Am I a good Pagan?

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Vostok SOS - Vostok-sos.org/en

People in Need - peopleinneed.net

Voices of Children - voices.org.ua/en

Remember, we welcome comments, questions and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com

S3E8 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Mark: Welcome back to the Wonder: Science-based Paganism. I'm your host Mark.

Yucca: and I'm Yucca.

Mark: And today we are going to talk about that ever present question. Am I a good pagan?

But and not meaning me personally, but you know, for each of us that's a pagan asking ourselves, am I a good pagan?

Am I, am I doing this right? And we're going to get to that in a minute. And it's a very interesting conversation with a lot of things to be said. But before we do that, we need to say something about what's happening with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yucca: Right. And we should also mention the time of recording right now. We are recording Saturday night. So a lot might happen tomorrow Sunday, between, and then Monday between when we'll actually be listening to this or whenever it is that you're listening. So just bear in mind that we only know what has happened since Saturday evening.

Yeah.

Mark: That's

right. Yeah.

And things are moving very fast. So, it's likely that there will be new developments between now and then, but obviously we're appalled by this unwarranted baseless invasion. There's a lot to be said about it. The, the level of personal upset to see a desperate. Just exercising, raw power and invading another Western country is it's bizarre.

It hasn't really happened in Europe in a, in a substantive way since the end of world war two. And it is very similar to world war II in in a number of very disturbing way.

Yucca: Yeah, well, and, and even just setting all of that aside, just the, the amount of pain and the amount of human pain right now just for, you know, not thinking about sides or any of that, but just how much suffering is happening. And you know, None of it's necessary. Yeah,

Mark: It was all chosen rather than, I mean, suffering happens in the world. Suffering happens to people, but none of this had to happen. It's all happened because one dude chose to make it happen.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: I know that people in the atheopagan community have been very upset about this, what feeling helpless and wondering what to do.

You know, doing rituals of solidarity and you know, that kind of help them feel like they're able to do something and also doing substantive actions to actually help the people of Ukraine.

Yucca: Both are important,

Mark: Both are living with the horror of, this is something that even those of us that are not on the front lines have to do. and we may be very privileged not to be on the front line, but that doesn't mean we're not impacted.

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: We, we are.

Yucca: take care of ourselves just because we deserve to take care of ourselves, but also we can do a better job in the world, helping when we're coming from a more balanced place.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: We're not quite as, as frazzled and all of that.

Mark: Yes, exactly. And when we are in our centered place, we can also make wiser decisions about how to help you know, because. There's a part of me. That's just like, we need to take the 82nd airborne over there and just kick the living snot out of Putin in order to prevent him from doing this and make sure that he doesn't do it anywhere else, but that probably isn't the wisest impulse that I have for creating war between two nuclear powers.

So, you know, those rituals can actually help people to get to that wise self where they are able to make more common, measured decisions.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: before we move on to the topic of the day, we did want to provide people with some resources. That they can use to to make donations, to supporting Ukrainians who have been forced to flee their homes. And I have three of them here. The first is called Vostok S O SOS and their URL is V as in Victor, O S T O K hyphen S O s.org. Forward slash E N for the English website. They are a Ukrainian, humanitarian, psychological support, nonprofit, and that kind of humanitarian support is going to be very important for the Ukrainian people. Now,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: the second is called people in need. Which can be found@peopleinneedalloneword.net. And that's a check humanitarian non-profit that is already operating in Ukraine. So they have programs in Ukraine. They're on the ground there. And then finally there is a, a Ukrainian children's charity called voices of children, which can be found@voices.org dot U a forward slash E N for the English website.

And that is of course services to children and families they can all use.

Yucca: Go ahead.

Mark: Yes. we'll put all of

Yucca: Yeah, this is, yeah, this is all going to be in the show notes too. So you can go ahead and click on these, but please continue.

Mark: So, you know, they need money. That's, that's really the need now that the need is resources. So spare what you can

Yucca: because those little bits there's been little bits really do add up.

Mark: They certainly do. I mean, you know, we have seen so many crowdfunded situations in the United States where millions of dollars have been accumulated in small contributions. We certainly have the wherewithal to do this. And another thing that you can do That was suggested on the atheopagan Facebook group is you can look for Ukrainian artists on Etsy and buy their stuff.

'cause one thing that happens in a war zone is that the price of everything skyrockets and ordinarily people can't afford food. They can't afford fuel. Even as they're trying to flee the country, they can't afford gasoline, even if it's available. So, you know, those, those quick transfers over PayPal into the the accounts of Ukrainian artists can make a huge difference for them.

So that's something else you can continue.

Yucca: That's that I would've never thought of that. That's a great idea.

Mark: There is a particular kind of dog called a Mokosh doll. Mokosh is a Ukrainian goddess kind of the, the forest mother and they're these beautiful little dolls. And we can put a link to. Some information about that in the show notes as well. But it would be, I mean, having one of those dolls for your altar might be a great thing, right? You know, it might feel good. And you would know that you had put that money into the hands of someone who's whose heritage and culture and legacy are endangered have be in danger of being extinguished because of lot of miracles.

Yucca: Yeah. And recognize that maybe the shipping might be a little bit delayed on it. So don't give up, don't leave them a bad review for that. The understanding that there's some circumstances that might affect their ability to ship things to you at the moment.

Mark: Well, what I'm going to do because I have a color printer is I'm going to print out the picture of the doll and put that on my focus right away. And that'll, that'll have to do until,

Yucca: you started.

Mark: comes. Yeah.

So having said all that we wish you. Equanimity as best as possible in the face of these terrible world events.

And of course we are thinking and hoping and caring about the Ukrainian people and everyone else who is negatively impacted by this. I mean, the Soviet conscripts can't be any happier about being forced to do this, then.

Yucca: Well on their parents and children and yeah.

Mark: yeah.

Yucca: Right. Imagine I don't even want to go there,

Mark: Oh, I said Soviet, it's actually Russian, but it tells you kind of how it feels, right? The same thing all

Yucca: reminiscent. Yeah. It's it feels, but So we're that our hearts are there right now.

Mark: Yes. Yes. So am I a good. A question that many of us ask ourselves, honestly. And this topic came about because I got inspired to write. We, we, we did our literary interlude last week with some of the stuff that I've written over time.

Yucca: And thank you again for that. That was just so lovely. That was so much fun to do.

Mark: thank you so much, Yucca. And I got some very nice comments on it too. So thank you folks. And as sometimes happens, when I dive into my sort of literary side for awhile, I got inspired to write on Sunday last week. And particularly I was thinking about. You know, the dynamic between you and me, Yucca and how different our lifestyles are.

The different ways that we're living our lives. And of course I'm much later in my life. So my opportunity to sort of drop everything and go with. Route is just much more limited, right?

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So I wrote this I wrote this poem called in the belly of the beast and I'll read it now and then talk about what it means.

IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

My leg is caught in the trap. I will never be free.

I will make money and buy my food, pay my bills.

My leg is caught in the trap. I will never be free.

I will assume rights to what I have no right to

Though I interrogate this over and over.

My leg is caught in the trap. I relate to my body as a far country, a vehicle.

My wildness is crushed by whiteness and fear.

My leg is caught in the trap, but I can see far from this place to a time When the people will understand the love in a vegetable. When they will know the beauty that surrounds them. When They will refuse to break it for greed or malice, when those so afflicted Will be healed and held by all, Loved until the dark dream passes from them, until they are restored Until with beauty all around Day by day It is finished.

________________________

I really do feel that way. Sometimes my leg is caught in the trap of capitalism. I, I work to make money. I buy products, I buy my food, I don't grow it. And so that. Gets my little critic, voice going and, you know, saying, well, you're bad pagan. You, you shouldn't, you shouldn't be doing that. You know, all of our favorite words should shouldn't be doing that.

You should be abandoning everything and running off and living in a tree. And. Obviously that's not realistic, but it does make me think about what can I do in my lifestyle to be, have less of a footprint even than I'm doing now. What can I do to be more closely engaged with the ecosystem around. So we thought that we would talk this episode about, well, what does it mean to be a good pagan and how do you figure that out for yourself? And what do you do if you don't think you're doing as good a job as you want to, and stuff like that.

Yucca: Right. Well, and starting with as pagans, we don't have a Pope. We don't have. Yeah, some guy telling us and deciding, you know, what it, what does it mean to be a good pagan? And that's one of the first places to start is okay. Nobody else is telling us, which I personally think is a bonus. So now, now how do we figure it out then?

Right? What does it, what does that actually mean? And, and how does that change to in, in, in a changing world?

Mark: Right. And.

we should be clear, you know, we are speaking from the standpoint of a non-ferrous science-based paganism, Right. Because for many pagans, It's like, well, I'm, I'm doing the rituals to the gods. I'm worshiping them. And that's what they want. And so I am being a good pagan. That is not our path. Our path is about The earth, the real physical material earth here. I'm not a romanticized idea of nature, but the reality of the fabric of life being better acquainted with it and being more gentle with it and doing what we can to protect and foster it.

Yucca: Right. It's about our relationship with it,

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: I, and, and the rest of what it is, which includes other humans. We often like to do this separation where we're like, oh, here's humans and here's nature. But no part of, part of the work that we're doing is recognizing that this is all part of the same thing.

Mark: right,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: It's and so what that means is that each of us for ourselves has to decide, you know, am I connected enough with. I do I really know enough about the cycles of the area where I live? Do I know enough about the creatures who live here? Is that piece important to me or is, or is more of a macro understanding, more important about climate and you know, plant communities rather than individual species animal communities, because all of those are perfectly legitimate ways to approach being, being connected.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: You know, we watch for the days to get longer. Well, that's observing nature, Right. We notice the phase of the moon. That's observing nature. We notice when, in my case, the hummingbirds start to come back or, you know, to my feeder or When the white pelicans are going through the Laguna de Santa Rosa, which is a big wetland complex near where I live.

Those, that kind of information, that kind of knowledge helps me to feel like I have my feet on the ground here. Like I, I have my ear to the ground. I I'm listening for what nature is doing. And to me that's an important part of being a science-based pagan. Pagan.

Yucca: Yeah. Agreed. Completely agreed. And, but, and there's also things that we've talked about on this channel before, or this podcast before is the, some of the values that come along with this, that, that we choose that we are going to. We think this is sacred. We think that this is worth trying to embody and protect.

Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: there are values and principles and, and that's something that, as we've talked about before that individuals to at least in, in this practice choose for themselves, it's not assigned. Somebody doesn't come in and say, you need to devalue this, or you need to, you know, believe in this principle. It's something that upon reflection we come to thinking, okay, what do, what do I really feel?

Or what do I want to feel and believe and working towards that because there's not always, we're not always there, right? Because we're coming from, we're all coming from this. Background of, you know, what cultural influences and family influences and all of these things that we're not even aware of. And sometimes those aren't in line with what we want, but it's a process of becoming aware of where we're at and what we want, where we want to be.

Mark: Right. I want to talk a little bit about the atheopagan principles in four sacred things right. now, because those can look like a dogma. Theoretically. It's like, oh, you know, you, you need to beef up on principle for that, that sort of thing. That's really not what they're for. What they're for. Is there an articulation of a progressive and environmentally conscious worldview and the ethics that go along with.

You know, the ethics for behavior that go along with a kind inclusive, ecological happy way of living. And so, you know, if, if people just say, well, I'm not interested in the principles and stuff That's fine. They, they can be non theist. Science-based pagans, you know, pursuing a path. It's all fun.

Some different thing. They aren't, atheopagan being an atheopagan means you've embraced those principles, but that's okay. There's lots of different paths.

Yucca: Yeah. And let's, let's clarify that again. Say that, that atheopagan and some is one path of. Of science-based paganism, right. We're not the only path, but, and that's, that's, that's good. That's fine. Right. It's just a one particular interpretation that we happened to be quite fond of.

Mark: Yes, that's right. And so if you do embrace those principles, if, if those 13 principles and four sacred pillars, if they make sense to you and you read them as so many people do, and then come back to me and say, oh wow, you, you, you put my values on paper, look at that. If, if they really do resonate with you and, but you feel like maybe on one or two of them, Kind of dragging your feet or falling down a little bit, that creates an opportunity then to improve, right.

And opportunities to improve are great.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: It's not about being a bad pagan. It's about how do I be a better person and pagan? How, how do I more closely meet my own value set as I go through my day?

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And I mean, you know, there are so many different ways to do that. I mean, there was a time when I was this guy with a briefcase in a suit, wearing a pentacle underneath it, you know, going to lobby congressmen and, you know, members of my state legislature on behalf of environmental policies.

Right. I was really in the weeds with land use and transportation and water policy and wastewater policy and all that kind of stuff. And to be honest, I was not as connected with the cycles of the land where I am because I didn't have the time I was working 60 hour weeks, you know, being an advocate for what I really cared about.

And that was a perfectly legitimate path. so. There are lots of different ways that you can do a good paganism. The question is, how do you feel about it? You know, do you, do you feel that your your practice in your observance and your, the way you're living your life meets your own expectations?

If it does. And don't let that critic voice, you know, that we talk about so often don't let it tear you down. You know, her ROIC expectations of ourselves are unfair.

Yucca: Yeah. And that's, I think we really need to, to spend a moment with that, that sometimes what we expect of ourselves is not realistic. Right. And we can, and so many times we can think that we're going to, if we're surrounded by this. The hero, the hero that does it all. Or the, you know, you take care of the, the mom or the whoever who just does everything.

They do the full career and the kids, and then the environment, and they're saving everything. And they're working in a soup kitchen over here and that, and, you know, in all of this and all of those things, those are great. But also we do have to look at ourselves as, as organisms and go. What is possible,

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: it, is it all possible?

And, and that we're not failures because we can't do all of it. We're just real, right? We're not, we're not stories. We're real people that still have to take care of their physical bodies and have a, have a limited number of spoons.

Mark: Right.

We have mental health to consider. We have our socioeconomic circumstances to consider, you know, the, the ability to be the mom who does it all is the position requires a position of tremendous privilege. You need to be able to have the resources to be able to do. The career and the kids and the, the volunteer work and the community leadership, all that kind of stuff.

And there are people that are able to do that, but I guarantee you, the overwhelming majority of those folks have money.

Yucca: Yeah. And we're not saying that they're bad people for having it

Mark: Oh, no.

Yucca: but, but that, you know, it's not realistic to expect that you're going to be able to do the same things as other, as everyone else, or that you're going to be able to fulfill these, these, like God-like ideals that get put out.

But we can look. Where are we really at and what is really important to us and start to prioritize and, and see, you know, what is going to make the biggest difference for me. And what's gonna let me move more towards that. Maybe jumping towards all of whatever it is that you want to do all at once.

You know, it might not work out, but can you make little changes here and there that are going to influence your overwhelmed over. Overall wellbeing, kind of like what we were talking about at the beginning about taking care of ourselves ritually in intense times like this in the world, so that we can then be able to come in at whatever needs needs our attention from a more balanced place.

Mark: Right. Yeah.

I mean, maybe it's just it's as little as I promise myself, I'm going to take a walk in nature once a month, you know, maybe, maybe that's. Maybe that's as much as it is because you aren't getting out into nature and you'll find for one thing, you may find that you have a hard time limiting it to once a month because it's awfully good for you.

And you can feel a whole lot better after you've had that walk. But you know, just that little addition, you know, those, those two, three hours of, of being out in nature, breathing fresh air Can can fundamentally change your sense of your quality of life and your sense of yourself,

Yucca: Wait,

Mark: Because

Yucca: can have a domino effect there, right?

Mark: sure, because then you have more in the way of resources internally, right?

You have more spoons.

Yucca: Yeah. You know, there's, there's certain themes that we can talk about that we can speak from, from our own lives and just, you know, people in general and that one of getting out in nature and. You're not a nature-based pagan. Probably just pretty good for all humans, you know, regardless of their particular views towards nature itself, just to, to get all of those, those benefits of the fresh air and the sunshine and the, you know, all of that.

So there's certain things that we can speak to, but there's also going to be things that are going to be really individual to your situation. Your values, your goals that, know, we can give broad ideas, but it really comes down to you reflecting on your own life

Mark: Right. Yeah, because nobody can decide that you are a good or bad person or, or pagan or anything else. Other than yourself,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: I mean, there, there are plenty of disciplines out there where you get external assessment and confirmation of your performance. If you want to be a, a competitive figure skater, then you're going to deal with people rating how good a competitive figure skater you are.

But when it comes to this, and this is so personal it's so. You know, our spirituality is so wound up in who we are and our, our sense of ourselves in life and in the universe And, our sense of belonging and purpose. This, these are decisions that you can really only make for yourself. And so the answer to the question, am I a good pagan?

Has to be, I am. if I think I am. I am. If I've decided that I am. If I, if I give myself a a 75 on my internal assessment, well, maybe there's something I need to add. you know, maybe there's, you know, maybe there's a call that I need to make to my state Senator about a bill that I feel really strongly about.

Just leave a message at their office. Something that feels like. Tangible activity outside of my ritual activity, in my own relationship with nature. So, oh, go

Yucca: decide that, you know, it's not a 75, if you're feeling like it's a 40 or something like that, you. It doesn't make you a bad or unworthy person. It's just that you feel like you have that you've got a progress to make, and there's something exciting in that, right? Because

Mark: cause it's potential.

Yucca: Yeah. Look at that. And, and whatever age you're at too many, I think that it, even if we don't know how much life we have. Right. We could be in a car accident tomorrow or, or something like that. But, but if you go, if you go down the route of it's too late to make any change, well, then you're just never going to make the change.

Like, there's not really a point in doing that because you just won't make the change then. So we, you can that you still have. again, you don't get to know where it's going, but, but you get to make the steps that you have now and know that now there's something, something there in the future.

Mark: Right. Right. And, you know, bear in mind. I mean, especially in Western culture, we like stories that are kind of tied up with a bow at the end, you know, where all the loose ends are sort of neatly tied off And it's all, it's all very, very precise and very pretty.

Yucca: And then they lived happily ever after,

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: boring.

Mark: Well, it also sounds like a lie cause that ain't what happens to anybody.

Yucca: Relationships are take work.

Mark: They are work.

and on some days they are not happy. And that's okay. That's part of the whole deal, but You know, part of, I think part of what really hurts people is the expectation of happily ever after when the work has really just begun as they start a relationship. So, where was I? I don't remember.

Yucca: Well, we had been talking about.

Mark: I know about about life as this journey, right? With these, with these opportunities to grow. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to get to the place that in your eye, in your highest ideal, you might want to get before you die. And that's okay. You know, it's okay to have sort of dangling in.

And so even if you feel like you don't have very much time left, you can still start, right. You can still begin to pursue the, that ideal of what you would like to be doing in your practice and in your life.

Yucca: right. Thank you. Yeah, very well said.

So. We were trying to make a list before we started recording of, you know, from our perspective, what is a good pagan. And it was, it was kind of hard to make that list. I mean, what we ended up writing down was working towards a better world and paying attention. That was, that was really, those were the core ideas for, for us.

And then from there, you know, what are you paying attention to? What does a better world mean to you? You know, what is that work there? So there's, there's so much in that.

Mark: Yeah.

And paying attention is both internal and external, right? So you're paying attention to who you are and your own growth. And you're working to foster that and to become a wiser and better person. Right. And you know, to be honest, wherever somebody is on that journey, as long as I see the effort that they're making to be, to be kinder and better in. I, I give them a pass, you know, for an awful lot, just because I can tell that they're trying, that, that makes, that makes a tremendous difference to me. And, you know, assessing the people around me, are they trying to grow or are they just defending themselves? And so that internal work can include your ritual work. It can include your meditation practice. It can include your, your tarot practice any of those kinds of things. And then the external paying attention can be about seasons and cycles and observations and holidays, and all those kind of.

Communing connection with nature, things that we so associate with the pagan witchy archetype, right?

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And then there's the working to make the world a better place part. And for a lot of people, this is really hard because, you know, if you have a, if you have a job in an office for a bank, for example and there's nothing wrong with. But it's hard to imagine, you know, how am I contributing to the improvement of the world in some way?

Well, you know, maybe, maybe you want to join some organizations, help them to do some good things. You want to pick one organization to give to them every month and, you know, get involved as a volunteer and really be an advocate for their mission. Maybe you want to Start getting more involved in your local politics go to your school board meetings and your city council meetings and start paying attention to those kinds of things.

There are lots of different entry points for how you can speak up about your vision for a world that is good to all of us and to the ecosystem.

Yucca: Right. And, and also your, the way that you treat other people, because we're in incredibly powerful in our social interactions, you know, the, the difference on what. Your day feels like when someone gave you a sincere kind smile versus someone just sort of scowled and barely paid attention to you. And if you're that person who is.

Giving honest, sincere smiles. Like it seems like, oh yeah, that's a small thing, but really that can be huge in someone's life. And the more, and it's a practice, right? The more you practice that the better you feel in general in your own life and the, you know, the better people feel around you. And there's just that little, you know, you can be that the start of that little ripple.

Right. So, you know, sometimes it's just, just choices like that, of stopping for a moment. Doing a quick ground and just behaving in a more loving way.

Mark: Yes. And particularly with people that are, that are serving you,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat waiters and baristas and people collecting tolls at the toll bridge and Retail workers. of all that, you know, people are absolutely equal to you and to me and to everybody, you know, we are all equal.

We're all human, we all deserve dignity and respect. And so, you know, if, if you, if you struggle with this, then. You know, try to contemplate that. Try to sort of fill in, in your mind when, when dealing with your kind of frontline service workers, you know, to remember that they have a whole life behind them. And you know, they're a thinking being that has an internal dialogue, just like you do. It, it can be. It can be kind of a revelation to realize as you watch people go around that they're not non-player characters that they're, they're fully fleshed out human beings with agency and and sovereignty.

Yucca: and they're the main character in their story.

Mark: Exactly. Exactly. So, and so what kind of character are you going to be in? Their story becomes the question. Are you going to be an ogre or are you going to be a helper? You know, someone who is kind and appreciative for the service that they help you with?

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So, There's so much to say about this, but I feel like we've probably arrived at a good point.

Yucca: I think so. Yeah. I think that just a theme again is just that there's again, so many directions to go with it that there's, there's probably certain directions that you feel. More connection with that are going to be what's appropriate for your life or meaningful in your life, more than others. And you know, maybe we should come back to some of those specifics at another point, but I just really encourage everyone listening to just think about where in their life, those, you know, where, where to put your initial.

And what's, what's it going to be for you because it's going to be different for you than it is for me, or for mark or for anyone else.

Mark: right,

Yucca: And we need that. Not only is that normal, but that's really that just from an ecological perspective, that's really important. You need a lot of different, different things, doing different organisms, doing different jobs, filling different niches.

Mark: Yeah, strong ecosystems are diverse ecosystems. And so, you know, humans have the capacity for tremendous diversity. And that is a good thing because we're so adaptable and we have so many capacities. So, thank you for for inspiring a piece of writing for me last week. I really appreciate that Yucca.

Yucca: Thank you. It was, I loved it. It was, it was really wonderful.

Mark: well, I'm glad. Thank you. And thanks to all of our listeners who we so appreciate. Be sure to drop us a line@thewonderpodcastqueuesatgmail.com. That's the wonder podcast, all one word Q s@gmail.com. If you have topics, suggestions, or comments or criticisms or questions or any of those kinds of things, we welcome them.

So thank you so much. And we'll see you next time.

Yucca: be sure to check out those links that we mentioned at the beginning. Those will be in the show notes. So thank you everyone.

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