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Interview: Lauren of The Atheopagan Society Council

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Revolutionary Witchcraft- Sarah Lyons

Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Emergence Magazine podcast

https://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.pdf

S4E32 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science Paganism.

I'm your host, Yucca.

Mark: and I'm Mark.

Yucca: And today we are honored to have another guest. So Lauren, who is a new member of the Atheopagan Society Council. So, welcome, Lauren.

Lauren: Thanks. I'm so glad to be here.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: We're really excited to have you, so thank you for taking the time to come on the show.

Lauren: Yeah, no, my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me. I'm so tickled to be here.

Yucca: Yeah. So, Lauren, will you tell us a little bit about you and your, I guess, so we were saying atheopagan origin story?

Lauren: Sure. And you know, I think like a lot of these stories, it's a little long, so forgive me if I get kind of long-winded here, but I hope that, you

Yucca: so much fun. We love to listen to it, so.

Lauren: I'm glad. Yeah, I'm sort of hopeful that some of what I talk about could just help someone else. So I figured I would lay it all out there. So yeah, I'm I'm from New York, I'm from New York City, and I grew up in a, I would say, fairly Catholic family.

We went to Mass regularly outside of just like Christmas and Easter. I was an altar girl I had my first communion, sort of like the whole, all the steps that you do as a child in the Catholic Church. And I really loved it, like I loved being an altar girl, I loved, being part of rituals and ceremonies and made me feel important and special, and I really loved the community that we had in the church as a kid.

But as I got a little bit older when I was sort of like in early adolescence, my mom came out as a lesbian. And, as you can imagine, this was like the early 2000s being part of the LGBTQ plus community, and the Catholic Church didn't really mix, so, we left that community. And at the same time, again, early 2000s, there was a lot of just like witch stuff happening in pop culture, like the Harry Potter books were like exploding, all this stuff was going on.

And I expressed an interest in that. And an adult in my life was like, Oh, hey, you like it. Thank you. Witchy things, like let me bring you to this New Age bookstore. So, I went to this New Age bookstore and I bought a couple of books on Wicca, and it was just like a complete revelation for me. I was so enamored with, with Wicca, with Learning about this whole religious practice that was, it, it felt magical and empowering and, you know, feminist and accepting and all of these things, and I was just still a really deeply faithful person like, you Completely believed in God, and I remember reading a passage in one of the books that I got that was like, you can imagine God as a diamond, and in Christianity, you're just looking at one facet of the diamond, and this was a way to like, look at all of these other facets, and I just loved that.

So throughout my, my whole teenage era, I had this like fairly serious solitary practice. I never tried to build any sort of real life community. I think the stigma was just like too high for me to ever even try, but I would like read stuff online and, and I would do ritual by myself. When I was in my, I guess, around 20 years old late teens to, to 20, sort of two things happened that kind of pushed me to a different place.

So, unfortunately I had this tragic experience where my best friend from childhood passed away. And that triggered like a classic crisis of faith where it's, you know, why does God let bad things happen to good people? And I couldn't find a satisfying answer to that question. And I also met the person who would become my, my life partner and now spouse.

who just moved at that time from the UK to the U. S. and I think sort of found himself in this place of like, wow, like, everything is really Christian here in this way that I feel really uncomfortable with. And he was sort of one of the first, like, loud atheists that I'd ever encountered. So for the rest of sort of my early 20s, I just I was in this process of deconstructing, and I remember being about 25, and I, I totered around like those same books I bought from that New Age shop, like to all these different apartments, all these different moments in my life, and I recycled them because I couldn't reconcile the idea of hanging on to that stuff with just not believing in God anymore.

And I cried, like it was a really painful moment, but it just sort of felt like this is what I have to do to be. to not have that cognitive dissonance in my mind. So that's where like this other big thread of, I guess, my origin story picks up, which is like the environmental activism piece. So I've, I've always been involved in social justice movements of various kinds, like basically from childhood.

I'd always done environmental and sustainability work through like high school and college. And then I was living in New York City when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. And for people who aren't particular, aren't familiar with that particular climate disaster, it was really devastating. So after that, I, I was trying to figure out how to make climate action my job and how to like make a, a career fighting for a livable planet.

So, eventually, it took me a couple years, but that led me to law school, and I decided to try to become an environmental lawyer. I started law school in the fall of 2016 in Washington, D. C. And people listening from the U. S. probably remember that we had a liberal election that year, and Donald Trump was elected basically right as I started law school.

So... I spent those three years that I was in law school just like completely burning the candle at both ends, 110 percent in on like all of the things. So during the day I was like interning at environmental law organizations and taking classes. And evenings and weekends I was like, if you can think of a way to take like civic action, like I did it.

I attended protests. I organized at least one. I called Congress. I worked in Congress. Like, I just did all of those things. It was a really crazy three years, but I think a lot of us who were in law school, in particular at that time in DC, felt like we had this huge responsibility being physically there to, like, do everything we could both on the democracy front and on the climate front.

So, I was, I was glad to be there and glad to do it. So after I graduated, I spent a year working for a judge in New York. We were trying to come back to New York and we were able to do that. It's this thing called clerking, where you spend a year working for a judge. And when you're clerking, you're not allowed to do any political activity at all.

And You could do a whole separate podcast about why that's like unfair and a little bit silly, but it is what it is. So it was this strange sort of pause in my life where I couldn't do all of the things that I had been doing, you know, basically for the previous decade. And then in the spring of my clerkship year, COVID happened.

So it was like a doubling down where it felt like You know, I think maybe in some ways, particularly where we were, right in the heart of it for many months, everything was falling apart and I felt like I could do nothing about it. And that was really hard. I was, I think, tired and scared and I remember saying to my partner, like, I, I need to pull on something that is not myself.

And I don't know if that makes sense outside of my own head, but... It was this moment where I think I was really longing to like turn to prayer like I would have when I was a person of faith and I just like couldn't do that. So it just tugged me back towards paganism and thinking like, is there, is there any way that I could work this back into my life in a way that feels authentic? The other thing that was sort of happening that year too was we had just gotten married and we were thinking seriously about starting a family. And that raises all sorts of questions too about like, well, how, how are we going to raise this kid? And we're two people who don't believe in God, but we want community around our kid and thinking hard about those questions and the sort of life that we wanted to build in that way.

So I just started poking around on the internet and I think, you know, many Googles in, I found the sass Reddit page and On some, some post, I saw a comment that mentioned atheopaganism, and I like, found the community from there. So, I guess I've only really been in the community, I think it's been like, less than a year, but I've just been, you know, it was such a wonderful moment when I found it, because it's like, oh my gosh, not only are there other people who like, believe how I believe, but...

They've like built a community and a whole thing and just the more I read the more excited I got. So, I've just been really thrilled to be here even though, you know, it took me a long time to find it. I'm really glad that I'm here now. Yeah, so that's my origin story.

Yucca: That's

wonderful,

Mark: that is, that's a great story, wow. Myself, I got bitten by a radioactive spider, but that's, we'll, we'll talk about that another time.

Yucca: For those who aren't familiar, Stas.

Lauren: Oh yeah, I think it's something called, it's something like skeptical atheist and science seeking witches. So it's folks who are into sort of, Rituals and practices to help them develop themselves, but they don't believe in what I would call like Harry Potter style magic. It's sort of the magic of working with your own psyche.

So that, that really resonated with me. And I think there's a fair amount of crossover, like folks who are in that community and folks who are in this one. Yeah.

Mark: yeah, yeah.

Yucca: And what were some of the things that when you found the atheopagan community that really stood out to you, that you were like, Oh, this is, this part is what I'm connecting with.

Lauren: Yeah. You know, I think just sort of the basic framework that we are all folks who are here because we think the earth is sacred. Yeah. And we want to find ways to celebrate that and celebrate life and community and, and just a rejection of things that aren't verifiably real in a way that didn't feel, I guess, demeaning or, or like there was any ridicule.

And that mattered a lot to me because like some of the most important people in my life are people of like deep faith and I've, I've never been super comfortable with the sort of like, let's all just like make fun of. Christian sort of tact. And I didn't feel like I saw that here a lot. And I was also really struck, like, when I joined the Facebook group, there are those three screening questions that basically, I think, are designed to, like, weed out folks who, you know, are not ready to say, Black Lives Matter, or to, you know, be willing to live their values.

So the fact that those were right up front, I think, immediately put me at ease. Yeah, it's, you know, probably not obvious to listeners, but I'm a Black and Latina person, and I think, you know, the pagan world, as I've encountered it, it's like a fairly white space, so there's a little bit of guarding that I have coming into any sort of Pagan community.

So there were signals right off the bat that like, this was a place where it was going to feel comfortable. And I think once I kind of got past the screening questions, all of that, that held true.

Mark: I'm, I'm really delighted to hear you say that, because it's a really important priority for us. You know, we're, we just had our quarterly meeting of the Atheopagan Society Council, so you had your first meeting there, and we're working on our strategic plan, and our number one goal of the three goals we've identified for our upcoming couple of years is a focus on belonging, equity.

Diversity, inclusion, justice. The, the activism element of atheopaganism is something that that's really important to me, the idea that we're not just doing this to be the best people we can, but also to make the best world we can. You know, to redress wrongs and to live in sustainable harmony as best we can with, with the ecosystem the biosphere.

Lauren: yeah.

Mark: I'm really excited, you know, to hear you articulate, you know, all that political passion, because I have a ton of it myself, and it's, it's just, it's just so important at this time.

Yucca: Hm.

Lauren: Yeah, I think so too. And I think something that has been so wonderful for me coming into this community I think I didn't know it, but I was really looking for some way to both soothe my own eco anxiety and, and climate anxiety, and, and sort of elevate the work that I do, like during the day and sort of the organizing I still do in the evenings, as something sacred and something that, you know, wasn't just an intellectual exercise.

Mark: Yeah.

Lauren: I was always... During like the Trump D. C. era of my life, when I would go to actions that were led by, you know, like progressive Christian groups or, or sometimes indigenous folks, and they would bring that element of a spiritual connection, I think there was Like a longing on my part that I felt those things too, but I had no, I felt like I couldn't lay claim to those feelings in any way, and being part of the atheopagan community I think is a way to sort of, like, say loud and proud, the earth is sacred, and we all believe that, and we're here for that, and Thank you.

Thank you. And you can do that without appropriating anyone's culture or sort of claiming things that aren't yours to claim, but by, I think, acknowledging what's, what belongs to all of us as human beings it's a framework to access that, and I really appreciate that about this community.

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: Ah, yeah, it's wonderful to hear you say that. I just kind of like to sit with it for a while, it's the because we're living in quite a time, you know? It's gotten very late on, on a number of fronts, and and it's been far too long on other fronts, and it's just, A lot of things are coming to a boil now at the same time, and so being active participants in that is just so essential.

I've been really encouraged to see how much interest there is in, in the community, in, you know, standing up for those principles, standing up for for, for inclusion and for environmentalism and for feminism and for the LGBTQ community and the BIPOC community and, you know, really saying, you know, drawing a line in the sand and saying, this is where we stand.

Lauren: yeah, it's really great and really special. And I think one thing that I would love to bring to the community as in part of my role, I guess, on the council is just helping people. Find their voice if they're having trouble doing that, or otherwise facilitate or provide opportunities to act on our principles.

I don't know, I don't know if I said this at any point, but, you know, in my day job now I am an environmental attorney. I bring, thank you, it's, it's pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie. I do a lot of legal work to try to protect communities facing environmental racism or to try to protect ecosystems and I think that As an attorney, part of my job is to make sure that people who aren't attorneys know that the attorneys can't do everything, right?

And not that I'm accusing anyone in the community of having those sentiments, but sometimes I, I worry a little bit, but it's like, ah, someone will just sue and it'll be fine. Like, no, it won't.

And there are a million ways that everybody has to stand up for, for things they care about and places they care about.

And those places aren't just like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls or whatever. They're like that polluted block down your street or, you know, the water coming out of your tap. I mean, there is, there is something to protect and fight for wherever you live. You know, I don't exactly know yet how I can be that sort of resource in the community, but that's, that's my intention, I guess, just starting out now.

Yucca: And you've also been active in the affinity groups, right?

Lauren: Yeah, so, I noticed that we had these things called affinity groups when I first joined, and that there wasn't a BIPOC group, so I, I guess I started that.

You know, I think that in predominantly white spaces, often, At least, you know, speaking purely for myself, there's this sort of impulse to be like, Alright, where are the people of color?

How do I find them? You know, because it's, it's sort of a, it's another layer of like, signal that like, this is an okay place to be if there are already other people there who look like you. So, I didn't really know how to do that without an affinity group, so I just made one. And it's been really great.

It's, it's a, it's a great community of folks. We're reading a book together now, which is, is fun. And we're hoping to do sort of a book club type meeting soon. I will say like, you know, speaking particularly as a Black person, I think that atheopaganism has this particular appeal as like an explicitly modern creation.

And. think, you know, again, speaking from a distance, I've never been in a community like this before, but I see a lot of hints of sort of pagans meticulously recreating their own genealogy to, like, figure out what gods they should worship or what practices they should have or whatever trying to reconstruct these, like, ancient practices.

And if you're a Black person in America, odds are that's not even an option for you, right? There's only so far back you can go. So I think that there's a, there's a little psychic relief that I found and like, oh, well, I don't even have to worry about my ability to know, you know, exactly what corner of what place my ancestors came from to like use these tools.

I can just focus on the now and focus on the land that I'm on. And I'll say too, now I'm just sort of riffing, but

Mark: hmm.

Lauren: you know, I would really love to just serve as an example that, That this space isn't just for, like, crunchy white people, and I think that that is a stereotype of paganism that

I've encountered in the Black community, personally, that, like, you know, it's, it's just a stereotype that's out there.

Like, we have just as much need and, and right to access these practices as anyone else. So, I think there's maybe some unlearning that I had to do and, and some unlearning that lots of us have to do to be Anything we want to be and not just what society says we should be or should stay away from. So, I like to, I would like to think that I can help just make explicit that this is a path that is open to everyone no matter what your origin, no matter what your skin color.

Mark: Absolutely. And I was so grateful when you created the BIPOC Affinity Group, because I really wanted there to be one. Obviously I couldn't have anything to do with the creation of that. And other people in the community were just too busy they, they, you know, they weren't going to make the lift in order to make that happen, but it was so important that it be there.

I will say a thing about what you were riffing on, which is that when I first created atheopaganism, it was just for myself. As, you know, an American who doesn't have any, like, family legacy of English or Irish or Scottish things, just kind of a person plunked here on Turtle Island with a relationship with land, but no inheritance of culture other than capitalism, and so I, you know, I crafted it with the idea that it would be modern and informed by modern values.

But there are people in the community for whom, you know, like Indigenous people, for example, you know, for whom drawing back on those cultural threads is really important. And so, it's not... It's not that you can't do that, it's that you don't have to. You can still have a powerful practice that's very meaningful to you, starting from modernity and your own life and your own experience.

Lauren: Yeah,

Mark: yeah.

Lauren: yeah, I completely 1000 percent agree. And I should say, like, the, you know, some of the folks in the BIPOC group are like reading a book about hoodoo, which is a magical practice developed by people who came to America through enslavement. And, yeah, I definitely see value in looking back and drawing on, on traditions and, you know, white, white American culture in the last 400 years, that's a culture too.

And there's, there's stuff to draw from everywhere. I think that, sorry, I'm losing my train of thought here. No, there, there's something to draw from. And, and there, in every culture, right, there are magical traditions in your, in your family tree, right? And often for people of color, I think they're a little bit overlooked.

One great little fact that I read in trying to educate myself more about these traditions in the African American community was that when folks were escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad, they would carry magical totems with them to give them bravery. And I just love the idea that You know, sure, there, maybe there's no quote unquote real magic there, but the bravery is real and the political action it led to is real, so, yeah, I absolutely don't mean to say, like, working, looking backwards isn't, isn't good or isn't worth it or anything, but I, I really appreciate the, the emphasis on modernity and, and that you can make this what you want, whether or not you have access to looking back in your own ancestry.

Mark: Mm hmm.

Yucca: And we've been using the term BIPOC, I think that might be a little bit new for some people. Some people are familiar with it, but can you define that for our listeners who haven't come across this term before, or have only seen it written?

Lauren: Absolutely. Thanks for that flag. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, BIPOC. That's what that stands for. And I should say too, you know, our community, the BIPOC group is, is small, it's still developing, as it should, and I think that we aren't necessarily committed to using that term forever.

There are Interesting debates happening within various cultural groups in, you know, I can only speak about, I think, the U. S., but within the U. S. about what umbrella term we should use to refer to ourselves and, and those things are in flux. So that name isn't chiseled in stone, but it's a handy shorthand, I think, for racialized groups in the United States to, to come together in this moment for the purposes of this community.

Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, that's great. Thank you. You know, I, I was just in DC a few weeks ago on a lobby trip. And I had the good fortune of getting a reservation to go to the National Museum of African American Culture and History. I've I mean, honestly, I think every American should be marched through there the, it was profound and infuriating and tragic and inspiring and just an extraordinary experience and I really recommend it to anyone who doesn't feel that they have a grounding in, in what that experience is, at least to the degree that I can get my mind around it as not being that kind of person

Lauren: got the chance to go before we left DC and it's, it's an amazing museum. Hard recommend. Yeah.

Mark: So, you're now on the Atheopagan Society Council and you've talked a little about, you know, some of your, some of the roles that you kind of see yourself as playing within the community. Where, where do you see us going? What I mean, we're, we're relatively recent. We I, I published the essay that became the book in 2009 which is now starting to be some years ago but time is slow that way

Yucca: council's been around four years at this point.

Mark: right, right, the, we only just got our non profit Thank you. You know, status a couple of years ago and but that was an important step to say this is more than about individuals that are working within this community now. We want to create a container and a vehicle for these ideas, you know, to be sustained into the future.

So, you've, I know you've been to one meeting, but do you have

Yucca: a member of the community for quite a while now as well,

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, a year ish or so. Yeah. Man, I, I guess my hopes are really simple, that it just keeps growing, and it stays inclusive, and that it We become a place where folks from all walks of life feel comfortable. I should say I'm also part of the parents affinity group. I have

a young child and we've been talking about some really cool stuff, like maybe a scouting program.

And... I think that there are so many people who are in a similar boat to me, where like they're, they're parenting, they didn't necessarily grow up with a pagan, much less an atheopagan, orientation towards things, and they're trying to figure out how to raise kids with these values, so I hope that that space in particular continues to grow.

I think I've, I've heard you, Mark, maybe on another episode talk about a book of rituals that you're coming out with. I think it would be wonderful if... We start seeing folks sharing examples of how they celebrate the seasons and, and life transitions, and I know that like some of that is out there already, but I think for, for lots of people, including myself, there's both.

There's like a path paving there that can be really helpful to see examples of how you actually like do atheopaganism. And. And also a sense of community when you know, you know, of course, like, you know, a ritual for me here in New York City probably wouldn't relate with the land and in the same way that it would for either of you in different parts of the world, but it's nice to think about some commonality, because I think You know,

Mark: mm hmm,

Lauren: when you're in Catholic Mass and you know that this Mass is really similar to a Mass happening hundreds of miles away, that, that builds that sense, so, finding common threads if we can, I think, would be a nice way to keep the community cohesive, even as it continues to grow and, and spread and, and morph based on the geography of, of the particular atheopagan or atheopagan family.

Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, now that you mention it the idea comes to mind, I mean, my book is coming out in April, and it's much more of a how to book than the first Atheopaganism book, which was, the first half of which is theory, really and then the second is about the principles and, you know, doing rituals and the holidays and all that kind of stuff.

But maybe another project would be editing a crowdsourced ritual book.

Yucca: like an anthology,

Mark: Yeah, so, you

Yucca: out to the community and getting

Mark: yeah,

Yucca: not everybody, but whoever wants to share their insights and sharing that, that could be really, that could be amazing, I

Mark: That could be really good. Yeah, I mean, the other thought that I had that I floated a while ago, and it just seems that nobody has the spoons for it, is a parenting book that I would edit. But I can't write because I'm not a parent.

Yucca: Well, I am really interested in that one. It just needs to, gotta get the timing to work on that if other people are interested as well.

Mark: I really

Yucca: I can't do the whole book, but I think that there's some sections that I'd be able to do.

Mark: great, yeah, and I mean, I, I think the, one of the things that we are presented with now as an opportunity is the whole question about families and kids and how we engage families and, you know, basically build Culture within family units, right? Which I just think is so exciting. And I know John Cleveland Host, who's currently the chair of the Atheopagan Society, I mean, his, he kind of stumbled into all of this because of wanting to have culture for his children.

So, yeah, it's that really presents a, a great opportunity, I think.

Yucca: And we're getting folks now with different ages. I mean, his kids, his oldest are probably going to be off to college soon, right? And a lot of, I know there's a lot of us with real little ones, but there's a good range of... of ages as well.

Mark: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah oh, I'm just, I, I can see the book sitting on a shelf right now, and it's not, it's not very thin either. There's a, there's a lot in it.

Yucca: Well, and even just within the, the umbrella of paganism in general, there aren't a lot of parent books. I mean, there's Circle Round, there's, Lauren, can you think of any others that

Lauren: I mean, when I was pregnant, I looked and I have Circle Round sitting on my bookshelf.

Mark: too.

Lauren: I think there's I'm, I'm blanking on the title, but there was another book with sort of like things for, you know, stories for kids. Of course, I think there's all sorts of. of material for kids to engage with the seasons, but in terms of actual parenting tips or, or guides, no, family practices, no, no.

I don't think there's, if there's stuff out there that I haven't found it, so I would be really grateful for some sort of anthology coming out of the community.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Gotta happen.

Yucca: And then, of course, I don't think there's anything specifically from an atheist point of view. Right, there's plenty of like you were saying, the seasonal kind of secular stuff that's like, yes, it's fall and the leaves are changing,

but not really something that is, that's coming at it from that angle.

Mark: right.

Lauren: Yeah. And I know that Like I know some folks who are involved in like Unitarian Universalist congregations, and I think they might have some curriculums and things for kids, but, so there, and I think the Humanist Society, I don't know, they might have some stuff. So there's probably like things out there that we could draw from, but nothing that weaves together all of the pieces that make the atheopagan community special.

So I think it would be neat if we could make a contribution like that.

Yucca: And I like books, I like to have a book in my, like I appreciate podcasts and blogs and all of that, but there's something very different in terms of the experience of turning a page and sitting on the You know, sitting cuddled under the blankets with the kitty cat next to you as you, like, turn the pages and sip your warm drink.

It's just a very different experience. Yeah,

Mark: Yeah,

Lauren: yeah. And I will say I think Mark mentioned the John Cleland Host and Pagan Families episode, and Arwen, I think you were on that one too, right?

Yucca: it was,

Lauren: I bookmarked it and listened to it several times because, like, oh, there's so much in here! Yeah, I think that there's, there's endless wisdom that folks who have been parenting in the atheopagan community could pass on to folks like me who are just starting out and it would be wonderful to have it as a book that you could cuddle up with for sure.

Yucca: How old's your little one, by the way?

Lauren: He's one and a half.

Yucca: and a half. Oh,

Mark: tiny.

Yucca: That is a

Lauren: little.

Yucca: so fun, though, right? Everything is opening up now.

Lauren: yeah, tons and tons of fun. Yeah, we're, we've been really happy as parents and Yeah, I just hope that we're able to raise him with a sense of community and I think we have that in lots of ways, but I would love for him to feel a connection to this community if that feels right to him and to you.

To give him the good parts of being raised with religion that I received without any of the baggage would be, would be great if we can figure out how to do that.

Mark: One of the things that I'm really excited about when I think about atheopagan parenting is giving kids the skills to do rituals themselves so that they can work with their psychology. We don't really give kids very many tools in terms of emotional regulation and, you know, kind of changing your mental state, your emotional frame, all that kind of stuff.

We just, we don't see that modeled. And, you know, I just... I'm really excited at the prospect of a 12 year old who decides, okay, I'm going to light a candle, and I'm going to contemplate that candle, and it's going to calm me down, and I'm going to be okay about what Marianne said at school, you know, that kind of thing.

So,

Lauren: Yeah, like you, you know, as your brain is developing in those teenage years, that's when you need those tools the most in some ways and I think that's why I was so drawn to it as a teenage girl myself and You know, I have read a fair few, I guess, gentle parenting type books that, that, talk about introducing things like breathing techniques to your kids.

So I am hopeful that some of that stuff that we might call rituals and other people might call, you know, just mindfulness practices,

Mark: mm hmm.

Lauren: are making their way into parenting culture with folks who are becoming parents now. There's, there's so much more that could be explored and could be articulated for kids and I would love that for my own child for sure.

Mark: Yeah, because the world of ritual, it feels so good, and it can be so... Enlightening with a lowercase e in terms of understanding yourself, seeing what your proclivities are and what your core beliefs are, and kind of understanding what your lens is on the world, and maybe seeing some of the limitations of that, and being able to better understand how other people see the world.

There's just so much in it, and, you know, I've been a pagan since 1987. And Yucca, of course, you know, you were raised pagan and I still feel like I'm only kind of nibbling at the edges of all of the things that it can do for me.

Yucca: Yeah

Mark: and the richness that it brings to my life. Yeah, I think so too,

Yucca: we're really, you know, sorting through that.

Mark: yeah.

Lauren: Yeah,

Mark: That was one thing, you know, when I thought about, okay, you know, how we're going to merge atheism with paganism, how is that going to work it occurred to me that the big piece that comes with the paganism is 50 or 60 years of experience accumulated in how to do effective rituals.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: Because the atheist side didn't have that.

We, we have lots of folks that come into our community and they're like how do I get started? What do I do first? I, I, I get it with all the values and the worldview, but how do I do this practice?

Yucca: Yeah.

Lauren: yeah.

Yucca: One of the things that I really value about that from the parent perspective is that one of the things that we're doing for our kids is helping them to develop skills. And then when they grow up, they're going to go in the direction that they went, right? How many people do most of our community were raised in different religions than their parents, right?

And that's okay, right? People make different choices. But I want my kids to have whatever religion they end up being. Whether they stay in the pagan community or not, I want them to have those tools to be able to calm themselves down, to look at themselves, all those things that you were just talking about, Mark, and have the, those ritual skills, even if, you know, I would, doesn't fit me, but if they decide they want to become theists and they believe in a god, then, then great, they have these skills that they can use within that context that's going to help them live a happier, more fulfilled life.

Lauren: Yeah,

Yucca: it's really beautiful that we're trying to do that as, as, you know, atheopagan parents.

Lauren: I think that's beautiful, too. And, you know, while we're on this topic and we're talking a little bit about practice, it just occurs to me to name that I, I really found the, the tools that I had available to me through my practice to be so helpful in getting through like pregnancy and the newborn stage and, and birth.

And I had a really tough childbirth experience and it took me a long time to sort of bounce back from it. I found the newborn stage really hard and like, man, if there's ever a time when, like, you've got to lean into your, your meditative or your, your safe place exercises, it's like those first couple weeks postpartum, right?

It's just, it's really tough stuff. And If there, if there's anyone who's out there who's, who's pregnant and thinking about making space for this in their life, like I, I could not give enough of a thumb. Obviously, you know, postpartum, also do all the things that you need to do for your mental health, the therapy, or whatever other support systems you need, but I think that this is,

Yucca: too,

Lauren: and the physical stuff, absolutely, like this is, you know, I'm, I'm not trying to say anything that discounts, like, Traditional Western medicine or, or psychotherapy or anything like that, but just having another set of tools, I think, really helped me in early parenthood and the sort of the transition between pregnancy and birth and parenting.

I'll also say that I think You know, for folks who are trying to figure out ritual practices and maybe are also parents of young kids, like, it doesn't have to be an hour. It doesn't have to be like, I don't have an hour. It's a lot of my practices are just extremely short. You know,

Yucca: 45 seconds with the bathroom door locked?

Lauren: Exactly, you know, or picking up a, I do a lot of sort of like, I guess I'd call them like totems, you know, I have particular little objects that help put me in a particular mindset, you know, it could just be as simple as picking up that particular ring and putting it on your finger, you know, and, and that's enough to shift your mindset.

So I think talking about ritual in an abstract way can be a little bit intimidating, but it can be as simple, as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.

Mark: Yeah, I find that the things that I have on my focus are all, they're things that have stories associated with them in my mind. So they have an associative meaning, right? It's not just a seashell. It's a seashell that I found when I was 11 on the Costa del Sol in Spain. You know, it's, it's got a, that was stirred up by a huge storm that Brought all these shells up onto the beach.

So, the charging of items... Which obviously isn't really a physical process. It's a psychological process. It's building a strong association between a thing and a state of mind, right? That's a very, very powerful practice and it's one that anybody can do and it's, and it's a way to do a quickie ritual, right?

Yeah, you pick up the ring, you put it on, okay, now I've got my bravery ring.

Lauren: Yeah, exactly. And I guess it occurs to me, I don't know if totem is like a word I'm accidentally appropriating from some group, maybe I should say talisman, but yeah, the idea of having an object that just has that story. I think that can be really powerful and it's really short and simple but isn't enough to sometimes turn your day around or give you that extra boost and I think a lot of my practice has been, you know, especially sort of before I had a kid.

It was all stuff to just, like, make me work harder or make me braver in, in political action, and I'm trying to have a more open mind these days about what I can use it for, that it, it isn't just a thing I should use to help me churn out another couple pages on a legal brief. It's like something that I can use to just, like, expand myself or, or heal myself or just have fun or, or whatever it is it, I think I'm trying to broaden my mind and, and encourage other people to have a broad mind about what it can do for you.

Mark: yeah, one of the pieces that we That we often, it doesn't get talked about in the pagan community very much is how pleasurable ritual can be. It just feels good. And that, in and of itself, is a perfectly fine outcome. That's a great outcome, right? You know, you're in a bad mood, so you go and you do a thing, and then you're not in a bad mood.

Well, that's wonderful!

Yucca: Or you're not even in a bad mood to start with.

Mark: No, you're just

Yucca: You're just, yeah, it

Mark: messing around with candles and incense and cool objects, and it just feels really cool, and you feel sort of wizard y, and it's all fun.

Lauren: Yeah, it's inherently fun, often.

Yeah.

Mark: It's play. It's a form of play.

Lauren: Yeah.

Mark: Well, Lauren...

Yucca: there resources that you, you'd mentioned that you had some resources and things you wanted to share with the

Lauren: Yeah I do, I have a couple of things. So the first takes like a little bit of explanation, but I don't know if listeners are familiar with the concept of environmental justice or environmental racism, but Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.

It's a term used at least in the U. S. and I think also internationally. And environmental justice is the idea that basically in short you're going to stop poisoning people, period, all people.

Yucca: Sounds like a great idea.

Lauren: it does, doesn't it? Nice and simple. And that definition is from a website called ejnet. org. And there... On that website, and I can share the link for the show notes, there's a list of principles of environmental justice that I find really inspiring, and it was written by a group of people of color, environmentalists, environmental activists in 1991 at a convening.

And the very first principle of the, I think it's, yeah, 17.

Yucca: And is that environmental justice action? Is that what

Lauren: This is ejnet. org is the website, ejnet, yeah, I can, I can send a link, but, the first principle in that document reads, environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity, and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction. So I just think it's really, really special that In my mind, part of what atheopaganism is doing is affirming that sacredness of Mother Earth and opening up a path for all people to do that, that really aligns with this foundational document of environmental justice.

So I just think that's cool.

Yucca: Hmm.

Lauren: Yeah,

Mark: up a little bit.

Lauren: it's really

beautiful.

Mark: it is. It's

Lauren: yeah, it is. And I encourage everybody to, yeah, check out those principles and, and to get involved in environmental justice wherever you are. Yeah, just a couple of books that I feel like have sort of helped me in this intersection between action, political action, and pagan stuff.

There's a great book called Revolutionary Witchcraft by Sarah Lyons.

Mark: Yeah,

Lauren: A short book. I can't remember if there's theism in there, so sorry if there is, but it's really great. It's short. Everyone should read it. There's another great book called Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hershey that I just read, and it was one of those real aha books.

It just talks about... Ways to honor yourself, honor your body, and kind of break free of what she calls grind culture. So this idea that you have to be productive all the time, that's a product of like capitalism and colonialism, and it's something that I really struggle to resist. So I thought that that was great.

Two more things. There's this book called Hope in the Dark Solnit, I think is how you say it. Really short book that just sort of emphasizes Don't give up hope that we can make the world a better place. The world is really complicated and Things can and do get better even when they seem really bleak.

And then the last resource I'll share is this wonderful podcast from Emergence Magazine, and I think that's actually the name of the podcast. And it has episodes on all different topics that explore the connections between culture, spirituality, and ecology. And they've had like Robin Wall Kilmer on all sorts of, of authors exploring this intersection.

And again, some of it might be sort of more like a little bit more woo than some of the folks who listen to this podcast like, but there's a lot of really great stuff there. Listening to each episode is just like a gift, so I recommend that as well and I can, I can share like links and, and all of those, those names and authors in case people want to look them up.

And then the last thing I would just say if you'll indulge me in this like quote this quote I really love I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked away. I pointed ahead, ahead of myself as well as you, so please, like, I offer everything I've said with humility. I'm working all of this out myself, and I'm really happy to be working it out with other folks in this community.

Mark: that's really beautiful. Thank you. You know, fun fact. The first pagan ritual I ever went to, when I was invited by a friend back in 1987, was to a coven which included Rebecca Solnit's brother.

Lauren: Wow. Small world.

Mark: Yep, very small world.

Lauren: Well, I guess that's another example of these connections between the activist world and the pagan world run, run deeper and are everywhere.

Mark: Yep, they are. Well, Lauren,

Yucca: so much. They're saying the same thing, but no, really, this is so exciting to have you here with us and part of the community and just everything you're saying is just, just yes. So wonderful. So thank you so much.

Mark: and thank you for your work.

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: You know, those of us that are in the environmental field can feel really beat up a lot of the time, and the organizations we work for, even the big ones, are under resourced relative to the industries that they're up against. and the headwinds politically that they're up against.

And so, thank you for all the effort it took to get the credentials that you needed to be able to do the work you're doing and for the work that you're doing in the world. Thank you.

Lauren: That's very kind and it's, it's my pleasure to do it and I'm really grateful for the opportunity to just come on here and, and riff on all these things and You know, thank, thank you both for creating this community that's been such a source of, and for everyone really who's involved, who, who are co creating this community that's been such a wonderful space.

It's, you know, after a hard day of doing hard stuff and thinking about pollution on long timelines, it's such a wonderful treat to just like listen to an episode of this podcast or check out the Facebook group. It's been a tremendous source of, of solace for me, and I hope that it is for everyone. for other activists who might find their way into this space.

So yeah, really, really grateful all around.

Mark: Well, thank you so much. And with that, I think that's a good place for us to stop. Gratitude is always a good place to land on. So, thanks once again. Thanks to all our listeners. And we'll be back next week with another episode of The Wonder of Science Based Paganism.

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Revolutionary Witchcraft- Sarah Lyons

Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Emergence Magazine podcast

https://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.pdf

S4E32 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science Paganism.

I'm your host, Yucca.

Mark: and I'm Mark.

Yucca: And today we are honored to have another guest. So Lauren, who is a new member of the Atheopagan Society Council. So, welcome, Lauren.

Lauren: Thanks. I'm so glad to be here.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: We're really excited to have you, so thank you for taking the time to come on the show.

Lauren: Yeah, no, my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me. I'm so tickled to be here.

Yucca: Yeah. So, Lauren, will you tell us a little bit about you and your, I guess, so we were saying atheopagan origin story?

Lauren: Sure. And you know, I think like a lot of these stories, it's a little long, so forgive me if I get kind of long-winded here, but I hope that, you

Yucca: so much fun. We love to listen to it, so.

Lauren: I'm glad. Yeah, I'm sort of hopeful that some of what I talk about could just help someone else. So I figured I would lay it all out there. So yeah, I'm I'm from New York, I'm from New York City, and I grew up in a, I would say, fairly Catholic family.

We went to Mass regularly outside of just like Christmas and Easter. I was an altar girl I had my first communion, sort of like the whole, all the steps that you do as a child in the Catholic Church. And I really loved it, like I loved being an altar girl, I loved, being part of rituals and ceremonies and made me feel important and special, and I really loved the community that we had in the church as a kid.

But as I got a little bit older when I was sort of like in early adolescence, my mom came out as a lesbian. And, as you can imagine, this was like the early 2000s being part of the LGBTQ plus community, and the Catholic Church didn't really mix, so, we left that community. And at the same time, again, early 2000s, there was a lot of just like witch stuff happening in pop culture, like the Harry Potter books were like exploding, all this stuff was going on.

And I expressed an interest in that. And an adult in my life was like, Oh, hey, you like it. Thank you. Witchy things, like let me bring you to this New Age bookstore. So, I went to this New Age bookstore and I bought a couple of books on Wicca, and it was just like a complete revelation for me. I was so enamored with, with Wicca, with Learning about this whole religious practice that was, it, it felt magical and empowering and, you know, feminist and accepting and all of these things, and I was just still a really deeply faithful person like, you Completely believed in God, and I remember reading a passage in one of the books that I got that was like, you can imagine God as a diamond, and in Christianity, you're just looking at one facet of the diamond, and this was a way to like, look at all of these other facets, and I just loved that.

So throughout my, my whole teenage era, I had this like fairly serious solitary practice. I never tried to build any sort of real life community. I think the stigma was just like too high for me to ever even try, but I would like read stuff online and, and I would do ritual by myself. When I was in my, I guess, around 20 years old late teens to, to 20, sort of two things happened that kind of pushed me to a different place.

So, unfortunately I had this tragic experience where my best friend from childhood passed away. And that triggered like a classic crisis of faith where it's, you know, why does God let bad things happen to good people? And I couldn't find a satisfying answer to that question. And I also met the person who would become my, my life partner and now spouse.

who just moved at that time from the UK to the U. S. and I think sort of found himself in this place of like, wow, like, everything is really Christian here in this way that I feel really uncomfortable with. And he was sort of one of the first, like, loud atheists that I'd ever encountered. So for the rest of sort of my early 20s, I just I was in this process of deconstructing, and I remember being about 25, and I, I totered around like those same books I bought from that New Age shop, like to all these different apartments, all these different moments in my life, and I recycled them because I couldn't reconcile the idea of hanging on to that stuff with just not believing in God anymore.

And I cried, like it was a really painful moment, but it just sort of felt like this is what I have to do to be. to not have that cognitive dissonance in my mind. So that's where like this other big thread of, I guess, my origin story picks up, which is like the environmental activism piece. So I've, I've always been involved in social justice movements of various kinds, like basically from childhood.

I'd always done environmental and sustainability work through like high school and college. And then I was living in New York City when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. And for people who aren't particular, aren't familiar with that particular climate disaster, it was really devastating. So after that, I, I was trying to figure out how to make climate action my job and how to like make a, a career fighting for a livable planet.

So, eventually, it took me a couple years, but that led me to law school, and I decided to try to become an environmental lawyer. I started law school in the fall of 2016 in Washington, D. C. And people listening from the U. S. probably remember that we had a liberal election that year, and Donald Trump was elected basically right as I started law school.

So... I spent those three years that I was in law school just like completely burning the candle at both ends, 110 percent in on like all of the things. So during the day I was like interning at environmental law organizations and taking classes. And evenings and weekends I was like, if you can think of a way to take like civic action, like I did it.

I attended protests. I organized at least one. I called Congress. I worked in Congress. Like, I just did all of those things. It was a really crazy three years, but I think a lot of us who were in law school, in particular at that time in DC, felt like we had this huge responsibility being physically there to, like, do everything we could both on the democracy front and on the climate front.

So, I was, I was glad to be there and glad to do it. So after I graduated, I spent a year working for a judge in New York. We were trying to come back to New York and we were able to do that. It's this thing called clerking, where you spend a year working for a judge. And when you're clerking, you're not allowed to do any political activity at all.

And You could do a whole separate podcast about why that's like unfair and a little bit silly, but it is what it is. So it was this strange sort of pause in my life where I couldn't do all of the things that I had been doing, you know, basically for the previous decade. And then in the spring of my clerkship year, COVID happened.

So it was like a doubling down where it felt like You know, I think maybe in some ways, particularly where we were, right in the heart of it for many months, everything was falling apart and I felt like I could do nothing about it. And that was really hard. I was, I think, tired and scared and I remember saying to my partner, like, I, I need to pull on something that is not myself.

And I don't know if that makes sense outside of my own head, but... It was this moment where I think I was really longing to like turn to prayer like I would have when I was a person of faith and I just like couldn't do that. So it just tugged me back towards paganism and thinking like, is there, is there any way that I could work this back into my life in a way that feels authentic? The other thing that was sort of happening that year too was we had just gotten married and we were thinking seriously about starting a family. And that raises all sorts of questions too about like, well, how, how are we going to raise this kid? And we're two people who don't believe in God, but we want community around our kid and thinking hard about those questions and the sort of life that we wanted to build in that way.

So I just started poking around on the internet and I think, you know, many Googles in, I found the sass Reddit page and On some, some post, I saw a comment that mentioned atheopaganism, and I like, found the community from there. So, I guess I've only really been in the community, I think it's been like, less than a year, but I've just been, you know, it was such a wonderful moment when I found it, because it's like, oh my gosh, not only are there other people who like, believe how I believe, but...

They've like built a community and a whole thing and just the more I read the more excited I got. So, I've just been really thrilled to be here even though, you know, it took me a long time to find it. I'm really glad that I'm here now. Yeah, so that's my origin story.

Yucca: That's

wonderful,

Mark: that is, that's a great story, wow. Myself, I got bitten by a radioactive spider, but that's, we'll, we'll talk about that another time.

Yucca: For those who aren't familiar, Stas.

Lauren: Oh yeah, I think it's something called, it's something like skeptical atheist and science seeking witches. So it's folks who are into sort of, Rituals and practices to help them develop themselves, but they don't believe in what I would call like Harry Potter style magic. It's sort of the magic of working with your own psyche.

So that, that really resonated with me. And I think there's a fair amount of crossover, like folks who are in that community and folks who are in this one. Yeah.

Mark: yeah, yeah.

Yucca: And what were some of the things that when you found the atheopagan community that really stood out to you, that you were like, Oh, this is, this part is what I'm connecting with.

Lauren: Yeah. You know, I think just sort of the basic framework that we are all folks who are here because we think the earth is sacred. Yeah. And we want to find ways to celebrate that and celebrate life and community and, and just a rejection of things that aren't verifiably real in a way that didn't feel, I guess, demeaning or, or like there was any ridicule.

And that mattered a lot to me because like some of the most important people in my life are people of like deep faith and I've, I've never been super comfortable with the sort of like, let's all just like make fun of. Christian sort of tact. And I didn't feel like I saw that here a lot. And I was also really struck, like, when I joined the Facebook group, there are those three screening questions that basically, I think, are designed to, like, weed out folks who, you know, are not ready to say, Black Lives Matter, or to, you know, be willing to live their values.

So the fact that those were right up front, I think, immediately put me at ease. Yeah, it's, you know, probably not obvious to listeners, but I'm a Black and Latina person, and I think, you know, the pagan world, as I've encountered it, it's like a fairly white space, so there's a little bit of guarding that I have coming into any sort of Pagan community.

So there were signals right off the bat that like, this was a place where it was going to feel comfortable. And I think once I kind of got past the screening questions, all of that, that held true.

Mark: I'm, I'm really delighted to hear you say that, because it's a really important priority for us. You know, we're, we just had our quarterly meeting of the Atheopagan Society Council, so you had your first meeting there, and we're working on our strategic plan, and our number one goal of the three goals we've identified for our upcoming couple of years is a focus on belonging, equity.

Diversity, inclusion, justice. The, the activism element of atheopaganism is something that that's really important to me, the idea that we're not just doing this to be the best people we can, but also to make the best world we can. You know, to redress wrongs and to live in sustainable harmony as best we can with, with the ecosystem the biosphere.

Lauren: yeah.

Mark: I'm really excited, you know, to hear you articulate, you know, all that political passion, because I have a ton of it myself, and it's, it's just, it's just so important at this time.

Yucca: Hm.

Lauren: Yeah, I think so too. And I think something that has been so wonderful for me coming into this community I think I didn't know it, but I was really looking for some way to both soothe my own eco anxiety and, and climate anxiety, and, and sort of elevate the work that I do, like during the day and sort of the organizing I still do in the evenings, as something sacred and something that, you know, wasn't just an intellectual exercise.

Mark: Yeah.

Lauren: I was always... During like the Trump D. C. era of my life, when I would go to actions that were led by, you know, like progressive Christian groups or, or sometimes indigenous folks, and they would bring that element of a spiritual connection, I think there was Like a longing on my part that I felt those things too, but I had no, I felt like I couldn't lay claim to those feelings in any way, and being part of the atheopagan community I think is a way to sort of, like, say loud and proud, the earth is sacred, and we all believe that, and we're here for that, and Thank you.

Thank you. And you can do that without appropriating anyone's culture or sort of claiming things that aren't yours to claim, but by, I think, acknowledging what's, what belongs to all of us as human beings it's a framework to access that, and I really appreciate that about this community.

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: Ah, yeah, it's wonderful to hear you say that. I just kind of like to sit with it for a while, it's the because we're living in quite a time, you know? It's gotten very late on, on a number of fronts, and and it's been far too long on other fronts, and it's just, A lot of things are coming to a boil now at the same time, and so being active participants in that is just so essential.

I've been really encouraged to see how much interest there is in, in the community, in, you know, standing up for those principles, standing up for for, for inclusion and for environmentalism and for feminism and for the LGBTQ community and the BIPOC community and, you know, really saying, you know, drawing a line in the sand and saying, this is where we stand.

Lauren: yeah, it's really great and really special. And I think one thing that I would love to bring to the community as in part of my role, I guess, on the council is just helping people. Find their voice if they're having trouble doing that, or otherwise facilitate or provide opportunities to act on our principles.

I don't know, I don't know if I said this at any point, but, you know, in my day job now I am an environmental attorney. I bring, thank you, it's, it's pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie. I do a lot of legal work to try to protect communities facing environmental racism or to try to protect ecosystems and I think that As an attorney, part of my job is to make sure that people who aren't attorneys know that the attorneys can't do everything, right?

And not that I'm accusing anyone in the community of having those sentiments, but sometimes I, I worry a little bit, but it's like, ah, someone will just sue and it'll be fine. Like, no, it won't.

And there are a million ways that everybody has to stand up for, for things they care about and places they care about.

And those places aren't just like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls or whatever. They're like that polluted block down your street or, you know, the water coming out of your tap. I mean, there is, there is something to protect and fight for wherever you live. You know, I don't exactly know yet how I can be that sort of resource in the community, but that's, that's my intention, I guess, just starting out now.

Yucca: And you've also been active in the affinity groups, right?

Lauren: Yeah, so, I noticed that we had these things called affinity groups when I first joined, and that there wasn't a BIPOC group, so I, I guess I started that.

You know, I think that in predominantly white spaces, often, At least, you know, speaking purely for myself, there's this sort of impulse to be like, Alright, where are the people of color?

How do I find them? You know, because it's, it's sort of a, it's another layer of like, signal that like, this is an okay place to be if there are already other people there who look like you. So, I didn't really know how to do that without an affinity group, so I just made one. And it's been really great.

It's, it's a, it's a great community of folks. We're reading a book together now, which is, is fun. And we're hoping to do sort of a book club type meeting soon. I will say like, you know, speaking particularly as a Black person, I think that atheopaganism has this particular appeal as like an explicitly modern creation.

And. think, you know, again, speaking from a distance, I've never been in a community like this before, but I see a lot of hints of sort of pagans meticulously recreating their own genealogy to, like, figure out what gods they should worship or what practices they should have or whatever trying to reconstruct these, like, ancient practices.

And if you're a Black person in America, odds are that's not even an option for you, right? There's only so far back you can go. So I think that there's a, there's a little psychic relief that I found and like, oh, well, I don't even have to worry about my ability to know, you know, exactly what corner of what place my ancestors came from to like use these tools.

I can just focus on the now and focus on the land that I'm on. And I'll say too, now I'm just sort of riffing, but

Mark: hmm.

Lauren: you know, I would really love to just serve as an example that, That this space isn't just for, like, crunchy white people, and I think that that is a stereotype of paganism that

I've encountered in the Black community, personally, that, like, you know, it's, it's just a stereotype that's out there.

Like, we have just as much need and, and right to access these practices as anyone else. So, I think there's maybe some unlearning that I had to do and, and some unlearning that lots of us have to do to be Anything we want to be and not just what society says we should be or should stay away from. So, I like to, I would like to think that I can help just make explicit that this is a path that is open to everyone no matter what your origin, no matter what your skin color.

Mark: Absolutely. And I was so grateful when you created the BIPOC Affinity Group, because I really wanted there to be one. Obviously I couldn't have anything to do with the creation of that. And other people in the community were just too busy they, they, you know, they weren't going to make the lift in order to make that happen, but it was so important that it be there.

I will say a thing about what you were riffing on, which is that when I first created atheopaganism, it was just for myself. As, you know, an American who doesn't have any, like, family legacy of English or Irish or Scottish things, just kind of a person plunked here on Turtle Island with a relationship with land, but no inheritance of culture other than capitalism, and so I, you know, I crafted it with the idea that it would be modern and informed by modern values.

But there are people in the community for whom, you know, like Indigenous people, for example, you know, for whom drawing back on those cultural threads is really important. And so, it's not... It's not that you can't do that, it's that you don't have to. You can still have a powerful practice that's very meaningful to you, starting from modernity and your own life and your own experience.

Lauren: Yeah,

Mark: yeah.

Lauren: yeah, I completely 1000 percent agree. And I should say, like, the, you know, some of the folks in the BIPOC group are like reading a book about hoodoo, which is a magical practice developed by people who came to America through enslavement. And, yeah, I definitely see value in looking back and drawing on, on traditions and, you know, white, white American culture in the last 400 years, that's a culture too.

And there's, there's stuff to draw from everywhere. I think that, sorry, I'm losing my train of thought here. No, there, there's something to draw from. And, and there, in every culture, right, there are magical traditions in your, in your family tree, right? And often for people of color, I think they're a little bit overlooked.

One great little fact that I read in trying to educate myself more about these traditions in the African American community was that when folks were escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad, they would carry magical totems with them to give them bravery. And I just love the idea that You know, sure, there, maybe there's no quote unquote real magic there, but the bravery is real and the political action it led to is real, so, yeah, I absolutely don't mean to say, like, working, looking backwards isn't, isn't good or isn't worth it or anything, but I, I really appreciate the, the emphasis on modernity and, and that you can make this what you want, whether or not you have access to looking back in your own ancestry.

Mark: Mm hmm.

Yucca: And we've been using the term BIPOC, I think that might be a little bit new for some people. Some people are familiar with it, but can you define that for our listeners who haven't come across this term before, or have only seen it written?

Lauren: Absolutely. Thanks for that flag. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, BIPOC. That's what that stands for. And I should say too, you know, our community, the BIPOC group is, is small, it's still developing, as it should, and I think that we aren't necessarily committed to using that term forever.

There are Interesting debates happening within various cultural groups in, you know, I can only speak about, I think, the U. S., but within the U. S. about what umbrella term we should use to refer to ourselves and, and those things are in flux. So that name isn't chiseled in stone, but it's a handy shorthand, I think, for racialized groups in the United States to, to come together in this moment for the purposes of this community.

Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, that's great. Thank you. You know, I, I was just in DC a few weeks ago on a lobby trip. And I had the good fortune of getting a reservation to go to the National Museum of African American Culture and History. I've I mean, honestly, I think every American should be marched through there the, it was profound and infuriating and tragic and inspiring and just an extraordinary experience and I really recommend it to anyone who doesn't feel that they have a grounding in, in what that experience is, at least to the degree that I can get my mind around it as not being that kind of person

Lauren: got the chance to go before we left DC and it's, it's an amazing museum. Hard recommend. Yeah.

Mark: So, you're now on the Atheopagan Society Council and you've talked a little about, you know, some of your, some of the roles that you kind of see yourself as playing within the community. Where, where do you see us going? What I mean, we're, we're relatively recent. We I, I published the essay that became the book in 2009 which is now starting to be some years ago but time is slow that way

Yucca: council's been around four years at this point.

Mark: right, right, the, we only just got our non profit Thank you. You know, status a couple of years ago and but that was an important step to say this is more than about individuals that are working within this community now. We want to create a container and a vehicle for these ideas, you know, to be sustained into the future.

So, you've, I know you've been to one meeting, but do you have

Yucca: a member of the community for quite a while now as well,

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, a year ish or so. Yeah. Man, I, I guess my hopes are really simple, that it just keeps growing, and it stays inclusive, and that it We become a place where folks from all walks of life feel comfortable. I should say I'm also part of the parents affinity group. I have

a young child and we've been talking about some really cool stuff, like maybe a scouting program.

And... I think that there are so many people who are in a similar boat to me, where like they're, they're parenting, they didn't necessarily grow up with a pagan, much less an atheopagan, orientation towards things, and they're trying to figure out how to raise kids with these values, so I hope that that space in particular continues to grow.

I think I've, I've heard you, Mark, maybe on another episode talk about a book of rituals that you're coming out with. I think it would be wonderful if... We start seeing folks sharing examples of how they celebrate the seasons and, and life transitions, and I know that like some of that is out there already, but I think for, for lots of people, including myself, there's both.

There's like a path paving there that can be really helpful to see examples of how you actually like do atheopaganism. And. And also a sense of community when you know, you know, of course, like, you know, a ritual for me here in New York City probably wouldn't relate with the land and in the same way that it would for either of you in different parts of the world, but it's nice to think about some commonality, because I think You know,

Mark: mm hmm,

Lauren: when you're in Catholic Mass and you know that this Mass is really similar to a Mass happening hundreds of miles away, that, that builds that sense, so, finding common threads if we can, I think, would be a nice way to keep the community cohesive, even as it continues to grow and, and spread and, and morph based on the geography of, of the particular atheopagan or atheopagan family.

Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, now that you mention it the idea comes to mind, I mean, my book is coming out in April, and it's much more of a how to book than the first Atheopaganism book, which was, the first half of which is theory, really and then the second is about the principles and, you know, doing rituals and the holidays and all that kind of stuff.

But maybe another project would be editing a crowdsourced ritual book.

Yucca: like an anthology,

Mark: Yeah, so, you

Yucca: out to the community and getting

Mark: yeah,

Yucca: not everybody, but whoever wants to share their insights and sharing that, that could be really, that could be amazing, I

Mark: That could be really good. Yeah, I mean, the other thought that I had that I floated a while ago, and it just seems that nobody has the spoons for it, is a parenting book that I would edit. But I can't write because I'm not a parent.

Yucca: Well, I am really interested in that one. It just needs to, gotta get the timing to work on that if other people are interested as well.

Mark: I really

Yucca: I can't do the whole book, but I think that there's some sections that I'd be able to do.

Mark: great, yeah, and I mean, I, I think the, one of the things that we are presented with now as an opportunity is the whole question about families and kids and how we engage families and, you know, basically build Culture within family units, right? Which I just think is so exciting. And I know John Cleveland Host, who's currently the chair of the Atheopagan Society, I mean, his, he kind of stumbled into all of this because of wanting to have culture for his children.

So, yeah, it's that really presents a, a great opportunity, I think.

Yucca: And we're getting folks now with different ages. I mean, his kids, his oldest are probably going to be off to college soon, right? And a lot of, I know there's a lot of us with real little ones, but there's a good range of... of ages as well.

Mark: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah oh, I'm just, I, I can see the book sitting on a shelf right now, and it's not, it's not very thin either. There's a, there's a lot in it.

Yucca: Well, and even just within the, the umbrella of paganism in general, there aren't a lot of parent books. I mean, there's Circle Round, there's, Lauren, can you think of any others that

Lauren: I mean, when I was pregnant, I looked and I have Circle Round sitting on my bookshelf.

Mark: too.

Lauren: I think there's I'm, I'm blanking on the title, but there was another book with sort of like things for, you know, stories for kids. Of course, I think there's all sorts of. of material for kids to engage with the seasons, but in terms of actual parenting tips or, or guides, no, family practices, no, no.

I don't think there's, if there's stuff out there that I haven't found it, so I would be really grateful for some sort of anthology coming out of the community.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Gotta happen.

Yucca: And then, of course, I don't think there's anything specifically from an atheist point of view. Right, there's plenty of like you were saying, the seasonal kind of secular stuff that's like, yes, it's fall and the leaves are changing,

but not really something that is, that's coming at it from that angle.

Mark: right.

Lauren: Yeah. And I know that Like I know some folks who are involved in like Unitarian Universalist congregations, and I think they might have some curriculums and things for kids, but, so there, and I think the Humanist Society, I don't know, they might have some stuff. So there's probably like things out there that we could draw from, but nothing that weaves together all of the pieces that make the atheopagan community special.

So I think it would be neat if we could make a contribution like that.

Yucca: And I like books, I like to have a book in my, like I appreciate podcasts and blogs and all of that, but there's something very different in terms of the experience of turning a page and sitting on the You know, sitting cuddled under the blankets with the kitty cat next to you as you, like, turn the pages and sip your warm drink.

It's just a very different experience. Yeah,

Mark: Yeah,

Lauren: yeah. And I will say I think Mark mentioned the John Cleland Host and Pagan Families episode, and Arwen, I think you were on that one too, right?

Yucca: it was,

Lauren: I bookmarked it and listened to it several times because, like, oh, there's so much in here! Yeah, I think that there's, there's endless wisdom that folks who have been parenting in the atheopagan community could pass on to folks like me who are just starting out and it would be wonderful to have it as a book that you could cuddle up with for sure.

Yucca: How old's your little one, by the way?

Lauren: He's one and a half.

Yucca: and a half. Oh,

Mark: tiny.

Yucca: That is a

Lauren: little.

Yucca: so fun, though, right? Everything is opening up now.

Lauren: yeah, tons and tons of fun. Yeah, we're, we've been really happy as parents and Yeah, I just hope that we're able to raise him with a sense of community and I think we have that in lots of ways, but I would love for him to feel a connection to this community if that feels right to him and to you.

To give him the good parts of being raised with religion that I received without any of the baggage would be, would be great if we can figure out how to do that.

Mark: One of the things that I'm really excited about when I think about atheopagan parenting is giving kids the skills to do rituals themselves so that they can work with their psychology. We don't really give kids very many tools in terms of emotional regulation and, you know, kind of changing your mental state, your emotional frame, all that kind of stuff.

We just, we don't see that modeled. And, you know, I just... I'm really excited at the prospect of a 12 year old who decides, okay, I'm going to light a candle, and I'm going to contemplate that candle, and it's going to calm me down, and I'm going to be okay about what Marianne said at school, you know, that kind of thing.

So,

Lauren: Yeah, like you, you know, as your brain is developing in those teenage years, that's when you need those tools the most in some ways and I think that's why I was so drawn to it as a teenage girl myself and You know, I have read a fair few, I guess, gentle parenting type books that, that, talk about introducing things like breathing techniques to your kids.

So I am hopeful that some of that stuff that we might call rituals and other people might call, you know, just mindfulness practices,

Mark: mm hmm.

Lauren: are making their way into parenting culture with folks who are becoming parents now. There's, there's so much more that could be explored and could be articulated for kids and I would love that for my own child for sure.

Mark: Yeah, because the world of ritual, it feels so good, and it can be so... Enlightening with a lowercase e in terms of understanding yourself, seeing what your proclivities are and what your core beliefs are, and kind of understanding what your lens is on the world, and maybe seeing some of the limitations of that, and being able to better understand how other people see the world.

There's just so much in it, and, you know, I've been a pagan since 1987. And Yucca, of course, you know, you were raised pagan and I still feel like I'm only kind of nibbling at the edges of all of the things that it can do for me.

Yucca: Yeah

Mark: and the richness that it brings to my life. Yeah, I think so too,

Yucca: we're really, you know, sorting through that.

Mark: yeah.

Lauren: Yeah,

Mark: That was one thing, you know, when I thought about, okay, you know, how we're going to merge atheism with paganism, how is that going to work it occurred to me that the big piece that comes with the paganism is 50 or 60 years of experience accumulated in how to do effective rituals.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: Because the atheist side didn't have that.

We, we have lots of folks that come into our community and they're like how do I get started? What do I do first? I, I, I get it with all the values and the worldview, but how do I do this practice?

Yucca: Yeah.

Lauren: yeah.

Yucca: One of the things that I really value about that from the parent perspective is that one of the things that we're doing for our kids is helping them to develop skills. And then when they grow up, they're going to go in the direction that they went, right? How many people do most of our community were raised in different religions than their parents, right?

And that's okay, right? People make different choices. But I want my kids to have whatever religion they end up being. Whether they stay in the pagan community or not, I want them to have those tools to be able to calm themselves down, to look at themselves, all those things that you were just talking about, Mark, and have the, those ritual skills, even if, you know, I would, doesn't fit me, but if they decide they want to become theists and they believe in a god, then, then great, they have these skills that they can use within that context that's going to help them live a happier, more fulfilled life.

Lauren: Yeah,

Yucca: it's really beautiful that we're trying to do that as, as, you know, atheopagan parents.

Lauren: I think that's beautiful, too. And, you know, while we're on this topic and we're talking a little bit about practice, it just occurs to me to name that I, I really found the, the tools that I had available to me through my practice to be so helpful in getting through like pregnancy and the newborn stage and, and birth.

And I had a really tough childbirth experience and it took me a long time to sort of bounce back from it. I found the newborn stage really hard and like, man, if there's ever a time when, like, you've got to lean into your, your meditative or your, your safe place exercises, it's like those first couple weeks postpartum, right?

It's just, it's really tough stuff. And If there, if there's anyone who's out there who's, who's pregnant and thinking about making space for this in their life, like I, I could not give enough of a thumb. Obviously, you know, postpartum, also do all the things that you need to do for your mental health, the therapy, or whatever other support systems you need, but I think that this is,

Yucca: too,

Lauren: and the physical stuff, absolutely, like this is, you know, I'm, I'm not trying to say anything that discounts, like, Traditional Western medicine or, or psychotherapy or anything like that, but just having another set of tools, I think, really helped me in early parenthood and the sort of the transition between pregnancy and birth and parenting.

I'll also say that I think You know, for folks who are trying to figure out ritual practices and maybe are also parents of young kids, like, it doesn't have to be an hour. It doesn't have to be like, I don't have an hour. It's a lot of my practices are just extremely short. You know,

Yucca: 45 seconds with the bathroom door locked?

Lauren: Exactly, you know, or picking up a, I do a lot of sort of like, I guess I'd call them like totems, you know, I have particular little objects that help put me in a particular mindset, you know, it could just be as simple as picking up that particular ring and putting it on your finger, you know, and, and that's enough to shift your mindset.

So I think talking about ritual in an abstract way can be a little bit intimidating, but it can be as simple, as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.

Mark: Yeah, I find that the things that I have on my focus are all, they're things that have stories associated with them in my mind. So they have an associative meaning, right? It's not just a seashell. It's a seashell that I found when I was 11 on the Costa del Sol in Spain. You know, it's, it's got a, that was stirred up by a huge storm that Brought all these shells up onto the beach.

So, the charging of items... Which obviously isn't really a physical process. It's a psychological process. It's building a strong association between a thing and a state of mind, right? That's a very, very powerful practice and it's one that anybody can do and it's, and it's a way to do a quickie ritual, right?

Yeah, you pick up the ring, you put it on, okay, now I've got my bravery ring.

Lauren: Yeah, exactly. And I guess it occurs to me, I don't know if totem is like a word I'm accidentally appropriating from some group, maybe I should say talisman, but yeah, the idea of having an object that just has that story. I think that can be really powerful and it's really short and simple but isn't enough to sometimes turn your day around or give you that extra boost and I think a lot of my practice has been, you know, especially sort of before I had a kid.

It was all stuff to just, like, make me work harder or make me braver in, in political action, and I'm trying to have a more open mind these days about what I can use it for, that it, it isn't just a thing I should use to help me churn out another couple pages on a legal brief. It's like something that I can use to just, like, expand myself or, or heal myself or just have fun or, or whatever it is it, I think I'm trying to broaden my mind and, and encourage other people to have a broad mind about what it can do for you.

Mark: yeah, one of the pieces that we That we often, it doesn't get talked about in the pagan community very much is how pleasurable ritual can be. It just feels good. And that, in and of itself, is a perfectly fine outcome. That's a great outcome, right? You know, you're in a bad mood, so you go and you do a thing, and then you're not in a bad mood.

Well, that's wonderful!

Yucca: Or you're not even in a bad mood to start with.

Mark: No, you're just

Yucca: You're just, yeah, it

Mark: messing around with candles and incense and cool objects, and it just feels really cool, and you feel sort of wizard y, and it's all fun.

Lauren: Yeah, it's inherently fun, often.

Yeah.

Mark: It's play. It's a form of play.

Lauren: Yeah.

Mark: Well, Lauren...

Yucca: there resources that you, you'd mentioned that you had some resources and things you wanted to share with the

Lauren: Yeah I do, I have a couple of things. So the first takes like a little bit of explanation, but I don't know if listeners are familiar with the concept of environmental justice or environmental racism, but Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.

It's a term used at least in the U. S. and I think also internationally. And environmental justice is the idea that basically in short you're going to stop poisoning people, period, all people.

Yucca: Sounds like a great idea.

Lauren: it does, doesn't it? Nice and simple. And that definition is from a website called ejnet. org. And there... On that website, and I can share the link for the show notes, there's a list of principles of environmental justice that I find really inspiring, and it was written by a group of people of color, environmentalists, environmental activists in 1991 at a convening.

And the very first principle of the, I think it's, yeah, 17.

Yucca: And is that environmental justice action? Is that what

Lauren: This is ejnet. org is the website, ejnet, yeah, I can, I can send a link, but, the first principle in that document reads, environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity, and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction. So I just think it's really, really special that In my mind, part of what atheopaganism is doing is affirming that sacredness of Mother Earth and opening up a path for all people to do that, that really aligns with this foundational document of environmental justice.

So I just think that's cool.

Yucca: Hmm.

Lauren: Yeah,

Mark: up a little bit.

Lauren: it's really

beautiful.

Mark: it is. It's

Lauren: yeah, it is. And I encourage everybody to, yeah, check out those principles and, and to get involved in environmental justice wherever you are. Yeah, just a couple of books that I feel like have sort of helped me in this intersection between action, political action, and pagan stuff.

There's a great book called Revolutionary Witchcraft by Sarah Lyons.

Mark: Yeah,

Lauren: A short book. I can't remember if there's theism in there, so sorry if there is, but it's really great. It's short. Everyone should read it. There's another great book called Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hershey that I just read, and it was one of those real aha books.

It just talks about... Ways to honor yourself, honor your body, and kind of break free of what she calls grind culture. So this idea that you have to be productive all the time, that's a product of like capitalism and colonialism, and it's something that I really struggle to resist. So I thought that that was great.

Two more things. There's this book called Hope in the Dark Solnit, I think is how you say it. Really short book that just sort of emphasizes Don't give up hope that we can make the world a better place. The world is really complicated and Things can and do get better even when they seem really bleak.

And then the last resource I'll share is this wonderful podcast from Emergence Magazine, and I think that's actually the name of the podcast. And it has episodes on all different topics that explore the connections between culture, spirituality, and ecology. And they've had like Robin Wall Kilmer on all sorts of, of authors exploring this intersection.

And again, some of it might be sort of more like a little bit more woo than some of the folks who listen to this podcast like, but there's a lot of really great stuff there. Listening to each episode is just like a gift, so I recommend that as well and I can, I can share like links and, and all of those, those names and authors in case people want to look them up.

And then the last thing I would just say if you'll indulge me in this like quote this quote I really love I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked away. I pointed ahead, ahead of myself as well as you, so please, like, I offer everything I've said with humility. I'm working all of this out myself, and I'm really happy to be working it out with other folks in this community.

Mark: that's really beautiful. Thank you. You know, fun fact. The first pagan ritual I ever went to, when I was invited by a friend back in 1987, was to a coven which included Rebecca Solnit's brother.

Lauren: Wow. Small world.

Mark: Yep, very small world.

Lauren: Well, I guess that's another example of these connections between the activist world and the pagan world run, run deeper and are everywhere.

Mark: Yep, they are. Well, Lauren,

Yucca: so much. They're saying the same thing, but no, really, this is so exciting to have you here with us and part of the community and just everything you're saying is just, just yes. So wonderful. So thank you so much.

Mark: and thank you for your work.

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: You know, those of us that are in the environmental field can feel really beat up a lot of the time, and the organizations we work for, even the big ones, are under resourced relative to the industries that they're up against. and the headwinds politically that they're up against.

And so, thank you for all the effort it took to get the credentials that you needed to be able to do the work you're doing and for the work that you're doing in the world. Thank you.

Lauren: That's very kind and it's, it's my pleasure to do it and I'm really grateful for the opportunity to just come on here and, and riff on all these things and You know, thank, thank you both for creating this community that's been such a source of, and for everyone really who's involved, who, who are co creating this community that's been such a wonderful space.

It's, you know, after a hard day of doing hard stuff and thinking about pollution on long timelines, it's such a wonderful treat to just like listen to an episode of this podcast or check out the Facebook group. It's been a tremendous source of, of solace for me, and I hope that it is for everyone. for other activists who might find their way into this space.

So yeah, really, really grateful all around.

Mark: Well, thank you so much. And with that, I think that's a good place for us to stop. Gratitude is always a good place to land on. So, thanks once again. Thanks to all our listeners. And we'll be back next week with another episode of The Wonder of Science Based Paganism.

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