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Festival of Revelry

Mummers2Why in this tradition-filled meeting house, in a congregation originally gathered by Puritans (who almost certainly did not dance) are we dancing and reveling and reenacting ancient rituals originally designed to bring back the sun and ensure the rebirth of the natural world? We do it because it honors earth-centered traditions, which, as contemporary Unitarian Universalists, we cite as one of many sources of making meanings for ourselves. This service is holy because it revives ancient, sacred traditions. Listen carefully and you will see how these ancient stories have elements that we find in so many other religious stories about darkness and light, death and rebirth, stories with messages that point to an interconnected that includes all beings, including the spirits of beings who died long ago.

It is the time of year when darkness triumphs. The longest night. The shortest day. We stay awake in the night, dancing, singing, reveling to bring back the light, to call the sun from the womb of night. For so many ancient peoples, their relationship to nature was sacred. As they began to chronicle certain natural cycles, they also introduced certain rituals. They lit fires to lure back the sun. They dressed like animals hoping to secure these animals’ favor and bring good luck. They enacted skits where the hero magically comes back to life, just as the sun magically returns with light. They made noise and stomped and jumped to wake up the sun.

We revel here at First Parish because we have some talented adults and youth who are willing to share their passion for these sacred and folk traditions. The teamwork between our youth and adults and the sharing of the fruits of their work, builds and sustains our community. This service of revelry is holy because of the human bonds it creates.

To worship means to honor that which is of greatest worth. Recreating and reinterpreting ancient rituals in our community today binds us to the past and to one another now. We are weaving a living tradition that continuously ties us to the earth and to one another. This is holy. This is worship. There is something beautiful and strange in this music.  To hear it is to believe that Morris dancing was a sacred rite.