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). All opinions are those of the speaker, not necessarily those of The Atheopagan Society. Named #3 in the top 20 Pagan podcasts for 2023! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/
Monday Sep 11, 2023
Monday Sep 11, 2023
Monday Sep 11, 2023
Remember, we welcome comments, questions, and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.
Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder, Science Based Paganism. I'm your host, Mark,
Yucca: and I'm Yucca.
Mark: and once again, it is time for us to talk about the autumnal equinox, one of the eight stations of the wheel of the year of holidays.
Yucca: That's right. It just keeps turning and turning. So here we are.
Mark: Here we are once again, you know, looking at The, the the calendrical arrival of autumn anyway. I mean, I I'm pretty clear that I'm into autumn here where I am already, and I think you are too, Yucca but,
Yucca: though, because the beginning of autumn and the end of autumn are very, very different seasons here.
Mark: yeah. I mean, autumn and spring are the transitional seasons, and they things change pretty radically during the, during their extent. Yeah, so, well, we can talk about kind of what tells us that autumn is coming, but we can also talk about the holiday, and what it means to us, what we call it, how we celebrate and kind of its positioning within the wheel of the year and how that relates to the things around it, and all that kind of stuff.
Yucca: Sounds good. Well, let's start with names.
Yucca: So, for me, the equinox, and of course it's one of the equinoxes, but it's pretty clear which equinox we're talking about during this time of year. And it's also first fall or first autumn,
Yucca: because here I look at the seasons like there's either eight seasons or there's two seasons.
Yucca: So there's the Because the traditional temperate four seasons, really as we were just saying, early or first fall and second fall are two very different seasons
Mark: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Yucca: But then there's also really, there's just the hot time of year and there's the cold time of year. And this is the transition between the hot into the cold. This is one of those, those gateway or door holidays. For me it feels like we're going from one season to the next and so it's a very busy season.
Very busy holiday, very busy season here.
Mark: Sure. Yeah, you've got to get everything prepped and everything buttoned down for, for a cold winter.
Mark: Yeah I call this holiday Harvest. And of course it's not the only harvest holiday, but this, this is the time when kind of the cultural imagery of cornucopias and all that kind of stuff really, you know, starts to pop up in all the media and all of the winter vegetables are producing abundantly out of people's gardens and the earlier vegetables are pretty much petering out at this point.
The, the grape crush. The grape harvest and crush is happening right at the point of the equinox, it starts usually in August but it extends, what happens is the whites get harvested first, and then the reds, and then there are what are called botrytis vines, which have the botrytis fungus growing on the berries.
And they create so they, they sort of shrivel and they get very, very sweet and concentrated in flavor. And those are used to make dessert wines and ports and things like that. So there's this, you know, there are several phases to the grape harvest and crush. And it's just... It's a lovely time. The leaves are changing in the vineyards and and in some of the trees around here, and there's a feeling of industriousness
Yucca: hmm. Mm
Mark: uh, you know, people have gone back to school, they've gone back to work, all that summertime playing is pretty much over now so there's just, it's just a, as you say, it's a very busy time, but it's also a very lovely time and so I call it harvest.
Yucca: Yeah. And neither of us are in areas where we have lots of broadleaf trees that are churning, but I have a few here and it's just so lovely. to see the, to see them changing and watch that, that very traditional fall look start to, to start to happen. And there's a, there's a smell to it too. There's this very lovely crisp smell that comes with the changing of the leaves.
So, do you smell the Like, when the crush is happening, is there a, you smell that in the air,
Mark: If you, if you drive around the country roads, it smells like rotting grape juice everywhere. It's,
Yucca: you like?
Mark: I do. It's a, it's a it's a sort of quasi wine smell. It's not quite there, but it's working on it kind of smell. And you know, and there are truckloads. So grapes going by and, you know, farm equipment all on the roads and all that kind of stuff.
We do have a lot of broadleaf oaks here. We have a lot of valley oaks and California coastal oaks and black oaks.
Yucca: Do they change during the autumn? We have a, we only have a few oaks here, we have these little scrub oaks, and they hold on their leaves, really, they, they really hold on to them for a long time, and then it's just, they turn brown, and then they're... They, they don't even drop them really till the spring, till they're growing new ones.
We don't, and we just don't really have any other oaks at all. So I
Yucca: do all oaks do that, or is that's a very special
Mark: No, I mean, there, there, there are what are called live oaks. There's California live oaks here, too, and the live oaks, they don't drop their leaves at all and and they're kind of unpleasant to be around because the edges of their leaves are prickly.
Mark: So, you know, you end up walking on them and it hurts.
We had one in the last place that I lived, we had one outside of our yard that leaned over into our yard and dumped huge numbers of those sharp pointy leaves into our yard every year.
Yucca: If they don't want to be eaten,
Yucca: that, yep,
Mark: And they have adapted ways to prevent that from happening.
Mark: So, but yes, the, the oaks do change, except for the live oaks, they do change and they do drop their leaves.
But they don't turn red and yellow, they just turn kind of a rust color. And that then eats in from the outside of the leaf into the, into the center of the leaf and then it drops. And I particularly love the look of the oak trees in the late autumn and winter.
Mark: Because they're so crabbed and Halloween y and, you know, wonderful in the shape that they have.
And, you know, there's just such a stark sort of gothic quality to those trees when they've dropped their leaves.
Mark: Um, So yeah, harvest. And thematically, that really is kind of the centerpiece of how I think of this time. It's, it's a good time for feasting with friends and relations. Sometimes I think of this as pagan Thanksgiving. And, of course, Canadian Thanksgiving is right around this time. They have it figured out much better than, you know, late November. I don't know who's, I don't know who's doing harvest celebrating in New England in late November. That, that just seems a bit off to me.
Yucca: Well, I suppose you have all of your harvest in at that point, right? You're not in the process of harvest, you've gotten everything ready,
Mark: historically that first event almost certainly didn't happen in November. It just got declared as a holiday by Abraham Lincoln some, you know, century later. Or quite a bit more than that actually. Fourscore and seven years ago plus. The, so I think about this not only as a time for, you know, coming together with loved ones and feasting, but also to reflect on what the last cycle has been like and what the fruits of that have been, of the cycle of the last year, what I've invested my energy in, and my creativity, and, you know, what I've had hopes for, all those, all those dreams and aspirations and plans, you know, that happened around the February Sabbath and And the, the spring equinox, you know, those got implemented, and there was a lot of work involved, and all this energy got invested, and all that kind of stuff, and then now is the time when it's like, well, how did that work out?
What, what actually emerged? Oftentimes it turns out that what emerges as a harvest from your year is not what you planned to, to have happen. And that... That's a very useful exercise, I think, that this holiday really lends itself to a lot of gratitude and appreciation for living, which I think is true of all of the holidays, but this one particularly, I think, is really a life is good kind of holiday but it's also a time to think about what didn't work out, you know, what, what crops did you plant that did not come up you invested OK, And why?
What lessons did you learn? Because maybe it's just that that sort of thing is not really the sort of thing for you,
Mark: or maybe it's that it was just a bad time for it and you can take another crack at it later. But, you know, Part of learning is assessing how things have performed.
Mark: And it's interesting that we, we have a society, the economy of which is built around all these performance metrics all the time and annual performance reviews and, you know, all that kind of stuff for, for people who work.
Yeah. But we don't do that very much in our personal lives very often,
Yucca: hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah. Are you still there?
Mark: and I think it's, it's helpful to reflect, not in a self critical way, but in just a, you know, sort of transparent and open minded way to take a look at, well, what was I trying to accomplish this year? What were the strategies that succeeded?
What were the strategies that failed? What has, what is the result? What is before me now? And what does that tell me about The next cycle, what, what I would consider doing next.
Yucca: Yeah, I think that's really important, and having, I think that's something that we should be doing throughout our life, but that it's very useful to have a time that is dedicated to thinking about that in particular, right? And that's one of the really lovely things about the Wheel of the Year.
And, you know, next month we'll be talking about the death stuff and all of that, and then, you know, getting into the dark part of the year with the real deep self reflection and it's just lovely to have, to have it sort of built into life that, oh yes, this is when I come to this time and do the reflection upon what did I harvest, right?
Maybe literally and in terms of a metaphorically.
Mark: Yes. Yeah, I agree. I mean, that's one of the things that I find very beautiful about the pagan practice of the Wheel of the Year is that it, it programs for us the kind of good human habits of thinking about certain things at certain times of the year and remembering to be grateful and, you know, all, you know, Remembering to to pay attention and you know, to be frank in our, our assessment of ourselves and, you know, looking at, at who we are and how we behave all that kind of stuff.
I, I just, well, I wouldn't be doing this practice if it wasn't very, you know, moving and meaningful to me but it really is and that's one of the main reasons that it is.
Mark: And another thing that I do that I should mention because I always. But in a plug for it is that, and I've spoken about this many times on the podcast before, that I think of the Wheel of the Year as metaphorically embodying the arc of a human life. So with birth you know, with, so, sort of, conception at at the winter solstice, and then, you know, birth at the February Sabbath. And then, kind of toddler childhood at the spring equinox, and young adulthood at May Day, and then kind of full adulthood, and then middle age, and now this comes around to the time of the elderly. This is the time when, because that's the time of life when you look back and you realize, you know, what did I, what did I achieve? What's, what, what is the harvest that I... What is the crop that I grew in, in my life, right? It doesn't mean that your life is over, that you can't do anything else, but it's a time when most of your years are behind you and you can kind of assess.
You know, hmm, I did that. That was cool. I'm glad I, I'm glad I did those things. And it's also a time to really be appreciative of the accumulated experience of people that are elderly, which we don't do much in our mainstream culture. We don't value old people very much. And I really would like to change that.
I, I really, I, I think that elderhood is something that should be honored. Rather than viewed as something to avoid through all kinds of surgical and
Yucca: and whatnots, yes.
Mark: and exercise regimes and diets and, you know, all that kind of stuff that people do desperately to try to prevent themselves from being old. So, yeah, that's another, another piece that I think of here. I think of you know, toasting the old people in the community when you're having your harvest feast.
Yucca: hmm. In fact, I mean, I think it was created mostly as a marketing thing, but wasn't it just Grandparents Day? Actually
Mark: I don't know.
Yucca: I think it was, yeah I think that's in mid September.
Yucca: I love, I, I really love the way that you structure your Wheel of the Year and the different stages of life. And I really appreciate seeing, sometimes in the Facebook group or in other groups, people will share their different approaches to the Wheel of the Year.
And I also assign different meanings. to the different seasons, but I have a slightly different approach. So when I'm looking at the seasons, I look at different components of the ecosystem, or large ecosystems, like the grasslands or the forests. And for this time of year, It is a recognition of the decomposers and the microbes the fungi and the bacteria, because this is the time where, this is the only time of year that you're going to be able to walk around in the forest and see mushrooms, first of all, because it's just too, too hot and dry during the rest of the time of the year.
We have lots of types of fungi, but in terms of seeing, like, there's your bright red mushroom, don't touch that one, right, like, that's only going to happen. This time of year and really up in the mountains but this is also when for temperate climates, the, the fungi are just getting going, right?
They're really doing their work. We forget that the mycelium, it's all down below the debris, the leaves that have fallen and the old plants that have died down, and they're down there. This is their feast, right? They're getting ready to start decomposing, and they'll be working all through the autumn and the winter into the spring breaking that down, and returning it into a form that then life uses again.
And the bacteria, and it, it leads quite nicely into, the next season for us is about, is the ancestors. Everything that came before, and of course we start first. We go far enough back and our grandmothers were microbes, right, and so it kind of is this nice lead into that. So we, we really like to be thinking about that sort of on an intellectual level.
And recognizing that, you know, we're making some of our pile, you know, compost piles and things like that. Of course, we do that throughout the year, but this is when it's going to be sitting and doing that.
Mark: Mm hmm. Mm
Yucca: And then, as I was saying at the beginning, that we sort of see there being two, either eight seasons or two seasons.
And this is the, this is the beginning. of the cold time of year. But not quite. The days are still hot, but the nights have a chill in them, right? The wind, we're closing the windows at night and we can kind of, it feels that chilly in the morning, and you might have to, you know, in the morning you've got to, for the first half of the day, maybe have a sweatshirt on, and then you take it off by the end of the day, and you're like, oh, it's so hot.
But there's just so much that It's clear now winter is coming and you've got to get ready for winter, and it's lovely to watch. Where I'm sitting right now, I'm looking out, and I'm seeing we have jays and squirrels, and they're doing their, that industrious feeling you were talking about.
They're out there right now, getting... Plump, and we've got our, we have a little bear family that lives nearby, and you can see they're trying to get all plump as well, and and so that's what we're doing, too, is going, okay, well, the cold's not here, but what do I need to have ready when the cold does come, because there's just certain things you can do at one time of the year and others you can't, right?
So there's some flashing that I need to put on some of my windows. That's not going to stick once it gets cold. That has got to happen before the cold comes. It's time for us to change the angle on our solar panels and to open up the, the shade cloth on the greenhouse to let the heat in. And so it's just a time of making lists.
And making sure, okay, before the winter comes, does everyone have hats? Do we all have hats? Because it's a, it's a hassle to need a hat and not have it. What about boots? Because when the mud comes, we're gonna want those boots, right? And it's, there's, there's a, it's one of the two big prep times of the year, right?
There's the spring prep and there's the fall prep. And I like to do like a big, lots of people like to do spring cleaning. I like to do a fall cleaning before we're gonna be inside for... Months and months. And so that's sort of the other side of the harvest, right? Like there was this whole year that happened, but now there's the whole half that's going to happen.
And how am I going to prepare for that? Not in the the growing way. It's not the starting new projects kind of way that is in the spring, but it's the being ready for and prepared, sure that everything is, is buttoned up and finished up and that there's no, you know, we haven't missed any loose ends or anything like that.
Mark: mm hmm, and if you have outdoor projects, you gotta get those finished
Yucca: Absolutely, yep.
Mark: before, because you can't bring them indoors, and you gotta get it done before it starts to rain and then snow,
Yucca: Right. And I mean, and there's some that, there'll be a few projects that are much more pleasant to do when it's cold. But there's things that have to get done to have that prepped to be ready to do it. So there's just a very, it's a thoughtful time of year. It's another one of those pause and think,
Mark: mm hmm,
Yucca: be prepared times.
And, and for us, these are our specifics of the way that, that Our climate is, but each climate is going to be a little bit different and so for some people, maybe this is, right now, that's not when it's happening, because that's not when the seasons are quite changing. For some people, the seasons are changing earlier, or later, or, you know, what you're going to be doing if you're getting ready for a winter in Wisconsin is very different than a, you know, a winter in Southern California.
Mark: yes, because they hardly have winter in Southern California, oh no, it's freezing, it's 70 degrees,
Yucca: Well, but that's the thing, like there's, that each climate is going to be different, and it's not, it's not less valuable to be in one climate versus the other. What's happening in your climate, some of those themes may be still happening, but what that holiday means to you in Southern California may be somewhat different.
different because that, it might be a little bit more appropriate to have that sort of prep time happening at a different time of year. Or maybe it's not quite as intense, right? For me, it's really an intense time period, we've got these few weeks, and it's gotta happen in these few weeks. For somebody in a climate that doesn't have quite as huge swings as mine does, Maybe it's something that you spread out more throughout the year, and you think about a little bit each you know, maybe each full moon or something like that instead of, boom, it's, it's fall, right?
Mark: Yeah. Yeah, that, that, that completely makes sense to me, and I even think about how... In a very, you know, very temperate climate like Southern California, you know, if you're, if you're in the coastal area, for example, it may even be like an opportunity to do things that most of us associate with the summertime, because like the beaches aren't going to be nearly as crowded as they were in July and August, right?
So, as the weather cools off, you might be able to get a little bit more privacy and, you know, time to yourself and stuff at a beach.
Yucca: Mm hmm, yeah.
Mark: Yeah, so, as always, we are really interested to hear what how you're celebrating the holidays, our readers. You can reach us, or, sorry, listeners, what am I saying? You can reach us at thewonderpodcastqs at gmail. com, and we always appreciate getting your emails. We are not going to have a show next week.
Because I am going to be flying to Washington, D. C. to lobby for wilderness protections so that's kind of exciting. And I've decided that I'm going to wear a Sun Tree button on the underside of my lapel, where they can't see it, but I will still be wearing it on my lapel in the Capitol when I'm going to meet with congressmen and senators.
Yucca: that's wonderful. So you'll still, it still has the meaning for you, you know it's there.
Mark: That's right. Yeah, yeah, but the problem is, if I wore it the other way, then it would always be stirring up conversations about what does that mean, and it would derail from the conversation we want to have, which is about new national monuments, BLM's new public lands rule, things like that.
Yucca: right. So it's one of those things to be thoughtful about is when do you... So, what are you trying to accomplish, and what do you need to do in each of those cases to accomplish that? So, very fitting for the time of year we've been talking
Mark: Absolutely. And actually, as I mention it oh, never mind, the public comment period is closed.
Mark: There's a Many people don't know this, the largest holder of land in the United States is the Bureau, it's the the BLM, the Bureau of Land Management. And it does not list in its priorities for land management conservation.
It, it lists things like mining, and oil and gas extraction, and timber, and grazing, and all that kind of stuff, but It does not list conservation values at all. So there is a proposal that has been launched by the Biden administration to change that, to add conservation into the mission statement of the BLM so that they will make decisions not only for extractive purposes, but also for the purposes of the ecosystem.
Yucca: hmm. Mm hmm. That's
Mark: And that's one of the things we're going to be advocating for. You know, it sounds like a bureaucratic thing, but it's really not.
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: You know, these agencies are legally bound by their mission statements and and they will make decisions and allocate resources accordingly. So, it's it's an important thing.
The, as I said, the public comment period has closed. The public comments were overwhelmingly in favor of the rule.
Mark: They got something like 300, 000 comments, and they were, you know, they ran like 90 10 in favor of the rule.
Yucca: That's great.
Mark: Yeah, so
Yucca: I know my state, I have to look at the numbers again, but my state, BLM is, owns most of my state. Forest Service has a lot of it too.
Mark: Huh, Forest Service is the second largest landholder in
Yucca: it's more, yeah, it's, it's, the federal government owns most of New Mexico.
Mark: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
I, I got to meet your senator, by the way, Kurt Heinrich at an event a couple of weeks ago. Martin Heinrich, I'm sorry and wonderful guy very, very thoughtful, very strategic around climate change and You know, we had a good conversation about public lands management and just good.
Yeah, great leader.
Yucca: Yeah, well I hope you have a fun I guess fun, a very productive and enjoyable time talking with all, all those DC folks.
Mark: I'm gonna get to meet a bunch of atheopagans from the D. C. area. I'm arriving on the 17th and on the afternoon of the 17th. If you're listening to this and you're in the D. C. area, I am saying, staying at the Yotel on on Capitol Hill, and you are welcome to come. I'm going to set myself up in the hotel bar at around two o'clock, and people are just going to drop by and we're going to visit.
So, I'm really looking forward to meeting some of our East Coast folks that I haven't met before.
Yucca: Great, well give them hugs for me, if they're hug folks. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah, I'll ask first, of course, because I know you would. I would too, but...
Yucca: Yep. Well, wonderful.
Mark: All right, so
Mark: you in a couple of weeks. Thank you everybody so much.
Yucca: Have a wonderful equinox, harvest, whatever you call it. So,
Mark: I hope your harvest has been bountiful.
Yucca: take care folks.