Interview: Mark Green - Round We Dance

THE WONDER: Science-Based Paganism

11-03-2024 • 30 mins

Season 5 - Episode 7


Yucca: Welcome back to The Wonder, Science Based Paganism. I'm your host, Yucca.

Mark: And I'm Mark.

Yucca: And today, we have an episode I'm actually really quite excited for. It's going to be a little bit different. Mark, you have a book coming out in less than a month. So, yes, at long last, and we're going to talk a little bit about that.

So I'm going to ask you some questions, and hopefully this is something that our listeners are going to be really interested in. So, can you Tell us what, what book.

Mark: Well, the book is called Round We Dance, Creating Meaning Through Seasonal Rituals, and it's coming out from Llewellyn. It'll be released on April 8th which is also the day of the eclipse, the solar eclipse that's happening here in North America. And

Yucca: Get your glasses,

Mark: yes, get your

Yucca: of totality, you'll still be able to see it if you're in the lower 48.

Mark: Yep. Yeah. I have already gotten my glasses. In fact, I ordered them after the last time we talked about this. So, that's, that's the book. It's kind of a follow on book to the Atheopaganism book in some ways. But it's also meant for a broader audience.

Yucca: Okay, so it's not branded specifically as atheopagan, but is it, it's branded as pagan in general? Do you say that's

Mark: Well, it's, it's, it's not even really branded as pagan in general. Now, in the text of the book, I talk about Atheopaganism. And it's values and practices and ideas among other things. But the book itself is really intended for anyone who doesn't have a spirituality in their life right now and really wants one.

You know, for, for folks, for example, who belong to the so called nuns. The, the people that express no religious affiliation, maybe they've left Christianity or Islam or, um, or they're, they're just atheists or agnostics many of those folks who come into our community, the atheopagan community find that they're, they want something that gives their life a sense of meaning and a sense of connectedness to what's happening here on earth and in the universe.

In some cases, they want to have a value set that they can impart to their children,

Yucca: hmm.

Mark: You know, and ritual practices that they can conduct with their families. This book is for those folks.

Yucca: Okay.

Mark: You know, basically, it's a book for anybody who wants to develop a ritual practice.

Yucca: Mm. And what about people who They already identify maybe as atheopagan and are just getting started or looking to deepen their practice

Mark: Oh, for sure. Yeah, this, this book, it'll, it'll serve as a great resource for folks like our listeners. Who you know, they have you know, it's like we have the equinox coming up right now, right? So, you know, you can turn to the section about the spring equinox in the book and get some ideas for themes and ritual activities, recipes, craft projects And that's true of all of the Wheel of the Year celebrations.

It's true of all of the Rites of Passage. So it, it really goes into some, some degree of extensive coverage of different ritual techniques and reasons for having rituals.

Yucca: hmm. So this sounds a lot more like a how to book than your first book, right? The first book you were really digging into the, the what and the sort of intellectual side of things. What's this all about? And this is the how to practice. Mm

Mark: That's right. The first book was mostly an idea book. It essentially told the story of how I had gone through, An internal exploration about, you know, what is a religion, and how can I get the benefits of religion without having to believe in the supernatural? You know, how could that work? And then the second part of the book, the first book was about describing atheopaganism as one implementation of a non supernatural religious path.

That was focused on the, on the earth. This book is much more, as you say, a how to. It gives lots of examples and and it also talks about, you know, crafting your own individual rituals, ritual skills, like we talked about last week, a week before last. Talks about you know, personal rituals for your, for yourself when you need them, when you want to be confident or you want to be focused, those kinds of things you know, what, what some folks in the pagan community might call spells as well as the seasonal and rites of passage celebrations.

Yucca: Great. So how is this structured? Because I've heard you talk about different holidays. Is it based on the wheel of the year? Or do you have a larger structure around that?

Mark: There are sections that are about each of those areas. It starts out with kind of an idea section that's called a primer, and it's, talks about what spirituality is and why people have it and about rituals and then it goes into the basics about developing rituals and developing a practice for yourself.

And different skills and art forms and so forth that can be used in the course of a ritual practice. And then the second part is about rituals in practice. Occasions for celebrating. Some of those are on the calendar. They're seasonal things. Some of them are like stations in life, particular passages that we make in our lives.

There's a section on working with the dead and dying. Personal and healing rituals, building community for sharing rituals and then about just living a life that's consistent with the spiritual practice that's described here in very broad strokes, because everybody's going to have their own implementation of this, right?

It's, this isn't a dogma book this is, this is a book of examples and ideas. To help inform people as they craft their own individual practice. And then the last section is called resources. And that is your craft, your recipes, guided meditations, recommended ritual music glossary, a bibliography, those kinds of things.

Yucca: Fun. Okay.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: Yeah. So there's, there's, there's quite a lot to it. I'm really very proud of this book. I think it came out very well. And and I've been waiting forever for it to come out. Working with a publishing company working with Llewellyn has been great. Let me say my editor has been great. And, you know, the marketing people and all those folks have been really great.

But still working with a publishing company is a lot slower than self publishing.

Yucca: right.

Mark: know, once you've got a manuscript and you've got it all laid out, you can do a print on demand really quickly and, you know, start to get your book out there in the world. So, I actually finished the manuscript on this more than a year ago and I'm, and we're just going to see it April 8th.

So, I've been anticipating this for a long time and I'm really excited about it.

Yucca: Yeah. So in terms of the writing process, was that very different for you than when you self published?

Mark: You know, it was because the, my first book, the Atheopaganism book, that was an expansion of what started out as an essay. There was about a 40 page essay that I wrote as the concepts of atheopaganism were developing in me, as I was discovering things, as I did research about the nature of religion and the evolution of the human brain and all that kind of stuff.

I wrote an essay because that's, that's kind of the way that writing is the way that I have a dialogue with myself.

Yucca: Mm

Mark: So I wrote this essay essentially to kind of get my own thinking straight about, you know, what am I doing here? And what's the rational underpinning for it? And what does that look like?

And so I had that essay already, and I was able to bulk that out with a lot of stuff from the blog and additional writing. It wasn't a sit down, develop an outline, and then write to it kind of thing, which this second book is. It's actually my third book. My second book is a collection of poetry called A Red Kiss.

But this third book, Round We Dance. I would lock myself in my room and pound away at the keyboard day after day after day until it was finally done.

Yucca: And did you have an editor that was waiting for pieces on a deadline or things like that

Mark: No, they, they wanted the whole manuscript. So, we made, yeah, we made an agreement. When was it that I had to deliver it? Actually, no, it was longer ago than a year. I think it was the end of October of 2022.

Yucca: Mm

Mark: Yeah, it was the end of October of 2022 when I delivered the first manuscript. And then, of course, there's editing and grammatical and, you know, reorganizing various sections.

As recommended by the editor, there's, so there's a lot of, a lot of pieces that, a lot of processes that go into that. But we've had pretty much the finished thing since last fall, and it's just been a manner of getting to the point where they can print.

Yucca: Right. So, they've got other

Mark: And the copyright,

Yucca: go to the press and everyone who's test to go through it. And yeah.

Mark: and you know, they've got to develop the cover art, all those various things. I collected testimonial paragraphs. For people who read the, the advance copy, the, the advance proof you know, with their feedback on it so that they could print those on the back cover, all those sorts of things. I love the cover art.

You listening on the podcast, you will not be seeing it, but it's, it, it's really a very handsome book. I'm super pleased with it.

Yucca: Yeah. So, what was your favorite part? If you can choose one favorite out of all of this,

Mark: Favorite part. Oh boy. All right. I'm going to look at the

Yucca: or maybe two, maybe a couple of favorites.

And I suppose we should

Mark: you know,

Yucca: why, why you wanted to make this particular book, right? Because this is quite a different one than your previous works.

Mark: sure, sure. I think, you know, one of the things that I really that I really like about the book is at the very beginning where I talk about spirituality and why that's important. I go into the atheopagan principles there as an example of a value set that people can embrace. for their lives to be happier and more meaningful and more kind.

So those things I'm, I'm happy about. And also towards the end of the book, before the resource section when I talk about, you know, living the spiritual life engaging with the community and kind of beyond the ritual behavior building community and embodying the, the kind of practices that, and meanings that, that I talk about in the book.

So, you know, both of those I think are, are good sections. I, I like them. But of course I would because I wouldn't have submitted them if I didn't. So, your mileage may vary. I really and, and Yucca, you've read the book because you wrote the foreword.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So you may have your own opinions about these things.

But let me, let me read a little bit from the introduction. I'm going to do that.

Humans thrive when they feel meaning in their lives, joy in living, and connection in community. These days, those things don't just happen. They have to be cultivated. They have to be created. Too often in our modern world, we fill our time with busyness, acquisition of money or possessions. or pursuit of fleeting pleasures.

Those can provide a momentary sense of happiness, but they don't last. They're empty calories that soon wear off, which is why alienation and loneliness are so often cited as top concerns in polls about mental health. I've lived some of those struggles. I grew up in a hostile environment and have suffered chronic depression since grade school.

Thankfully, it's been in remission for 10 years with good medication and practices. This book is about finding more sustaining nourishment that brings deep contentedness with our lives. The celebration of moments, large and small, that help us to understand our lives as worthwhile and joyous, to feel connected with our fellow humans and creatures, to feel a worthy part of the magnificent universe of which we are a part.

A powerful means to these ends is to have a spiritual practice. Maybe that involves activities you perform daily, if that's what you like. Or maybe just a handful of times every year, but having them, practices and rituals that you bring, that bring you into the sense of meaning and connectedness, can mean all the difference between a rather hollow life and one overflowing with moments of joy.

Yucca: Beautiful. So that's right at the beginning, right? Right.

Mark: kind of what's, what's the point of this book and who's it for? and and I'm very clear in the book that this is This is, this is a book for anybody that's looking for the answers to those kinds of practical questions about how, how can my life feel better?

How can I feel more of a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging in life? And I provide examples from atheopaganism, but I'm very clear on multiple occasions in the book, you don't have to do this. You know, you can, you can use all the stuff about the crafting of rituals here to create something that's very, very different than what I have or what atheopagans are practicing.

So it's a, it's a more generalized book, I would say.

Yucca: Okay. So people could plug this into different kinds of traditions. They might be a member of another tradition that it's about the tools and resources, not, they don't have to necessarily buy into the non theism component of it or things like

Mark: Sure. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don't talk about theism particularly because that's not my thing but The various techniques, for example, like guided meditations and solo journeying kinds of internal meditations and the various phases of developing a ritual all of those things will work for anybody. I'm actually reading a really good book right now about ritual. called Ritual, How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living. That's a great complement to this book, I think. It's by a cultural anthropologist who's specialized in studying ritual throughout the world. And I'm only partway into it, but it provides a real, it and my first book provide a real sort of theory, anthropological underpinning to why the techniques in Round We Dance.

Are effective, and why we as humans are the ritual making species, and we're one of the ritual making species. There are a lot of others. And so, you know, we're built for this. Every culture on Earth has ritual practices. And we've lost a lot of that in modernity, and it's good for us to go back to some of it.

I don't think it's good for us to go back to it with a lot of supernatural belief around it. That's my personal take but having those kinds of meaningful practices, it just helps people. It helps them to, to live better.

Yucca: So is this a book that people could jump into with no background in the area? Could somebody give this to their sister or their cousin or something like that?

Mark: yes, yes. And, and that, that is definitely, was definitely at the forefront of my mind as I wrote it. It was not intended to be something where you had to read the atheopaganism book in order to get what's going on in Round We Dance. Which is why I've synopsized some of the material from the Atheopaganism book in Round We Dance, so that it's a standalone volume.

My motivation in writing it, other than simply to say to, you know, a much broader audience, Hey, you know, there's something here, there's something here that people are finding of value. You don't have to make that great irrational leap into the supernatural. in order to embrace this stuff in your life in a meaningful way.

Um, but also in my mind, there's sort of a, an amorphous idea of kind of an ecosystem of, of informational resources for atheopagans and non theist pagans and so forth. My first book is an example of that, as is this podcast, the Atheopaganism YouTube channel, my blog. The Atheopagan Society, all that kind of stuff and so part of that is kind of a list of books that I, I want to wish into existence for our community that can serve as resources for people and this was the next one on the list the and it incorporates a number of the Things that I think are really important, like it talks about death and dying and working with the dead and the dying and funereal rituals, as well as like naming rituals and passages into adulthood and all that kind of stuff.

And so, for example, we've mentioned a couple of times the idea of an Atheopagan Families book. And, you know, that I just think there's a real need for that book. It's just kind of hanging out there waiting to happen. And but this book was the next one. This, this was the the next one that I felt really needed to happen,

Yucca: Yeah. Well, that is really exciting that it is. Just around the corner. So it officially releases on the 8th of April, right? But it is available for pre order.

Mark: It is. If you go to the Llewellyn website, and we can put a link directly to the page in the show notes you can order it for pre order it's 19. 99. And you'll, you'll get it in the mail in April. Um, I,

Yucca: The moment it's just a physical book, right? There isn't an audio version. Okay.

Mark: That's right. And to be honest, I don't know that an audio version of this book would be all that useful because so much of it is instructions for craft projects and recipes and, you know, things like that. Where just reading it out loud, probably people are not going to get a lot out of it.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: I don't know, maybe. mean, the first Atheopaganism book had a bunch of that stuff too, and the audiobook is paired with a PDF of downloadable resources that go with the book. that's, that's a way to approach it. What else was I going to say? Oh, I'm, I'm working on organizing a book launch party in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

And I'm planning on doing that on the 13th of April, which is a Saturday.

Yucca: So that's the

Mark: I don't have a location. It's the week after it comes out. Yeah. And presumably Llewellyn can get me books by then. And I can sign books and sell books and do a reading and know, schmooze with people and talk about what the purpose of it is and all that good kind of stuff.

But I haven't found a location yet. I haven't really tried yet. So, watch my blog, atheopaganism. org

Yucca: something here on the podcast, too, when you know, right?

Mark: great. Great, good. It's it's funny, I've dropped into interviewee mode. So, oh, you'll do that. That's great. Thank you.

Yucca: Yes. No, we'll make sure to include that, along with the reminders about the Sun Tree Retreat, and other things that are coming up so very, very soon, because this year is slipping away already.

Mark: We are in the last month of the first quarter of the year. It's

Yucca: It's almost equinox.

Mark: over.

Yucca: Yeah. That's amazing.

Mark: is coming around. And as we record this isn't true in all places, but tonight, we're recording on Saturday, the the 9th. And tonight is when the clocks spring forward and everybody gets all cattywampus for

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: of days while they're adjusting to this completely unnecessary aberration in our plot.

Yucca: Which, by the way, does not change at the same time as Europe or Australia. They're all different, which is for when you, I teach a lot of classes online and it's just, this whole month is havoc because this, this country doesn't change and this country does, and it's at a different time, and it's, ugh. So, and then, in a few months we'll have to do it all again.

Mark: right,

Yucca: Because it's not like it's a nice even six months. So,

Mark: No, and I sure wish it was. I mean, one of the things that I appreciate about where I happen to be is that the The daylight savings change back in the autumn happens right on top of the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. So right at hallows time suddenly you're plunged into darkness.

And there's It's just kind of cool. You know, suddenly everything, it's like, welcome to the dark time of the year. Boom. There you are. It's dark. Not so much with spring.

Yucca: Spring is harder.

Mark: I wish that we were, it is.

Yucca: Oh, yeah.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: I'm sure people can remember every year I complain about this. I just want us to do away with it. I don't care which one we stick to. Let's just stick to one of the times and knock it off with the going back and forth. And I mean, as a kid, I appreciated the fallback, because for those A couple of days before your body got used to it, it felt like you got to sleep in a little extra before getting up in the cold and getting on the bus and everything, but now I'm just like, no, no, this is just too much of a hassle. Let's, let's all do, like, Arizona.

Mark: and it serves no practical purpose. It doesn't increase productivity. It doesn't It doesn't save energy. It doesn't do any of those things. The study on it is, is really assiduous and it does not do any of the things that it was proposed to do when it was first imposed.

Yucca: Yeah. But we've got the momentum of it, and changing that is, that's the tricky part, and I think it's hard for one state at a time to do it. I think it just needs to happen on the national level, and then,

Mark: Yeah. Well, there are a lot of states that have now passed laws, California is one of them that say that if the federal government changes it and gets rid of

Yucca: Then this is what time we will be.

Mark: Yes, we, we will go along with that. So, because states can independently change their mind about that. They can make their own time zone rules, which is one of the weird things about our system of government.

Yucca: Well, our, our state, every year we have a bill, it makes it pretty far through the legislature, and then it ends up getting blocked by the folks from CRUCIS, because and because they're so close to El Paso, they don't want to be Like, sometimes, like, yeah, they don't want the clocks to, yeah so,

Mark: politics is local.

Yucca: yep.

So, but yeah, I would rather we just stick with Arizona the whole time and then we'd be good. We could just be our little, our little friends.

Mark: one of the only ways in which I can think I want us to, like, be like Arizona, but other than the beautiful landscape, I mean,

Yucca: I was gonna mention, they have some amazing, yeah, that's a whole different conversation, but some amazing,

Mark: we've had our tangent, we've already had our tangent for the for

Yucca: I know, I thought we weren't because this was going to be an interview one, but we had it anyways. So, is there anything else that you'd like to let people know about the book, or

Mark: You know,

Yucca: coming up?


Mark: the book, or I closed the kind of narrative section before you get into the resources with a poem called Ecstasy, and I think I'm going to read that as kind of a close. Ecstasy, ever more open, arms flung wide, let the warm, wet wings of your chest be spread. Until barehearted there, only the longing of joy is with you.

The sweetness of life's unfolding generosity. They are all there, the great and tiny miracles daily given. A breath, a golden pebble, a scarlet cloud at sunset, the voice of the cosmos singing out to cold space, out to blackness and beginnings, all whirling and singing and spinning, sacred, ever changing. The glory of the world in your heart's red petals there, where first it placed a red kiss in your mother's womb, saying welcome. And that's, that's the life I invite people to share, to build for themselves.

Yucca: thank you. Thank you for putting all of the time and energy and love into writing this. So I'm really excited to see it come out to the world.

Mark: me too. Well, thank you for having me on. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Yucca: Yeah, thanks for joining us. We should do it again. All right. Well, I think next week will be equinox already.

Mark: Yeah. Yep. We'll be talking about the equinox. So, so onward it goes.

Yucca: On and on. All right. Well, thanks, Mark.

Mark: Thanks, everybody. See you next week.