Imagination, Fantasy, and Ritual


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Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm one of your hosts, Yucca.

Mark: And I'm the other one, Mark.

Yucca: And today we're talking about imagination, fantasy and Richard.

Mark: Right?

Yucca: And we thought this was a, a lovely time to talk about it because for many people we're just coming out of are still really in a season of that, that we associate with new beginnings, with planning, with with planting those seeds for the, for the year to come.

Mark: Right. Because in many places like yours, Yucca the ground is frozen and there's not a whole lot that you can be doing towards making something new, grow for the rest for the coming year, other than to think about it and imagine the future.

Yucca: And play on it and.

Mark: And plan, you know, based on your imagined picture of that future, then you can plan the steps to get there.

Right. And that is really the human special trick of all of all. I mean, we talk about our thumbs and they're great. Of all the things that humans are particularly capable of and adept at it's our ability to envision the imagined. And that includes the imagined future. and.

what that means is that we have become creatures who are built around storytelling. There was an anthropologist, I don't remember his name, who, who actually called us homo something. I don't remember what it was, which meant the storytelling ape. Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah. I mean, that makes sense. 'cause that's what we do. Whatever, whatever culture you look at, wherever in the world, we're all telling stories. And we start that at a very, very young age, even before we're, we've really figured out the grammar of our mother language. We're telling stories we're playing.

And that's, you know, when you look at at mammals mammals, And they play at whatever it is that they need to learn to succeed and survive as an adult. So you look at the low line Cubs and they're wrestling with each other and chasing each other and grabbing each other's tails. Well, humans, yeah, we run around and rough and tumble, but we play make-believe.

From very, very early on, you know, we're picking up the sock and, you know, the feather and their characters in our minds, and they have incredible stories and personalities and interactions and, and all of that. And, and so that's what we really do. And that's, that's what that's part of what makes us successful.

As a species and as individuals in our species is our ability to tell those stories, imagine, and to share those stories.

Mark: Yes, exactly. And what this tells us of course is because this is happening at such an early age, is that this really is baked into us. This is, you know, something that comes in at a very low level of our development. And it's essential to us, you know, our ability to understand the idea of causality of action and consequence is, you know, and that things happen along a timeline, right?

That there are, there are actors and those actors do things and those things have consequences. And so there's a result. And that that's the order that things happen. All of those are things that we have to learn, but we get them really early. And one of the things about our capacity for imagination is that our brains are not really built to distinguish the imagined from the. And this is the great paradox with memory, of course, because memories get edited all the time. You know, they, they, every time we retell a story to ourselves things get a little fuzzy around the edges and we just touch them up.

Yucca: Just fill that in.

Mark: Yeah.

Just, you know, because we want the memory to be complete. It is not a volitional activity.

There's nothing wrong with it. It's not about being dishonest. It's the way our brains work.

Yucca: Yeah. And it's, it's not really a conscious thing that we're doing. That's it's not like you're choosing, usually you're usually not choosing to modify that memory, but. And you're just filling in the details then

Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: it's like with our vision, you, you can actually see this. If you take your finger out, put it all the way to the edge of your vision, your peripheral vision, and slowly move your finger into the, in the front of your vision.

You're going to find that you've got some blind spots. But we don't notice those blind spots. Our brain just fills it in for us, unless you're really, really looking for that blind spot.

Mark: Right. Yeah. And that of course is caused by the place where the optic nerve connects with the retina. It doesn't have any light sensing cells over it. There's an actual hole in our vision, in our brains. Well, they do two things they fill in that hole to start with. And then they flip the whole thing upside down because our eyes actually project the lens in our eyes projects, an upside down image onto the retina at the back of the eye.

Yucca: Right. Just like a telescope, right? It works the same way. Is there a refractor? Yeah.

Mark: Yeah. So. You know, our brains are doing a lot of stuff to massage our experience. Right. And this is something that we talk about a lot in non theists, paganism in terms of understanding supposedly supernatural experiences. Right. Because in every case with every experience we have, there is the, the perception.

And then there's the story we developed to explain the perception

Yucca: Right.

Mark: and the story. We actually have some choices about the perception. Our brain just does what it does and frequently it's trying to fill in very poor data. So we hear things that. That sound didn't actually come into our ears to create, or we see things that aren't created.

My favorite example, I've used this before is when you're driving on the highway and there's a sign for an exit far, far down the road, and you could read it barely. You can see, you know, what road it is that that is the exit for, and as you get about halfway closer, those letters all rearrange themselves into what it actually said. Because your brain was trying to make sense out of the sign and it gave you one determination and the truth is it was something else.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So the, our, our minds are incredibly powerful in how they can develop imagination in order to fill in the holes of what we perceive.

Yucca: Right. Another example is when you, somebody says something to you and you didn't really quite catch it and you hear something that's completely different than what they said. And you know, you have to say, wait, what did you say? Because what I heard.

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: Definitely was not what you said, and then they say it again and he couldn't.

Oh, then it makes sense. Right. But we just fill it in. We hear something that's not really there.

Mark: Right. And that, in my opinion is where a lot of experiences of the supernatural come from. It's a. Femoral data that the brain fills in, and then it develops a story that this isn't a supernatural experience. Other people have different opinions about that, but it seems to me given what we know about the brain and about the universe, it's a lot more likely than the supernatural explanations that are often presented by people.

Yucca: Okay. That's what I suspect as well. Yeah.

Mark: So

Yucca: this is, oh.

Mark: Oh, go ahead.

Yucca: I was going to say, this is a little bit about the, so some of the why's we have this powerful imagination. But once we, we know and acknowledge that about ourselves, we can do so much with it and it can be a really empowering and just fun and delightful thing.

Mark: Right. Which is why we love to read fiction. It's why we love to watch movies and television presentations and all

Yucca: Play games and yeah.

Mark: yeah, we love our stories and we, we love, you know, Waiting to find out what happens at the end because we know that something will happen at the end and we're, we're, we're interested in what that is.

So yes, playing with our imaginations become something that we do from a very, very early age. And the only reason. The only real bucket that we have in our minds that helps us to see what is likely not likely to be a fantasy rather than an a reality is that category of things that we see as happening in the future,

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: because we know we're not there yet.

We know that we can't see the future. Right. Most of us know that we can't see the future. So, There are those imagined outcomes. And then we can plan for those or plan against them depending on what we're imagining.

Yucca: Although, I'm just going to say, when you're driving on the road, And you see something on the side of the road and you don't want to hit it. Don't keep focusing on it because you will drive into it.

Mark: yes.

Yucca: So focus on what he, where you want to go instead of where you don't. And with my experience, you can apply that to planning as well.

Instead of trying to plan against something it's often much more effective to plan towards something.

Mark: Yes. Yes. When I was first learning to drive the guy who was teaching me said, okay, now look where you want to go and go there.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: That was, it was very simple instruction and it taught me to steer.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Look where you want to go and go there.

Yucca: Yep.

Do not look at the pedestrian to not look at the pedestrian. Yes.

Mark: Yeah. So we have this powerful imagination and it's so powerful that it can blur the distinction between what our real experiences are, which as we've said, can be heavily massaged and, and changed by our brains. Right.

Yucca: And just filling in that lack of lack of data.

Mark: even, even that is somewhat questionable, which is why the scientific method is so powerful because it works to take that subjectivity out of our conclusions about what's real. And then we have the imagined experiences and those can be super vivid and wonderful. And that's why we, once again, like movies and, you know, reading and all that great kind of stuff.

We can use this and we're going to talk about this later on. We can use this in our pig and practice in our ritual practice because a ritual can be informed by a story. Right.

I'm going to do this and that symbolizes this and I'm going to do that. And it symbolizes that, and then this transformation will take place and it will lead to this result at the end.

And either I will be changed or the world will be changed depending on what you believe. And. You can even create rituals that are built around mythological stories, right. I'm going to do the fool's journey I'm going to do per Stephanie's descent or, or a non as descent. Right. And I've, I've been to some rituals that are like that and they can be incredibly powerful.

The problem that we get into is where I talked about how we can blur the imagined and the real.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: And that can lead to lots of problems. I mean, I believe that that's the fundamental issue with theism.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: It involves the, the blurring of reality with imagination in a way that draws erroneous conclusions.

That's what I think.

Yucca: Yeah, well, and there's so many different directions to go with this, but one of the places where it can be really harmful as we start to create these narratives about groups, about my group and that group, and you know, everything there. You know, your escape group, scapegoat group where, you know, where you can start demonizing people just through the stories and imagination, you come up with whatever the group is, right?

It's the other political party, or it's the, you know, whatever religion or the opposite of your particular food dogma group or that, you know, and you start to, to. Blur between, you know, what, what maybe is real. And what's kind of imagined and, and what may have some seeds of truth that have been been exaggerated.

And, and and it's hard for us to know. To peel that back and try and distinguish between them, especially when we start wrapping our own identity and our stories about ourselves and our own worth and to all of that.

Mark: right, exactly. So, and that brings us to the wonderful term confirmation bias. Because all of us have a prejudice in favor of our own stories. We, whether they're imaginary or whether they're based in some pretty solid factual information, we still, as we look out into the world, we will look for pieces of data that will reinforce what we already want to believe. And that is. Another piece of fee ism. I believe once you've decided that you're an atheist and you have this idea, you know, I'm a Christian, I'm a Muslim, I'm a, I'm a follower of Zeus. Then you, you start filtering your experience of the world in order to be consistent with what that tells you with what that.

is supposed to look like. Right. And it's very tricky. It's subtle stuff because. So much of what happens with our sensorium happens underneath the surface. It's the processing that the mind does And, then shows you something on the screen.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: Very challenging.

Yucca: and we need to be really clear that this is, this is a human thing, right? This is something that we all do, and we can become more aware of. And be able to make choices about it, but it's, it's completely natural. This is just part of how we work, how we're wired.

Mark: Right, right. This, this. What's this concretion of different evolved systems. That is our brain. You know, it wasn't engineered from the bottom up. It's a, it's a series of evolutionary steps that are all glommed onto one another. And this is part of the result is that, you know, we, we are really not very good at subjective.

As a single individual person detecting what's likely to be true and what's likely not to be true. We teach ourselves critical thinking in order to try to do a better job of that. But the best system that we've found so far for determining what really is likely to be true is the scientific method with peer review and Ockham's razor

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: and oh, go ahead.

Yucca: I was gonna say, I'm, you know, I'm not someone who thinks that we really should be dictating, you know, what peoples, what classes people should take. But you know, if I had one that I could say everybody has to take it would be logic, right? I think that it would make sense. It would help people so much.

As long as the. You know, it was a good instructor and understood it just to be aware of the different kinds of fallacies there are. And how do you actually think through, and, and challenge your own beliefs and also how to argue, how to argue on a position that's not yours.

Mark: yeah.

Yes. Well, that's why the, the first atheopagan principle is skepticism and critical thinking.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: It's, you know, you start from there that, that, that will help you to understand the world as Well,

as a person can.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So we have this imagination. And we have this perceptual system, which gets monkeyed with, by the brain a lot and may not be telling you exactly the truth.

And then what you base. Then you base a story on the experience that this brain process delivers you. So, so it's possible for things that are completely imagined to seem very, very real. Whether it's just that you're watching a movie and you're, you know, you're suspended, you're, you're completely submerged into the world of the film.

Or it can be something like

Yucca: Your anxiety at two in the morning.

Mark: Yes about terrible things that are likely to happen or a memory that I have of flying naked over the golden gate bridge. It was a perfect day. It was sunset. Beautiful. And for some reason, I had no clothes on and I was standing at the bus stop at the golden gate bridge and then rose into the air and flew over the towers, did kind of a back flip.

The air was perfectly warm. It was so comfortable. It was a beautiful experience. And it was a lucid dream that I had. But I remember it as absolutely clearly as if it was a real experience. And I have no, there's no context within that. Memory, except for the fact that impossible things happened to tell me that I didn't really have that experience.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So we have this. And that leads me to some of the ways that the pagan community has developed in relation to imagination and fantasy starting really from Gerald Gardner, know, from the 1930s. Because Gardner posited a fantasy story. And the fantasy story was that the witchcraft that he was presenting in his books was part of an unbroken lineage of lore handed down from time and Memorial, at least from the middle ages. And this created a sort of conflation of paganism, middle ages, middle ages, paganism. And in the late 1960s, at least in the United States, what ended up happening was that Renaissance fairs got invented. And a lot of people that were performers and participants in Renaissance fairs were also pagans. And so this sort of aesthetic, and this idea of this golden old age began to arise.

Yucca: Right. And the, the John era of fantasy was really taking off as well.

Mark: we, we have to name, check Lord of the

Yucca: out. Yep. I'm a huge fan here,

Mark: Me too.

Yucca: named from it even, you know, but and, and other, you know, many, many other names and it, it really became. I think not just within the pagan community, but just in the, in the larger community, really a cultural force.

Mark: Yes. Very much. So in certainly from an aesthetic standpoint, it took, it really took over in many ways, certainly in the eighties and nineties pigging, where was medieval flash Renaissance, where,

Yucca: yeah,

Mark: you know, what, what people wore were, you know, flowing velvets and

Yucca: the long sleeves.

Mark: the, with the long, you know, bill like sleeves

Yucca: And the open V shirts with the little ties across them. And yeah,

Mark: Yeah, exactly. So, and,

Yucca: I adore all of this, you

Mark: well, I do

Yucca: yeah, this is not, don't take this as us being like, oh, this is all terrible. No, we're just talking about it though and saying, you know, where's this from? Yeah.

Mark: And so this, this aesthetic of ye all the England D became something that

Yucca: don't mention all the other places, sorry.

Mark: Right. Yeah, That's another topic that we could talk about, which is paganism outside of the sphere of England and English speaking countries. Right. Because of. You know, not, not everything is going to be practiced in a Wiccan kind of way.

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: but

Yucca: Anyways, that's another

Mark: it's a, it's another topic. either that, or it's going to be the mother of all tangents and we're going to spend the rest of our time on it. So this, this, you know, jolly old England kind of. Idea, which has so much overlap with talking for example, except that talking mixed in habits and elves and dwarves and wizards and all that kind of stuff became very, very popular.

And to my mind, unfortunately, what some of what that has done is it has turned, it has turned the imagination into what people want to make re. their paganism, they want to be wizards. They, they want to be elves. In some cases they and you know, aspiration towards a fantasy of something that's imaginary is inherently dissociated from the real world. And what are. Naturalistic paganism is about is the real world. You know, one.

of the quibbles that I've always had with the sort of mainstream pagan community in the United States, at least where I'm familiar with it is that it's got this weird kind of dual loyalty. It's like we Revere the earth and then we have these gods

Yucca: Yes, but these higher beings, you know, higher than what you're talking about higher than the earth, you know, they're not.

Mark: the gods come from the earth? No. Did the gods create the earth? Maybe? There are all kinds of different stories, which I believe are imagined stories, but the, the question of exactly where does the earth fit into all of that is a real one. I think I'm glad that people are saying that they Revere the earth, whatever that means to them.

To me, the earth is central. There's nothing more central because we are it. We are the earth standing up on legs and talking to itself.

Yucca: Right.

Really? I mean, think about that for a moment. We are little pieces of earth that your whole body think about. Where's the carbon in your hands, the oxygen, the nitrogen. Where's all of that from, and where's it going back?

Mark: Right. And it's not like there's some amazing border where it's like, you, you know, the carbon presents its passport and says, I'm going to be human. Now it's just carbon. It's just carbon, like any other carbon on earth, right. At least of that ice.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So. This is something that I think is, is problematic in the pagan community.

And it's interesting because some different there've been a series of sort of aesthetic layers that have gone along with the pagan community. I saw the, the golf sort of BDSM aesthetic enter the community in the mid nineties. And it's kind of gotten folded into all. well,

Yucca: Yeah. The boundaries between them really blurred between, you know, what is, and even if you go to like a Ren fair that it's all there too,

Mark: right.

Yucca: Even within folks that, that are into that, that aren't pagan, you know, that there's a lot of mixing there.

Mark: Yes. And yes, there's a lot of the, the dress-up is still. Reminiscent of some other age. Right. And so, you know, I, I think this is problematic because it pulls us away from earth. I love playing dress up and I'm, I'm happy to play dress up and I have done it in many, I mean, literally dozens of different kinds of ways, because we used to do all these theme parties and blah, blah, blah.

And I was a performer at Renaissance fairs for many years as well, and Dickens fairs as well. So I don't have any problem with, you know, playing let's pretend the challenge, I think is when we lose track of the fact that we're playing, let's pretend.

Yucca: Right because there are, I think there are ways that we'll talk about this too, to do it in a way that it is inspiring. It speaks to us in this very you know, deep level, the Indian symbols. But what you're talking about is the, is the losing sight of is this really, really. This is what's really happening versus what are we imagining?

And we can, I think that we can definitely w one of the purposes of imagination is that can work towards making that a reality. So we can, some of our imagined things can, can become reality, but there's also a difference between imagining things about other people and about. Past stories, you know, as much as we want.

We could, we referenced sort of the rings. So as much as, as Gollum wants to believe that it was his birthday present it, he can believe that. And imagine that as long as he wants, it's not, that's not what happened.

Mark: Right.

Yucca: Right. And. With the old ways, as much as we want to imagine, and really want to believe that there's some unbroken path there.

That's very unlikely that that's what happened. And you know, we probably aren't star children put here from aliens and,

Mark: Right.

Yucca: the TAF ELLs and all of that stuff.

Mark: Right. And the w where was I going to go with this?

Yucca: The connection between what is real and what is not, and the earth being central. That's where you were at before.

Mark: Well, yeah, this is a little different it's about suspension of disbelief. And one of the things that adults learn to do when their brains are developed enough is to try to make a differentiation between the imagined and the. Right. And some people think that's a tragedy, right. That they lose their childish sense of playfulness and imagination and everything can be just super magical.

Right. I don't feel that way. I, I think that our brains develop in the way they do for a reason. And when we start having to imagine futures that we need to plan for being able to distinguish between the imaginary that we suspend our disbelief for and the real that we're working towards, even in the ineffectual way that we do because of the way our brains work.

It's very important.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: That way we don't set a goal of becoming an elf,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: right. Because that's not possible.

Yucca: Yeah.

Now we could think about what are the characteristics that, that embodies that we value and how can we work towards, you know, that sort of thing. But, but you're not actually going to be right.

Mark: right. Or You maybe maybe more, a better example is you're not going to be a wizard. Right. Because in the, in the fantasy sense, what a wizard is, is something that doesn't exist on planet earth. Now You can be buried in the aesthetics of wizardry. You can con you know,

Yucca: can be an incredible scholar, right? They're often, you know, very learned individuals and.

Mark: And you can make yourself look like a wizard and make all of your environs look like what you imagine a wizard's environs would look like, but you're still not going to snap your fingers and have flame appear, you know? And. To kid ourselves that those kinds of outcomes, the sort of Harry Potter magic, right. That that those outcomes are actually possible in some way is to become further away from engagement with the world. The actual world that we're in here and the kind of paganism that Yucca and I talk about here is really about immersion in this world. Getting to know it better and better, you know, becoming familiar with what our local ecosystems are and really being in love with it because there's so much there to love. Giving getting sidetracked on fantasies. It eats up bandwidth that could be applied to the love for the world. and. that I think is. Critique that I have of a lot of mainstream paganism in the United States is that, and maybe in England too, I don't know. But certainly, or, you know, in other English speaking countries, but certainly in north America Canada and Mexico in the us that's, that seems to be what I'm seeing.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So let's talk a second about. About using our imagination to create those story arcs where we begin as naturalist pagans is with a healthy suspension of disbelief. Right.

Yucca: And with a, with an awareness that that's what word.

Mark: Right,

Yucca: Right, because what you're talking about about the difference between what the children and adult brain and people talking about, oh, the, the what a, a shame it is. I think that some of what they might be talking about is the ability to let go the way kids can let go.

Right. And I think that's something that we don't need to leave. Is being able to let go and go into that playful place, but we also have the ability to step back and be very critical and, and see the differences. But when we want to, we can suspend that belief

Mark: Right,

Yucca: disbelief, right?

Mark: that's very well said. Because the. The playfulness that you're describing that that is something that our over culture really stomps on for adults. We've got all this conformity expectation around how we dress around how we behave. That's why I love flashmob. I love. I love, you know, people suddenly behave me behaving in really unexpected ways that are delightful and creative and artistic.

They're just super fun. Ritual is a way for adults to play well or children to children can be involved in rituals, but but adults, unless it's some formal sport or game. They don't get permission much to just go and play, you know, you take the afternoon off, go and play.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And and rituals enable us to do that around fee Matic storylines, you know, whether it's.

Whether it's something from, from a myth, whether it's a story that, or, or simply a story of, I am powerful. Now I am, I am, I am filled with my power. I have created a space where magic can occur and I'm going to go and do this thing. And it's going to help me to be much more effective at X, whatever X.

Yucca: Yeah, well, and even our our, our stories and narratives of the season. Right. That that is a story as well. And we understand it in with the narrative structure.

Mark: Yes, it's true because the reality is every year.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Yeah.

every year is different. The weather on any given day is not the same as it was last year. Weather is a chaotic system and it's never going to be predictable. And all we can talk about is broad stroke generalizations about what is likely to happen in the month of February, as opposed to the month of August.

And we understand some of the drivers of that in terms of the axial tilt and. Climate change and all of those things, but that doesn't make it predictable. So we have a story, a narrative about it instead that kind of guides us through well it's may, so we should be doing this.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: And that's, again, as we were talking about in the beginning, that's just sort of how our, our, our minds are built is to understand things as story as, as a narrative. And then the imagination piece is, well, we get to build that story.

Mark: Right.

Yucca: So in our ritual, we're building those stories and, and it's very convenient in ritual that we do have the blur between what our, what our minds understand as true and not.

Mark: Right Because we can invoke an imagined scenario and effect real profound change in ourselves as people. I

Yucca: believe it. And it's okay that we know that we made it up and we're believing it, but then it really makes that change.

Mark: I did a ritual at Penn FIA con God, it's gotta be eight years ago now, something like that. And it was, it was specifically in atheopagan ritual that happened after a presentation about atheopagan ism and. What the whole point of this, we, you know, we invoked a circle and we we called qualities that we wanted to be with us of openness and a willingness to change and kindness and compassion.

And the, the whole working of the root of the ritual was simply, I had a little. Vial of oil. And I went from person to person anointing their forehead. But what I told them before I did that was now, what I want you to do is to call up that most cringe-worthy a shame, shame, filling moment of your life. You know what it is. We all know

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: right? You, you don't have to say anything about it, but we know what it is. The thing that you really wish you had never done. Right. And hold that forward in your mind. And so all I did was I went from person to person and said, it's forgotten it's over. It's gone

With each person.

And people cried

Yucca: right. Yeah.

Mark: story that they had been telling themselves about the bad thing that they done, or the embarrassing thing that they'd done or whatever it was, the story had a new ending, right? The story was given a new ending that absolves them of the feelings of shame or embarrassment or whatever it was.

And I mean, I, I didn't realize it was going to be as powerful as it was. But I wanted, I wanted to do something that was very personal work to really illustrate the power of doing ritual like that without invoking God's, without believing in magic. right.

And. That's the kind of thing that we can do with rituals and story narratives.

People, people are filled with stories. They're filled with stories about themselves and about the world and about humanity and about their families and all that kind of stuff. And we can change those stories in ways that empower people and help them to be happier and help them to be kinder in the world. That's what I'm in this for.

Yucca: Yeah

Mark: and so imagination becomes, you know, the primary tool, the, the cloth that you lay down before setting out anything for a focus or an alter imagination is the foundation.

Yucca: I like that even rhymes. Yeah. And again, just to really, really be very clear on this, neither of us are being down on the fantasy genre or B we're both huge fans and bring a D and D nerds and all of that stuff. But we're, we're talking about the, the ways that, you know, what's the purpose of each and where the.

Where we can use imagination in a really constructive way and where it's maybe more harmful, right?

Mark: Right or just where we may be stuck.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And you know, people do get stuck. That's in cultures get stuck. I think it's a lot easier for a culture that's based in a holy text to get stuck than it is for kind of a fluid subculture, like a pagan. Is to get stuck. But there's nothing shameful about that, except that if you become aware of it, then you can start to evolve again.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And I think that, you know, moving away from the good old days, a lineage of ancient ways. Kind of model and, and sort of Renaissance see sort of aesthetic of paganism. We'll do a couple of things that would be good for the pagan community. One of them is that I think it would make it less of a challenge to bridge the gap to other people that are not pagans because it won't seem quite so fantasied. Right. It, it won't seem. Quite so, frivolous in that way.

Yucca: Well, and, and also more welcoming to the people who don't particularly connect with that aesthetic,

Mark: right, right?

Yucca: Where the, the ideas are interesting, but the aesthetic is is just difficult to get past, right.

Mark: For sure. So that's a good thing. And then the other way that I think that it can really benefit the pagan community is that it, it enables it, it would create kind of a vacuum that would enable new stuff to arise. There, and, and I think that some of this is happening because you know, the, the sixties and seventies, generation of pagans is leaving us. Most of, most of them came to it in adulthood. And so by now they're, they're getting elderly. And there there's enough conversation and enough pagan thought happening now that I think that people are starting to reconsider some of those. Good old days, unbroken lineage kind of models. Certainly with Ronald Hutton's book, the triumph of the moon, he pretty well-documented that modern paganism was a modern creation.

I think it would be a wonderful thing for modern paganism to stand up and say, yes, we're a modern creation. were informed by modern values, which means we don't have. Holy book that's full of slavery and abuse and misogyny. We, we stand for, for the good stuff that humans have learned about how the dignity of the individual and the ecosystem.

And we think that those are value and that good enough,

Yucca: Yeah. And we don't need some, some distant past authority to make it valid. Right.

Mark: As as Tim mentioned said I don't believe that just because I ideas are tenacious that they're worthy.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So going back to talking about rituals again one thing that can be helpful when you're planning a ritual is to write out the story. Right. you know, or, or at least speak it out loud, we're going to do this and this and this and this and this, and the result is going to be that. Because what that does is it creates expectation in people's minds.

In your own mind if you're working alone or in the group's mind. Oh, okay. Well that's, what's going to happen. And then it's going to result in that cool, magical new thing. That's going to transform us. Great. Sign me up. I'm I'm I'm here

Yucca: can follow that path and follow that. And there you go.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah. So I think this is a, I mean, like so many things that we talk about on this podcast, it, it takes a little bit of awareness, but takes some reflection and just paying attention to. How things work, how you work, how you respond and, and going from there, going, okay, well, how do I get, how do I make this work for me?

What's the story that I want. What's the story that I want to live. What's the story that I can tell and imagination is that's what connects the pieces.

Mark: Yes. Yes. So I think, I don't know. I could go on and on, but I think, I think we should stop here.

Yucca: I think this is a wonderful

Mark: I think it's a good place to stop.

Yucca: assist the app and to just invite some dreams for the future. Right.

Mark: Right.

And this is, as you say, a great time of year to be doing that you know, as, as spring either, you know, is happening with the light, but not with the weather or or maybe it is happening starting to happen as it is where I live. Then you know, imagine a little, imagine. Who do I want to be?

What's, what's my highest vision for myself.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: some of that can be circumstantial. Like, you know, what kind of work I want to be doing, or, you know, whatever that is. But some of it is, well, what kind of person do I want to be?

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: You know? Am I impatient? Well, can I work on that? Am I irritable? Can I work on that?

Yucca: And that's ultimately the stuff that you really do have control over. Right? The, what. You know what job you have or what kind of world you want to live in. Those are all wonderful things, but ultimately you don't actually have control over that. Right. But you do have control over what kind of person you're going to be and how you're going to respond when certain types of things happen.

Mark: Right. Not to say that activism isn't important

Yucca: Right. Exactly. You can definitely.

Mark: You can definitely.

advocate and work to bring about improvements to the world that we live in. And it's essential. That is many of us as possible. Do that. So not, not to say that your highest vision of yourself should Trump your vision for the world.


Yucca: But you aren't a personal failure. If you aren't the chosen one from the stories that saves the world from global warming and on all of that, you can, you can be part of that solution, but don't, but don't beat yourself up that like, That are that real life doesn't work the same way. Fantasy novelists work.


Mark: Yeah.

I mean, one of the things, one of the most pernicious things, I think about the children's stories that we tell people is, and they lived happily ever after. I mean, that's a terrible thing to tell people, because the expectation then is okay, you get married and then you lived happily ever after until you have a knock-down, drag-out fight over something super trivial that neither one of you is willing to get off of until a day later, when you finally got all the quarters all out of your system, and you're ready to start actually having a conversation.

This is the way the world really works.

Yucca: Yes. Oh, on the poor. Yeah. And when, and when you've been raised on those stories and think that that's how it works, then you suddenly, is this not true? Love

Mark: Right.

Yucca: This is not meant to be. Relationships take work anyways. Now we're going on a tangent.

Mark: we are. Yes.

Yucca: That's a, well, maybe that'll be something to talk about as we get closer to Valentines.

Mark: Yeah, That's a good idea of, although we actually have. Next week we have Sarah Lindsay coming. We're going to do an interview with the YouTuber known as the, the skeptical, which and if you haven't seen her channel, I really encourage you to take a look at some of her stuff. She's a PhD candidate in religious studies, and she's very, very interesting to talk with and listen to.

So we're going to be doing that interview Next week. I am too. It's going to be great. So. In the meantime, we hope you all have a wonderful week, enjoy the season and be sure to contact us at the email address. We always tell you If you have comments or suggested topics or any of that.

Thanks So much, everybody.

Yucca: Thanks everyone.

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