Suntree Atheopagan Retreat Afterglow

What an amazing retreat!  It goes by so quickly that looking back now is a blur – but so many moments jump out nonetheless!  At the start of the retreat I knew only a few people beyond their names and some online discussion, so being able to attach a real person to a name (or meet new people all together) helped me see how our community is growing.

Between the learnings in the workshops, the rituals, and the many times for discussion between them, I got to know so many fascinating people. Between the pressures of the overculture and the often supernatural focus of many other Pagan groups, it was common for some of us to never have been in a place with many others and felt relaxed in being fully open.  It was so refreshing to see that tension melt away, both in myself and in others.  Even with a burn ban in place (so we couldn’t have an outdoor wood fire), the use of a propane deck fire worked well, giving us the dancing yellow flames, still evoking the campfire flames of our Ancestors.  The bardic circle around the campfire brought out the creative power of our group, with offerings including poetry (both human and avian), stories, jokes and more.

Workshops on how to craft an evocative ritual, Pagan history, constructing a sacred Cosmala, crafting a spiritual meal, grounding/shielding, and so much more enriched our abilities while also benefiting from new insights from everyone.  The ritual of the Suntree both opened and closed the retreat.  Discussion and implementation of the workshop and other ideas  spilled over into the many unstructured times throughout the retreat.  Natural wonders also filled our senses, including a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains, the rock formations at the Garden of the Gods, and even a lunar eclipse which we were unbelievable fortunate to be able to experience as part of the retreat!  With the umbral eclipse starting near moonrise on Sunday night (and only a little while after we watched several deer cross the field), our festive discussions were suddenly hushed by the announcement that the lunar eclipse had started and was visible.

We poured outside the field, and there, through the branches of the many poderosa pines, the bright disk of the full moon already had a sizable chunk taken out of it!  As the lighted part of the moon shrank, soon howls of wonder arose, and were answered by similar far of howls!  Before long, the bright section of the moon shrank to nothing, leaving the deep red moon of the total lunar eclipse.  Looking at the red moon, knowing that one is seeing, right now, the red of all of the sunrises and sunsets on Earth, is an incredible rush, and experiencing that while surrounded by other Pagans is impossible to describe. 

Another awesome part of the retreat was the first every community recording of The Wonder podcast!  Here it is – you can listen as one after another attendee offers their thoughts, in the shadow of Pikes Peak!

And I also need to give a shout out to our atmosphere.  In addition to it’s normal gift of blocking UV light and giving breathable oxygen, our Atheopagan retreat also had perfect weather (especially for those of us sleeping in the yurts), with high temperatures in the upper 70’s, and glorious sunshine.  Just to show what a great gift this was, take a look at what the weather is this coming weekend at the same exact retreat center – highs in the 30’s, rain, wind, and 5 inches of snow!

There is so much more to describe (such as learning that Ponderosa pine constantly emit molecules which smell like butterscotch!) – but I’m sure I won’t be the only one offering reflections (and I can’t wait to hear those others – there were even reports of glowing lips being seen out in the darkness).  More are appearing on the Atheopaganism facebook page already!   Blessed be!


The Author: Jon Cleland Host

Starstuff, Contemplating: 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.

Jon Cleland Host

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, and the blog at  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.

See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.

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