Posts filed under ‘Holidays’

Easter and UUism

One holiday that I’ve often wondered “How does that work in a UU context?” is Easter. I mean, at Christmas time we can talk about the birth of Jesus, and winter solstice traditions and such, and yes there are pagany springy trappings that go with Easter. But it seems much more unavoidably, traditionally theologically Christian, focused on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus,

I was told that one traditional Unitarian view of Easter was a focus on the “resurrection of community”.I guess in a seasonal context that could make sense, since in winter people tend to be more isolated and keep to themselves, while we come out and see our neighbors as spring rolls around. However, this was a theological idea from presumably a much warmer place, so my own interpretation wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense!

On this post here, it’s discussed that in some places, particular the southwestern U.S. Easter is combined with Flower Communion at U.U. churches. “Flower Communion was a ritual developed by Norbert Čapek as a ritual specifically for Unitarians.  He chose to celebrate the diversity of humanity through flowers as no two flowers are exactly alike.  The first Flower communion was held in June of 1923 in Prague just before the summer holidays. According to his wife, Maja Čapek, the ritual was to be more secular in its associations so as to be the most inclusive of all people, regardless of creed.   An important aspect that would grow over time as their neighboring country of Germany grew in power and intolerance of Jews and those of political differences grew deeper.  She stated in a letter[1] that conflating it with Easter would probably not have met Norbert’s approval and an alternative date to June could be to commemorate the last Sunday that he preached which was March 23 before being arrested and subsequently killed by the Nazis in Dachau concentration camp.  These meanings of diversity and acceptance found in the Flower Communion have nothing to do with Easter. I believe the two should be kept separate so that the fullness of each message can be contemplated.”

I completely agree that the two should be separate! Spring Equinox of course, may be celebrated in addition to Easter by U.U. Pagans and earthy humanists- Nowruz, the Persian New Year is also celebrated on the same day. Personally I find the themes of Passover- liberation from slavery and oppression- to be more relevant than Easter. And indeed I do celebrate Passover if one of my Jewish friends invites me to do so. But otherwise, it is not really my holiday. A couple years ago I went to Minicon, a science fiction convention that is held in the Twin Cities during Easter weekend. One of the coolest people I met there was an older Jewish lady from New York. She shared with me, an anecdote- a conversation she had with African-American friends. She told them- you folks need your own Passover! Once again, such a holiday wouldn’t be mine to create or celebrate. A while ago while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and watching all the inaccurate memes posted by my fellow Pagans, I thought about how disconnected St Pat’s is from actual Irish history. It seems like we celebrate Irishness in this rather shallow way without really contemplating what our ancestors (spiritual or physical) went through to get to this country. So maybe we also need an Irish-American equivalent of Passover. There are also various historical events we could be commemorating, such as the Easter Rising. Once again, I feel pretty darn ignorant about Irish history!

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April 4, 2015 at 2:49 am 2 comments

Spring Equinox- Gaelic Options

We don’t have evidence that Ye Olde Celts celebrated the spring equinox. But there are always options, if you do want to celebrate it, or a holiday near that time.

In Scottish folk tradition, Latha na Caillich (Day of the Old Woman) is observed on March 25th.  To be clear, there are multiple spirits referred to as an Cailleach in Scottish lore, and Cailleach Bheur shows up in Irish lore. So they should be referred to as nan Cailleachan, plural, or if you are familiar with one of them from a particular locality, be clear about which Lady you are calling on!

Scottish-

La na Caillich– essay on Tairis

Latha na Cailiche– Brian Walsh

Irish-

An Cailleach Bhearra– on Tairis blog, about her possible Irish connections to the spring equinox

Naomi J has also done a lot of research and devotional work with Baoi/an Cailleach Bhearra, the goddess of the Beara peninsula in Ireland. 30 Days of Deity Devotion posts.

Some polytheist alternatives to St. Patrick’s Day have been proposed-

Hero feast for Cu Chulainn– PSVL (pronounced cuh hull-linn) Look thru the Cu Chulainn tag for further ideas.

My personal idea is to honor the sovereignty goddesses Eriu, Banba and Fodla, specifically Eriu, for whom Eire is named.

Ruadhan, a Boetian polytheist of British & Irish descent, honors Britannia & Hibernia, the Roman national personifications of Britain and Ireland. Though they have been adopted by the natives and Hibernia is also various called Eriu, Kathleen ni Houlihan etc. He even wrote a myth explaining their origins.

In another post he notes: “One thing that I regret not posting about this year is my ritual and prayer for my re-envisioning of Shrove Tuesday as Pancake Feast of Britannia and St. Patrick’s Day as Bacon & Cabbage Feast of Hibernia.” I’m always interested in seeing creative polytheist alternatives to St. Patrick’s Day- or for that matter interesting spiritual takes on any secular holiday. (just yoinked that from my post on Tutelary Goddesses)

and here’s PSVL’s thoughts on Hibernia

Other people honor deities and spirits they associate with this time of year, if it’s more springy in your area, that might be Angus Mac Og and his swan-maiden lover, Caer Ibormeith.

March 6, 2015 at 6:35 am Leave a comment

Thomas Morton Day

So here’s my proposed Pagan “spin” on Thanksgiving- honor Thomas Morton, the renegade Puritan got fed up with all the rules of Plymouth colony and started his own- Merrymount, who made buddies with the Indians and erected a Maypole, and recited poetry about (or to!) Roman and Greek gods. I’m sure none of ya learned about him in grade school! Now in high school you may have read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story about these events. Somehow I got thru high school without reading much in the way of “The Canon” be it American or European. Obviously May Day is an even better time!

As with the Romantic Pan-worshippers, it’s a little hard to tell if Thomas was truly a pagan revivalist, or simply engaging in pagan cultural references for shock value. He was a liberal Christian, though heretical by Puritan standards (not that took much!) Still I think he is a worthy spiritual ancestor for American Pagans, and perhaps English ones as well. He was an advocate for indentured servants’ rights (or rather their freedom!) and argued that the Indians were indeed human beings, not savages as the Puritans viewed them. Morton was sent back to London for his heresies. He wrote New English Canaan, a book about his experiences in the colonies. The name “Canaan” makes me wonder if he also saw America as a “promised land” like the Puritans, or perhaps was he identifying with the polytheistic people of Canaan who were conquered by the Hebrews?

Ways to Celebrate-

*Raise a toast to Thomas Morton, his followers and Indian friends (he mentions enjoying Irish whiskey & scotch!)

*Read the poem and song (just wish we had the tune)

*Honor Gods/Spirits mentioned in the poem- Amphitrite, Neptune/Poseidon,  Triton, Cupid/Eros, Asclepius, Proteus (Dionysus- not directly mentioned, but these folks loved to drink!)

“A happy footnote to the history of Merry Mount/Merrymount (Morton spelled it both ways) is that the community at Mt. Wollaston (later renamed Braintree, then Quincy) continued to be associated with rebels and freethinkers for many years after Morton was forced out. In 1636, Anne Hutchinson and her husband William settled there upon arriving from England. (Anne was an “Antinomian” who asserted that God could speak directly to the individual through inspiration, and not through the Bible alone as the Puritans insisted.) Goody Cole, the Witch of Hampton, first settled there at the same time as the Hutchinsons. Later, John Hancock was born there, and the great-grandfather of John Quincy Adams owned the Mt. Wollaston farm in the early 1700s.”- from the Pagan Pilgrim article, below.

The Pagan Pilgrim: Thomas Morton of Merrymount

Making Sense of the Merrymount Debacle

November 26, 2014 at 11:56 pm 1 comment

Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism– in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out– doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Yule Advent Calendar- Ideas

In trying to put together a Yule Advent Calendar (and mentally block out all the commercial BS!) , I’m looking around at other folks’ practices. Beth like me, enjoys adapting medieval holidays to her own purposes.

Beth’s Yule Advent Calendar Part 1, Valfather’s Day & the Hunt

Beth starts her Yule season with Michaelmas (Sept 29) which she re-names Valfather’s Day, as St. Michael is identified with Woden. Michael is identified with Lugh in Gaelic tradition, and there are some Scottish traditions associated with it, so I will keep it as a Gaelic holiday. I also wouldn’t *think* of starting the Yule season til after Thanksgiving- heck, I insist on waiting til December. American capitalism would have the Christmas season start right after Labor Day!

Then of course there’s Winternights/Samhain,

then Martinmas & Einherjar (Veteran’s Day) on November 11th- Dver has a nice post about her celebration of Martinmas as well. Mariah the semi-pacifist who feels awkward on Vet’s Day likes this idea!

Part 4: December Madness- way more holidays! I’ve always wanted to do St. Lucia’s Day! Who cares if I’m not Swedish!

Old Norse Yule Celebration- Myth & Ritual– very interesting website was recommended by my rune teacher, Kari Tauring. Whoa! Lotta info there!  Yule was actually the name of the time between the Winter Solstice and the Jolablot- Winter Sacrifice on Jan. 12th.

Yule Series- Medieval traditions from Dec. 26-Jan 6th (1st 4 days).

Orkneyjar- Yule traditions from the Orkney Isles (Scottish-Norse blend) If I remember correctly, my friend Robert said he was interested in Orkney traditions.

Next I will paste these dates together and we all get to decide which ones we want to celebrate!

November 21, 2014 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

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

Wheel of the Year

As a follow-up to my Ancestor Calendar, here are some more resources for personalizing the wheel of the year.

Make Your Own Wheel of the Year by Caer (yay craft project!)

Moon names- I’ve always been fascinated by the moon names I see various Pagans use, but it drives me nuts not having a good source for which name came from which culture. Well, to start with here is a list of moon names from different Native American tribes. The writer cites some of his sources, and at least he’s an actual Indian and not from the Wannabe tribe!

Civic holidays and Local festivals- Sometimes we long for the city-wide celebrations of ancient Greece and Rome, when in fact we do have some of those celebrations. They may be secular, but pagan elements can be found within- look at the queen or princess of the county fair as a representative of the local sovereignty goddess, civic holidays often have hero and ancestor cultus attached to them, you can give an offering of wine to Dionysos before going to your city’s film festival. Most towns have at least one harvest festival- whether it honors corn, strawberries or whatever, honor the spirits of the harvest, and the spirits of the plant.

Saints days- are there local folk customs with suspiciously pagan undertones? Even if they aren’t actual survivals from Ye Olden Times, if it works, why not use it?

Pagan Book of Hours- Breviary of the Church of Asphodel– this polytheistic monastic order has a very well put together calendar- it is very multicultural, so people from many traditions could find ideas here! They use alternate month names: Anglo-Saxon, pseudo-Celtic Ogham trees, and Athenian, but line them up with the Gregorian calendar to make things easier.

Living in Season– Waverly Fitzgerald’s collection of info about holidays from around the world

Earth-Based Judaism- Jewish holidays have many interesting seasonal connections

Peel a Pom websites, Tel Shemesh

November 11, 2014 at 6:15 am 1 comment

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