Featured image: macro photograph of False Indigo Bush
A guest post by Jess Rollar.
When I stumbled onto Atheopaganism back in 2019, it felt like I had finally found my place. I’ve been an Atheist all my life and I’ve also leaned heavily towards Paganism, but my practice was on a more scientific and naturalistic perspective.
As an Atheopagan, my practice is centered around gardening, the cosmos and my local bioregion here in the Arizona White Mountains. I’m always looking for ways to connect to my Atheopagan practice in a more practical and everyday sense. Ritual and big celebrations have never suited me, I much prefer a more simplistic approach. Here’s a peek into some of the more mundane aspects I do that helps me connect to my Atheopagan practice. While this list is short, these are my top favorites!
First off, what is “Phenology” one might ask? Phenology is the study of seasonal changes and shifts that put a spotlight on natural events such as climate and plant changes, as well as animals. A phenology journal is a diary in which you track these changes that you personally experience in your own bioregion.
For those who don’t live in an area that has distinct seasons, I’ve found that keeping a phenology journal is one of the best ways that you can connect to your own seasons. It’s a way for you to take notice of what’s growing around you, what’s changing weather wise and how it affects everything else.
Your journal can be in any format, from a simple notebook to an elaborate collage sketchbook. You can even use a blog or phone noting app. Some things you can record in this journal are:
- High and low temp of the day
- Weather of the day
- What you see growing and blooming in your yard or on a walk or trail
- What you’re smelling? Maybe it’s damp and you smell the earth that day or maybe you’re by the sea and smell salt water, etc.
- What do you hear? Perhaps there’s a new bird call you just noticed or maybe the ravens are rather chatty one morning, etc
- Animals and birds spotted
- Garden? Tie your gardening into your journal and note down what you planted that day or saw finally fruiting or flowering
The main thing is to note down what’s going on naturally around you in your bioregion. Keeping a phenology journal can help you find your seasonal rhythm and help you connect the dots as to what the weather changes or plants growing can tell you. Here in the mountains where I live, when I see Hollyhock blooms that tells me that summer is here and when I see the iris by the creek I know that spring has finally arrived. Goldenrod blooms in the fall signals that our frost is right around the corner. Plants can tell you so much about the climate changes when you pay attention and take note.
Stack of journals, an Atheopagan pendant, native plant book and iced coffee cup
Plant a Garden (no matter how small)
Gardening is very much an Atheopagan practice for me. Not only am I connecting with the plants but my hands get to spend a lot of time in the dirt where I can connect to the earth. The whole aspect of gardening surrounds the natural elements in the form of plants and compost (Earth), water (Water), wind (Air) and the Sun (Fire). Not to mention how good it feels to get outside and help something grow from seed!
If you have the space to plant a garden, go for it! If you only have enough space to keep a houseplant in your bedroom, that works just as good! A garden doesn’t have to be huge, it can look like a few pots on your patio or several raised beds in your backyard. My current garden is fairly large but it used to be super small before we moved and gained more space, work with what you have.
Aside from veggies and fruits, I find it also fun and rewarding to grow native plants and perennial flowers, ones that you can enjoy every year with little effort. Seeing the seeds sprout and grow remind me daily of how connected I am to nature and not separate from it. You can learn a lot by just watching a seedling grow. You can even garden along with the moon by sowing seeds under a New Moon and watching them sprout as the moon grows full, this is a great way to connect with the moon cycle.
Rather than focus on traditional Pagan sabbats, I focus on astronomical dates such as meteor shower events, the Equinox/Solstice dates as well as the Equitherm/Thermstice dates (which I learned and adopted from Naturalistic Paganism).
I keep track of what events and dates are coming up. Since I keep a very practical Atheopagan practice, my observance of these days are usually very simple. To observe these days, most of the time I’ll go on a trail hike that day or light the fire pit in our backyard in the evening if it’s not fire season. Other times, I simply go buy a new plant or sit under the sky and soak in what I see and hear. For an even more simplistic practice, I often just say “Goodnight” to the moon when I go to lock up the chickens for the night. All I really try to do is pay more attention and connect, that’s it.
Find ways to mark or observe the dates in ways that feel right for you. You don’t have to pull all the candles out and conduct a ritual if that isn’t your thing, it’s not mine either.
Other things to consider when looking for more practical approaches to your Atheopagan practice is to check out your local Native Plant Society chapter and get involved, do some litter cleanup at a park or local trail, recycle and reuse items to keep your practice more Earth friendly.
What does your Atheopagan practice look like? Do you already do some of these things I mentioned above or are there other ways you connect in a more down to earth way?
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