Dr. Eric Steinhart draws on his philosophical background to create a naturalistic foundation for the Pagan Wheel of the Year. To better understand axiarchism, the philosophy on which Dr. Steinhart draws to create a Naturalistic Pagan theology, see Part 1 and Part 2 of his essay “Axiarchism and Paganism”.
At Mabon, light and darkness come into balance again; but this balance trends downwards, so that the darkness triumphs over the light. But the light was life. Mabon thus marks the second harvest, which is the biological harvest. At Mabon, all life on earth has gone extinct. The sun has incinerated our planet. Much worse, all life in the universe has gone extinct. Every suffering organism, including every organism on any planet in our entire universe, has made its prayers, and the species of every organism has made it prayers; and the answers to all these prayers have been gathered together into a set of possible universes, a set of utopian worlds, radiated by our universe. Read more…
The Flower of Fall
There’s a old bridge over Bayou St. John in New Orleans, made from wooden planks supported by a steel frame and now used only for foot traffic. A Vodou ceremony is performed here on St. John’s Eve, just after the summer solstice, but recently I’ve come to associate the bridge with the autumnal equinox — because of a flower, of all things.
I first noticed them a few years ago, gorgeous crimson spidery blooms which seemed to have sprung out of nowhere in mid-September, in a little planter box at the end of the bridge. A friend told me that her grandmother called them “naked ladies,” I suppose because they emerge tall and proud atop leafless stalks.
It wasn’t until several years later, as I was studying up on the equinoxes, that I realized these flowers are associated with the beginning of fall. They bloom around the time of the autumnal equinox. It’s a testimony to my own alienation from natural cycles that I noticed this not from direct observation or local lore, but by reading about rituals of Japanese Buddhism on the internet. Read more…
The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Autumn
The peak of hurricane season comes on September 10, statistically speaking, but the season officially runs until the first of November. Hurricane formation is driven by warm water in the mid-Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, which lingers on through the phenomenon of seasonal lag. It’s summer’s hangover.
Many locals take a dim view of September, the ostensible beginning of the fall season. September often seems like nothing more than an extension of the month before. August, Part II: The Revenge of the Humid. September is a sticky, sultry, summery month.
Here in the subtropics, spring may be ephemeral, but autumn can be downright elusive. Most of the trees in New Orleans stay green year-round, so we don’t see much fall foliage. However, there is one undeniable reality that can’t be missed, even at our latitude.
I start to notice it at the very beginning of September. I rise at the same time, but each day it’s a little darker. Dawn slips forward through our morning routines. We are losing light. The days are getting shorter, as night encroaches upon day. Thus, even in the subtropics, we experience a sense of loss.
The Saints may be playing football, kids may be back in school, and rumors of fall may filter down from the north, but when you’re mopping sweat off your brow it can be hard to believe autumn will ever come. The equinox can seem like a false premise. Read more…
There is something deeply spiritual about composting. For years I’ve had a compost pile, really just a refuse heap confined by pig wire. It was almost impossible to turn or to get at any of the finished compost. The flies were very happy though. With my sacred space, where I like to celebrate the Wheel of the Year, just a buzz away from my compost, I thought it was time to do something different. I decided to finally get some worms and start using the vermicomposter I bought a couple of years ago and to seriously upgrade my conventional compost bin, which thanks in large part to my wonderful spouse is now made of cedar fencing with a removable door. Read more…
We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Life is Death, and Death is Life.
What? That makes no sense, right? Aren’t they opposites?
No. Death and life are two sides of the same coin. After all, if life didn’t exist, then nothing would die. And if death wasn’t real, then evolution could not have produced the life we have today. Death and life are intimately intertwined, like the two sides of the DNA molecule. Life and death are two dancers that together have spun out our world, both of which are needed for us to exist. The opposite of death isn’t life, but sterility – like a barren, rocky planet with no life … and hence no death. A natural death is a wonderful, necessary, and healthy part of any world able to grow and change. Death is part of a life well lived. Read more…
In anticipation of the autumn equinox …
Eating the living germs of grasses
Eating the ova of large birds
the fleshy sweetness packed
around the sperm of swaying trees
The muscles of the flanks and thighs of
the bounce in the lamb’s leap
the swish in the ox’s tail
Eating roots grown swoll
inside the soil
Drawing on life of living
clustered points of light spun
out of space
hidden in the grape.
Eating each other’s seed
ah, each other.
Kissing the lover in the mouth of bread:
lip to lip.
– Gary Snyder
De Natura Deorum is a monthly column where we explore the beliefs of Naturalistic Pagans about the nature of deity. This essay was originally published at Peg Aloi’s blog The Witching Hour on the Patheos Pagan Channel.