The Wheel of the Year for one Naturalistic Pagan, by Renee B.

Wheel of the Year, by Kira Stewart-Watkins

So, how exactly does one practice Atheist Paganism?

I prefer to call it Naturalistic Paganism, but you can’t very well run from the fact that it’s basis is in atheism for me. This blog will be about day to day Naturalistic Paganism according to how it fits in my life.

I used to get pretty hung up on labels. A place for everyone and everyone in their place. Back then, I think, I tried a bit too hard to fit somewhere. Rather than forging my own path in life, I wanted one that was neatly worn down by other traffic. With Paganism, unless you can buy what someone else is selling, this just doesn’t work. Quite a lot of my opinions on all things Pagan had to come under scrutiny as a result.

I have never bought the concept of separate and sentient deities. I know I’m not alone. I just am not content to give up the lifestyle that I think fits me, and that’s where natural paganism comes in. In the last 20 years, I haven’t lived any other way but according to the Wheel. So, the Atheist Pagan is who I became.

So, how exactly does one practice Atheist Paganism? Well, probably much the same way as any other Pagan, just minus all the deities. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use their images, I mean, after all they are connected with the Wheel. It just means that I don’t expect these deities to hear me or otherwise pay any attention to me simply because I don’t believe they are capable of doing so. I don’t do elaborate rituals with all the fanfare that some Pagans do. In fact, it might be hard for outsiders to even tell that I do anything at all.

In this article, I’ll cover all 8 holy days according to Pagan Wheel of the Year. My spin on them in somewhat different, however. I used to get stuck during some of them and had to make them fit how I saw the Wheel and how it would pertain to my life, my location and my own craft.

My changes started with names. Again, being hung up on labels, I just got into a rut where nothing seemed to work, feel right or fit. I wasn’t a Wiccan, so using the Wiccan names for the holy days just seemed a bit disingenuous.

Mid-Autumn

Starting with the Witches’ New Year I will have Mid-Autumn. Traditionally called Samhain for some and All Hallow’s for others, neither fit for me. Around where I have lived, this day is right smack in the middle of fall and it made sense to just call it what it is. The difference is that I won’t be celebrating this on October 31st, which is the fixed day for most. Instead, I feel that since it’s a cross quarter day, celebrating it directly between the high holy day before it and after it is where I’m most comfortable. Besides, I want Halloween to have it’s own day. Halloween IS the day that I will be remembering the dead, but the seasonal holiday of Mid-Autumn is November 6th.

My celebration will be about a nice meal, and an offering to the cycles of the Earth in the form of incense. Anything else will have already been done on Halloween. If you’ve followed me this long, you’ll probably deduce that Halloween, for me, is it’s own Holy Day, but my own added day.

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice will be December the 21st. I will be getting a bit more elaborate, here. A wonderful meal featuring all the staples of this season – a Pagan, and in my opinion “rustic”, decor. Along with this, I will be observing the entire longest night of the year. I have a couple of things planned, but I’m not yet sure how I will pull them off where I live. We’ll see, and I’ll profile it on my blog, A Day on the Wheel. There will be incense offerings throughout the night.

Mid-Winter

Mid-Winter will be celebrated on February 4th. A meal and offering will occur here. As well as a “to be planned” ritual. This is also the day I will acknowledge the change between the focus of the ‘selves’, the Light Self and the Shadow Self. Two different sides of the same person. We focus on the Light Self from Mid-Winter to Mid-Summer because that’s when the light is at it’s strongest.

Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox is March the 20th. The standard will apply here as well. Meal, incense offering, some kind of ritual. It’s a high holy day, so the food will be more elaborate. I will also be starting my seedlings in their seed pots on this day!

Mid-Spring

May the 4 is Mid-Spring. It’s never been the beginning of summer in most places I’ve lived. Granted, it’s hot where I live, now, by May 4th, but not on a consistent basis. It’s the middle of spring, it’s owed it’s due. Many people celebrate this on May 1st, but that day has a secular holiday attached to it called May Day. Some even do May Eve, which is the night before on April 30th. The exact cross quarter falls on May 4th, so that’s the day I use. We’ll have a meal, and incense offering and a ritual, of course.

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice is June 20th. For me, this has always been a turning point in the year. The day when light turns to dark, and we begin preparing to put away the Light Self to focus on it’s other half. Being a high holy day, the meal will be more elaborate, the incense offering will be the whole day. My rituals are always pretty small.

Mid-Summer

August 6th is the Mid-Summer celebration. The hottest part of the year, it should be seen as such and named accordingly. This is the day my focus will have totally shifted to the Shadow Self. I will symbolize this with a mask of some sort. The meal and incense offering will be tailored to the hottest part of the year.

Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox will be September 22nd. The first day of fall will have it’s own meal and incense offering. A ritual of some kind having to do with harvesting will probably occur. I may be harvesting my own plants. We’ll see.

So, there you have it. That’s what the holiday calendar looks like. There will also be posts on my blog for Full Moon and Dark Moon, I’m not sure what I’ll have up for those days. I’ll also be cataloging witchy things on other days throughout the year.

I hope you find something here of value, if you do, drop me a note!

This article first appeared at A Day on the Wheel.

The author

Renee B.

Renee B. is a housewife living in the South. Originally from the plains states, she was raised in a non-religious household. After meeting some Pagans as a young adult, she has been forging her path through the vast forest of Paganism and living according to the Wheel of the Year for almost 20 years. She identifies as a Naturalist Pagan and Atheist. She writes a blog at http://wheelday.blogspot.com/.

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9 Comments on “The Wheel of the Year for one Naturalistic Pagan, by Renee B.

  1. Thank you for this. Sometimes I feel lonely, being a pagan who does not believe in magic or gods as more than ritual and metaphor. I often miss the sense of community I had when I was a member of the Episcopal Church.

    While these would not necessarily be the names I use for the holidays, or the ways I mark the days, it’s still very much in line with the way I think about and practice my own paganism. I’m pretty new to all this, and am still working out how best to observe the eight holidays.

    • It takes a bit for everything to click. Hopefully, for you, it won’t take as long as it took me. They say that our paths evolve and change as we grow, I never fully appreciated or believed that until now.

      Renee B.

  2. I love the simplicity of this; the uncomplicated seasonal celebrations. I follow the “original” interpretations (i.e. Bealtaine as the beginning of summer, the Summer Solstice as midsummer) because those holidays originate in my country and it makes sense to me – the temperature takes a while to catch up, but it terms of what the land is doing in my country, that makes sense to me. But I too really relate to this article.

    • I spent a lot of years wishing that I could identify with the original festivals the 8 sabbats were based on. If I had been born in Europe, that probably would have been easier. In the end, I had to adapt the 8 to the areas I live in so that I could finally feel whole.

      • It makes much more sense to do it that way, I agree – the whole point surely is to be following your own seasonal cycle! 🙂

  3. I observe the Wheel in similar ways: naturalistic/non-deity centered, masks on the summer solstice, seed pots on the spring equinox, and less traditional dates of observance. Do you have any special foods at the meals you mentioned? Or different incenses for the different dates? Do you say any special words (i.e., prayers, poetry, invocations)? You also mentioned images of deities. How do you use these?

    • The seed pots will be a new thing for me. I haven’t traditionally done any gardening since I have not lived in an area where I was able to have the space. I’m also not very good with plants, but we’ll see if that actually takes off. It’s also about 5 million degrees where I live in the summer.

      The foods I use for the 8 holidays revolve around what happens to be in season where I live. A lot of my problems in the first few years of my practice had to do with not really relating to some of the more traditional dishes being served. I solved that by paying more attention to the land I was living on. For instance, with Mid-summer, we had a baked chicken and blackberry cobbler. Not exactly different than what some other traditions have, but blackberries make sense in my area because they are actually growing and being harvested here. This, as opposed to say, Colcannon. Which is a traditional dish for this time of year for Lammas and Mabon. I have no connection to Colcannon, as my family never did much Irish or Celtic cooking.

      For Autumn Equinox, it’s still going to be scorching, here. In other places, some will be starting to make stews and soups for the coming cold. I’ll be having a roasted chicken breast salad with homemade ranch and baked cinnamon apples. Here, our soups and stews are lucky to be called for by Christmas.

      Incense is also something that is evolving. I’m finally toying with making my own loose incense. I have never done this before and have collected a lot of recipes. I work on a budget, so I have to collect up a bunch of resins and herbs before I can do it justice. I use scents of the seasons themes. For about the last 5 years I’ve just been crushing up commercially produced incenses and mixing them to get what I need. For Mid-summer, it was vanilla, sandalwood and rose.

      The images of the deities are involved in a few ways. My meditations being the most important of those. For Mid-summer, I was fixed on moving onto the dark half of myself, and I meditated on some of the darker Gods and Goddesses to do that. Hekate, Hel (Teutonic), Hades. I’m starting a grimoire, now, and I will incorporate some images of the deities into the pages I create. At least I’m hoping to do so! I’ll have a lot of photos of my progress during October which is when I will start committing some of the rough drafts I have in my head.

      I hope that answered your questions and gave you a better look at how I deal with holidays, feel free to ask if you have more questions!

    • Eek, I forgot one of your questions. The part about the prayers and invocations. Traditionally, I have not done any invocations or prayers or anything of that type. I’m the only pagan in the house and while my family puts up with my eccentricities without any fuss or eye rolling, I try not to push the boundaries. I do chant quietly while cooking, focusing my intent on what I’m making and I also have some symbolic rituals that I have followed me from my early days as a wiccan. Such as making candles in October using remnants of the candles I used during meditation and other rituals the previous year, and then some new wax. Remembering the work I’ve already done, and committing to future work.

      Admittedly, a lot of my practice revolves around cottage witchery and meditation. Almost exclusively, to be honest.

  4. Thank you for this. I too am an Atheist/Naturalistic Pagan. I also get very hung up on labels, which is completely unnecessary. It is funny, I came to the path of paganism via wicca, specifically their 5 points, which I still attempt my best to practice (minus the fifth point, which I have altered to be more inclusively naturalistic). My practice of the Wheel is simple and open, and purposefully kept that way. Like you, I have major misgivings regarding most other ritualistic practices and approaches to understanding the world generally partaken by wiccans, other pagans, and other “religious-folk”.

    For what it is worth, it is nice encountering someone whose path reflects your own. Thank you again.

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