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

The Equinox

March 15, 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.

Mark: And today we are talking about celebrating the Spring Equinox, which is the point at which on the equator, the sun and, or I'm sorry, the day and the night are of equal length. It's the midway point in the lightness darkness cycle that goes through the, the world every year.

Yucca: It's the point at which the Earth passes through the ecliptic, the Sun's equator. So the plane that reaches out through the Solar System, that's like the table that the planets are orbiting on and we aren't perfectly aligned with that.

We're at a little bit of an angle. And so we pass through that twice a year and that's the, that's what the equinoxes are for us.

Mark: Right, right. But before we talk about that we thought that because we're on the year anniversary now of when the shutdowns began, that we would say a little bit about the pandemic.

Yucca: Yep. And we know that a lot of people are pretty tired of talking about it because it's, well, a lot of us wish that it would just be done already. It's been a whole year. But it touches all of our lives everywhere. And a lot of people, a lot of our listeners have lost, loved ones this year.

Mark: Yes, we were. We were talking before we began to record. And one of the things that I noted is that there are about 540,000 minutes in a year. And what that means because the United States is rapidly closing on that total of deaths from COVID that roughly one person per minute died in the United States of COVID-19 for a year it's incomprehensible it's beyond our ability to get our minds around just how much loss that is, how much sorrow, how much grief and.

If you're one of the folks that lost someone, we're very sorry. It's really been a terrible tragedy. One of the worst things ever to be fall this country and the world, of course, I mean millions and millions of people.

Yucca: And that number is just the death numbers. That's not all of the other impacts that has had.

Mark: Of course and that those impacts are not even only health impacts. They're people losing their houses because they lost their jobs. They're you know, people being cast into poverty or not being able to pay for healthcare or, you know, all the various other maladies that can happen to people when money is pulled out of the equation.

The economy naturally they took a terrible dive. And we suffered hard in 2020. It was really a difficult year, but that said things appear to be turning the corner. Now we have a vaccine. There is, there are massive programs to implement that vaccine across the world. And we can start imagining a time when we can get together in person with our loved ones and hug them and have the kind of social interaction that we had before.

And in the United States, it's we have just passed a very large economic stimulus package, which is not only about getting shots into people's arms so that they're protected, but also about rekindling the economy after the collapse of last year. And there is cautious optimism that this is going to lead to some very good things, especially for the most vulnerable people in American culture.

So we're here in the U S we're pretty excited about that.

Yucca: Yeah, I'm feeling pretty optimistic myself. It feels very appropriate for the beginning of spring. Really. It's a very different sense to what it felt like a year ago. Looking forward. At 2020 with the uncertainty and dread. Yeah. Going, what is what's going on our whole world, knowing that our whole world was changing, but not knowing what was coming.

And now, like you said, we've been through a hell of a year, but it looks like there's a lot of work before us. But that it feels much more hopeful. Right? Much more hopeful.

And feel ready to get out there, ready to get back out into the metaphoric garden. Right. And get stuff planted and get stuff growing and start that year that was lost. Right. And in a weird way, it feels like we're like, like we just skipped last year was just a year out of time. And okay. Now this is the real 2020, right? We'll see.

Mark: Well, and we were also saying that there are some silver linings to 2020, the pandemic and I saw this at a local level at the organization that I work for as well as at a national level, we were forced. We basically had a fire lit underneath us to make technical improvements and improve efficiencies and use new tools and a lot of things that we needed to do for a long time.

But we were just kind of stuck in our ways and we're doing it the old way. And we really made some tremendous leaps over the course of the last year. Some of them we're going to want to sag back from because they were mostly about safety and they reduced human interaction and we value a human interaction.

So we want to bring that back. But I think the zoom revolution has been super powerful. You know, I, I think I still want to see my friends by zoom who live in other parts of the country. More often than I see them in person, which wasn't something I was doing before.

Yucca: And now everybody knows, not everybody, but most folks know how to use that. And they're comfortable with the system now. And I think it also really gave most people, a moment of pause to, to look at our lives and go, what do we value? It was a step back. Stepping out of normal space and normal awareness and going okay.

Is this what I want, what really matters to me? How do I, you know, also who matters right? In terms of what relationships are really the ones that are feeding that maybe we didn't realize were, or ones that we did. And it really showed up during the pandemic and being separated, physically being able to look at all of that and look at our lives and.

And just to step back and have that reflection around it. And that's something that, you know, can't speak for every single person, but it seems like that's something that on very large scale that's really been happening with many people.

Mark: Yes. I think a lot of people, for example, have realized that their life at the office life at home balance was not what they really want. And I think we're going to see a lot more people working remotely now because they want to spend more time with their families. And I don't think that's a bad thing in the least.

I see no indication that reduces productivity or people's effectiveness or any of that kind of stuff. But employers were very hesitant about allowing that in the past until they had to, they had no choice. Now. I mean, now there's a big question about what about all these office buildings?

Do we really need those? How much centralization of activity does an enterprise really need? I just read that there was a new office building that Salesforce was going to build in San Francisco and they had reserved, I don't know, the bottom eight floors or something like that. And they've canceled the lease. They're not going to need the space. They already have the tallest building in San Francisco. And they're probably not going to fill that up because people are going to work remotely all over the world.

Yucca: Yeah. So this is a really interesting time to see what comes from all of this, right? Where do we go with this? I'm really interested to see how the, this will influence the accessibility of medicine and education and things like that that had to go online. Now, there are some things that you have to be in person for, you know, there's with medicine, there are certain tests that you can't take someone's blood pressure over zoom and for although there are some things that can be done, but there's, or with education with actual skills that are with your hands. There are things that can't be done and certain ages that, you know, having someone in person really helps, but there's a lot of stuff that can allow for people to not be going somewhere and stay where they are not be having all those travel expenses, not have to live in the really expensive place in order to have access to those things.

So it's really interesting. And. I look forward to a year from now. When we get to look back on this on 2021 and go, here's what happened and here's where we're going.

Mark: Yes, it'll be really interesting. I mean living through a catastrophe like this is it's is something very strange. I'm almost getting used to having disasters because we keep having these wildfires here where I live and people's houses are burning down and people are getting killed and all that kind of stuff.

But a global pandemic is an entirely different scale. And it's changed everything. It really has changed many things in our world, and it'll be exciting to see what advances we can make based on those changes.

Yucca: Also curious to see how closely we mirror the roaring twenties of last century in terms of the cultural response to that.

Mark: Yeah. I mean, I think we're getting some hints to that in the behavior of some people who just refuse to do the social distancing, because they're so committed to going out dancing or whatever it is. You know, especially younger people like college aged high school age people We may very well have kind of a boom of socializing and nightlife and all that kind of stuff.

A lot, maybe even a lot more risk-taking because people realize how possible it is for them to die. I'm not sure that lesson has really percolated except for people who have actually lost someone. It's not quite like the Spanish flu, the Spanish flu of 1918, where millions of people died. it just in the United States, millions of people died. Something like 20 million people worldwide died. But that's a good thing. You know, if that means that it has less cultural impact than it would otherwise I'm still okay with

Yucca: Yeah. Well, why don't yeah. Why don't we, we talk about now in terms of what season we're in the holiday we're coming up on and what it means to us also, what's going on in our environment, because as we've talked about a lot before you and I live in different environments. We're both in the same hemisphere, but certainly quite different climates.

Mark: Yes, our climates are different. Our biomes are very different. So where I am, this is the height of spring and I actually celebrate this holiday as High Spring. The daffodils are actually failing now. All fruit trees are blooming, so there's clouds of white and pink. Blooms in trees that you see everywhere.

We do still have some rain, but it's intermittent rather than, as it typically is constant or earlier in the year. There are days that are very warm days in the seventies and beautiful puffy white clouds on sparkling blue skies. And it's just a lovely time to be here. How about you? How what's happening, where you are?

Yucca: Trying sort of pretending to be spring for us. This is First Spring. And this is closer to what I read the description that some people have for Imbolc where it's like the first signs of spring. We, this is a time of year that the temperatures could really go any direction. But if we have warm days there in the fifties for us and still freezing every night, we'll be freezing every night until partway into May, probably.

So our last for our average last frost is usually just about May 15th or so. So this is we're crossing our fingers, begging the trees, not to bloom because if they do, then there will be no fruit for the year because it will freeze again. But. Some of the birds are starting to come back. We've got plenty of birds who live here through the winter, but the migratory birds are returning and there's more light and it's starting to feel like spring is here.

It's starting to feel like, okay, we're ready to be out. It's Oh, it's time . For the annual garden, the plants that we plant ahead of time, it's time to get those tomatoes and peppers and all of those started in doors, so that they'll have time to be out, to plant them when the frosts finish up. So it's, yeah, it's a feeling of let's get going, come on, kinda ready to get skipping jumping around and it's. It's it's like he can kind of, that veil of winter is being lifted, but it's still chilly. Still. It's still nippy. Definitely up to of your layers. Yeah.

Mark: Well, the common thread there though seems that it's, the things are unfolding. Things are there's definitely some indication that life is waking up again. Where I am, it's well awake and doing its reproductive thing. And and it makes perfect sense for this to be sort of the pagan equivalent of Easter.

There's definitely a rebirth thing happening here. And of course, lots of birds are laying eggs right now. So, the traditional association with eggs is something that makes a lot of sense as well. The other thing about this holiday is that it is it is the balance of light and darkness.

And so. In some ways, it's the balance of winter and summer. The much less challenging, easier, more comfortable time of summer mitigated by the bitter cold and and inhospitality of winter. And. Depending on which minute it happens to be. It can be any of those things at this time of year.

And of course, metaphorically with light in darkness, we did a whole episode about darkness, but there's that as well the long dark days of winter are well behind us now. And unless you're in the couple of States that don't practice daylight savings time tonight. As we record this tonight will be the night that the clocks will turn forward and the days will start to seem quite a bit brighter. All of a sudden.

Yucca: So, if you're listening to this, that'll have been the day that it comes out, that'll be an yesterday. So this'll be your first Monday with the new hours.

Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: And we've talked about this before, but I wish that we would just do away with that.

Mark: Me too.

Yucca: It's ridiculous. It's dangerous and annoying. And I don't mind fall back so much, but spring forward.

Mark: Yeah. Spring forward is really irritating. The fallback actually it tends to fall right around the first the first weekend in November, which is kind of High Hallows time. So the sudden plunge into darkness feels appropriate. This always feels jarring. And I just don't see the point in it.

Yucca: Well, hopefully within a few years we can get rid of it. That's the hope we say that every year.

Mark: Well, it seems like there is some motion in that regard. There's openness to it at the federal level. And a lot of States have passed laws that will trigger if the federal government gives up on daylight savings. So that would be nice.

So how do we Oh I was gonna mention another big association that I have with this holiday, which is children. One of the ways, one of the metaphorical layers that I map onto the years, what I call the arc of the year, which is the phases of a human life staged out around the calendars. So birth being that you'll infancy being at the February holiday, which I call River Rain, High Spring being children, you know, elementary school.

Kind of time, maybe up to 11 or 12. And then Mayday being more young adults. And then the summer solstice, mid summer being kind of. Adult, you know, people in their thirties kind of in the prime of life and then in the August holiday dimming that being middle-age and then elderly at harvest and then death at Hallows.

And then of course, between hellos and and you'll comes that magical amazing time of recomp of decomposition and recomposition into new life forms. So, this is about children and I associate that with happiness and playfulness and innocence and kind of a wide-eyed wonder at the world because at this time of year, That makes a lot of sense.

The trees have alternate colors and they've got leaves on them again. What ha how did that happen? And where did all the old ones go? and birds are flying across the sky and the clouds are really dramatic and it's just a time to look around and go, wow, this is really a cool place.

Yucca: Well, we do something a little different. For us it's less about the wheel of the years, less about the human life cycle or life history and more on the particular animals and types of ecosystems that we relate with. So there it's from the human perspective, but it's who really is playing into and influencing our lives.

And this is the holiday of the egg layers, the birds in particular. So the celebration for the chickens who the hens most hens lay based on the light cycle. So there's enough light coming back that it's triggering to them as long as they're happy. It's triggering. Hey, start laying again. So there was a return of the eggs where you, might've not been getting very many in the winter.

And for us also there's return of many of the migratory birds. And there's just that celebration of those creatures. Whereas other times in the year, we'll be looking at other creatures or types of lives, like last holiday, it was our Hovde or bovine and Caprini friends. And when we get to summer solstice, that's the arthropods.

So, and our May Day is our annual crops that come in are flowering plants and all of that. And so we will go through that. But this is really, this is all about the birds. So we really enjoy the birds this time of year. The children element for me in my life, everything is all about children all the time.

But yeah, is this is the time of year that you do the shoots and ladders, right?

Mark: Yes,

Yucca: like the kids' games.

Mark: Yeah, we've done. We've done gatherings before. I mean, I don't think we'll do that this year because COVID, but we've done gatherings before where which have included young children and we've played children's games with them, and just kind of centered the celebration of the holiday on them and on their experience. Which has been lovely. It's been a really cool thing to do. So when we can do that again, I'm sure we will, but I'll still be dying eggs just cause it's a cool tradition. It's a fun thing to do. Okay.

Yucca: So this is one of the holidays that has a parallel with mainstream holidays. So with the Winter Solstice and Christmas and with Hallows or Samahin and Halloween and the Equinox and Easter, but they don't line up within just a few days of each other. Typically. Is Easter moves around, but they often are a full month apart. So that's been an interesting one for us, with the kids in deciding how to handle that because we are not Christian, obviously. So there's no church element or anything like that for us, but we did grow up in the States having our own memories of doing Easter egg hunts and with my children their grandmother, on their dad's side, is very loves them whole thing of the dying eggs and doing Easter egg hunt and all that, that so we have separated way, like we'll still do some of the eggs, but the we've kind of separated the two and let that be its own thing. The Easter egg hunt with the diet eggs that's Easter.

And then for us, the Equinox still has the celebration of the birds and. And eggs and all of that, but it is, but there's no Easter bunny, you know, there's no baskets you know, anything like that. Ours is more about feathers and the eating of eggs, and less dying of said eggs.

Mark: Well, that all makes sense to me. I mean, in a culture, which is as deeply inculcated as ours is with the calendar and the values really of Christianity. It's a pretty steep push to try to overcome that. Especially with little kids when there are fun things that they would miss out on if you don't do them. So, I mean, I think you've arrived at a pretty good, happy medium where you've separated Easter, which happens at somebody else's house. It's somebody else's tradition. And the Equinox, which is our tradition. That's what we do in our family.

Yucca: Yeah. And that's how we've handled Christmas as well. Where Christmas is also at her house. We still have the tree and do our get, but we do gifts on both solstices, then we have our solstice gifts and then they go and get way too many gifts from grandma

Mark: Yeah, I'm afraid a lot of grandparents are like that. But that's

Yucca: yeah. So grandma, we said just a few. This is just a few. No,

Mark: no.

Yucca: We're appreciative though. It's one of her ways of showing, showing her affection and love, even if it's not the way we would. Do it ourselves. So,

Mark: Of course. Well, having said that what does your and it's a week away as we record this. What does your March 20th look like?

Yucca: yeah. So for us, and we've talked about it before, it's the it's, holiday sort of stretch out. We celebrate the season and the holiday is the midpoint of that season. So we've already started to enter into this First Spring. Although, our Second Winter took up a lot more space. So most of the time they're evened out, but this year it just seemed like it just really was dragging on.

It really wasn't until this week that it started to feel like, Oh, okay, we're transitioning over. But the thing that we've really, we did this a little bit in the past years, but we've really got into it this year. In terms of in the home is the feathers where we've been collecting feathers all year.

And we now have them hung up all around the house. So some of them that like the big Raven feathers, we've got those on yarn, we've got lots of little ones of, and some of them, I don't even know what birds they're from and others, we've got these beautiful woodpecker feathers and these shining blue ones, and we've been stringing them up on, on thread and having them hang so that they move through the air. And changing out the colors and getting ready for doing a little bit of that spring cleaning, not one big day of it, but, you know, everything's just kind of changing, getting ready for that change and getting ready for the change of the year.

I personally. We'll have an alarm set for the actual moment of the Equinox, just because it tickles me and I like to know when it happens, it's just fun. But we will also just do w we'll do like a family meal together close to the date, whenever it works out for us. And in non COVID times, we would invite family and friends. And so we'd have like, you know, eight different dinners or feasts throughout the year, which is kind of a nice break between, there they're still often, but spread out enough that it's not like you're trying to do a big gathering every single week, or it's not every single month either, but you know, they're still close together, but in terms of a any sort of formal ritual or anything like that we don't really have one of those at this point. It's not been one that has been really one that I've latched on to in my own practice and years past. And it's one that just hasn't caught on with the family yet. And we'll see how that changes throughout the years.

Mark: I am going to be doing in the atheopagan ism group, zoom mixer that happens on Saturday mornings. We're doing a ritual where we're going to write our hopes and aspirations for the coming years cycle on squares of paper, and then fold them into paper cranes that we can keep until we burn them at Hallows or at the Harvest.

And. I think that'll be a nice gathering. I mean, there's, there are limits to what you can do ritually over zoom, but we've gotten reasonably good at making a good feeling experience. So we'll do that. I know I'm going to make them going to dye eggs. I haven't decided whether I'm going to use natural dyes or the regular, I prefer food coloring actually to the.

The Easter egg dive that's sold in those little kits. I think the colors are more vivid.

Yucca: Never bought any of those kits. Are those not just food dyes in them?

Mark: our food dyes, but they're not as vivid they're. You have to leave an egg in for a long time to get a good dark purple for example. And so I use the liquid food coloring instead. And of course it's artificial and all that kind of stuff. But if you really want to color eggs with natural ingredients, most of them, you're going to need them to sit for a very long time.

They need to sit overnight. You know, if you use a onion leaf use, for example, to get that nice golden orange

Yucca: Make some delicious eggs. That way. If you look up Sephardic eggs, putting onions and coffee and all kinds of things, you can really get delicious diet eggs.

Mark: Nice. Nice. I will. I will look into that.

Yucca: Red cabbage works pretty well. That's one that, yeah.

Mark: And there are others. Mint actually does a pretty good green.

Yucca: Oh, really?

Mark: Yeah. I mean, you have to masquerade it a lot in order to really get the chlorophyll in there. And of course, vinegar helps with the absorption into the calcium carbonate. It, you know, it interacts. Not too much vinegar.

You're just going to melt it right off. But a little bit of vinegar so that it engages with the calcium is helpful. I.

There actually is a guide to using natural materials, to dye eggs on the atheopaganism blog. So if you go there and look at the tag cloud, that's in the right hand sidebar it's down at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. And if you just click on High Spring, it'll bring up all of the spring Equinox posts. And one of them has information about how to do that.

Yucca: Speaking of eggs. I have a quick tip for other parents with the Easter egg hunt who want to limit the incredible amounts of candy that can be involved in Easter is Lego packs. Instead of hand of, you can put some candy in the candy, but you can get Lego packs and put the Legos in the little plastic eggs.

So then you can put together the Legos afterwards or whatever other little toy, but Legos are great because they don't just get, other than stepping on them, they don't just get thrown away the way, like a little, you know, little fake bunny or a little fake chick or some sort of plastic key, you know, party favor.

Mark: Soon to be landfill.

Yucca: Yeah. But the Legos are one that you can set most kids. And frankly, most your adults will go crazy over putting them together afterwards. And then it's exciting. Cause you want to make sure you get all of them so that you don't miss any of the Legos if it was a kit or something like that. So just a tip out there.

Mark: Makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I can definitely see that. I never did Legos when I was a kid. It was tinker toys in our house. Which I think are less versatile. But you could build interesting things. I built a mill.

Yucca: Yeah, you definitely build different kinds of things with them.

Mark: Yep.

Yucca: Do your molecules with tinker truck toys?

Mark: You can. I, well, I remember it. Well, I hope everyone has a really wonderful Equinox celebration and welcome to spring if it's here and if it's not here, I hope it gets here soon for you.

Yucca: And also for our listeners who are in the Southern hemisphere. Welcome to the entrance to winter. Right? So it's the opposite.

Mark: Yes, absolutely. And harvest time and the time to eat all those wonderful vegetables and root vegetables and you know, have a big celebration of the bounty of the year. So, there's always one of the things that's great about paganism is there's always something to celebrate.

Yucca: Yep.

Mark: It's a great opportunity.

Yucca: Yep. This was a lovely talk today. Thank you, Mark.

Mark: Oh, you're so welcome. Yucca. I really enjoyed speaking with you as always. We'll see you next week.