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THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, now of the Magic and Mundane channel).

Named #4 in the top15 Pagan podcasts for 2022! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/

Brightening (Imbolc)

January 25, 2021

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




Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Yucca.

Mark: I'm Mark.

Yucca: And this week we are already talking about this February holiday Imbolc or Candlemas River Rain. Is that right?

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: Or for us Second Winter, Nos Gwyl Fair. It's got a lot of names.

Mark: Yes exactly. It seems that the cross quarters always accumulate this big pile of names, whereas the solstices and equinoxes just usually have one or maybe two. But this is this is a pretty important holiday for many pagans. And so we'll be talking about what it means and what kinds of ritual practices we have associated with it and what our metaphorical associations are with it.

And this marks, the last of the solar holidays that we are doing a podcast about For the first time, this is the eighth. We started at the Spring Equinox last year. And so we've come all the way around the Wheel of the Year to the February Sabbath. So that's pretty exciting. And thank you for taking this journey with us.

We really appreciate our listeners and we're glad you're here with us. Thank you.

Yucca: Yeah, thank you. And. the emails that we asked for some last time and got several responses from all of you. And that always is just incredible and wonderful. And we really appreciate that.

Mark: Yes. Yes. And your ideas are really helpful to us. So keep them coming.

Yucca: Yep. So we've got several that we've been able to put onto the list for that.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: So let's start. What's going on in your climate? Mark.

Mark: In my climate, what I have, I've usually named this holiday River Rain, which is the festival of water. And the reason for that is, is that it is usually raining torrentially at this time of year . January and February are the wettest months of the year. And all of the Hills have turned green. Occasionally we'll get a cold Arctic storm and there'll be a little dust of snow on the tops of the mountains.

But it's generally about rain, everything greens up and the creeks are all fendering then there's just that sort of inward cozy staying in at home kind of feeling, but not the same as at Yule because. It's evident now that the light has returned quite a bit, the days are definitely longer.

The the sunrise is definitely earlier. So. It's a time to notice, Hey, the years getting on. And even though it may be a little early for say, planting a garden or something like that, because we're still likely to have freezes it's a time for planning and getting your tools together and learning whatever skills are necessary to approach the work of the coming year. How about yours? What's happening in your environment?

Yucca: For us, this is the coldest time of the year. I am in a desert, but we're a high desert right at 7,000 feet. And so we get real extremes at every night is freezing. And most of the days will come up above freezing, but it's still pretty bitter and we're moving towards the wind. There specially in the next couple of months, there'll be a lot of wind that we'll get that really accentuates that feeling of coldness and bitter. is Second Winter for us. It's not spring. Spring is not in the air. There's nothing springy about it, except that change in the light. So there's a beautiful quietness. There's a sense of waiting a little bit what you're talking about with the planning. It's still winter. We've moved away. It's not Yule anymore. But. But there's still a restfulness this time of year. And I think in some ways, this is perhaps the only restful time of the year for what's happening in my climate.

All the other times, there's always this growth happening in the rains coming and the harvest and the planning and all of this stuff. But now it's just quiet and cold and waiting. And actually it's probably not picking up on the mic, but it just started to hail here. It was snow a moment ago. We'll get hail all the way until June actually, but not much will stick we'll get a little bit. And then, because we only get about 12 inches of precipitation total throughout the whole year. So, so I hear the night, the wind and the hail coming down and it's chilly it and cozy. So, yeah,

Mark: Nice. Yeah, it's like, this is actually the coldest time of year for us too, in that it, we do get some freezes at night occasionally but what that means, I mean, the days are still. I mean even the cold days are in the high forties. And the warm days. I mean, especially now with climate change, we just had a week ago we had a day in the seventies.

It was ridiculous. And of course people love the warm weather, but at the same time, it just feels really creepy. It's just so wrong for this time of year, but finally this week we're getting some good rain. I don't know if I mentioned this. We're supposed to get about nine inches this week.

Yucca: Good amount.

Mark: It's yeah it's a good amount. Yeah, rain and so Everything is greening up. All of the fresh green grass is springing up and the bare dirt. So the Hills are all turning green from the gold that they were with the brown grasses. It's still not quite time for wild flowers which this is where I actually see real spring starting.

I consider this to be the beginning of the spring season. But it's usually a few weeks into it that we started having the wild flowers come up, which is when I start looking towards the Spring Equinox. And I don't know whether you know this, but California, when it was first encountered by white settlers, was this dazzling display of wild flowers before the European grasses were introduced. And what was here were bunchgrasses rather than carpet, grasses and.

Yucca: Than your sod formers.

Mark: Yes. And a tremendous volume of different kinds of wild flowers. So there are tons and tons of native wild flowers here, and there are still places where you can go that are carpeted in California, poppies or paintbrush, or, other plants like that.

So it can be a very beautiful time of year as you get into March and April. So. We've talked about this before. Besides the metaphors and symbol systems that I associate with the Sabbaths that have to do with the climate and the agricultural cycle. I mean, traditionally, this holiday is the holiday of getting your tools together, sharpening your agricultural tools and figuring out, how your garden's going to get planted this year and laying in seeds and all that kind of stuff.

But beside that, I also map the Wheel of the Year on to the cycle of a human life. And so this sabbath. I associate with infancy, kind of the infant toddler sort of range of human life. And because this is the time when you're accumulating lots of knowledge and skills that you're going to then use later on in the cycle.

Just as babies do with this incredible, information flood and figuring out how to use their bodies and just how to navigate this world. So that's really interesting too. I mean, I know that a lot of pagans associate this holiday with the Irish goddess Brigid. And they, there's a tradition where you make a little baby Bridget and put it in a cradle as a part of your ritual for the year.

And I do something very similar. Although what I call the little corn Dolly that I make rain baby and the rain baby is a witness. To all of the Sabbaths going forward from this time until we get to Hallows or Samhain. And when the rain baby is burned in the Samhain fire to call the rain back.

And then the cycle begins again at at River Rain or the February Sabbath. Right. So that's, those are the sorts of things that I associate with this holiday. There was someone in the Ethiopian Facebook group who termed this holiday Brightening. And I really like that term because it's so much more universal. I mean, anybody in the Northern hemisphere is going to experience that the days have gotten longer since the winter solstice. So I may start using that more, but for my own local regional celebrations, it's still all about the water for me. How about you? What do you associate in, how do you celebrate.

Yucca: Another name that you'll often hear is Imbolc, which. I don't speak Irish, so I'm probably not pronouncing it correctly, but that's how I hear a lot of the other folks with pan American-ish accents pronouncing it. And that I believe comes from the lambs milk. This is the milk of the sheep.

But for us, there is a parallel there because we celebrate along with what is happening seasonally in our land. So this is Second Winter for us, but we also look at each season at some part of the larger ecosystem that really influences our life. There are some of the holidays in which we celebrate the main terrestrial biomes, like Yule we look at the forests, specifically, the pine forests and those evergreens and on other side of the year, we've got the grasslands that we're celebrating. This is for us, the time of a celebration of our hooved companions. So of our bovine and caprine companions, who we rely on so deeply.

For so many things, not just us as a family, because as a family we have a bovine based diet. But also as as the connected back to the grass biomes, they're such an important role. Whichever, whatever part of the world, whether you're looking at your Buffalo or any sort of wherever you are that those large grazers have such an important role.

And this is a time when we're really honoring that role, but also honoring that they are, that there's, that, that exchange that we get. The milk and dairy and everyone in my family were all lactose and casein tolerant. So that's a thing that we consume a lot of it and enjoy, and the meat and the furs and all of those products.

And so this is a time of honoring that. This is a time of year to just these past weeks where we order our animals for the year. They won't be ready until later, but thinking about that relationship and that tie that we have on this very on a symbolic level, but also on that just really down to earth exchange of body. So that's a big focus for us.

Mark: Sure. Sure. And that falls again into that theme of planning for the future, of looking forward to what the need is going to be and anticipating that need and then planning for it so that it will be met at the time that you encounter it.

Yucca: And a lot of ways, this is the pre-dawn. Hours. It's still night. kinda, it's almost morning. I mean, it's the, we call it the am, but I'm someone who gets up before dawn and has a few moments before the Sun gets up and that quiet period that planning and this time of year feels like that. And it also is similar because that's the coldest time of the day. And for us, this is the coldest time of the year as well.

Mark: Sure. Sure. So the Equinox then would be dawn.

Yucca: Yes, I think so. That would be dawn, but still it's not time for annuals to get going yet. Annuals do not come until after may day for us. Our last frost is the average is the 15th. Annual season is short and get at it.

Mark: I I did a backpacking trip in grand Tetons once way high elevation. And obviously much wetter than where you are, but you know, very high elevation. And I was there in August and it was spring. There were wild flowers everywhere. It was just spectacular. But it was very clearly a place that had been slowed way down by cold temperatures and high elevation.

So, and, there were still many patches of snow on the ground and so forth, so a wonderful trip. And it reminded me that the window for wind spring is very short for some places.

Yucca: My my brother is a Yellowstone ranger and the last few years we've gone back and forth about, he's got this little postage stamp of a yard to work with and he wants to grow things, but not only does everybody eat it, but there's just no time. I mean their season has even, especially cause they're in between those mountains.


Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: so much shadow the folks farther North at, in higher elevations. There's just so little time.

Mark: Yes. Yeah. He might be able to do root .Vegetables.

Yucca: that has been radishes pretty much been all. That's been working out

Mark: maybe potatoes.

Yucca: potato maybe. Yeah. I mean, potatoes take, it depends on your kind take awhile, but the radishes I think have worked out too, because fewer animals eat them because they've got the space to them. But yeah.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: So petty ways.

Mark: Yeah. So one of the things that I associate with this time is the ring of a sledge hammer on an anvil. I've done back when I was, still not believing, but basically circling with people in a kind of wicked esque sort of way. This festival was the festival of Bridget.

And she is also the goddess of the hearth. She's got us have a lot of stuff. She's got us a fire and the forge and poetry craft childbirth. It's yeah, it's pretty, all inclusive actually.

Yucca: I suspect that there were more figures that got folded in.

Mark: Probably so, but I have a little anvil maybe eight inches long. But it's in the shape. It's in the traditional shape of an anvil and a small, like two pound sledgehammer. And we've done wonderful rituals where we've hammered out like hammered chains together. We had chains with an open link and we've hammered those together in order to seal the magic in right.

Of what we were doing. One year we threaded colored ribbons through the the chains to symbolize the different things that we were planning for the coming year. And we did that all together so that everybody was connected by the ribbons. And then we cut them. So everybody could take their own little loop of chain with ribbons home.

And I still have a couple of those. There's something very potent about that ringing sound and that, that action of the hammer on the forage. And so I like to do something at this time of year that involves that. I talked about making a corn Dolly for the rain baby this year, and I think I'm going to try to make her a little miniature key for her belt on the anvil, which is the key to the future. So that's what I'm planning on doing with that particular piece? I just, I like the way that it echoes back to sharpening sides and hammering out agricultural tools and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. It's there's something very visceral about it about, that, that work with the hammer and the anvil. I highly recommended if, I mean, you can get one of these little anvils for quite cheap, actually like Harbor freight hardware or something like that. They come from China and they're not very good, but but they worked for ritual purposes and actually my partner Nemea was taking an art class for a while and did some jewelry-making and the the instructor got all excited about our anvil and polished up parts of it to make it work properly and all this kind of stuff. So it is a functional tool.

So the other piece that I'm thinking about in terms of Brightening is, and of course this is a complete accident, but it just happens to be true that we. have a new administration now in the United States. And it is not made up of petulant tantrum, throwing resentful children. It is made up of adults who appear to have the public interest in mind and to have competencies in the jobs that they are being appointed to.

And that's a huge change. And of course it's less than a week old. And I know that there are things that are really going to make me angry over the course of the next four years. But

Yucca: and that we can't get lazy. We've got to keep on them.

Mark: yes.

Yucca: you. Yeah.

Mark: Yes. If there are things that you want to see, I mean, at least we know that there are open ears now to hear. That are willing to be convinced that something is in the public interest. If we can make that argument effectively and who are willing to do things that are in the public interest.

So. I have felt a tremendous lightening over the course of the last week. I did not realize what appal the past administration had really cast over me every day, looking in the paper, I would flinch. Over, ho what are they doing now? And I'm not having that experience now.

And it makes a huge difference. So that's another form of Brightening that's happening in certainly in my life. And I think in the life of many others right now,

Yucca: I've certainly been experiencing that. It's similar to, if you've been next to a really loud noise for a long time and you've tuned out their consciousness, you're not consciously aware that it's there, but when the noise goes away, like there was that truck that was sitting next to you next to your house for hours.

And there were the fumes coming out and the rumble of it, and then it drives away and it's quiet all of a sudden. And your shoulders drop about two or three

Mark: inches.

Right, right. This whole stress thing, just flushes out of your body.

Yucca: Yeah. So definitely share that. And it's a big relief. It's.

Mark: it is. And I mean, it's not like we had four years to spare in working on issues like climate change, we, we needed every instant that we can possibly work on it. But rejoining the Paris climate accord, and re-engaging with the international community around this issue and making it one of the top four priorities in the administration is it's just such a shift and it's. .. Know that what we're going to get are going to be half measures because that's what our system is designed to deliver are half measures. But even those half measures I think could be profound.

Yucca: That's the part that, that I found myself getting teary the other day, looking at it and going this isn't. Yeah, everything that's in here is an everything I wanted, but my goodness, somebody is doing something

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: it's something's happening.

Mark: And science has returned to its rightful place as the authoritative voice for how to direct our policies.

Yucca: Yeah. I liked that. That was the symbolic reason behind putting Franklin of painting of Franklin up in the oval office.

Mark: Yes, exactly. So

Yucca: I found it very interesting. What was picked for the symbols of what was, what's going to be in the backdrop of all of those press releases and shoots and all of that.

Mark: right. Yup. And he got rid of Andrew Jackson and Winston Churchill and that's all fine by me.

Yucca: So yeah there's a lot of real interesting parallels right now between the season that we're in on the Wheel of the Year and some of what's happening in the world around us

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: that, not just around us, that we are a part of.

Mark: this time of year. I've always found this time of year to be a very hopeful time. It's like, if Yule is the time when you dream of the new. Then River Rain or Brightening is the time when you plan for it and hope for it. And then you start to implement it after it warms up enough that's practical and you can start to work your way around the cycle.


Yucca: Seed catalogs are going out.

Mark: the, certainly our seeds are selling out left and right.

Yucca: are. Yeah.

Mark: My my organization that I work for is going to do a plant sale in April. And so we have volunteers who are going to be growing starts for us, and we had to rush to get our seed orders in for those plants. Because so many things are just being sold out.

So many people who are stuck at home now are gardening, who weren't gardening before. It's actually noticeable in the market for seeds.

Yucca: And just a quick note for folks in most places you can buy your seeds with EBT.

Mark: That's right.

Yucca: they're set up to do it, you can get your seeds that way. Which makes sense,

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: that's to help you with food and that's what seeds are for.

Mark: Right. Yeah. I mean, you can't buy seeds for like Dahlia's, but but for food crops, he certainly can. And And it's actually a super efficient way to generate food for yourself.

Yucca: And is efficient. So cost-effective efficient and gets you a little bit, probably healthier in most cases and gives you a little bit of that connection with the rest of nature, which is something that in our modern lifestyles, we often struggle with having that connection.

Mark: Just getting your hands into the dirt and breathing those microbes, getting that feeling of wellbeing that comes from engaging with soil in that way. All of that I think is super beneficial.

Yucca: I have several large flower pots when I say large, they're like, Two foot flower pots that we brought in to the, we brought our other house plants into the kitchen for the fall, but I just brought some that were just soil so that the kids can actually get their hands down in and dig around. And the day they were showing me that they had found the little roly polies. Pill bugs are so bugs and that they're just a little itty-bitty and getting their hands in there and smelling that. And, that's a trick by the way of something that if you, especially, if the winter's really tough for you bringing some soil in and keeping that soil alive throughout. The winter, you just water it. Like you would water a plant just a couple of times a week, give it some water and then you've got something to stick your hands into and smell that yeah. Smell and

Mark: Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. All of that is good. Very good. There's such anticipation at this time of year. It's all coming, but it's not happening quite yet. And There's something that's very wonderful about that. I mean, on the one hand, you can plot your schemes and, draw your diagrams and, pull all your tools together and all that good kind of stuff.

But as you say, there's also an opportunity for a lot of rest. You can do that. And then you can take a break and there's nothing that suddenly demands that you go running off to work a 12 hour day under the Sun, because there is no 12 hour day under the Sun. And actually in my work, this this fits very well with that model.

I'm a fundraiser I'm in charge of fundraising for a food bank and January and February are the they're the fallow times in the fundraising season. People do lots of giving at the end of the year. And so you don't ask them for awhile and you do your planning and you do your analysis of what your numbers were last year and what all that tells you about what's happening with your programs.

But it's once again, and once again, it's a time to just assess and plan based on that. And so it all tucks together very neatly in my world. And I have to say that, especially since last Wednesday I'm feeling good. Life is feeling good.

Yucca: Yeah, that's so interesting that it follows the agricultural year so well

Because this is the hunger gap time, right? This is when you might still have a few of your winter squash leftover, but. They're going pretty quickly. Right. And you're not making your spring greens yet. For the most part. There's a few lucky climates that are, but most of us are not getting anything fresh from the garden yet.

Mark: Sure. So you're looking for that. Ewe's milk

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: and waiting for the chickens to start laying again, which is why eggs are associated with the Spring Equinox.

Yucca: Yep, exactly. Which we'll talk about in a few weeks.

Mark: Yes, we will.

Yucca: but yeah.

Mark: Yeah. It's a little bit different in the fundraising cycle because it culminates in December, whereas the agricultural cycle, really the big harvest time is September-ish.

Yucca: That's true but you're still feasting into that

Mark: Oh, yes,

Yucca: Right. There's lots of get together. It's dark. Goodness. What else do we do?

Mark: Let's eat everything before it goes bad.

Yucca: that's right? Yeah. That thing with those, the the squash, you gotta eat those, right. That's. We were talking about eggnog a few episodes back,

Mark: right.


Yucca: use up those eggs

Mark: Yeah. Pile in those calories because you're going to get skinny by the time March rolls around.

Yucca: yeah.

And alcohol is a good way of preserving things. So add alcohol to everything. Right. That was the thought.

Mark: Right, right. So what else.

Yucca: So other traditions this time of year is a time where we do maintenance on things like our going back to the bovine and caprin connection. Like we brush out our lambskins that we have. Right. Brush those out any of the furs the big bedding things that we have, our quilts and blankets and all of those things, getting those cleaned up and that you were talking about the sharpening of the tool,

Mark: right, right.


Yucca: And if you are doing management on forested properties and you're in a wetter area, This can be a good time to be getting in there when you're starting to get more light, but the ground is still frozen. So you're not going to do as much damage if you pull your truck in there to out a particular stand or do some sort of maintenance.

So there are some outdoor activities that are really well suited to this time of year where it's cold, but you still have light to actually work by.

Mark: Sure. Sure. Yeah. Although, I mean, where I am construction has really pretty much ground to a halt by now because of sediment, runoff. Every, everything has to be weatherized and. hardened against rainy erosion by the 15th of October. And I believe it's the 1st of May, when those regulations then.

Turn off

Yucca: So it's actual regulations. It's

Mark: Oh yes. It's not just best practices I'm here. And I'm proud to say that I had a lot to do with this in my County. We have a vineyard development ordinance and that got expand it into an overall erosion control ordinance. That affects everything because we have endangered salmon bearing streams here. And sedimentation is one of the worst things that can happen to a salmon bearing stream. They just, they choke to death.

So yeah, so th once again it's another case of, there are people with their blueprints and their plans and their budgets and all that kind of stuff, but they're probably not going to get going very much until later in the spring.

Yucca: Strategize, what orders things are happening in. And

Mark: Right. Exactly. So that is the February Sabbath, whether you have a name for it, of your own, or whether you call it in bulk or ewe milk, or Bridgid or Brightening that is that's our overview on what it is and how it works and what the metaphors are. And of course, all of this is to the point of leading richer lives better connected with nature. Having more of a sense about the profound slow changes that happen around the course of the year that color everything about our existence and yet which somehow we're able to ignore a lot of the time. So it's about being more aware and more connected.

And therefore more happy and more wise, and able to spread that out into the world to make the world a better place. So it's a, it's an ambitious agenda, but this is the time of year for ambitious agendas.

Yucca: And it's worth it. Right.

Mark: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is.

Yucca: Thank you, Mark.

Mark: Thank you, Yucca. Great conversation. Thanks so much.