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, and of the Magic and Mundane channel). Named #3 in the top 20 Pagan podcasts for 2023! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/
Monday Apr 05, 2021
Monday Apr 05, 2021
Monday Apr 05, 2021
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Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder: Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host, Mark.
Yucca: And I'm Yucca.
Mark: And today we're going to talk about families, about approaching your family with your non theist. Science-based paganism, about how to negotiate the conflicts or mutual incomprehension that may arise from that about how we integrate our personal spirituality into our families and just other issues that have to do with relating to families as a part of our life and our practice.
Yucca: That's right. And this is one of those topics that is huge about a year ago. At this point, we did talk about family and we talked about what is the role of family and blood versus chosen and all of that, but there's no way that we can cover all of it in one go. So we're back again, to look at it from these different angles.
Mark: Right. And it bears saying that today when we're recording is the day before Easter. And so there's a lot of kind of confrontation of family that happens at around Easter time because at least in the United States where the Christian holidays have become secularized and made normative for people to practice, even if they're not Christians.
Or if they're just very nominally Christian. People get expected to go to Easter dinner or to come over for an egg hunt or to do something with the larger body of their family. And that may be uncomfortable if all of the symbology and the supposed meanings around the Easter holiday are things you don't believe in or support.
Yucca: There's going to be a huge range of what of listeners are going through. But I suspect that some of our listeners are in the position of this being something that the being a pagan is something new in their life or something that perhaps their family that they come from doesn't know. And they don't know how they, the family might respond or maybe they do know.
And it's it. Isn't what they're looking for.
Mark: Right. Yeah. And there's kind of a double whammy in our particular neck of the woods, because it's not only by the way, I'm, you know, a godless heretic. It's also, I'm a, you know, wild heathen I'm doing both of
Yucca: Best kind of combination though, in my opinion. Right. I like it.
Mark: I'm right there with you, but especially when you consider how propagandized some people in some sects of especially Christianity, but also Islam and even the very conservative Jewish traditions.
You know, they can have heard all kinds of horrible things about people that are atheistic about people who are witches or pagans, and it can be a very difficult bridge to cross when trying to get all that stuff out of the way and actually meet your family and say, Hey, look, this is who I am and it's good for me.
Yucca: I think that the, that approaching this, I mean, there's again, so many directions to go, but one of the first places is to think about the different roles that families can play in people's personal lives. And this, a lot of this depends on the larger culture that people are from. And then the family culture and personal beliefs in terms of what is the role of the individual and what is the role of family and where does authority lay within that?
And how much does everybody's should be or not be in everybody else's business and there's not a right answer. This is a cultural answer. Whether family or larger culture.
Mark: Right. Yeah. I mean, there are some, some cultural traditions, like, Greek and Italian traditions, for example, where you have, you know, kind of matriarchs and patriarchs of the family that have tremendous influence and power. And, you know, if you're on the outs with them or they've decided that you're somehow you know, a bad person for choosing the path you choose, it can cause difficult situations for you in your life. So, and I mean, I'm not targeting those particular groups, I'm just pulling those out of the air. There are certainly plenty of families from, you know, the UK that are similar,
Yucca: And varying degrees from many different cultures and it's a spectrum.
Mark: yes, very much so. So, you know, these are situations that that get asked about in the Facebook group. The atheopagan is some Facebook group that I administer and that we're members of pretty frequently, you know. " I'm I've I found this path. It's really moving to me and it's really, you know, lighting up in ways that I never really expected. It feels so right. It's so good for me that I've found this. I have no idea of how to talk to my husband slash mother's slash father's slash you know, grandmother who has been my closest family person children."
And. It is it's difficult to talk about because there really is no one size fits all. Every one of those individuals that people are concerned about is an individual. They have their own personality and their own value structure. And so there's no simple prescription for how to address this.
That said, I do think there are some general principles that we can encourage people to follow. And I need to be really clear up front that the circumstances of my life, not having to do with religion at all, have forced me to completely disengage from my. Birth family. I don't have any engagement with them at all.
And so, you know, it may be a little glib for me to hear me saying, Oh you should do this. And so I asked people to kind of take the things that I say with a grain of salt that way. I haven't had to, I haven't had to climb this particular Hill because my family was really bad for me. And it was a pretty easy call to get away.
But for people, for whom you're getting, you know, mixed measurements of sugar and poison, which happens in families a lot. It can be much more difficult to make decisions about how to draw boundaries, how to communicate clearly and how to assert yourself as an individual within that family system.
Yucca: And for my family situation, I'm also coming from a place where that might be a little bit different than some of our listeners in that my family, or at least part of my family is pagan.
So I've never had the situation of going back and saying, Hey, I'm different or I'm doing a different path. I'm breaking from the tradition of the family. I have these new beliefs or anything like that. But I do have a couple of family members who, siblings, in fact who are not pagan and who are Christian and pretty uncomfortable with the pagan side of things.
So there's, we'll talk about a lot of different strategies, but what we do is we just don't talk about it. That's just one of those things that we just don't touch on. And we know that if we go there, there's going to be conflict and we just don't see each other often enough for that. We don't want to waste our time with the little time we get to be together, having that be conflict.
And what we do instead is try and focus on the places where we do have a lot of common values. And there are other things too, that we differ quite strongly on in the realm of politics and things like that. So we just really focus on what is it that we have in common that we all appreciate and can really love and just steer away from those other things.
But again, that's not, that works for my family style that I come from, but that may not be a possibility for someone else.
Mark: I think it's really different to have a number of people in your family who are pagan. Because then the stakes are much higher. If somebody decides to draw a line in the sand and say, I'm not connecting with any pagans, then they're jettisoning a whole bunch of people in their family. I think it's much harder for someone who's an individual to say "I finally found the path that's working for me and it ain't what you folks are doing."
Yucca: Yeah. Especially if what you folks are doing believes in things like damnation and things like that. Yeah.
Mark: Yes, ironically, some of the most hellish circumstances, one can find themselves in are in a family that doesn't actually support people in their journey. So, you know, maybe they're right about damnation, but they're creating it in the process.
Yucca: So, so given our backgrounds What are some things that we can suggest or speak to for the listenership?
Mark: I think to start with, you need to have a clear sense of personal boundaries. One of the things that's very hard about family is that when we start in them, we're very small and we don't have much personal authority. We don't get listened to very much in most cases. And so there are these habits that get formed, especially by our parents and by family members who were older than we are to think that they can just sort of dictate to us and that we have to follow whatever it is that they have prescribed or whatever their impulse is. And this is multi-generational. I mean, there are plenty of people out there who have kids of their own, who still feel dominated by their mother or their father, or both even in how they're raising yes or a sibling. In how they're raising their own kids.
So the assertion of personal autonomy becomes very important. And that sounds, I mean, that's a very nice phrase, the assertion of personal autonomy, but it sounds a lot easier than it is having boundaries about how you will allow yourself to be treated and talked to is something that every autonomous self-loving person needs to have. And. The context of the family can be one of the hardest places to do that. But the workplace is the same. I mean, I've had bosses who talked to me in ways that were simply unacceptable and I've told them, you can't talk to me like that.
I'm your boss.
Yeah, you're my boss. But that just means that I do work for you and you pay me a paycheck. It doesn't mean that you get to treat me like some kind of a whipping post, and this is unacceptable. And I am walking out of this room now until you can talk to me like another human being. And I didn't get fired at that moment, actually. I was kind of amazed. But the behavior didn't improve much and I left shortly thereafter.
I think it's necessary for all of us to be able to stand up with our shoulders squared and say I'm deserving of respect. I'm deserving of honoring who I am, even if it's not the same as who you are. And that's, that honestly is the biggest step when it comes to dealing with family who may not understand, we can be very gentle about it. It doesn't have to be in your face, sort of, you know, combative tone but it can be, you know, not aggressive, but assertive. You know, this is what I'm doing. I'm happier now.
I'm more effective in my life. Now the world makes sense to me now in ways that it didn't make sense to me before. And I would hope that you would be happy for me about that, even though it isn't the same way that you look at things. And I know that you have beliefs about people doing and believing things differently than you do, but I don't share those beliefs.
And I'm asking that in the name of our familial relationship, you will honor me enough to let me be me. And, you know, that's also a very pretty speech and there could be a lot of different responses to that. I mean, you know, there can be people flying off the handle into hysterical, screaming, and there can be people sitting back and thinking, you know, that kind of makes sense, even though I don't like this at all. It's not really my place to tell you how to live your life.
Yucca: Now, there are some pieces that depending on the personalities that you might want to warm up to, right? That speech there might not be something that, you know would, they would be able to hear yet. Or that you would
Mark: Oh, to lead with? No.
Yucca: Right. You know, maybe starting with working in some of the things that are major values to you, that they might not be quite as threatened by and kind of starting to work some of those things up, as long as you weren't feeling torn up and horrible about feeling like you're lying or hiding parts of yourself or something like that. But, you know, work towards Hey, this nature thing, it's really cool. Like this is really helping me feel great. Like let's connect with this, let's go on a walk together or share our appreciation of birdwatching or whatever it is.
Know and work towards some of those things so that it makes a little bit more sense when you do have more of the formal coming out, out of the broom closet, or as some say.
Mark: Right, right. Yeah. I mean, it's always tricky when. I mean, you, we liked the idea. I think of our family as people that we can just go to and say anything. And certainly with my chosen family, which is my ritual circle, I feel that I can tell them anything. If there's a conflict we're having, I can talk with them about it.
If there's a disagreement, we can discuss it. If there's something, you know, really personal happening in my life, I can bring that to them. But it is also true that there are times with family. When you need to be strategic, you need to be aware of what the personality types are that you're dealing with. And have a bit of a plan. You know, I'm going to lead with the fact that I'm much happier now. And that happiness is a value that I really embrace and presuming that my family members love me when they see that I'm happier, they should see that as good. They would presumably see it as good. Right.
I'm going to lead with the good stuff that this has done for me. The details don't matter so much. You know, the collage trickle details. We talk about this in science-based paganism all the time. You know, we're always being kind of grilled about what we believe and what we believe is the least important. aspect of what we do, it's our values and our practices that are really the kind of rich, interesting, exciting stuff. What we believe is just a worldview, a framework for understanding the nature of the universe. And it reveals lots of very cool stuff to us, but we wouldn't know it was cool if we didn't embrace happiness in all and reverence and all those things as values.
I'm not sure whether that qualifies as a tangent or not.
Yucca: I think that's pretty on subject.
Mark: Okay. All right. It was an edge call.
Yucca: Tangent or not. It's a good reminder. Right? Just bringing it back to what is it that we, what is it that we're really valuing? And what's the goal. Right.
And I think maybe that's another thing to keep in mind when communicating with the family is what is your goal? And not in some like manipulative way, but what's the function of a family. What are your emotional needs from these people? What are their emotional needs from you? And the communication, what you are communicating, why are you communicating that? And what are you hoping to be the result? And how can you do that in a way that is going to set up, set that situation for that result being more likely?
Mark: Yeah, because. And you need to kind of check yourself as well, because one thing that can happen when people find something new and they get really excited about it is they can kind of cross the line over into everybody should do this. And so it's important to be aware that as much meaning and joy as you're getting out of your rituals, other people.
May want to participate and if so, come, but if they don't want to, then they don't have to. So, You know, I would not go so far as having a big sort of pagan spring celebration at your family's Easter gathering that may not go well. But you may be able to incorporate some aspects of your practices into that gathering.
And some of that can be as simple as, you know, the symbols that that we share with with Christianity around flowers and eggs and bright spring colors and all those kinds of things that are so associated with the springtime.
Yucca: Yeah. And also those activities that people might want to share together. Taking a walk or going to the park with the ducks and or whatever it is for you.
We'll be talking about soon, going out for a beautiful stargaze. Okay.
Mark: For shadowing. Keep that in mind. There's more on that coming.
Yucca: We want to go ahead and start to, to shift gears towards talking about our practices as it relates to maybe not the families that we came from, but the families that we have created in our own households and chosen families as well.
Mark: Sure. I think that's great. I mean, we've talked about those things a lot in the course of the podcast over the last year. I guess where I'm interested in going with this right now is more of the, the creative process that leads to those practices and rituals. What's the thinking behind it? You know, how do we conceptualize the things that we'd like to do with our families chosen or other and you know, how do we collaborate with others to make those things happen?
Yucca: Sure. Yeah. Some of this is going to really come back to worldview and. What we think of our roles as individuals and community members. The approach that I have is that my first responsibility is me. I can only control my actions. I am responsible for me. And how I behave and how I respond in the world.
And as a family member, as a partner, as a parent, my job is to be there and support those people. And not just as a parent and a partner, but as a daughter and a sister and all of that, but that it's not my job to choose for someone or to make someone be a certain way, but to try to support and nourish them as best I can while really respecting their autonomy and their agency and person.
And that's the place that I try to. I don't always succeed, but that's the place that I really try to come from when participating as a family member, when making decisions as a family and creating our family habits and culture.
Mark: Okay. Yeah. I think that's a really good point and it becomes a little more complex with children because, you know, we're so responsible for creating experiences that they then engage in, you know, they're not. Although it's not the children, aren't perfectly capable of creating their own experiences. I mean, that's what imaginative play is.
But if we want to have some kind of a family gathering that involves some sort of ritual behavior or tradition that we want everybody involved with them. We have to think about, okay what are they going to want to do? What will they find interesting and exciting, and that's actually somewhat easier in relation to children early on than it is in relation to say grandparents who are very stuck in their ways, by that point, most of them And want things to be a certain way and may not be very comfortable with the addition of other elements.
Yucca: Yeah. So it's. It becomes a very tricky balance, especially with the children, between creating the environment, making choices for the family, but also respecting them as people and as decision makers as well and different families come down in different places with that.
Mark: Right. One of the things that I've seen in many pagan circles is that it's generally considered until, until a child is entering their teen years. You know, becoming a young adult, generally kids are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want in relation to a ritual, they can run around and they can, you know, play by themselves.
They can do whatever, or they can hold hands with the adults and, you know, conduct the, you know, participate in the circle, activities, whatever they feel like. And there's no judgment around that. That's what I've mostly seen.
I have seen some online discussion of people who don't have children kind of complaining about children being a distraction and that sort of thing. And as far as I'm concerned, it's like, you know, welcome to the human family. That's just the nature of kids. And even if you don't want to have any, you can't expect a community, a communal event includes people that have children to somehow exclude them. That's just. Not reasonable.
Yucca: And the children themselves, right? Th they're part, they are just as much a part of the community as anyone else.
Mark: They are. Of course they are. Yeah.
Yucca: I think though it's also very important that children learn about boundaries as much as any other human and understanding that there's developmental differences. But if there's a situation in which they're not developmentally able to respect those boundaries, then sometimes then yeah, they shouldn't be there. Right. If your toddler does not listen and is in the, I'm going to bolt and run away from you, then maybe there, the bonfire situation is not an appropriate place for the toddler to be right.
Mark: Maybe not.
Yucca: I'm not going to take my kid into the butcher shop in the back either. Right? Like that's just. You know, so understanding the limitations of some people, but also not, you know, but not going too crazy with it.
Yucca: on the personality of the individual. And like, no, don't stop that ten-year-old from being at the bonfire and less like they've shown time and time again, that they're going to shove and push people or, you know, not listen or that sort of thing.
Mark: Right. Yeah. So I, I think once again, it's all about you know, as we think about how our personal practices, and this is much easier with a partner who shares those practices, because then you can, you know, present a collective front of, you know, here's how we want to do this. And here's here are the boundaries that we're going to set around behavior and here's how we're going to cooperatively work with say kids that can't follow those boundaries, that kind of thing.
But once again, it has to do with serving up that, which is palatable to the participants that you hope to be involved in. That principle applies to family members as well to family members who aren't necessarily a part of the tradition that you've chosen. I've heard so many wonderful stories of, you know, we had a May Day celebration and set up a maypole and, you know, and I invited my mom and I was terrified, but she had a wonderful time, you know, that, that sort of thing.
And. It's I don't know. It's hard to talk about how you thread the needle that way. This actually brings something to mind that is sometimes very challenging for people, which is weddings, because weddings are so sacred to people that they want, their wedding rituals, their way, not their parents' way you know, or their grandparents way.
It's they want the celebration and the ritual that works for them and finding a way that can somehow be palatable or even tolerable to people who have radically different religious traditions is really a challenge. I know some people who are really very good at it and to some degree that depends on how much are you willing to stick your neck out? I know there are some couples or, you know, people who are going to get married and they're just going to do it the way they want to do it. And if somebody goes stomping away in a Huff, they're fine. But that, and I know others who do the sort of secret pagan wedding where it looks like a kind of standard wedding, but it's got all these little symbolic elements in it that turn it into a pagan ritual.
And it just depends on what kind of person are you Do you feel offended by having to kind of fold your symbology in underneath more traditional stuff? Or do you or do you not want to be as in your face about your path?
Yucca: Yeah, I think that's another place where it comes back to really reflecting upon what is the purpose, of the wedding ceremony, you know, what are you, who is it for? And there's not a right answer to that, right? Is it, are you doing it for your family to represent you? You know, there's a whole lot of ways to approach it, but who's it for?
What are your values around it? And really working through that because that's one of those things that there are so many expectations in our culture that you can just go along with it because you've seen it that way a million times and the movies and the shows. And by the time you were two and a half, you already knew how it worked.
Right. So, but what do you actually want? And then how do you work towards a way that will make that comfortable for people. And each person's going to, or each couple or group are going to have their own answers to that.
One tip that I have is whatever you choose. One thing that can sometimes really help is to give people a heads up ahead of time. If it's going to be different than the step-by-step process that we've all seen in the videos and the movies a million times.
That's what we did, actually, we wrote just like a little one page, like here's what's happening. don't be surprised we're doing things a little bit differently than the normal order. Just so you know here's what we expect. And that's that can help some people who might be uncomfortable with a lot of the other stuff that you're doing. Just give them a little bit of sense of reassurance because it's emotional for them too. At least they know what's coming next. What's happening next.
I know what's going to happen, even if I don't like it. So.
Mark: that's a really great idea. And and it works kind of in both directions, it works to help ease any hesitation or discomfort that someone might have in coming to participate in your ceremony. And also sort of insurance on the back end. If somebody gets all bent out of shape, it's like, look, you didn't read it the label. We, you know, we gave you a very clear disclosure or about what this was going to be. I'm so sorry, but. That's what it was going to be. We're not sure why you were there, if that's the reaction you were going to have.
Yucca: Yeah, you came, you agree? It's like you consented to being here, knowing what, what was going to happen?
Mark: Right. Right.
Mark: So I would be very interested in hearing from our listeners about. What their engagement with with particularly non-pagan and family has been around their path and their disclosure, if there has been any of their path. I mean, I know that there are people in the atheopagan ism, Facebook community who haven't even disclosed to their spouse that they are, that they're following this path. And I think that's sad.
Yucca: It's rough. Yeah.
Mark: It is. I th I think that's really a difficult position to be in. But nobody knows the situation better than they do. And I certainly can't judge their decisions from the outside.
So anyway You know where to find us listeners we're at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com. The wonder podcast Qs. All one word. @gmail.com and drop us a line. Let us know how it's gone with you in introducing your science-based non theist pagan stuff into family gatherings. And your interactions with members of your family.
Yucca: Yep. Both young and old.
Mark: Yeah, very interested in all of that.
Yucca: So, thank you so much.
Mark: Thank you. Yucca. It's always a pleasure to talk with you.
Yucca: All right. See you next week.