A single, recognizable symbol for an idea, movement or spiritual path is important – both because it is a quick way to convey a lot of information, as well as because it helps group cohesion form.
Of course, symbols, like most forms of communication, have good and bad points. But that doesn’t change the need for symbols. Just last week we saw the symbol for the Reformed Paganism movement – a bold symbol which incorporates the traditional star of the pentagram as well as the 15 points of Reformed Paganism.
Imbuing ancient aspects with additional meaning is a powerful and often helpful way to add wings to ancient ideas while retaining and honoring the roots of our thoughts and actions. Reformed Paganism includes a pentagram as the main part of their symbol. The pentagram is a very ancient symbol, going back many thousands of years, to ancient Sumer, as well as Pythagoras (the Hugieia Pentagram) and many others. So it’s not a surprise that the pentagram has been used as part of a wide range of belief systems, appearing throughout human culture. Here is one example, from around 500 years ago (by Heinrich Agrippa). For me, one of the most fascinating pentagrams is the Pentagram of Venus – a pentagram traced out by Venus’ orbit (from a geocentric view), which has been recognized by humans for at least many centuries, and knowing how well our Ancestors watched the night sky, probably much longer.
The new Atheopagan symbol also imbues ancient symbols with additional meaning. Made by Linden Weaver and Rua Lupa (Rua Lupa also made the wonderful images for our NaturalPagans blog central site – check it out if you aren’t already relying on it as a nearly daily blog source), through multiple rounds of consideration and voting by the whole Atheopagan community. The tree is a symbol of so much in both our past as well as in modern society. There are too many to go over here. Many are related to the basic “tree of life” concept, which appears in ancient human cultures across the globe, such as the Assyrian tree of life, the prominence of Nookomis Giizhig (in my own Anishinaabe stories), the ancient Chinese Fusang, the Norse tree Yggdrasil, and many more. Even Darwin mentioned life as a tree in On the Origin of Species, which is probably the most important book of the past couple centuries.
Our closest star, the Sun, is another deeply spiritual symbol which is centrally important in so many different spiritualities, again spanning the continents and reaching back many thousands of years. Our own Wheel of the Year is based on the apparent “motion” of our Sun, which our Ancient Ancestors saw as literal movement observed from a flat, stationary Earth. It is this immense sphere of fusing hydrogen which literally makes our world possible – a scientific fact realized by humans probably for longer than we have been Homo sapiens. We could exist without pentacles or even without trees (some other plant form could have evolved), but without a star, we are a frozen, lost speck drifting in space, devoid of thought and certainly devoid of life. I can see why Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, Ancestor of us all*) led a religious reform to elevate the Sun as the one true god, removing all the other gods from the Egyptian pantheon.
The new Atheopagan symbol combines our incredible Sun with a tree (representing life itself, the whole biosphere), with the 8 rays of the Sun matching nicely with our Wheel of the Year, and the combined rays and branches adding up to 13, which is both the number of Atheopagan Principles as well as the (rounded) number of full moons in a year.
Perhaps best of all, Mark has made it easy to bring this symbol into your own life, with these items on Zazzle (I’ve ordered mine!). He’s also working (with one arm) to provide a physical disc of this symbol for your own home altar or Focus. It’s great to see growth such as this.
*Akhenaten had over a half dozen kids that we know about, and probably more. Being wealthy & powerful, it’s very likely that most of these kids had many successful kids. So it’s extremely likely that at least some of those grandkids had kids, and being that this was several thousand years ago, simple math shows that nearly all Europeans, North and South Americans, many Africans, and many Asians are very likely descendants of Akhenaten.
Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host
We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.
Heather is a parent and a scientist raising her four children to explore the world through scientific understanding and with spiritual appreciation of the Universe. She has a Master of Science degree in Physics from Michigan State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in English Literature, also from the University of Michigan. She teaches physics as an adjunct instructor at Delta College, runs the Math Mania program at a local elementary school, has worked at Dow Corning as an engineer and at NASA as an intern, and she has led science outreach workshops for K-12 students through joint programs between NASA and the University of Michigan. She is a naturalistic non-theist, whose faith has been shaped by her childhood within the Episcopal Church, her adult membership in the Unitarian Universalist church, and through Buddhist meditation. She has a passion for bringing science and spirituality to everyone in a fun way, both for her own family and for the wider community of the Earth. She is a co-author with Jon Cleland-Host of Elemental Birthdays: How to Bring Science into Every Party.
See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.
See all of Dr. Jon Cleland Host’s posts.
Thanks for this article, Jon!
I’d also like to make the point that this symbol was created by and selected by the Atheopagan community, through multiple rounds of consideration and voting. It was a very successful community process with broad participation.
Thanks for mentioning that. I’ve added a line about that now. Sorry to make you type a comment one handed. – JCH
The symbol is beautiful! An excellent choice. I also like the font 🙂
THank you! I picked the font myself, seeking something that is clear, timeless, but also with a bit of “naturishness”.
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