Loading Downloads

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/


January 11, 2021

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.

And today we are going to be talking about holidays. What they are, how they fit into our human experience here in the world. A little bit about the Wheel of the Year as celebrated by pagan folk, many pagan folk, and then some tips on inventing your own holidays and some fun holidays that have already been invented that we want to make sure you're aware of.

Yucca: So that's one of yours coming up.

Mark: Yes. Yes. Slogg is coming up in January and we'll tell you all about it. So holidays much. That this is an important topic for pagans, because for many pagans much, if not all of their celebration of their religion is focused on those eight days around the course of the year.

You know, some people like me and you have daily practices and other things that we do on a more frequent basis, but for an awful lot of pagans, I know it's really those eight holidays, the four solstices and equinoxes, and then the points in between the solstices and equinoxes to create eight equidistant spokes to a wheel around the course of the year

Yucca: and some- it doesn't seem to be quite as common, have a, a lunar observance as well.

Mark: Oh, you're right about that. I completely overlooked it. Yeah, you're right. Yeah.

Yucca: But it, at least from what I have been exposed to, it seems like the, the solar wheel of the year is more, it seems to be more universal.

Mark: And that's of course there are, you know, there are folks following Norse traditions and Greek traditions and Roman traditions and so forth, which are not in any way oriented that way.

The wheel of the year was originally created as a Wiccan idea synthesizing folk traditions from throughout Europe and kind of pulling them all together into this system. But it works very well for nature-based pagans because it's rooted in reality and the reality of where the Sun is in relation to the Earth and what the axis of the earth is relative to the sun.

And so over the course of the year, we go through these seasonal observations that have direct correlation in what's happening in the physical world, outside us.

Yucca: Yeah.

Well, let's, let's pause on the Wheel of the Year and talk about holidays first. Just holidays in general.

Mark: We've just got a whole bunch of them

Yucca: we have, right.

And we're not talking about the holidays as is in the cluster of a bunch of things that often happen in December, but. Holidays as in moments set aside throughout the year that have special meaning and that have special behaviors around them.

Mark: Yes. This is one of those things that is ubiquitous, so it must have some inherent human need.

In every culture throughout the world, there are special days where you don't just do your routine of food gathering and processing and, you know, making shelter and doing all those various kinds of things. Instead, you suspend all that stuff and you do things that are often cultural, religious, freighted with symbolic meaning, right?

And so so holidays become one of those interesting topics like laughter and music and dancing, where you have to ask yourself how and religion. Of course these things are universal. So what does it say about the human organism that we have these things and that we value them? Yeah. So what is a holiday then?

Well, we've just described it as a day that you take when you do something cultural or religious, instead of doing instead of doing your ordinary routine, and that can even be true of holidays that are highly secular. I mean, 4th of July is it doesn't really have much in the way of a kind of deep metaphorical content to it, but there is the tradition of fireworks and there is the tradition of barbecues and there's tradition of football, all these things that people associate with that day and find very important.

Right? Yeah.

Yucca: And then there are points throughout the year, which ties back to the Wheel of the Year that many cultures have. Some celebration around and sometimes they have other meanings also added on with the birth of gods or particular saints that are being celebrated. But there are certain points where it seems like people are recognizing that there is something going on within our environment that is again, shared throughout well, the whole planet.

Mark: And in some cases, some holidays are, are extremely specific only to certain people, for example, with a particular name. So you've got in, in the Roman Catholic church calendar, for example, they've got more saints than there are days in the year.

So in some cultures you are, you have a sort of birthday like celebration on your saints day. That you were after. And until very recently in countries like Spain you were only allowed to name your children names that were on the list. Right? So everybody had a saints day as well as a birthday, and that was a time to celebrate.

Right. So all of these are pieces of. Incorporating culture into the flow of daily life. Right. I mean, I can see particularly how effective it would be to do the St state thing, because. Somebody will be having a saints day every day. And it will continually remind you that you're Catholic and that you need to do the Catholic rituals and, you know, follow the dogma and all that kind of stuff.

So that's very effective. Other holidays are much more universal, right. And. One of the things that I find very strange about American culture is that we have holidays that have virtually nothing associated with them other than not going to work. President's day, for example, I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't have deep and abiding rituals for president's day.

Yucca: No, and frankly, I work on that day too.

Mark: usually haven't because it's, the banks might not be the banks aren't open and Pantheon was usually over president's day weekend, but that's not happening anymore. So So anyway these holidays are a way for us to, sew our cultural and religious experience into our living.

And that is something that is really worth looking at for people who are pagans and who are seeking to make sure that they've got everything represented in the calendar of the year that they want to see represented. And if they don't see it in one of those eight kind of guidepost holidays, well then maybe it's time to make up another day to celebrate and observe whatever it is that you think is important enough to deserve that.

Yucca: That's right. Yeah, because we, we are choosing to curate our own experience and that's one of the things that we we get to do is say, this is, this is what I want and how do I make this work? How do I make this be part of my experience?

Mark: Right. And as we've talked about before, don't worry if it's made up. Cause it's all just made up all of it. Yep. All of it. Every last bit of human culture is made up by somebody at some point, it's made up so you can make stuff up as well as anybody else. And it's just as valuable as what anybody else made up.


Yucca: go on. I was going to say, why don't we talk about the Wheel of the Year as the sort of standard. It's hard to say that there's a standard, but this sort of standard modern Neo pagan temperate approach. Okay. That's a pretty long list of descriptors

Mark: A lot of adjectives. Yeah. I thought you were going to say template, but then you said temperate

Yucca: template, temperate template.

Mark: So yeah for one thing, the, the conventional descriptions of the Wheel of the Year holidays are rooted in the climate of great Britain. Because they were originally described by Gerald Gardner in his publications of the 1940s into the 1950s. And so the climate of that time and that place were kind of what set the standard for what any given holiday would stand for.

But. I'm in the Americas. I know you are too Yucca and it's very silly for us, like where I am, for example, you know, the idea of the holiday at the beginning of February, being about the little shoots coming up through the snow and casting seed out on the snow for the birds that are beginning to return.

And you know, the earliest, earliest, earliest, beginning of spring makes no sense to us at all because in terms of shoots coming up, that just happened when it started raining two weeks ago, all the green stuff is coming back up again. I've got a nice green grassy yard behind my house now. That was all just Brown and dead before, but.

This is the time when the growth happens, because it's when the water comes

Yucca: Well. And for us, it's the most cold bitter time of the, it is the true dead of winter for us. There's there's not a lot of new growth happening. It's. It's cold.

Mark: Right? Right. Yeah. And then of course there are people that are, you know, truly in the tropics people in Hawaii, for example, I mean, it does actually snow on the big Island.

Of course that has to do with elevation 13,000 feet, obviously. But it, but it's true that they still, they do get temperatures cold enough to actually have snow on the ground up at those high elevations. But you would not, you would not describe the beginning of February in, in Hilo as being the, the frozen winter. It just, it isn't.

So yes, we, we have this overall model that comes out of Western Europe. And some people are just really firm about that. You know, these, these are the metaphors that were taught to us for all of these different holidays, and that's what we're going to follow. And, you know, it's very, you know, sort of rigorous and traditional.

My approach is much more of a what they call an eclectic pig and approach, which is that I am using pagan, symbols and structures as adapted to fit my personal circumstances so that they actually make sense as a way of understanding my world and celebrating my life. And that means that for me, that holiday at the beginning of February is River Rain, which is the festival of water because it's pouring down rain.

It has been for weeks and it will be for additional weeks. And that's the only time of year that that happens, but everything is green and lush and the creeks are full and the waterfalls in the state parks are all running and all that good kind of stuff. And so we celebrate water and all the wonderful things that water means to us.

Yucca: And of course just well, quite a few hundred miles away, for me it's Second Winter. It's a very different holiday and we're going to come back in just a few weeks and really talk about what this holiday is for each of us. As we, as we go through the Wheel of the Year on the podcast, we, each time we come into a holiday, we talk about it.

One of the Wheel of the Year holidays. Right. But I also very much have the same approach that the holidays, my understanding of them is based upon where I live, what's going on here in my ecosystems, in my climate, and also incorporating in some ideas, some themes that are universal themes.

Decomposition. Everybody's got that. Yes. Wherever you are on earth, you've got decomposition going on, got points of new life and, you know, different biomes, things like that.

Mark: Sure, sure. Yep. Another thing that I do that I know you don't do so much, Yucca is I map the, the cycle of a human life onto that calendar. So for example, when the, when the year begins that you will, I consider that to be the birth, the birth of the new sun, the birth of the new cycle, the new year.

And then the beginning of February holiday is sort of an infancy kind of holiday as well as being a celebration of water. And then kind of elementary school level at the height of spring, and it's all very fun and we color eggs and do all those childlike things. And then young adulthood at May Day, full adulthood at Summer Solstice.

Middle-age in the, at the beginning of August, elderhood at autumn Equinox, the harvest, and then finally death at Hallows. And decomposition and recomposition between Samhain and, and Yule again. So it's a way for me to reflect on the different stations of my time here on earth and other people's time, and to celebrate people that happened to be in that particular age bracket at the time that they're, that the holidays being celebrated.

So it's a way for everybody to get their, their sort of cheering on, you know, we love you as a community. You're good. People go forth and be you. Cause you're cool. And so I've found that very meaningful as well. I know that you have a really interesting wheel that is more focused on the different kinds of creatures different kinds of organisms that you associate around the course of the Wheel of the Year.

Yucca: That's right. Yeah. And so, and we'll, we'll get back into that more, but it's the different types of beings that we are in partnership with as humans and the biomes that we have major terrestrial biomes. There isn't as much recognition of the aquatic world for me, but that's because I'm many hundreds of miles inland in a high desert.

And although I appreciate it on a, on an intellectual level, have very little daily relationship with the ocean. Sure. But other folks at let alone water in general, we have a lot of that here. You know, sometimes I feel like we're on Arrakis.

But why don't we touch for just a moment?

I know this is probably very familiar to people, but a lot of our language when we talk about the sun and we talk about holidays, is leftover language from before we really had a good grasp on what was actually going on. We talk about the sun rising and setting, and we talk about the sun's position in around earth and things like that, where that's not what's going on the sun doesn't set and rise.

We turn towards it and turn away from it. Our planet is tilted. We've got about right now a 23 and a half degree tilt as the earth goes around the sun. And it's too bad. This is only an audio format because it really helps to have a little bit of a visual, but a common misconception is that the earth is actually wobbling back and forth as it goes around the sun and that's not what's happening. The tilt that's staying the same. It's actually moving slightly. We're talking about several inches a year, but for our lifetime, essentially, it's staying the same. But depending on our position around the sun, what your place on the globe is going to receive more or less light.

The proximity to the sun, how close we are to the sun, or how far away has very, very little influence on our seasons. It really is that tilt. And so people who are in the mid and higher latitudes, whether that's North or South, we experience more extremes in terms of the amount of light that we're getting, which is what's causing our seasons, but there’s still a shift in that, in the tropics as well. So the tropics are not the area around the equator is always going to get a lot of light, but not as extreme difference in temperatures. So someone in the tropics, the Wheel of the Year set up with our eight holidays that celebrate snow on one hand and long, long days and summer on the other, that just doesn't for that location, doesn't make sense.

Somebody might choose to celebrate it for other reasons, but it doesn't match with what's happening in the climate. And if on more extreme levels as well, if you're near the poles, the also don't have the same. Wheel of the year. It's even more extreme in terms of you've got night and day, right. Or summer and winter.

And instead of having that be nine and 14 hours or whatever, or a 15 it's six months and six months or whatever you have. Yes. So since I don't live in the tropics. I don't know what a wheel of the year would necessarily look like, but for folks who do or live in, say the subtropics where you've got a rainy season and dry season, aren't two rainy seasons and two dry seasons.

There's an opportunity for a lot of creativity in, in designing and creating your own wheel.

Mark: Yes, exactly. And I think, you know, I think of the tradition in Canada of celebrating the first snow and, And I could very well see something similar, you know, a wheel of the year that isn't set up on dates so much, but set up on when the first rain comes to start, you know, a first monsoon season.

And then when the rain stops for the dry season and then when the second rain comes and once again, for those places that have two cycles but to be honest There are so few changes in the course of that cycle that I don't know that a wheel of the year is necessarily even the best kind of model to use

Yucca: the waves of the year. Or there may be some type of tree or some sort of. Symbol that would, that would better fit depending on what that climate is. I mean, there's still, but we're still dealing with the same cycle of the rain. The rainy season and dry season are still being caused by the same, It's the same mechanism that's causing the seasons and the temperate environments.

It's still the apparent movement of the sun and the sky, which of course is not the movement of the sun. Sun's moving, but. That's not really relevant to what we're talking about.

Mark: Ocean is relative, but let's go down that rabbit hole. Well, yeah,

Yucca: I would, another interesting one is we could do a wheel of the sun cycles with the sun going into our 11 or 22 year cycles, but then it really doesn't obey years.

It kind of does 11 years. 22, 11ish. So we could Anyways, that's just kind of a fun thinking about on maybe a society level of what would a unified Neo pagan wheel be for an interplanetary society

Mark: probably end up looking like the Mayan calendar with wheels within wheels, within wheels of all these different cycles that all interact with one another.

Yucca: Well, one of y'all should write that book and let us know.

Mark: Yes, please. Please do. I would love to read it. I wouldn't want to do all the calculations necessary in order to write it, but I would love to read it. That'd be the fun part. Okay.

Yucca: It's different strokes, but, so, so it might be really an actually it might, if we find someone who does have a tropical wheel of the year or wave of the year. It might be really fun to get them on. As a guest, I would love to talk about what that, that experience is because it's so different than my experience. And it sounds so different than yours.

Mark: Yes. I mean, I've been to the tropics for a total of about a month out of my life.So it's not really enough time.

Yucca: Yeah. I lived in Costa Rica for a period when I was a child, but I don't remember a tremendous amount. So you know, the, the temperate zones are really are my, my main experience.

And nobody ever explained that there were different seasons in different parts of the world. when I was a kid that was not a, you know, everybody taught about the the standard, and even in the, in the desert that we would always have these pictures of maple trees with their, you know, red, the orange leaves and. We've got like little shrubby junipers and pinions. We don't have any of those fall never looked the way that it, that it does in the picture books.

And I suppose that's also a good thing to think about in terms of the different hemispheres that some, some folks will follow the Wheel of the Year, based on the Northern hemisphere while in the Southern hemisphere. And some folks in the Southern hemisphere will base the holidays based on what's happening in their climate, two different approaches.

Mark: Right. Right. So why don't we talk about some. Do it yourself holidays. What do you do when there's something important for you to celebrate or there's, some milestone that you really feel needs to be marked on a regular basis? Not, not like a one-time Rite of passage, but something that you want to Mark every year, because it's important to you, but it's not enough.

Yucca: Yeah. It doesn't match up nice and pretty with your particular date.

Mark: And now we can talk about the example that that I have come up with, which is Slogg. S L O G G slog is the, the Demi Sabbath of, of miserable winter. It's the third Saturday in January and Slogg is the point at which it's been long enough since all of the holiday parties and Sweets and cakes and cookies and presents and drinking and all that festivity. It's now been more than a month since then. And it's, it's been pouring incessantly ever since then. And you just really, really, really need a holiday.

So I invented this Deming Sabbath called Slogg. And in it you drink mold, whined Swedish globe made with port wine and spices and stuff like that.

And play board games and generally grumble about the rain or the snow, either one. And it's just an excuse to get together with a bunch of friends and have kind of a mini Christmas with that isn't with presence or anything. It's just about huddling together as community and enjoying one another in the cozy safety of shelter.

Yucca: That's great. I love it

Mark: Sounds like you need it more than I do

Yucca: Well for us though. It's we, it. We're almost at Second Winter. So it's our, it's two for me that time of year has already transitioned in to that, but I'm getting real ready for, for spring. At that point. Spring, you could be here already. That would be just great, but it is one of the only times of year. that's a very, also restful time for us.

Mark: Yeah, we, we have a similar sort of situation that I haven't come up with a holiday for. Cause I don't think a holiday is really the solution in September. It's blazing hot, the fog cycle that works during the height of summer, that pulls coastal fog in over the land and cools down the temperatures by this point, the sun is now the, the axis has turned far enough away that the sun doesn't have enough power to drive that cycle very well anymore. And so we might get a fog blanket every three days or four days, but it doesn't happen daily as it used to. And so the days are just 105 hundred and 115 this past year.

Yucca: Well into the forties.

Mark: yeah. Yes. For those outside of the U S it's yes, hot, very hot. And so we need something, some kind of holiday that would allow us to sometime around the 10th of September. I think, you know, little, little while before before the harvest celebration, just something. The swimming holiday or a mass Exodus to the beach or something. I don't know.

Yucca: Right. Digging burrows and hiding in them.

Mark: Time for your annual replenishment of your sunglasses. Yeah.

Yucca: So the idea is that you can just make one up.

Mark: Yes. You can make it up. Makes sense. Yeah. Yeah, Wolfenoot. I haven't heard of wolfenoot it was made up by a seven year old and it's a time to celebrate wolves and dogs. All that I know about it is that you're supposed to have cake that's shaped like a moon, and you're supposed to give meat to your dogs as presence because that's what they like.

And the motto is no hate only snoot boops.

Yucca: And we don't have any dogs. So we bring treats to our neighbor dogs or our, you know, family members who do have dogs. So, and we were joking that cats needed a holiday too, but then realized that that's every day.

Mark: a cat. It's a holiday domesticated cat. Yes. Is living the life of Riley.

Yucca: So. But we also have others. One that we enjoy is your East night. So we'll celebrate Yuri’s Night. And that is basically a celebration of all of the space technology and exploration and all of that innovation,

Mark: To, to clarify that that is the anniversary of the first human entry into space.

When Yuri Gagarin was launched into an orbit around the earth,

Yucca: If you can be near any of the NASA centers on a non pandemic year. Then there's a lot of great parties to be at.

Mark: Yeah. And they're similarly at observatories and air and space museums. There are often events that happened on Yuri's night. And I just think it's a great, very optimistic aspirational kind of go science go.

Yucca: Yeah, just that celebration of curiosity and achievement and just how cool all that stuff is. Yeah. Yeah. So, so that's April 12th.

Mark: Yes. April 12th. Before that, the month before that is PI day, which is 3.14. So it's the 14th of March. It is also Einstein's birthday. So it is often observed by atheist particularly is kind of a special day.

Another one of these, you know, yay science kind of celebrations. But as far as I'm concerned, it's just an excuse to eat pie,

Yucca: eat pie, big pie. Maybe do some competitions on how many digits you have memorized.

Mark: I think I have only got 10 or so,

Yucca: where you're way ahead of me. I'm woefully few. Like I could make it to five maybe.

I can write it symbol though. Okay. Very impressive. Right. Some folks do then the little bit later, May the Fourth.

Mark: nerdy ones. Yeah. The star Wars holiday may the fourth be, would, would be with you.

Yucca: And in those that same sort of delightfully nerdy veins later on in the year talk like a pirate day.

Mark: Yes, 19, 19. Okay. September 19th, international talk like a pirate day and yes, we've observed it for many, many years. We, we think it's a really great thing.

Yucca: I think we did on the show last year,

Mark: too. We did, we recorded on September 19th and I talked a little bit like a pirate. Which is, you know, the only one, the reason that we think that pirates talk that way is because the actor who played a long John silver in a 1940s production of treasure Island had this broad West country accent from England.

And he happened to talk that way. And now, now everybody thinks that pirates talk. That way. Our entire concept of pirates is not very historically accurate,

Yucca: It is not, we have been as a parent struggling with how to handle that one. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Mark: I mean, both in positives and negatives, I mean, you know, they were horrible and bloodthirsty and did terrible things. On the other hand, they had more of a direct form of representational democracy than representative democracy than pretty much anywhere else in the world at that time. So. I mean, there, there was something about Liberty in it. They were just rotten people.

Yucca: Yeah. I'm just not so down with the raping and pillaging part, you know?

And the issues with modern pirates

Mark: modern piracy is horrific.

Yucca: Yeah. So, yeah. But tangent let's come back to, so those are kind of some fun ones that are, that are all about. Are there any others? I mean, those are some of the ones that you might find on a calendar like your mother's day and grandparent's day and all of those.

Mark: Well, and then there are culturally significant holidays, like Cinco de Mayo, for example Bastille Day You know, holidays that are, that are of meaning to people in other countries or other cultures that have been brought over here. And, and

Yucca: we'll celebrate St Patrick's and St. David's day. We're not Catholic clearly, but those are days that are, that are kind of heritage appreciation days. So for our Irish and our Welsh respectively.

Mark: The one that I'm always surprised didn't get translated over to the United States is guy Fawkes day. I always would have thought that we would have taken on guy Fawkes day because we were colonized by the English. But I guess not.

Of course we were colonized by the English before the gunpowder plot. I don't know, it just seems odd to me, any excuse to blow things up seems to be really kind of American in nature. So, well, we did

Yucca: We do that twice a year and that's true. Yeah. Well, and it also kind of depends on, so yes, the, the, the origins of the country, but it's really a big place and where I, where I live, we're in New Mexico. We don't think of that part of American history. I think that the kids probably have to take it once in middle school or something and learn about that, you know, Boston tea party and, you know, 13 original colonies and a few things like that, but it's not really, you know Not a big part of the cultural awareness here on the cultural identity.

Our cultural identity is much more about Spain and Mexico and the Pueblos and, and all of that.

Mark: Well, that completely makes sense. What doesn't make sense to me is that here in California, I had a real minimum of education about anything having to do with Mexico, even though this was all Mexico. Either about Mexico or the Spanish colonization of the Americas or or of course about California Indians. Who of course were here before, before anybody came colonizing. So yeah, hard to, hard to identify a rationale for that, but there it is.

So, I guess the point of all this is holidays are good. They're a human thing that we all kind of need and do. And if you are finding yourself in need of one create it. Okay. You'll find in some cases that many others will have the same need and we'll jump right on it. Or it'll just be too adorable, like Wolfenoot, and nobody will be able to leave it alone.

Yucca: Right. How can you, how can you not, that's just too cute. It

Mark: really is. I mean, it's holiday invented by a seven year old about dogs and wolves. It's just

Yucca: there. Their mom just shared it and it just, you know, it's one of those things that went viral.

Mark: just took off.

So we welcome comments or questions@thewonderpodcastqueuesatgmail.com.

W do you, are there any special holidays, unique holidays that you celebrate? And what are your, what are your cultural practices for those where we'd be really interested to hear

Yucca: And if any of you had more information on the tropical wheels or waves of the year, we'd love to be pointed in that direction as well.

Mark: Very much so. Yeah. Yes. So thanks Yucca. This has been a great conversation.

Yucca: It has. Thank you. And I look forward to very soon getting back together to talk about this holiday that's coming up.

Mark: Yes. Yeah, well, in the meantime, have a good Slogg.

Yucca: Ahh, likewise! All right. Thank you, Mark.

Mark: Thank you. Bye-bye.