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2011 Pagan and Wiccan Celebration Calendar

“The Wheel of the Year”

 

The Eight Wiccan and Pagan sabbats are ancient holidays that modern Witches and Pagans celebrate still today with feasting, ritual, magic and camaraderie. Each festival offers a captivating opportunity for the Wiccan magic spells and Pagan rituals best suited to the season. Many Wiccans and Pagans choose to begin the celebration of these holidays at sundown the day before the dates given below.

Wiccan and Pagan Sabbats and the Seasons

Each of these hallmarks of the Wheel of the Year has its own special feeling in large part due to the close association between Wicca and Paganism in the natural world and its seasons. For some it is found curious that the dates of the sabbats are reversed in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres however this is to show this close association between the Wiccan faith and the seasons. Some Wiccans and Pagans slightly alter the dates the Sabbat of Imbolc which marks the return of Spring, to show local seasonal variations.

The Sabbat of Imbolc

Imbolc is celebrated February 2, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere and August 1, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere. Imbolc is a time of renewal and celebration for the Wiccan and Pagan community. Celebrate the return of spring with these Imbolc Spells and Rituals.

The Sabbat of Ostara at the Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox’s Ostara, (Wiccan Easter), takes place March 20, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere, and September 23, 2011 in the South. Ostara is a time of growth symbolized by the Spring Hare.

The Sabbat of Beltane

May 1, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere and November 1, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere, Beltane is a festival of fertility symbolized by the union of the God and Goddess. Fires, socializing and being in nature are all fitting celebrations at this time.

The Sabbat of Litha at the Summer Solstice

Litha or the Summer Solstice falls on June 21, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere and December 22, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere. The Pagan and Wiccan Festival of Litha is an important point in the Wheel of the Year; a time for celebration of the abundance of summer, as well as time to prepare for the darkening to come.

The Sabbat of Lughnasadh or Lammas

Lughnasadh or Lammas falls on August 1, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere, and February 2, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere. The Celtic Festival of Lughnasadh or Lammas celebrates the fertility of the harvest while offering Wiccans and Pagans the opportunity to start change in their lives.

The Sabbat of Mabon at the Fall Equinox

The Autumn Equinox festival of Mabon is September 23, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere and March 20, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere. The Sabbat of Mabon is time of harmony marking the beginning of the turning within for inner spiritual work over the winter.

The Sabbat of Samhain

The day of Samhain is November 1, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere, and May 1, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere, however the Wiccan celebrations of Samhain often begin a sundown on the day before these dates. Samhain is a wonderful time for magic and ritual along the more familiar celebrations of Halloween.

The Sabbat of Yule at the Winter Solstice

The Sabbat of Yule falls on the Winter solstice on December 22, 2011 in the Northern Hemisphere, and on June 21, 2011 in the Southern Hemisphere. Wiccans choose what to take with them into the New Year, and what to leave behind at the evocative and magical festival of Yule, the Winter Solstice Wicca and Pagan Festival.

Together, Pagans and Wiccans collectively feel the inherent meaning associated with the sabbats. The interconnectedness with nature is celebrated by maintaining traditions and rites that date from centuries past.

 

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You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

Embracing the New ~ Imbolc

 

“An old error is always more popular than a new truth.” — German Proverb

The Wiccan celebration and ritual for Imbolc is fast approaching February 2nd. Imbolc brings the end of winter and of course a time of great change toward spring. Spring, even here in the desert southwest means new, rebirth, regeneration. I find that I often feel uncomfortable with the new because it causes me to reach out and expand my vision.  This may be painful and I don’t like the pain that comes with change.

My life at times is cozy and gives me a curious kind of comfort and reassurance.  When lonely or anxious or hopeless, I have at times turned toward unhealthy behaviors.  I am used to it and don’t need to do much to keep on going in the same old way.

Suddenly, I have seen the error of my ways.  Discovery, disgrace, legal issues, isolation, despair, the loss of a partner, the contempt of friends – all possible consequences of that cozy, complacent turn to my old behavior.  Yes, I may have awakened one day to find that my old behavior ruined my life!  This awareness has caused me to begin reaching out for the hard process of change.

Making difficult change is painful, but that pain is preferable to the agony caused by the inevitable outcome of unhealthy behaviors.


I am a Unitarian Universalist

 

Spirit of Life

“Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.”

Singing the Living Tradition Hymn #123

 

I consider myself to be a part of one of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations here in Phoenix, Arizona and plan to become more involved on a regular basis after I get settled in Tucson, Arizona when I move there this March. When I make mention to people inquiring what “church” I attend, and tell them I am a UU, the response is most often, “Oh yeah, sure; I’ve been to a Unity church before.”  Unity and Unitarian Universalism are not the same at all.

I was raised as a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and in 1979 when I came out to family, friends and my church community, it was made very clear that I was no longer welcome “In God’s house” by my minister.  Thus began a spiritual drought for me which lasted until 1984.  That is, until one of my employees and I became close; close enough to discuss religious affiliations and beliefs.  Upon sharing my experience with the Lutheran church, she said to me, “You need to check out one of the Unitarian Universalist churches.”  I did attend a UU congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Easter Sunday.  I was impressed by the sermon challenging the reality of the resurrection.  I have felt truly “at home” in any Unitarian Universalist Association congregation I have attended in the country.

The Unitarian Universalist Association


For many, it is helpful to understand that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a religious organization that combines two traditions: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. They consolidated into the UUA in 1961.

The UUA roots in North America go back to the independent, self-governing churches of colonial New England that made a covenant to help one another in times of need. In Europe, the UU heritage reaches back to religious and social reformers in England, Poland and Transylvania.

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to give a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion. Use of “Universe” is seen as a non-judgmental, inclusive term; respecting the choice everyone makes as to his/her higher power.

UU Principles

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in UU congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within UU congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to face powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires one’s ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Welcoming Congregation

As a gay man, one of the most important components of the UU congregation for me is the “Welcoming Congregation” program.  In 1987 the UUA established the Common Vision Planning Committee. This committee found many negative attitudes, deep prejudices, and profound ignorance about bisexual, gay, and lesbian people, which resulted in the exclusion of bisexual, gay, and lesbian people from their churches.  As a result, the Welcoming Congregation program was created to educate its members. Each congregation adapts the program to best meet its goals and each unique situation can bring positive changes to people and congregations.

The Welcoming Congregation Program is a completely volunteer program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. It consists of a series of workshops developed by the UUA. The goal of the workshops is to cut prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Some of the workshop titles include: How Homophobia Hurts Heterosexuals; Connections to Other Forms of Oppression; Gender Socialization and Homophobia; and Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Many congregations offer the workshop series several consecutive times as an adult religious education curriculum open to all members and friends. In some congregations the workshop series (and later the entire program) is sponsored by a Welcoming Congregation Task Force/Committee created for just this purpose, while other congregations sponsor the workshop series through their Interweave chapters.

What it means to be a Welcoming Congregation

Congregations who publicly and successfully welcome bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people have the following qualities:

Includes and address the needs of b/g/l/t persons at every level of congregational life—in worship, in programs, in social occasions, and in rites of passage—welcoming not only their presence, but the gifts and particularities of their lives as well.

Assumes the presence of b/g/l/t people and celebrates this diversity by having inclusive language and content in their worship.

Fully incorporates the experiences of b/g/l/t persons throughout all programs, including religious education.

Includes an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause in UU by-laws and other official documents affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.

Engages in outreach into the b/g/l/t community in its advertising and by actively supporting b/g/l/t affirmative groups.

Offers congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for b/g/l/t persons and for celebrations of…family definitions.

Celebrates the lives of all people and welcomes same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and equally affirms displays of caring and affections without regard to sexual orientation.

Seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create deeper trust and sharing.

Encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave.

Affirms and celebrates b/g/l/t issues and history during the church year.

Attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.

Speaks out when the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people are at stake.

Celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.

Confronting prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allows the exploration of their origins and offers an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge. Understanding prejudices leads to personal spiritual growth and congregational unity.

The Flaming Chalice


A flame within a chalice (a wide-lipped stemmed cup), like that which you can see at the top of this blog, is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith.  At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of the denomination. It unites its members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of their work.

Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II.   To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love.  Unitarian Universalists today have many different interpretations of the image. To many, the cup represents religious community, while the flame represents ideas including the sacrificial flame, the flame of the spirit, and more.

The flaming chalice image has changed many times over the past 65 years.  There is no single interpretation of today’s flaming chalice symbol.  Modern chalice designs often join two overlapping circles which, for many people, represent our Unitarian and Universalist heritages.  Other images include added elements, some of which are merely decorative and others which are very meaningful.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the chalice in UU congregations please visit http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/2442.shtml

Spiritual Life

I began this blog with my favorite UU hymn, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  It is UU Doxology, or perhaps the UU “Amazing Grace.” Many congregations sing it every Sunday, or at least enough to know the words by heart. Sermons have been devoted to this one song.

In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central to our faith—compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

 

For Every Person and Unhealed Relationship

 

 

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“For every person in your past with whom you feel unhealed but unable to go back and resolve, there is someone standing before you offering you the opportunity to practice the healing you believe you missed.” — Alan Cohen


A Solitary Journey: Following the Path to Spiritual Awakening

 

 

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Tao Te Ching

Working on one’s self is a process of becoming.  It is finding, knowing and accepting who we are.  It is having the willingness to fall flat on our asses, stumble around, and make some mistakes.  It is being in tune with the constant process of death and rebirth that is part of life’s rhythm.

Each of us has our own, internal timetable; the rhythm of our Spirit.  The process of discovering for ourselves just what that rhythm may sound like, or feel like and living according to its direction can bring to each of us untold serenity and joy.  Our knowledge, or awareness gained through our new understanding also shall bring to us energy, because we’re not fighting the current; no longer is life an uphill battle.  We’re not fighting ourselves, or reality.  Most times, are we not our own worst enemy?  To face who we are and to learn and grow from the experience is being created anew.  In the process, we discover our own truths.  Maybe that’s part of what a spiritual awakening is; seeing the truth in a new way.

Living according to the guidance of our Spirit and in harmony with our body, mind, and emotions is a solitary journey, but one that ultimately brings us close to other people and to life itself.