Crafting and Paganism

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S2E07 TRANSCRIPT:

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Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Mark.

Yucca: And I am Yucca.

Mark: And today we are going to be talking about the association of paganism with making things crafting and cooking and baking and just all these kinds of amazing alchemical and crafty things that it seems like everybody in the pagan community does.

So we're going to talk about that and its association with ritual and then talk a little bit about the things that we do and why it's, why it's so good for us.

Exactly. And this is a pretty good time of year to be doing that. This is a time of year where lots of folks in the Northern hemisphere, that is, are starting to get a little bit fidgety, wanting to get going after the winter and keep their hands busy.

Sure. Especially this year when we've been cooped up for, you know, pretty close to a year now with the pandemic trying to find ways to occupy ourselves productively is is a really important for just for psychological survival right now. You can only sit around and mope for so long.

Yucca: Recently, we mentioned that. The seeds selling out early this year. And last year, there was actually a shortage in Mason jars. And there still is right now because so many people took up all kinds of activities that needed Mason jars, including canning or jarring, as I think they call it in Britain.

Mark: Sure. Yeah, that's very interesting. I wasn't aware of the shortage of Mason jars, but it totally makes sense to me. There's this sort of cascade effect where many, many more people than usual put in gardens. Last year because they were stuck at home and it was something to do and it, it feels good to garden.

And, you know, you've got this productive you know, these vegetables coming out of the ground.

Yucca: And I've been meaning to do it for years anyways.

Mark: Right. And then of course, the problem with that is you have all these vegetables coming out of the ground and they're doing it all at the same time. So what do you do with all that? Well, you can it or, or you pickle it and all of that involves a lot of Mason jars.

So that's, that's not a surprise to me.

Yucca: Half of everything on Pinterest involves Mason jars too.

Mark: Oh, does it?

Yucca: Yeah. Mason, jars, everything. Your fairy lights, everything is Mason jars.

Mark: Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. I'm not on Pinterest. It's one of the social media I don't do. So

Yucca: I had to delete it from my phone. Otherwise I'd be on all the time. Yeah. It's well, all those, all those things are designed, literally designed to keep you sucked in and on them as long as possible.

So my productivity and everything else in my life went way up as soon as I got rid of those things.

Mark: I'm sure.

Yucca: but Hard to quit there. I mean, harder than a lot of things that we traditionally think of, difficult to quit.

Mark: Well, sure. Because social media gives you positive feedback. It's not just a little hit of dopamine. It gives you these constant, ongoing little sips of dopamine from interactions and seeing how people have reacted to what you post and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, they're very clever.

Yucca: And they, and your people pressure you to get back on,

Mark: Well, I'm sure.

Yucca: Yeah. It's a. It's an it's an ever present siren. So anyways, we're talking about crafting, which yes.

Mark: We are. And one of the things that, one of the reasons that this topic occurred to me as a good one for us to talk about is that there is a particular mental state that people get into when they do crafts it's very present. They're not thinking about the future or the past or anything.

They're very focused on doing what is right in front of them. And there's this very pleasurable state of flow that goes with working on a project, being creative using your hands in that way. And then at the end, achieving a goal, having actually completed something. And that is very, very similar to the same kind of mental state and arc of a ritual. For practical purposes, it can be considered to be ritual. You know, recipe is really a ritual when you get down to it. Or, you know, if you're well enough versed with cooking, you don't use recipes. It's the same thing. Once again, you're drawing on your knowledge and pulling pieces together to create that alchemy, that results in a, in a product.

Yucca: Exactly. Yeah.

So there's a lot of different kinds of crafting and doing things with our hands that can get us into a place like that. Everything from, as you've been talking about cooking or more artistic things, Not that cooking isn't artistic, but maybe painting or making a sculpture or something that we would think of more traditionally as an art or as a craft.

Mark: Yes. And, and actually the, the kind of the, the working section, the meat of many pagan rituals are built around those kinds of crafty activities. I just did an Imbolc. Ritual on Saturday, a virtual ritual with the atheopagan mixer group that meets on Saturdays on zoom. And and I created a little baby out of corn, shucks, a little rain baby for that will preside over my, my focus, my altar around the course of the year until Hallows, when it'll burn in the fire, go up into the sky and bring the rain back metaphorically.

Speaking of course So those kinds of activities, you know, they, they give you that, that good feeling of, of achieving something. And many of them can be done in a way where there's that sort of folding the magic in quality. And, you know, as science-based paganism, science-based pagans, we don't believe in literal magic, but we certainly believe in psychological magic. And so having your intention there has you're working to put something together, can be very, very powerful. And then you have an object which is associated with particular meanings and outcomes. And that can be as simple as tying knots on a string, or it can be knitting something, crocheting, something, weaving something sculpting, as you say, a painting or drawing various kinds of writing projects, whether they're poetry or even, even kind of word maps that aren't, that aren't written prose, but instead just sort of a scatter of important words that are associated with whatever it is that you're working to do.

The point is creativity. And what that means is that the, the potential is endless. We couldn't possibly list all the different things that people could do in this way on this podcast,

Yucca: And some of those things that you were mentioning are. Things that are consumables that you might come back to later, like a, like a bread or the scarf, I guess you don't consume that, but you still might wear it later. And so that is a touchstone it's something that you can bring with you bring that intention with you into the future and be reminded of that.

Mark: Yes, absolutely. Whether the intention that you're working with is simply to create, you know, comfort and wellbeing , and food for your family and friends. I know that I've taken a great satisfaction in making bread that can be used in in a ritual circle because it. You know, it has my love in it, right?

It has, it has my attention and my skill and my caring that I, I went to the effort to do this. I have a beautiful scarf that was made by a circle sister of mine, who does it. It actually doesn't anymore, but she used to do a Japanese silk dying technique called Shibori where silk velvet is bound on a dowel and kind of crumpled down, slid down to crumple until the whole thing is wrapped around this dowel.

And then it's dipped in dye. So it makes a sort of a tie dye kind of pattern. The whole thing is dyed, but there are these kind of waves of density in this beautiful silk velvet, velvet scarf. And every time I wear it, I think of her and I think of my circle and it's kind of, kind of bringing them with me.

So those kinds of associations are really enriching to a life.

So why don't we talk about some of the things that we do or have done? I mean over time, you know, I've a lot of the kinds of projects that I. That I work on are very computer-based. But I still count them. You know, whether it's putting right now, I'm putting together a PowerPoint presentation.

I'm presenting to a UU church on the East coast next Sunday. And then later in the day, I'm presenting to the Seattle atheist church also on zoom. And so I'm putting together the presentation that I'm going to show to them, and that feels creative. It's fun. There's graphics and there's design and there's color schemes.

And there's, you know, the, the written content, it's all, it's fun to do. So written things are a lot of what I do, obviously. I mean, I write books and I write poems and stuff like that. How about you? What are some of the things that you do.

Yucca: Oh, well, so much. I, first of all, I love that you brought in the presentations as a, as a craft. I hadn't really thought of it that way. That's something that I spend a lot of time since I teach online. I create a lot of presentations. I'm always bringing in images and all kinds of things. And that is, it's a whole, it's a performance, it's a whole art and you're communicating on so many different levels and there's so many different stages of that.

So I do that a lot. But I'm, I am always working with my hands. Although my favorite thing in the world is to just sit and just be there in, outside, somewhere in nature under the stars. But I always, my mind is always going and creating something new. So there's all the household stuff of the creating the food for the family and, and working on the garden and the home and building things.

I grew up on job sites. My father was an architect builder, and so I was just always around tools. And even when we lived in little city apartments, all my power tools and annoy the neighbors with the loud noises. But also got little people right now who love the arts and crafts. And there's a lot of stuff that we just want to have that isn't available commercially. And even if it was, I just like making them anyways. So I mean, there's just so many different directions to talk about with, with what we do.

Mark: Sure. I mean, particularly when you get into the area of food, the it's, it's literally infinite. And when you, when you really start to explore all the kinds of different preserves and pickles and sauces, and you know, all those different sorts of things that you can put up and save. It really makes the grocery store seem very impoverished by comparison.

The available choices are really very narrow there and very you know, mainstreamed to the, the ones that are going to sell to enough people. But if you want your particular kind of pickled beets with onions, then you, you gotta make them yourself or know somebody who does.

Yucca: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. In that vein, my four and a half year old daughter has requested that we not have the same breakfast twice. She's challenged me, but she wants pancakes every morning now. So, and we don't really eat grains. So I have a whole variety of all of the different, like types of flour replacements that we have got sunflower seeds that have ground up and pumpkin seeds and cassava and tiger night and all of that.

And then coming up with each day of how do we make it different enough that the four-year-old accepts that it's different. So earlier it was chocolate, orange ,tigernut was what we came up with.

Mark: I'm sure that went over pretty well.

Yucca: it went very well. Yes

Mark: The chocolate days. Those are good days.

Yucca: Yeah. So that's one of the directions. But there's also kind of the, the seasonal little things that are a lot of fun to do. One of the things that we've gotten into the habit of doing is we receive boxes in the mail. More than I'd really like when I think about it, we should pull that back.

But during the pandemic, it's been so much easier to get things shipped than to venture out. So we get a lot of boxes and we ended up cutting those boxes into shapes and painting them and we'll do things with whatever's happening with the season. So in the fall there were lots of, you know, Two foot long Oak Leafs and pumpkins made out of cardboard and paint and wonderful.

It feels good to be thrifty in that. Because your acrylic paint doesn't cost very much for you know, one of those big tubes and all you need are the primary colors in black and white, and you can make pretty much everything. And then you just cut all those Amazon boxes up and swap them out. And the snowflakes are still up right now, but they're starting to get replaced with little springy things.

like, you know, little green buds and it's just every now and then we'll just make a new one and then it gets added to our wall. So yeah.

Mark: Yeah. We had a, a garland that we made of little, little wooden stars, which we interspersed with desiccated fins slices of lemon. That ended up looking like stained glass, you know, the way that they dry that way. And so we had alternating kind of lemon, suns and stars in this garland that was hanging on the piece of furniture that has now been supplanted by the new piece of furniture that we assembled.

And that was, I think the last of the Yule decorations to come down. Everything else went up in a bin in the garage a little while ago.

Yucca: You know, I think that you mentioned the furniture, the new furniture before we started recording.

Mark: Oh, did I?

Yucca: Yeah, I think that was right before we hit record.

Mark: Well, my, what I was talking about there was that sense of satisfaction of, of working, you know, and assembling something and then having it be there. And I, I really command all of these sort of crafty and creative modes to people because there is a tremendous sense of. Of satisfaction and accomplishment when you've worked on something for a while and then it's done and it's there.

I mean, I know that there are people that are basically religious about knitting. You know, that for whom it's something that is, is not just a pastime, but is, you know, something literally woven into their lives. So. And the same is true. Of course, about all the various artistic endeavors, people who are sculptors or painters or any of those things.

Yeah, it's. I think that one of the things about being pagan is that because the archetype of the witch, right, is a crafty person the kind of person with, you know, herbs hanging in their kitchen and jars of dried herbs or panes of pressed dried herbs in frames, hanging on the walls of their house.

You know, that all of that sort of crafty largely women's work is associated traditionally women's work is associated with the archetype of the witch. And I think that being a pagan gives us permission to explore a lot of these disciplines that most people don't. I know when I first got into beer brewing, itwwas because I wanted to replicate medieval style.

Grew it Ailes from before the time that Cromwell took over England and mandated that all beer have hops in it.

Yucca: I didn't know about that.

Mark: Oh, yeah. The Puritans were appalled by beer generally because a lot of the beer that was made contained various kinds of hallucinogenic herbs. And so the Puritans decided, well, we're going to make, we're going to require all beer to have hops in it because hops are bitter and it makes you go to sleep. So. This the whole, the whole profile, the sort of psychological profile of what the experience of beer became changed radically. And now we're normalized to the idea that hops is a standard feature of beer, but it wasn't originally.

Yucca: that's fascinating.

Mark: There were, there were beers that were made out of things like sweet flag and bog myrtle and stuff like that that are definitely, you know, psychoactive kinds of plants,

Yucca: And just want to say.

Mark: bog myrtle.

Yucca: So I'm sorry. I took you off track there. You were saying that you had gotten into the beer making as a way of exploring.

Mark: Yes, as a way of exploring these old style beers and to see, you know, if I could make kind of ritual concoctions that would affect people psychologically and take them into a way that they could have a shared experience together. I didn't experiment with beer all that long, probably only a couple of years.

And the reason in the end for that was that there is so much terrific beer available now, commercially just top notch, craft beer to be had, you know, from going to a store that I didn't see spending the 20 years to learn, to get that good. When I could just spend 10 bucks and have a six pack of something really delicious. So I switched to Mead. I switched to making honey wine of which the commercial stuff is generally terrible,

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: Because they they're kind of caught in this market vise where in order to make beer that's in order to make mead that is affordable enough, that it will sell at the price point that they can sell it at. They have to use really cheap, honey. And the cheap honey doesn't make very good mead. So if you want good meat, generally, you're getting it from someone who is home brewing it. And that I experimented with for many years and I made sparkling Meads with champagne, yeast and spiced Galanes and all that kind of stuff.

Very, very delicious beverage.

Yucca: Yeah, we do meads and more ciders than medns as well, but we'll do those The beer is intimidating to me because there's so much. But the other one that I do very regularly is kombucha and kombucha is so easy and saves you so much if you like kombucha because the, the ciders and the Meads, you have to wait a long time, your kombucha two weeks in the, or there. So it doesn't of course have the same effect as.your actually fully alcoholic drinks, but that's one that if, if people are interested in venturing into those realms, kombucha is a great starting place.

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: And really you don't need much more than buying one from a plain one from the store and, and getting some teabags and some sugar and you're off to go. It's that simple. Yeah.

Mark: Nice for folks that don't want an alcoholic brew of some kind, but they want to experiment with these kinds of things. I should mention shrubs. Shrubs are vinegar based brews of various kinds. And so they're non-alcoholic, but they, they have a very complex flavor profile and you can make them with everything with pomegranate and thyme and you know, all the fruits, all the herbs and.they're, they're just, they're very interesting. I only learned about them a few years ago, but there's a whole kind of Renaissance of people making shrubs. Now I've seen them in restaurants and it's worth looking into.

Yucca: when you say shrubs, you mean S H R U B S

Mark: Yes. Just, just like a bush, but for some reason they're called shrubs and they're these drinks that are, that are based in in vinegar rather than an alcohol, you can do many of the same things as you do. You can make many of the recipes that go into cocktails using hard alcohol. Instead, you can use a diluted vinegar.

And you'll get these complex and wonderful flavors without any of the alcoholic effects. So it's something that folks who don't drink often find a really interesting vein to explore.

Yucca: Well, and the exploration of making vinegars. As well as your sauerkrauts, we love those. And for an even shorter period, we want to get into yogurt making. That's just your, that's your overnight, your other ones. You still have to wait several days or weeks for your other ones, but yogurt, you set that out overnight and it's ready for you in the morning.

Mark: that's right. And it's, and it's yogurt. Absolutely. And people can do Keifer which is another fermented milk product. There are just all kinds of interesting things. Cheesemaking of course, which is an entire universe of exploration in and of itself. I know that one of the moderators of the atheopagan Facebook group, Rose, is a cheesemaker and she posts these pictures that have just the most delectable looking cheese.

I'm really kind of a cheeseaphilic person. So

Yucca: Yeah. Oh

yeah. I've haven't, that's one of those dreams of one day. I want to get into the cheese-making I've never done much more than just your basic farmer's cheese. But, but one day I can imagine getting into the hard cheeses and Oh

Mark: Wow. Yeah. I mean, it, it, a lot of it depends on how many steps you're willing to do. A simple clotted cream can be almost as easy as a, as a yogurt,

Yucca: Okay, well, I've done those. I just didn't. Wasn't thinking of those as cheeses, but.

Mark: Yeah. You know, the the sort of mascarpone cream she's sorts of things. They're very, very simple to do. But then when you get into cheddaring and you know, the age to dry cheeses and all that kind of stuff, or the other direction, the super buttery, triple crems and, and, you know, Bree kinds of things.

And I could go on name-dropping cheese for a long time, but I'm going to stop now.

Yucca: Yeah. So the kitchen, the kitchen is a wonderful place. And you know, the, there's a theme of a lot of the things, the foods that we've just been talking about are foods in which we are partnering with other life. And that is of course, nothing's universal with pagans, but one of the themes with many pagans that I see is a willingness to engage with the rest of the natural world.

Mark: Yes, that's very true. And, and there is something, you know, I make little air quotes magical, right? About that engagement of those bacteria or those you know, or that yeast or whatever it is that causes that transformation into a new texture, a new flavor, a new. A new nature to what it is that you're putting together.

So yes, it's, it's kind of natural that the kitchen become this magic place because there are all these transformations happening there all the time through the application of heat or through any of those other kinds of processes. You know the rest of the house has its, its ways of being amazing and magical itself, you know? There's this sort of stereotypical picture that I have in my mind of, you know, people sitting in chairs around a fire, just kind of working on their stuff, you know fiddling with whatever it is and talking. And that was one of the things that was wonderful about this ritual that we did yesterday Because we're on zoom. So it's more of a challenge to create that sense of connectedness, but there was this very warm glow while we, we took about 45 minutes to work on our craft projects. And then we did show a nd telln and then talked about what we were grateful for and then closed the circle.

Right. And there was this just very sort of companionable feeling of everybody working on whatever their projects were in. They weren't all identical. We were working on our own things. There was lively conversation going on in the chat as well as talking verbally. And it, it, it felt like sitting around with a group of friends doing craft projects and I've missed that sort of thing a lot since the pandemic, it was really, really very special.

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: So what else, what else do we have?

Yucca: Well, I mean, there's certainly more things to share of little ideas. But that, that sitting together thing I think is really special, whether you're doing it over zoom or in the home with your household, we, we do it over documentaries a lot. We put on documentaries in the evening. And that's fun cause they kind of go with the theme of the year. But we get to go through a lot of documentaries, cause there's a lot of nights of the year. And the kids are also getting old enough that they can start to listen to stories. We'll listen to little podcast stories and hang out and do and do things with our hands. That isn't just the screen. But one of the other ones that I wanted to share that we've been doing recently, and I think I actually sent you a photo of these.

But we started, the, the kids are really interested in stars right now. So we've been doing constellations and we've been making clay figures of what the constellations are and then painting them on. So Taurus, we made a bull and you know, for Ursa major and minor, we made little bears and then painted the constellations.

And we're working on orion right now, but Orion's limbs are kind of tricky. So we're going to have to figure out if he keeps falling apart. So we're going to have to figure out something else for that. But little things that, that we can do that are just little crafts that are, there's something nice about being able to accomplish something like you were talking about.

And so something small that can be done, that's simple, but ties in with everything else going on in the world.

Mark: Yes. Yes. And that, that then becomes another little touch point for your practice, right? It becomes another reminder that we're in a particular season and that has particular meanings to us, and nature's doing something very specific at this time. And we're, we're celebrating and connecting with that.

So for our listeners, I, I guess, The two things that I'd like to say about this is first of all, don't trivialize your so-called hobbies. You know, they're not frivolous. They're not just, Oh, I'm, I'm a. I I'm, I'm just nuts because I'm so invested in doing this particular kind of craft. No, it's it adds to the happiness in your life.

It adds to feelings of accomplishment and it's worthy work. So you know, that I think is, is something that. That people should really take heat of. And then the other thing is, if you don't feel like you have a lot of creative stuff going on, just try something, anything in the, in the case of. Of being sort of lost at that.

Is there a particular kind of food that you really like figure out how to make that and preserve it figure out, you know, whether it's spaghetti sauce or Alfredo sauce or any of, you know just a ton of different kinds of things that you can do. And you can vary that by your diet. It's entirely possible to eat Alfredo sauce on top of spaghetti squash.

You don't have to eat carbs if you don't want to. So

Yucca: And if the critic shows up, listen to two episodes back. Where we talk about some strategies for dealing with that voice that shows up not just in ritual, but when we're trying to do things for ourselves that are creative, that are new.

Mark: absolutely very good point. Very good point. Yeah, I, I, yes, go listen to that. That will help. I hope. So yeah. I don't think that it's a surprise that people have a pig in persuasion or perceived as being crafty or cunning, you know, clever with the hands. I, I think that there's all kinds of. Ordinary miracle making that happens every day, that these amazing transformations, I mean, when you think about it, it's sort of remarkable that when you put heat under water, it starts bubbling like mad after a while. That's kind of magical in a way. I mean, we understand why it happens. It's not mysterious, but it's still kind of magical. And that's just the very simplest kind of thing we can do. I know people that are really into tea, all kinds of herbal teas and, and actual black and green teas and aged teas and all that kind of stuff. And it's this whole world they can explore and all that's required is that you be able to heat water to a particular temperature.

And to know what you like and what you don't like. So

Yucca: And then, Oh, what a community you can encounter now that we have the worldwide web.

Mark: yes, believe me, whatever it is that you're into. And that really goes a long way, various somebody on the internet that is also doing the same thing and probably wants to talk with you about it . So Yeah. So, so figure out what your particular, what your particular cunning is your particular set of crafts?

It always seems a little sad to me when I hear from people. "Well, I'm just not creative" because honestly, I, I don't buy it. I think everybody's creative. I think it's baked into the human organism and if we're. If we're not being creative, I think it's mostly that we're not letting ourselves be creative.

Yucca: And it also might just be a little bit of a, a perspectives switch. Like you started this by talking about the computer side of things, the writing and presentations. That's creative. We've talked a lot before on the podcast before about gaming, right. Are you really into D&D are you In the kitchen? Are you creating crafts? Are you gardening? Are you all of these things that we might not always think of as being crafts or creative? They really are.

Mark: Yes. Yeah, indeed. They really are. And and part of the point is to celebrate that, not just to let it be. Oh yeah. Well, I went out and I fixed my car today, but. Yeah, there was a problem and I tracked it down. I figured out what it was. I went, I got the part, I removed the old part, which came out in pieces.

I installed the new part, cleaned everything out, wiped it down. It started it up and everything is fine. That's, that's a good feeling. And there's every reason why you should allow it to be a good feeling. We believe in good feelings were, were for them.

Yucca: Yup. Well, please continue.

Mark: Well, I was going to say I think that's about all that I have to say on this topic right now. Just having the conversation inspires me to want to look into some things that I used to do and haven't done for a while and, you know, maybe. Maybe play around a little bit with some new things that I haven't done before.

So especially at this time of year, when the lights are starting to come back on a little bit and we can plan for the future. It's a, it's a time to take on the idea of maybe learning something new, trying something new this year.

Yucca: Exactly. Well, thank you, Mark. This was a great conversation.

Mark: Thank you, Yucca. I really enjoyed it as always. We'll see you next week.

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