Archive for November 13, 2014

Considering Chalica

Yes, I spelled that right- Chalica (chal-ick-a)

It’s a new(ish) winter holiday (2005) honoring the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and our symbol, the Flaming Chalice. It was started by a group of young adult UUs who wanted our own winter holiday. Groups or individuals light a chalice (or candles from a central chalice) each day for a week (starting the first Monday of December) for each principle, discuss the principle and take an action related to it. The last part isn’t always included, but I saw the idea in one of the articles and thought it was a good one. Another unique winter holiday is IllUUmination, celebrated by the UU church of Little Rock, Arkansas since 1994.

OK, I admit the first time I heard of it I thought it sounded really silly and contrived. There are some criticisms that it’s a rip-off of Hannukah, especially with the rough similarity of the name, but if you’re going to go that route, accuse Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa first. Kwanzaa bears more of a resemblance to Chalica, with its focus on a different set of seven principles, the Nguzo Saba. Some UU congregations do observe Kwanzaa, particularly if they have more African-American members. However given how white our congregations tend to be, and the simple fact that few African-Americans grow up celebrating Kwanzaa, I don’t think it’s that common among UUs. Many Jewish UUs celebrate Hannukah, and Pagans and atheists/humanists celebrate the Winter or Summer Solstice with mythic or scientific slants as they prefer. I’ve also heard of Humanlight, a specifically Humanist* holiday, celebrated on December 23rd. Seriously, that name is worse than Chalica! Most atheist & humanist groups that I’m aware of stick with the solstice.

And yes, a lot of us still celebrate Christmas! It’s just as much are holiday as it is for all the “proper” Christians. Heck, it was a Unitarian, Charles Dickens who single-handedly re-invented the holiday for the English-speaking world with his book, A Christmas Carol. Before that, it was like 12 days of Mardi Gras, and the Puritans banned it both in Britain and the American colonies when they ran things! Dickens re-oriented it towards family and charity for the poor. My church, Unity Unitarian is waaay into Christmas, we even have an extra hymnal for carols that the UUA took out of the official hymnal ‘cuz they were too old-school! We even have a traditional pageant, with Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels. I haven’t been to it yet.

Come to think of it, I wonder if it would be better for Chalica to be celebrated at a different time of year with less holidays. Christmas, Winter/Summer Solstice, Hannukah and Kwanzaa are all valid holidays for UUs to celebrate. Our calendar is already so lop-sided, and we only have two other uniquely UU celebrations of Flower & Water Communion. I think we could in general use some more liturgical “oomph” for both of these.

*Trust me, there’s a difference between capital H ones and lowercase ones.

References & Resources:

UU World– Chalica

The Examiner- Chalica

Chalica Info

The Chalica song (if it has a song, then it’s a real holiday!)

A better Chalica song (amazing how he fits in those long-winded principles!)

Why Do We (UUs) Have So Many Winter Holidays? Sermon by Rev. Amy Zucker Morganstern

The ghosts of Unitarian Christmas

How to celebrate Humanlight

November 13, 2014 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Transgender Rite of Ancestor Elevation

Reposted from here– Some people have been having trouble reading with the background, (not sure if there are any accessibility probs for people using screenreaders?) Not sure if I am participating (guess I better make up my mind quick though!) Regardless, I do plan on going to a Transgender Remembrance Day event on the 20th, I’m sure there are probably some at the area’s rainbow flag waving churches.

“This is a ritual to honor the transgender dead.

Ancestor elevation, in the words of polytheist scholar and ancestor worker Galina Krasskova, “is a sacred practice that is done to help the soul of a dead family member who was troubled or angry or depressed in life, perhaps doing harmful things to themselves or others, perhaps never able to live a happy life due to their own inner demons…. In doing an elevation for a particular ancestor, we are engaging in ancestral healing, in cleansing a tiny bit of mess, blockage, pain, strain, hurt from that particular line.” [1, p. 50]  We have adapted her suggested ancestor elevation ritual format to elevate our transgender ancestors, those who came with us and before us, those who survived struggles and violence and hardships, as well as those who didn’t survive them. There is incredible pain and rage in the ranks of the transgender dead – we the living can understand it all too well. We seek to help relieve the suffering that persists after death, and to offer back to those who gave so much so that we could simply exist today. We elevate our ancestors out of the miasma that clings to them. We hope to bring them healing and peace.

The format of the ritual is as follows: for nine consecutive days, beginning on November 12 and concluding on the Trans Day of Remembrance, participants will set out a candle and a glass of clean drinking water on an ancestor altar, and then read a series of prayers offered to the dead. That, plus the physical raising of the altar itself to counterpoint the spiritual raising of our ancestors, is the basic framework within which we will be working.

In subsequent posts, we will discuss the altar itself, a more specific step-by-step ritual format, and the prayers that we will be using. Follow this blog for updates as the date of the rite approaches.
Thank you for joining us in honoring our beloved transgender dead. ”

[1] Krasskova, Galina. Honoring the Ancestors: A Basic Guide. Sanngetall Press, 2014.

November 13, 2014 at 4:03 am 1 comment


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