Thursday, October 29, 2020

Celebrating Samhain


Want to explore the roots of where Halloween comes from?  Or maybe your ancestry goes back to Celtic tribes of Europe and you want to reclaim this heritage.  Here are some starting points. 

A simple explanation is that Samhain (pronounced SOW-in or SAAH-wen) means Summer’s End. It is the Celtic New Year and a time for commemorating and remembering our ancestors and Beloved Dead.  

Samhain Rituals – How to Celebrate Samhain

Samhain is typically celebrated by preparing a dinner to celebrate the harvest. The holiday is meant to be shared with those who have passed on as well as those still with us. Set a place at the table for those in the spiritual plane, providing an offering for them upon every serving throughout the meal. In addition to those who have passed, invite friends and family to enjoy the feast with you. Typical beverages include mulled wine, cider, and mead, and are to be shared with the Dead throughout the meal.  Read more, including 12 Samhain rituals here.  

For us, Samhain has three major traditions and lessons.      

~Beth Burch

  1. Honoring the Ancestors.
    • We will celebrate them. We will tell their history and stories. We will also cook family recipes or their favorite foods. Anything that keeps their memory alive.
  2. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is known as the Last Harvest.
    • At the end of summer, when the cold winds would start to blow in, farmer’s and herdsman would evaluate their herds and livestock and determine which were fit to last the winter and which weren’t. They would do a final gather of any crops and slaughter any of the herd that would not last.
    • We celebrate this by creating and preserving our own jerky and we celebrate this by ritually culling any negative habits or thoughts that no longer serve us or our higher purpose.
  3. The Witch’s New Year.
    • Also in most traditions, but specifically the Celtic one, Samhain is also known as the new year. The cycle of seasons comes to close and winter is the time for things to go dormant.
    • We celebrate this by not only culling what doesn’t serve us but to reflect on the last “planting” and “growing” season.
    • Did we accomplish our goals? What thoughts and habits grew that we’d like to cultivate and keep in the coming year? What is something new we can plant next year?


Make fairy or gnome houses!

They say the veil between the two worlds--that of the living and that of the spirit world, the world of the dead--is thinnest on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.  People would make offerings to the spirits or to fairies (sometimes called "fallen angels") to keep them from coming too close to do any harm.  Make these spirits happy with a beautiful home to stay in out in the woods or field or your yard during their visit!  

Songs for Samhain--sing along with these, or use shakers or drums for percussion to accompany them:

  • Samhain Night by Jenna Greene

    Jenna Greene is a singer, songwriter, and harpist based in the United States. Her "Samhain Night" song describes an all-night celebration of the harvest and the new year. Unlike the case in the first video in this article, the atmosphere during the night isn't ominous. The celebrants dance around the fire within a circle, honouring their love ones who have passed on. The narrator tells listeners to "study close the shadows, study close the flame" because "a voice from long ago may whisper your name". The use of a protective circle illustrates the idea that contacting an unseen world could attract dangerous beings as well as loved ones.

    Light the sacred fires, hold your lover tight

    Welcome now the spirits of Old Samhain Night

    — Jenna Greene in "Samhain Night"

UCM Youth Making an Impact


I want to give a shout out to our UU youth and how they work to engage in their communities and make the world a better place.  

Here's Oskar, sharing why he's excited to be a first-time voter.  Click here to play video.  He lit the chalice for our Oct. 25, 2020 worship service lifting up the sacred act of voting. 

And click here to watch Fiona as she advocates for the normalizing of people living with Crohn's disease.  If you watch, you'll see so many UU values coming so naturally... sharing pronouns in her introduction (3rd UU Principle: Acceptance of one another).   She assures that she will share HER truth, her experience, and will look up answers to questions she doesn't know the answer to, but that it shouldn't take the place of consulting medical experts.  That's the responsible part of the 4th UU principle: a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  

Way to go, UCM youth, shining your light to make our world a better place!  Both videos shared with special permission of youth and parents.  

Fire-by-Friction with middle school families - Oct. 18, 2020


Many thanks to the seven families who came out recently for an afternoon together to learn Fire-by-Friction.  In addition to learning a bit about fire making, our goals were to connect within our families while also connecting with other families, nature, and our UU identity / values. 


We began with a large circle and chalice lighting, followed by a game of camouflage.  We learned and practiced the hymn Spirit of Life using ASL signs to go with the words.  We didn't sing, due to COVID risks, but enjoyed signing along as the song played through a speaker.  All ages picked it up quickly and made it a magical embodied experience!  We'll try it again this Sunday in worship. 

Fire-by-friction is a great lesson for the value of communication, perseverance, trying new things, and supporting one another.  These are all things that families need to be skilled at during a pandemic as well!  Teams worked very hard together and it was exhausting work.  We practiced the hand drill method.  This was a form traditionally used by the Mewuk people indigenous to Central California where I used to teach outdoor education.  Part of this method means giving it all you have, and you have let others know when you need them to take over so you can rest. 

 We didn't have any group make an ember, but we did have some smoke, and used a leftover ember from the fire my family used to cook hot dogs at lunch.  The ember went into a nest of cattail fluff, with some birch bark shredded from a fallen birch nearby.  We then used the tinder we collectively gathered during our session.  Three sizes of dry sticks, just like the kids learn in the ECO lessons at school--"mouse tails," "chickadee sticks" and "beaver tails" or "beaver sticks!


Everyone got a red memory bead for their tree name tags at the end.  Red for the ember, and red for the love and divine spark that lives inside each of us!  We blew out our chalice with these closing words: "Be good to yourself, be excellent to others, and do everything with love."   

Natural Movement with baylen sky


Many thanks to UCM's baylen sky and the hearty crew of people who engaged in his offering of four sessions of Natural Movement during the four Wednesdays in October.  They met outside at the New Shelter in Hubbard Park.  Despite the chill in the air for most of the sessions, participants found it nourishing and grounding and were very appreciative of baylen's teaching and what one person called his "joy of being".  The appreciation was mutual, as seen by what baylen wrote participants: 

it's been a great pleasure practicing with many of you this past month. i've been teaching for over a decade now i guess (wow how time flies like an arrow!), and i mean it when i say that this group really impressed me with your ability to sink into the "flow" and follow along with very litte exception to the whole form, some of you with little tai chi experience! you should pat yourselves on the back" 

Participants in all in person events follow our current UCM COVID Guidelines for outdoor events: a sign-in sheet, practicing social distancing of 6' minimum and wearing a mask if closer than 10'.  (Masks used at parents' discretion for preK and younger.)

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Oct. 4, 2020: Youth Group, Outdoor Children's Chapel with Nature Art, and Service Project


Pumpkin Carving for the Enchanted Forest in Hubbard Park

Above: Six of our talented high school youth and their two advisors, Pat and Elizabeth, showed their artistic prowess with carving tools and pumpkins!  I will post pictures of the final products soon--I think the youth took some while I was setting up for the Children's Chapel...  They dedicated their time to help add enchantment to next weekend's annual celebration of fall for the community -- The Enchanted Forest!  See the pumpkins for yourself--information on Enchanted Forest and a link to buy tickets here.  

Outdoor Children's Chapel at the New Shelter in Hubbard Park ~ Andy Goldsworthy type Nature Art

Theme: Deep Listening

We gathered in family pods, took a nature walk where we gleaned inspiration from photographs of Andy Goldsworthy artwork clipped to the trees.  We then had a bout half an hour to get creative in our family pods, to create some art using materials we found in nature.  Gallery tour afterward to share our creations with one another!  

Summer Events

  Thank you for your interest in connecting this summer. Below you'll find more details! Cookout for UCM Families & LSE Volunteers ...