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Big Day and Blizzards

On May 9, I participated in Global Big Day, a birdwatching event coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Lab of O encourages all birdwatchers to participate in Big Day by recording their sightings in eBird, the Lab of O’s citizen science project that collects data from users’ birdwatching checklists in order to learn about bird populations, distribution, and migration. Although I’ve been using the Lab of O’s bird-ID app Merlin for years, this was my first Big Day and the first time I’d used eBird. While it doesn’t have anything explicitly to do with Paganism, birding is one good way of tuning into nature and developing relationships with the land and beings of a particular place. Through activities like birding and gardening, I’ve come to love the place where I live and be more aware of the changes and goings-on of each season.
Notably, this May 9, it snowed. I don’t think I’d ever experienced snow in May before! The snow stuck in the morning but melted by midafternoon; howe…
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Beltane 2020 in Pictures

Where has the time gone?! I started a new job the day before Beltane and I’ve been struggling to focus on things that aren’t work. I’m awfully pleased about the new job—both the opportunity and the work I’m doing—but it’s taking some time to adjust. I’m starting to feel more mentally settled now, so here at last is my Beltane post.
Beltane is when spring really gets going around here. The snowdrops and crocuses have been replaced by daffodils, tulips, and flowering trees. It’s still pretty cold—May 1 is our earliest possible last frost date and it was snowing as recently as the last week of April!—but warm weather is on its way.
My garden is starting to come to life. The small handful of daffodils and tulips that were here when I moved in are in bloom; the daffodils actually opened on Beltane! I’d love to plant many more spring bulbs this fall.
All the plants I planted last year are native perennials. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s grown and spread this year. The coneflowers wer…

Ostara 2020 in Pictures

It’s hard to know what to say about how completely everything has changed—for everyone—since I last posted. A lot of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic struck my community shortly before Ostara. But my observation of the spring equinox wasn’t significantly affected: as a solitary Pagan, I was going to decorate and eat and pray and make offerings alone at home no matter what.
Here are a few photographic impressions of my Ostara celebration. If you’re interested in the history and science of the holiday, check out last year’s Ostara post; for an explanation of how I’m blogging about the sabbats this year, see my post from Imbolc 2020.

As I mentioned at Imbolc, I’m in the process of making a decorative bunting for every sabbat. The one at the top of this post was the first one I created; it predates my formal adoption of Paganism and was originally intended to be general spring d├ęcor.

Right before Ostara, institutions in my city, including the university where I study and wor…

In Which I am a Guest Speaker

In a moment of uncharacteristic daring, I volunteered to be a panelist at a multifaith spirituality event hosted by the university mindfulness group with which I volunteer. In order to preserve confidentiality I can’t discuss the other panelists’ talks or the conversations we had with attendees, but I’m happy to share my own answers to the guiding questions, which I’ve edited a little to suit the blog format.
How has spirituality and/or religion helped or hindered your development as a person and your life path?
My family’s first church was Presbyterian and it had a positive, welcoming vibe; I have a lot of good memories from my childhood as a part of that church community. When I was a young teenager, my parents started looking for a new church. I hated that process and didn’t like the church they eventually picked, which was Methodist. Around the same time, I entered a relationship with an Evangelical Christian boy who was concerned that I’d go to hell if I didn’t practice his exact…

One Year of Paganism

I promised that when Imbolc 2020 rolled around, I would look back at my first year of Paganism and consider where I’m headed next. I didn’t anticipate that one year would go by so quickly! It took me a little while to organize my thoughts but here they are. I’ve separated them into sections that helped me think logically about where I’ve been and what’s to come.
What Worked I’ll start with the obvious: Paganism. I’m still here. Although I experienced doubts and setbacks, at no point did I reconsider my choice to walk a Pagan path. There are things I’d like to do differently in the coming year but try a new religion isn’t one of them. I am overwhelmingly sure that I want to stick with Paganism.Awareness of nature. I’ve been developing my conscious relationship with nature for a few years longer than I’ve been practicing Paganism. Marking seasonal changes by celebrating sabbats deepened my connection with the natural world and leant more meaning to that connection.Tuning into online Pag…

A Pie for Every Sabbat

Last year I made apple pie for my partner’s birthday, which we happened to celebrate around Mabon (his actual birthday is a bit earlier in September but we were busy). Since I was already thinking of apple pie as Mabon pie, it occurred to me that there’s probably a perfect pie for every sabbat: one that aligns well with what’s in season where I live, what we’re celebrating, and what flavors our secular culture associates with that time of year. Without further ado, here’s the Wheel of the Year expressed in pie.
Imbolc: This is a holiday we traditionally celebrate with dairy foods to acknowledge the first milk as animals become pregnant and give birth to their young. A simple, dairy-based pie is appropriate, so custard is a solid choice. Banana cream and coconut cream pie work well too, since tropical fruits are in season even when my corner of the northern hemisphere is in the grip of winter.
Ostara: Where I live, Ostara can be a pretty snowy holiday. There isn’t really any local fruit…

Imbolc 2020 in Pictures

It’s been one full turn of the Wheel of the Year for me and this blog. I plan to discuss all the sabbats again in 2020, but rather than repeat last year’s format, I’m trying something new. If you’re interested to know the history, science, and common modern approaches to Imbolc, as well as how I fumbled my way through my first-ever Pagan holiday, check out last year’s Imbolc post. This year, I’m sharing my experiences of the sabbats in pictures.

I decorated for Imbolc with handmade fabric bunting. I’m actually in the process of making one of these buntings for every sabbat. I chose white and gold for Imbolc; the internet suggests white, gold, yellow, orange, and red as appropriate Imbolc colors, but I feel like that’s a bit much for this snowy and sedate holiday. I chose white for snow and yellow/gold as a reminder of the returning light.

I also put up some decorative lights. I think it’s silly that HOAs and nosy neighbors insist that people take down their “Christmas” lights when th…

My First Yule

Merry Yule! Here in the northern hemisphere, the snow is falling, houses are decorated with evergreen and candles, and I’m anticipating exchanging gifts with loved ones. Although our mainstream culture associates this festive atmosphere with Christmas, it all makes sense in a Pagan context too: we’re brightening up the darkness as we remind ourselves that even though it’s still the middle of winter, the days are getting longer. Can you believe it’s happening already?
Yule is the winter solstice, which happens around December 21 in the northern hemisphere. (For an explanation of how solstices work, see my post on Litha.) The winter solstice has been and continues to be an important day in many cultures around the world. Many traditional celebrations focus on the sun: the winter solstice marks the turning point when the sun’s power grows as the days once again begin to lengthen. Yule as we know it originates with Germanic peoples, and like the summer solstice, it might have originally …

My First Samhain

Samhain is the highlight of one of my favorite times of year, and I’m hardly the first Pagan to feel that way. The air is colder, the changing leaves are a riot of color, and there’s a smell of woodsmoke in the air that makes my heart beat a little faster. The wind blowing ragged clouds past the moon on crisp, sparkling nights evokes feelings of freedom and exhilaration and of reveling in the possibility of mysterious and transformative communion with Gods and spirits. It’s a magical time of year.
Historically, Samhain was a Gaelic seasonal festival, the first of four (Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughasadh). It was when cattle were brought back from their summer pastures and livestock was slaughtered for winter. What we know of its historical celebration comes from Irish literature (including the Tochmarc Emire) and mythology, but a similar festival might have been held in Celtic lands. We know that bonfires were lit and rituals were probably enacted, but we don’t know what those ri…

My First Mabon

I have mixed feelings about this time of year. On one hand, it betokens the increased obligations and sometimes-draining social interaction of the school year. On the other hand, fall is my favorite season: the leaves are changing color, the weather is getting cooler, and all that social interaction is actually pretty good for my mental health. It seems appropriate to celebrate the autumn equinox and usher in a time of changes both challenging and refreshing.
Mabon is the autumn equinox, which is when the sun appears to rise due east and set due west when observed from the equator. On the equinox, the equator is the closest part of Earth to the sun. After the autumn equinox in September, the northern hemisphere starts to tip away from the sun, which results in shorter days and cooler temperatures. The autumn equinox marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Although the term “equinox” means “equal night,” we don’t actually have exactly twelve hours of day and twelve hours of…