I’m excerpting this all from Mastodon and putting it here because this is a topic I care so much about it’s probably silly for me to try to segment things in 500 character chunks.
Also I started writing and this just got really long and I tried to cut it down so… 🤷♀️
For me – and I think there are about a million valid reasons to get into this stuff – and I promise I’ll come back to food production – one of the biggest motivations is discontent with contemporary society on this point, specifically where I’m at in the US. Outsized Anglo influence within outsized European influence means that “you should figure out the most scripturally virtuous way to live and then live that way every day” ideology has been seized on by… Well, not to be all el problema es el capitalismo, but, you know. Industrialization wants things as uniform as possible1 and post-industrial life hasn’t given up on that.
I take a really syncretic approach to how I do all this. I’m really interested in how people – let’s say people in my family, people I have a claim to – lived before that Puritanism, before industrialization, and for the past millennium-and-a-half or so, that’s what this would have looked like for them. I don’t have a lot of patience for people trying to purify their Christianity of paganism, but I do understand (on a Very Personal and Emotional Level, I Really Do Understand) how people can want to keep Candlemas out of their Imbolc, so if that’s where you’re at feel free to ignore the way my existing pages are presented in whole or in part.
okay back to regular programming
[ I here wrote and deleted a digression about how you have to look at things with a certain functionalist eye to effectively make the change you want to see in the world, but, uh, already silly long, innit. ]
actually answering the question
I think that holidays do (or should do) fit themselves to the way people really live, even as they also push us towards their embedded way of life. Attention to nature has always been part of that, most relevantly through agriculture, because that’s been how people have lived. Importantly, it hasn’t always had a purely celebratory tone. Yes, you pay attention to songbirds because you love birds and the pretty music and all, but also because you need to send your little kids out to go stomp around and scare them away from the growing grain2.
But can that attention to nature feel like a LARP? I don’t live on a farm anymore, I live in a condo – and this presents a dilemma. Do I try to preserve the farm-rituals–because even if I’m not the one getting up to help the goat deliver her kids, my world certainly depends on someone else doing it? Do I try to figure out what the equivalent things of importance are for my daily life and how they need to be marked and given ritual? To some extent, I try for both. I want to stay connected to The Past, but I want to feel connected and grounded within my present, as well. I can understand how either can feel artificial–giving up my blackberries at Michaelmas, never mind that they’re still nice as ever at the Whole Foods. Baking ritual breads, never mind that it’s not a natural daily thing for my household to be making bread. Celebrating when I can with my friends with the traditions we’ve been able to coax into existence, not always at the proper astronomical or historical time or what-have-you. It’s a tension to observe and balance against as you go along, I think.
This is often presented as individual flexibility – “why shouldn’t I celebrate whenever I want?” – but even if we set aside alignment with nature, anybody’s who’s ever worked a service job with days off in the middle of the week can start to see how a lack of alignment with others changes the nature of leisure. ↩
Sometimes neopagans/the witchy-adjacent get this one wrong in my estimation. You can react so strongly in opposition to e.g. the contemporary experience of technology as deeply alienating that you miss how people have always celebrated the technology of the hearth that protects us from nature’s biting cold3. ↩
See also blacksmith gods and patrons. ↩