The Fire & The Chalice

So at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando, our services start and end with the lighting and extinguishing of the Flaming Chalice

In the light of truth, and in the warmth of love, we gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.

and

We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.  These we keep in our hearts until we are together again.

I find something powerful and moving and evocative within this simple act of gathering together with others in celebration and observance and sharing our religious and spiritual seeking.

The Mystic Grove, the Pagan group at F.U.C.O., has a round-robin/volunteer approach to ritual leadership.  Our Lammas was a Khemetic (Egyptian Polytheist) ritual.  I’m not sure how much was Ancient Egyptian ritual structure and how much was Neo-Pagan.  There were definitely elements of the ritual that were reminiscent of the Neo-Pagan/Witchcraft ritual structure that I am so familiar with…. (note to self research Egyptian rituals!)

Anyhow, it was a wonderful ritual (and evening), it has just gotten me thinking.  The experience of that ritual has me contemplating Witchcraft and Hellenic Polytheistic riutals in a U.U. Context.  It seems to me that it is important, if one is to craft a ritual as a Pagan U.U., to integrate elements from both traditions into ones ritual.  It is also important to be able to clearly identify what element of ritual comes from where…

It was in reading up on Hellenic Polytheism and ritual and the Noumenia, that I started really examining Hestia’s place in things, and this has started me thinking about the nature of Sacred fires and fire as a spiritual and philosophical and religious metaphor… bear with me….

“HESTIA was the virgin goddess of the hearth (both private and municipal) and the home. As the goddess of the family hearth she also presided over the cooking of bread and the preparation of the family meal. Hestia was also the goddess of the sacrificial flame and received a share of every sacrifice to the gods. The cooking of the communal feast of sacrificial meat was naturally a part of her domain.” ~ from Her entry at Theoi.com

You can also read of Her here, here, here, and here…

If you read of Hestia, you learn She is known as The First and Last, and that rituals include offerings unto Her before and at the end of the other offerings.  Many sources will tell us that this relates to how Hestia was the Firstborn of Cronus and Rhea, and the Last of the Gods and Goddesses vomited forth before he is dethroned by Zeus.

I think it goes deeper…

The altar fires at the Temples of the God’s, upon which Their offerings were made, were kindled from the municipal hearth; which by the nature of the hearth in ancient Greek society was an sacred place for Hestia.  It’s not just that Hestia is the Goddess of the Hearth and the Altar, She IS the fire, the sacred, mysterious, life giving and light bringing fire!  She was honored with the first and last offerings in Sacrifices.  For it was only through HER, and Her presence AS fire, that proper offerings could be made!

She isn’t just the fire that cooks, She is the Fire that lights the world, the light of which we learn to read, the fires of inspiration…..She is, and partakes of, all the things that Fire is and can be…

In U.U. (at least at F.U.C.O) and in Hellenic Polytheism we begin and end with fire.  Remembering, Rekindling, and committing to Remember the essentials…

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6 thoughts on “The Fire & The Chalice

  1. I read somewhere that there were no temples dedicated specifically to Hestia in ancient Greece. But this was not a sign that she was unimportant or disregarded. It was in fact a sign of her centrality to spirituality. No separate temples were necessary for Hestia because every temple was sacred to her — she was present in the sacred fire found in every temple and so every rite and ritual also honoured her. Your post captures this centrality perfectly!

    • She is/was also worshiped primarily in the home. Every hearth was as an altar unto Her! She is truly a much more influential and important Goddess than we contemporary folks might first think!

    • I hadn’t seen the article, just read it and am going to be re-reading it and using as a jumping off point for some research soon!

      I have yet to actually get involved with a CUUPs group myself, the Church I go to has a Pagan affinity group, but not a CUUP’s chapter… but I think/feel/have an urge that it is important for me to first immerse myself in the U.U. before exploring CUUPs…

  2. Fair enough. I recommend reading about the Transcendentalists. Also if you want a good overview of Unitarianism & UUism, Chryssides’ Elements of Unitarianism is good. And I haven’t got round to it yet, but Vernon Marshall’s The Larger View sounds good as well.

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