by Holly H.
In my kitchen I have five bins; one of general recycling and one for glass recycling, both of which are picked up by my council, one compost bin of food waste that I compost myself for the garden, one general bin which normally contains bread or fat food waste and is rarely used. The final bin contains all the plastic or foil film packaging that food producers are still insisting on wrapping around various foods. This last bin is something I created in the last couple of years, having discovered that my local supermarket now has a big cage in which you can recycle everything from pet food packets to that weird plastic netting from onions. The idea of the plastic I buy ending up in the ocean has been something which has deeply troubled me for quite some time. I attempted to reduce the amount I use, by buying unpackaged items, but in many cases this still is not possible in the UK. I have signed petitions asking supermarkets to ditch the plastic, I use refill packets instead of buying new bottles of cleaning fluid and soap, but ultimately far too many products still come wrapped in unnecessary film which is not recycled by most councils. It is a weekly ritual, in the most basic and mundane sense of the word, for me to gather all of this material that I have hoarded, like a magpie with an eye for poppadum boxes, to the supermarket to ensure I have done absolutely everything within my power to prevent it ending up where it shouldn’t.
Would I bother doing this if I was not an Atheopagan? Honestly, possibly not. My daily time spent observing life in my garden prompts thoughts almost every day about the beauty of the planet and our impact on it. It makes me feel responsible for the world around me, which in turn impacts the way that I behave in my home and when I am shopping. This constant reminder of the connectedness of the organisms on Earth, for example our reliance on ocean life, truly encourages me to do what I can to help. Is it perfect? No. I am by no means a perfect person and I am sure there is always more I could do, but I am trying and, most importantly, I am thinking.
Last, but most certainly not least, I try to attend the weekly Atheopagan Saturday mixer online. Since I’m in the UK I log on around 6.15pm, which means I do miss some because I’m often down the pub. However, the evenings I do attend are always really lovely and give a great opportunity for me to connect with other Atheopagans with interesting and thoughtful discussions about all sorts of ideas. I’d strongly recommend turning up one night, you will be welcomed. It can feel scary pressing “join meeting” for the first time, but I assure you if this socially awkward Brit can do it and still have a good time, you can too.
NB In this section I will refer to the Sabbaths according to the Atheopagan website, to avoid confusion of terms.
Obsessed with gardening and growing food such that I am, much of my monthly observances revolve around seasonal changes in the natural world and the related schedule for crops which comes from this. This month (March) in my part of the world, for example, is an exciting one full of hope and fresh sowings of a variety of seeds as well as windowsills bursting with developing seedlings. Preparing this year’s fruit and vegetables generally starts with planning around Riverain (1st Feb) where I check my seed packets for any out of date/anything I need to buy in, prepare a planting schedule, and think about where I am going to plant things. In the lead up to High Spring (21st March) I begin sowing seeds and either keeping things in the greenhouse or inside. I also sow some crops in the ground as we get closer to May Day (1st May) and the earth is warming up. By May Day, I will normally have hardened off most of my house-grown seedlings and established them in the garden where they will grow. By Midsummer (21st June) things have really picked up, and a change in feeding type is required to prepare crops to start producing fruit rather than growing greenery and roots. The period between Midsummer and Harvest (21st September) is (as the name implies) harvesting time for most varieties, and I will begin to preserve the crops for over winter. Hallows (6th Nov) sees the harvest of various squashes, which I grow for both delightful doorstop decoration and to eat in various plump winter pies.
In the lead up to Harvest I also go foraging for blackberries and begin the process of making blackberry wine in demijohns contained within a very pungent cupboard of my flat. These are racked once after Hallows, and bottled the following High Spring.
My yearly practice is simply recognising the cyclical nature of existence. Birth, childhood, maturity, older age, and death which ultimately leads to the “birth” of new organisms. This is something which is strongly reflected by the lifecycle of the plants that I care for, and I consider this at each of the Sabbaths throughout the year.
I take great pleasure planning activities and trying new things in the lead up to the yearly Sabbaths, to incorporate things that I personally really enjoy. For example, last year I made a felted wreath for my front door representing Yule (21st December) during the lead up to that Sabbath. This is something that I have now taken on further, and I plan to make wreaths for each of the major equinoxes which can be switched throughout the year. A simple task to swap the wreath, but it creates a deep feeling of changing seasons and celebration of a new part of the year.
The idea of keeping it simple is something that I have really found works for me. I am BUSY! I am tired, I am often anxious, I have a terrible trait of starting things and never, ever finishing them (don’t ask me about my dungarees). I know myself, and I know that simple is effective for me. By considering the parts of my life that I treasure, and the issues I feel are important, I’ve managed to pull together a highly personal way to practice my Atheopaganism which is easy for me to adhere to. Atheopaganism isn’t something I do, it’s who I am, and the way I live my life is intricately linked to it.
So for anyone new, or anyone struggling with a dusty alter, have a go thinking about the little things you do, or could do, which will make you more aware of the world around you. Don’t beat yourself up about not doing things enough or in the “right way”. Instead, exploring different approaches when you accept yourself and your lifestyle for what it is.