautiful,

Mark: are wonderful. Yeah.

Yucca: but the wasps are very different in their reproductive, their life cycle than ours.

It's a little uncomfortable for people to think about sometimes. So I think maybe that might be one association. For us,

Mark: Mhm.

Yucca: I mean, for me, it's, it's, I'm just so,

the experience of my climate is, it's, it's a very distinctive climate. It's one that I'm very in, kind of, and I only really remember that when I travel, right? When I travel and go somewhere else, I'm like, oh, right. Other people are having a totally different experience than I am here in my little, you know, desert mesa.

Like, it's a very, you know, so sometimes it's kind of, it's, it's hard to think about, well, what is everybody else's association? Because I don't spend a lot of time with that, right? I don't spend a lot of time with what the, well, the directions hmm.

Mark: Right. And I don't actually use directions in my practice at all. And not entirely sure why that is because certainly I'm relating to the landscape. It's just, I don't know, the directions just don't seem to do a lot for me so I don't, I don't do them but, but a lot of people do. And. I think part of it is the association with the classical Greek elements, which is a very old system, but it is a pseudoscientific system. I mean, they, they believed it at the time, but it's, it's no longer valid. We know that there are a lot more elements than that and fire is a reaction. It's not an element.

Yucca: Yeah.

I mean, it was a useful concept though, right? When I, I I start the, I do a chemistry class and we always start with, okay, well, let's talk about what elements are and how this, you know, this concept and where's it come from. And it's a, you know, it's a, it has some pretty good logic to

Mark: Mm hmm.

Yucca: Our understanding is, has definitely shifted.

Over time, though, in terms of what, what are those building blocks?

Mark: Right. Right. And, and all the metaphorical associations with the directions like, you know, air with intellect and communication and ideation and breath and all those things. I mean, it's a, it's a pretty nifty system it all fits together very well, you know, with, with the different You know, phases of matter

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: other than the exotic ones, you know,

Yucca: The observable states.

Mark: yeah, the, there you go.

The, the observable states of matter.

Yucca: When I was younger, I did do a lot more with that because I had had a lot of of interaction with reclaiming folk. And they do a lot of the, of the elements and direction work. And so that was a lot of the group rituals that I had done had been Within the context of reclaiming tradition. So, but as I changed over time, I, I really moved away from that.

And I still still do a circle sometimes, but I, and we'll sometimes still turn in the different directions just as a way of, of creating the circle, but they don't have for. a really strong meaning to me because they are so different depending on where you are. Other than sunrise and sunset, right?

Though, you know, the, the sun coming up in the east, but even then, the sun doesn't come up in the same direction. We say it comes up in the east, but it actually...

Mark: northeast or the southeast.

Yucca: wildly across my sky, right? It's not the same direction. So it's kind of that, in the same way that the seasons, you know, aren't this clear cut, like lines between the seasons, the directions for me aren't these really clear directions either.

It's kind of that. that direction.

Mark: Right. Right.

Yucca: And the Pueblo folk here use the directions in the same way, different associations, but that was also something I grew up around, was that it's very common, that same, you know, calling in the directions and different aspects and spirits for that.

Mark: I have a theory around this, which is that cultures which live in landscapes where you can see long distances. tend to focus on directions like that. If you, I mean, if you live in a jungle, then there's, it's undifferentiated. It's, it's going to be very hard to say, okay, well, this to the north is, you know, associated with X, Y, and Z, because you're surrounded by a wall of vegetation that is exactly identical in every direction you look. But I think you know, especially in the American Midwest and the arid West, you know, we have these.

huge, expansive vistas.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: And so being able to encompass the landscape with an invocation, I think is, is really important, is really compelling.

Yucca: Hmm. I can see that. Yeah.

Mark: So, it's just a theory, but it seems to kind of make sense to me anyway.

Yucca: I wonder too, if when you're next to very When you're on the edge of very different environments, right, being on the coast and then having, you know, your mountains inland and your coast one way, you know, that might also inspire that a little bit, that there is just something very different about these different directions.

Mark: Right. Where I am near the coast, there's definitely that gigantic ocean, you know, out to the west, and then there's sort of, two buckets of, land stuff. There's Redwoods,

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: which is, you know, the, the primordial forest, the, you know, amazing cathedral like forest. And then there's the Oak Chaparral, the Oak grasslands and Chaparral.

And that was, which is just very characteristically California. Landscape. And I've never really figured out how, I mean, I guess getting away from directions and just simply naming those things would probably be a way of invoking the landscape,

Yucca: hmm.

Mark: and, and the local, the local land and water.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: yeah, I need to think about this more the more I'm talking about it as, as we're conversing, I'm having new ideas.

Yucca: There's also a scale aspect too of when, when you're invoking, what are you invoking and why? Right, how intimate is it? Because thinking about that, or it's very similar where I am, is we have these very, very different spaces that are all kind of close to each other, next to each other. I go up into the Rockies with the Ponderosas, and it's very different than being down here in the I live right on these scarps, this beautiful juniper pignon, and then we go down into the, so I, I'm right at the crossroads between.

These vastly different geographic regions. But I, I would only really think about invoking all of that in very specific types of rituals. Most of mine would be very much smaller, much more intimate of just being present with the tree that I'm sitting next to.

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: Right. Oh, I don't always feel the need to bring it.

I'm not to that grandness of let's let me bring in the whole Rio Grande rift, right? Like that isn't what I'm that's not what I'm doing most of the time.

Mark: I guess when I do that, it's because I'm sort of inviting. I'm inviting the landscape to witness what I'm doing

Yucca: Mm

Mark: a way. I'm saying hey, if I could have your attention for a moment, I'm over here doing a thing. And of course, it's all metaphorical in my mind. So I'm not actually asking for any kind of a being out there to focus its attention on me.

But for my own sake, I want to feel like what I'm doing is integrated into the systems of the land and water where I live.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And so I'm sort of calling attention to it and saying, Hey, I'm going to do a thing. So, check it out. And I hope this all works with whatever you've got going on.

Yucca: Yeah, let's see that. Hmm. I think it might, for me, it might be something where big, bigger moments of the year, mark, when I'm marking a, you know, the change of a year, a solstice or something like that. But if it's a, I'm going to do some self care and work through a traumatic memory, you know, that might not, I might not bring that whole level in.

Mark: Huh. Huh.

Yucca: I might not want that witnessing,

Mark: Right. Right. Yeah. I guess along those lines, and this is a way that we may be very individual from one another, there's something about the patience and the capacity for, for just absorbing whatever events have taken place that I associate with land. There's something about deep time and geology and it just lays down layers of memory.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: But it, it incorporates them in, into itself rather than, rather than suffering through them, if that makes any sense. I mean, I'm, it's sort of poetic, but,

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: but when you, when you start thinking about all this stuff, you get poetic really fast. That's, you know, kind of what it's about is metaphor and, and imagery and all that.

Yucca: I wish in this moment that this was video, not audio because Mark, your background right now, do you want to describe what your Zoom background is for everybody?

Mark: Oh sure, it's a, it's a shot of the Grand Canyon at summertime, at at sunset.

Yucca: Right?

Mark: with the Alpenglow, the beautiful red Alpenglow along one scarp and the Colorado River down below on the, on the other side, down in blues and, and purples. And that's just that, that particular geological feature of the Grand Canyon is just very, very beloved to me and I've had amazing experiences there, almost died there. And I just, I go back to images of the Grand Canyon over and over again. The Southwest generally is just so beautiful.

Yucca: Yeah, and you can see in that picture the layers, layer upon layer and layer, and then just the horizon beyond with it, you know, the little mesas in the background, the glow of the light. So it was just as you were talking about that, that relationship with the land, I was looking at that picture and going, Oh, just like that, just like those layers in the rock carved away over the years and years.

So.

Mark: Yeah. And I mean, to, to extend the metaphor when those layers are, are carved out or are brought back to light rather than being tragedies or, or crimes or transgressions, instead they're beautiful.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: Because if there's anything that I've learned through my own life, it's that. The suffering that I've done has helped to make me beautiful

Yucca: Yeah. Indeed.

Mark: and I think that's true of everyone.

Yucca: Indeed.

Well,

Mark: Well, we've gone a long, yeah, me too. This has been a, just a delightful conversation. We've come a long way from correspondences, but that's, that's all to the good.

Yucca: I think so. Yeah. And before we know it, we're going to be at our next holiday episode.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: So, yep.

Mark: Another one that nobody knows what the name is.

Yucca: are we going to call it? Yes, that August thing. So, well, thank you so much, Mark.

Mark: Oh, thank you, Yucca. It's always a pleasure.

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Manage episode 371469960 series 2634748
Innehåll tillhandahållet av The Wonder Podcast. Allt poddinnehåll inklusive avsnitt, grafik och podcastbeskrivningar laddas upp och tillhandahålls direkt av The Wonder Podcast eller deras podcastplattformspartner. Om du tror att någon använder ditt upphovsrättsskyddade verk utan din tillåtelse kan du följa processen som beskrivs här https://sv.player.fm/legal.

Remember, we welcome comments, questions, and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.

S4E23 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder, science based paganism. I'm your host, Mark,

Yucca: And I'm Yucca.

Mark: and today we are talking about individual practice with shared values in paganism.

Yucca: Yes. And it, we kind of danced around coming up with this topic because we started with the idea of talking about correspondence, which is something very, very common in many different pagan traditions. And immediately, Coming to, to the place of going, well, in Atheopaganism, there isn't really a shared, there's, we don't have a book, right, that says this color means this and this direction means that.

It's kind of, it's kind of up to every person and that's a, a really common theme with how we do our ritual, how we practice, how the wheel of the year looks, all of those sorts of things. And yet, We still are a community that still practices with each other and relates and shares values. So that's where we were coming from with this topic.

Mark: right, right. And I mean, a lot of us are solitary. A lot of us, you know, work on our own. And as you say, you know, we really encourage people to do this kind of DIY religion thing, right? Where you create the practices that work best for you. You create a wheel of the year cycle that reflects the natural world where you are and the climate where you are, you know, you create a focus that looks like.

The way you want it to and has the symbols on it that you find meaningful. You do rituals. I mean, you may use the format that I put out in my book or not, but you create rituals that are meaningful and symbolic in the matters, in the, the ways that, that are important to you. It's not like. You know, some of the mainstream religions where you the the rituals are predefined.

They're in a book. They're a thing that you're supposed to do. In some cases, you're not even allowed to do them. There's a priest class that has to do them for you. It's just it's not like that at all.

So, I was thinking about what kinds of topics we could do and so sometimes I will look to more mainstream pagan which is always an ironic term. Mainstream pagan books, right? And most of those books tends to be filled with magical correspondences like this herb means this particular thing.

This, this gemstone or mineral is good for this particular magical practice. This you know, these things are associated with these zodiacal signs, you know.

Yucca: directions,

Mark: The four directions, all of that kind of stuff. And we don't have any of that because it really is. What does it mean to you? Right? So, in my new book that's coming out, for example, I suggest some colors and symbols that you can use for Celebrations of the Wheel of the Year holidays, but they're entirely optional.

And, and so I say, if the winter solstice is all about blue and white for you, then decorating blue and white, it doesn't have to be red and green. Like everybody else does do what works for you.

Yucca: Thinking about the directions because for some people the directions are really important I would imagine that if I live where you do, Mark, I might associate the West with water, but for somebody who lives in New York, they're not gonna, West is not the water, right? East is the water.

Mark: That's right. If you live on the western shore of Lake Superior, then east is the water. There's no question about

Yucca: Yeah.

And, you know, for a lot of, if you're in Tucson, snow might not be something that you really associate with winter solstice.

Mark: no

probably not. Yeah. Unless you, you know, go up into the mountains to go skiing or something, but

Yucca: Right. Yeah. I mean, you go into the north, northern Arizona, that's a different matter, but, you know, not down in the low desert. So,

Mark: So all of this is to say that that led us into the conversation about, well, Ours is a highly individualistic practice, and that's by design, because it's not meant to be dogmatic. It's meant to be facilitative of your own spiritual experience and your own discovery journey, right? Of who you are and what, what is meaningful to you and how you relate to the world around you.

Yucca: right.

Mark: But that said, oh, go ahead.

Yucca: but that isn't going to be informed by things. Right? The, the red and green for solstice many people have grown up around that being the color scheme, and that's what they associated with, or the particular family that you come from had associations or whatever your cultural background, regional background, right?

Just because it's, Individual doesn't mean you have to remake everything. If something works for you from the background that you're coming from, great,

Mark: Mm hmm.

Yucca: Certain colors, certain smells, foods, all of those things, you know, we're, we're shaped by that. And that's not a bad thing, right? As long as we're conscious about that.

Mark: right. You can start with a blank sheet of paper and just invent it all for yourself, but you don't have to. And most of us don't, you know, we draw things that come from our life experience of, you know, growing up with particular sorts of practices at a particular time of year, all that sort of thing.

And that's all great. Right? Because it's meaningful and it resonates for us and it's, it's, it, it works for us emotionally. But then the flip side of all this is that we are in a community. It's mostly an online community, but increasingly we have people getting together in person as

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And so if all of our practices are super diverse and individualized, then what is it that glues us together as a community?

Yucca: Right.

Mark: Right? And so what we were talking about is the shared values.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: In atheopaganism, we have the four sacred pillars and the 13 principles. And in order to get into our online communities, you have to endorse the principles. We ask people as, as they, they enter our, as they apply to get into our Facebook group, for example.

You know, this is a feminist, anti racist, anti ableist know, pro science. anti fascist space. You endorse those values.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: if we don't get an answer or if we get the wrong answer, which we never do then you don't get in because we want to share community with people that fundamentally have a respect for the individual and a respect for the earth and and a respect for critical thinking and, and science.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: That's what we're about.

Yucca: to be clear, we're not going out into other communities and saying you've got to do it our way, but we're saying that this shared space that we've created here, these are the values that we have. And these are, this is what we expect here that that we share together. And then from there I mean, it's, it's amazing to see what people do share with each other and to see what what things people have in common and different approaches that people take.

And it's just, it's lovely,

Mark: And the beautiful focuses, the, the altars that they make you know, that are always so unique so specific to that person and, and what their aesthetic is and what their values are all of that. And so, to me, it's this real dance around The celebration and empowerment of the individual, as well as gathering together in community in a shared, a shared ethical and value system,

Yucca: Mm hmm. Mm

Mark: so that when we come together we know, hey, you know we're, we're safe with each other here, we're, we're all, we all care about the same stuff.

And, you know, we're, We know we're going to be respected. We know we're going to be appreciated for what we bring. We know that there's room for us, you know, whatever, you know, our, our diverse individual nature might be. All of that is just so important. And so that, that is the, the, the knife edge that we seek to walk.

Right. Right.

Yucca: well, there's been a, there's a really important key in all of this and that's the communication part. And that's something that we work really hard on both the online and in person community is to, to try to explain and be Open and try to understand when people are explaining the things. I remember when at Sun Tree for the shared ritual, there was explanation, right?

There wasn't any, at least there was very little, or if it was there, it was so familiar to me that I didn't notice it. That the expectations were spoken out loud. There wasn't this hidden script that everybody was following that is more common in more established religions, right? If you go to Catholic mass, nobody's telling you what to do.

Everybody is doing it and has been doing it that way for hundreds of years, right? But when creating new things and working with lots of different kinds of people with different kinds of practices, communicating between each other is really key so that we, we know it, we're on the same page. We're not working with different expectations,

Mark: Right. And, and the collaboration that goes into the creation of a shared ritual becomes a really important part of the process. I mean, there are times when you'll have like a ritual leader and they will either create a ritual themselves or they'll work with a subset of all the people that are going to celebrate it.

If you've got a ritual of 100 people, you cannot have a collaboration of 100

Yucca: you know?

Mark: to design a ritual. It would just be a big mess. But there's a consent piece where everybody agrees. Okay. You know, these, these are the folks that we have decided are going to do this thing for us. And we're going to go along with the, the practice that.

they've designed for us to go through for this ritual. And of course, there's always the opt out possibility. If something comes, I mean, I can't imagine what it would be, but if there's some part of a ritual that someone is uncomfortable with, they don't have to participate.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: they, and they can say, I'm not comfortable.

I'm, I'm stepping out.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So, yeah, I mean, when I was writing my new book one of the things that I thought about a lot was this correspondences piece because, you know, the proliferation of Wicca books and, and pagan books generally, often so much of the content of those books is about This color means this thing and, you know, burn a candle of this color with this sigil on it in order to accomplish this effect.

It's all very prescriptive.

Yucca: A lot of the short form media that gets shared to like the Instagrams and TikToks and things like that, a lot of them are really focused on that as well,

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: which makes sense because it's a, it's a little bite size something, right? Like it, it kind of lends itself to that, but then that's successful and then more people do it and then more people and then that's kind of awesome.

All there is.

Mark: Right. So, and, and I don't want to be prescriptive in that way. I don't want to tell people, well, for one thing, because in my worldview, such associations are arbitrary, you know, we, we do ritual in order to affect ourselves psychologically. And if you see red as a color of peace and calm. Then buy gum, use red as a color of peace and calm.

It's not up to me. It's up to you,

Yucca: Right. Yeah.

Mark: So the challenge, you know, part of the challenge in putting the book together was like, well, okay, what's the content of this book going to be? Because this is all about sort of a how to, whereas the first book was much more of a theory kind of book,

Yucca: Right.

Mark: more of a why and where's the science behind it and that stuff. The second book is much more about how to create rituals and examples and outlines and stuff like that.

Yucca: Right. Which is, it can be really helpful, right? Especially when somebody's coming into something like ritual with no prior experience going, what, so this is great. You're all saying, do it your own way, whatever works for you, but I have no idea what works for me. Right? Sometimes people just want, give me something to, to work with and then I can modify it.

But like, something, anything,

Mark: Exactly. And that's why I wrote the book that I did. The, because that's what I was hearing a lot, especially from folks coming from the atheist side into the community.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: Because one of the things that's really great about the neopagan community is that now it has more than 50 years of cumulative.

accumulation of lore and knowledge and wisdom and psychological insight into what works ritually.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And there's a, there's just a huge body of accumulated knowledge there that doesn't exist in the atheist community at all. The atheist community has a big, huge accumulated body of lore around skepticism and critical thinking and being less wrong and evidentiary standards and all that kind of stuff.

And all of that is very good when it comes to figuring out what's most likely to be true. It's not necessarily all that useful when impactful.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So that's one reason why atheopaganism is a marriage of those things, so that you can do both of those things and do them well.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And so that's, that's what the new book is, is basically intended for, is to give people some, some benefit of that. Experience that's been accumulated over all that time that I've managed to learn in my 35 years in the, in the community.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So, I was thinking, maybe we could round this out with some like unusual examples of associations that we have like personal associations that might not be the ones that would be necessarily expected by people, but that we have on our own?

Yucca: I'm gonna have to think about that. Do you have any off the top of your head?

Mark: Well, I kind of do. The, the, the first one is, in creating my wheel of the year the February holiday, which is often in the sort of Wiccan framework associated with snow, and in some cases with little sprouts of green coming up through the snow, or all that kind of stuff. In my area, that's not what it is at all.

What it is is torrential cold rain. Just a lot of rain and, you know, refilling all the agricultural ponds and getting all the creeks thundering and the river filling up and all that. So, I named the Holiday River Rain.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And to me, it is the festival of water. And so I associate it with all of those kind of flowy, emotional sort of qualities psychologically, as well as with its more traditional association with infancy and new beginnings, you know, planning for the future sort of envisioning what, what can come later on through the, the harvesting process.

So that, that's one that comes to mind for me immediately. Have you, have you found one?

Yucca: Well, I suppose maybe the bug association I have with summer solstice. I one that I mean, there's a logic to it there for me, right? Because that's, that's when they're out. That's when all the bees are out. That's dance. That's the you know, that's when they, you see the wing dance coming out.

And but I think a lot of times folks kind of, many people are very uncomfortable. With insects and arthropods and that sort of thing. So I think that gets left out of a lot of practices or views of nature. Unless it's a honeybee or a butterfly. People and a dragonfly. People like those three, right?

But most other ones, they're like, oh, I don't know how I feel about that weird, like, cricket thing or that.

Mark: Jerusalem crickets or tarantula hawks.

Yucca: those are what I was thinking. Yeah. Tarantula hawks are our state insect actually.

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: beautiful,

Mark: are wonderful. Yeah.

Yucca: but the wasps are very different in their reproductive, their life cycle than ours.

It's a little uncomfortable for people to think about sometimes. So I think maybe that might be one association. For us,

Mark: Mhm.

Yucca: I mean, for me, it's, it's, I'm just so,

the experience of my climate is, it's, it's a very distinctive climate. It's one that I'm very in, kind of, and I only really remember that when I travel, right? When I travel and go somewhere else, I'm like, oh, right. Other people are having a totally different experience than I am here in my little, you know, desert mesa.

Like, it's a very, you know, so sometimes it's kind of, it's, it's hard to think about, well, what is everybody else's association? Because I don't spend a lot of time with that, right? I don't spend a lot of time with what the, well, the directions hmm.

Mark: Right. And I don't actually use directions in my practice at all. And not entirely sure why that is because certainly I'm relating to the landscape. It's just, I don't know, the directions just don't seem to do a lot for me so I don't, I don't do them but, but a lot of people do. And. I think part of it is the association with the classical Greek elements, which is a very old system, but it is a pseudoscientific system. I mean, they, they believed it at the time, but it's, it's no longer valid. We know that there are a lot more elements than that and fire is a reaction. It's not an element.

Yucca: Yeah.

I mean, it was a useful concept though, right? When I, I I start the, I do a chemistry class and we always start with, okay, well, let's talk about what elements are and how this, you know, this concept and where's it come from. And it's a, you know, it's a, it has some pretty good logic to

Mark: Mm hmm.

Yucca: Our understanding is, has definitely shifted.

Over time, though, in terms of what, what are those building blocks?

Mark: Right. Right. And, and all the metaphorical associations with the directions like, you know, air with intellect and communication and ideation and breath and all those things. I mean, it's a, it's a pretty nifty system it all fits together very well, you know, with, with the different You know, phases of matter

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: other than the exotic ones, you know,

Yucca: The observable states.

Mark: yeah, the, there you go.

The, the observable states of matter.

Yucca: When I was younger, I did do a lot more with that because I had had a lot of of interaction with reclaiming folk. And they do a lot of the, of the elements and direction work. And so that was a lot of the group rituals that I had done had been Within the context of reclaiming tradition. So, but as I changed over time, I, I really moved away from that.

And I still still do a circle sometimes, but I, and we'll sometimes still turn in the different directions just as a way of, of creating the circle, but they don't have for. a really strong meaning to me because they are so different depending on where you are. Other than sunrise and sunset, right?

Though, you know, the, the sun coming up in the east, but even then, the sun doesn't come up in the same direction. We say it comes up in the east, but it actually...

Mark: northeast or the southeast.

Yucca: wildly across my sky, right? It's not the same direction. So it's kind of that, in the same way that the seasons, you know, aren't this clear cut, like lines between the seasons, the directions for me aren't these really clear directions either.

It's kind of that. that direction.

Mark: Right. Right.

Yucca: And the Pueblo folk here use the directions in the same way, different associations, but that was also something I grew up around, was that it's very common, that same, you know, calling in the directions and different aspects and spirits for that.

Mark: I have a theory around this, which is that cultures which live in landscapes where you can see long distances. tend to focus on directions like that. If you, I mean, if you live in a jungle, then there's, it's undifferentiated. It's, it's going to be very hard to say, okay, well, this to the north is, you know, associated with X, Y, and Z, because you're surrounded by a wall of vegetation that is exactly identical in every direction you look. But I think you know, especially in the American Midwest and the arid West, you know, we have these.

huge, expansive vistas.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: And so being able to encompass the landscape with an invocation, I think is, is really important, is really compelling.

Yucca: Hmm. I can see that. Yeah.

Mark: So, it's just a theory, but it seems to kind of make sense to me anyway.

Yucca: I wonder too, if when you're next to very When you're on the edge of very different environments, right, being on the coast and then having, you know, your mountains inland and your coast one way, you know, that might also inspire that a little bit, that there is just something very different about these different directions.

Mark: Right. Where I am near the coast, there's definitely that gigantic ocean, you know, out to the west, and then there's sort of, two buckets of, land stuff. There's Redwoods,

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: which is, you know, the, the primordial forest, the, you know, amazing cathedral like forest. And then there's the Oak Chaparral, the Oak grasslands and Chaparral.

And that was, which is just very characteristically California. Landscape. And I've never really figured out how, I mean, I guess getting away from directions and just simply naming those things would probably be a way of invoking the landscape,

Yucca: hmm.

Mark: and, and the local, the local land and water.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: yeah, I need to think about this more the more I'm talking about it as, as we're conversing, I'm having new ideas.

Yucca: There's also a scale aspect too of when, when you're invoking, what are you invoking and why? Right, how intimate is it? Because thinking about that, or it's very similar where I am, is we have these very, very different spaces that are all kind of close to each other, next to each other. I go up into the Rockies with the Ponderosas, and it's very different than being down here in the I live right on these scarps, this beautiful juniper pignon, and then we go down into the, so I, I'm right at the crossroads between.

These vastly different geographic regions. But I, I would only really think about invoking all of that in very specific types of rituals. Most of mine would be very much smaller, much more intimate of just being present with the tree that I'm sitting next to.

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: Right. Oh, I don't always feel the need to bring it.

I'm not to that grandness of let's let me bring in the whole Rio Grande rift, right? Like that isn't what I'm that's not what I'm doing most of the time.

Mark: I guess when I do that, it's because I'm sort of inviting. I'm inviting the landscape to witness what I'm doing

Yucca: Mm

Mark: a way. I'm saying hey, if I could have your attention for a moment, I'm over here doing a thing. And of course, it's all metaphorical in my mind. So I'm not actually asking for any kind of a being out there to focus its attention on me.

But for my own sake, I want to feel like what I'm doing is integrated into the systems of the land and water where I live.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: And so I'm sort of calling attention to it and saying, Hey, I'm going to do a thing. So, check it out. And I hope this all works with whatever you've got going on.

Yucca: Yeah, let's see that. Hmm. I think it might, for me, it might be something where big, bigger moments of the year, mark, when I'm marking a, you know, the change of a year, a solstice or something like that. But if it's a, I'm going to do some self care and work through a traumatic memory, you know, that might not, I might not bring that whole level in.

Mark: Huh. Huh.

Yucca: I might not want that witnessing,

Mark: Right. Right. Yeah. I guess along those lines, and this is a way that we may be very individual from one another, there's something about the patience and the capacity for, for just absorbing whatever events have taken place that I associate with land. There's something about deep time and geology and it just lays down layers of memory.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: But it, it incorporates them in, into itself rather than, rather than suffering through them, if that makes any sense. I mean, I'm, it's sort of poetic, but,

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: but when you, when you start thinking about all this stuff, you get poetic really fast. That's, you know, kind of what it's about is metaphor and, and imagery and all that.

Yucca: I wish in this moment that this was video, not audio because Mark, your background right now, do you want to describe what your Zoom background is for everybody?

Mark: Oh sure, it's a, it's a shot of the Grand Canyon at summertime, at at sunset.

Yucca: Right?

Mark: with the Alpenglow, the beautiful red Alpenglow along one scarp and the Colorado River down below on the, on the other side, down in blues and, and purples. And that's just that, that particular geological feature of the Grand Canyon is just very, very beloved to me and I've had amazing experiences there, almost died there. And I just, I go back to images of the Grand Canyon over and over again. The Southwest generally is just so beautiful.

Yucca: Yeah, and you can see in that picture the layers, layer upon layer and layer, and then just the horizon beyond with it, you know, the little mesas in the background, the glow of the light. So it was just as you were talking about that, that relationship with the land, I was looking at that picture and going, Oh, just like that, just like those layers in the rock carved away over the years and years.

So.

Mark: Yeah. And I mean, to, to extend the metaphor when those layers are, are carved out or are brought back to light rather than being tragedies or, or crimes or transgressions, instead they're beautiful.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: Because if there's anything that I've learned through my own life, it's that. The suffering that I've done has helped to make me beautiful

Yucca: Yeah. Indeed.

Mark: and I think that's true of everyone.

Yucca: Indeed.

Well,

Mark: Well, we've gone a long, yeah, me too. This has been a, just a delightful conversation. We've come a long way from correspondences, but that's, that's all to the good.

Yucca: I think so. Yeah. And before we know it, we're going to be at our next holiday episode.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: So, yep.

Mark: Another one that nobody knows what the name is.

Yucca: are we going to call it? Yes, that August thing. So, well, thank you so much, Mark.

Mark: Oh, thank you, Yucca. It's always a pleasure.

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