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Songs and Stories of the Light and Dark

Jo-Anne Elder-Gomes, family and friends

In terms of the Medicine Wheel, the Winter Season in the universe and in our lives is in the North quadrant of the circle. Traditionally, its animal totems are the Sacred White Buffalo, who is to bring peace to this planet, if we humans learn to cooperate with each other and the Great White Owl. Its color is white or clear, and it's stone is quartz crystal, although the book, DANCING WITH THE SUN, mentions the rich blue sodalite stone, for calm courage and old knowledge; Peridot, for the balance and courage of renewal; and Herkimer Diamonds, the exquisitely clear crystals found only in upper New York State.

In human terms, it is symbolized by revered old age, which has brought wisdom, understanding, and closure...and the ability to pass knowledge onto the next group of people. It is the time when we come to the end of a project, of a season, or of this earthwalk, with true insight, love, and compassion, and with the ability to share this knowledge. It is an honored segment because it shows completion, hope in endings and yet-unknown beginnings, and courage in the face of universal mystery and closure. It represents the faith that is required to go into that darkness and mystery, before the spring brings new light and rebirth. It combines incredible joy and incredible sombreness It is a Sacred Direction and a Sacred Season.

Hanukkah is celebrated by Jewish peoples to remember the liberation of the temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees from Greek possession. It also is a remembrance of the miracle that occurred when the temple menorah was lit with only a small amount of oil, enough to last one day, but yet the menorah burned for 8 days. In the Jewish calendar, it is only a minor celebration, but it is the Jewish holiday most non-Jews know about. Hanukkah is an 8-day celebration. The major ritual of Hanukkah is the lighting of the candles, one each night after sundown until all eight are lit on the final night. The menorah is usually placed in a front window so people who pass by can see it, and also remember the miracle of the oil. When the family gathers, Hanukkah songs are sung, gifts are exchanged and games are played. Today, Hanukkah is celebrated as a time of dedication and renewal. It is a time of remembrance both of the ancient temple and the age-old struggle for religious freedom. Although there were many utensils in the temple, it is the menorah that is featured because it gave light. Thus, those who celebrate Hanukkah should also be a source of light in the world.

Let's be happy, let us cheer,
Hanukkah again is here.
All the lights are shining bright,
Isn't it a lovely sight?
You know these lights remind us
Of the time long, long ago,
When God caused one, tiny light,
for eight long days to shine so bright

Divali is a Hindu ceremony that is celebrated throughout India. It is held in honor of the goddesses Laksmi, Sarasvati and Kali. Divali is celebrated on the last day of the year. People in India dress in white and bright colors on Divali. Houses are painted with fresh white wash prior to the day, and completely cleaned on the day of the festival. Rituals are performed to banish Alaksmi, the goddess of bad fortune. People bang on pans and light candles or small oil lamps in every room of the house in order to scare her away. After dark, cities are lit up with fireworks and big bonfires. Darkness is banished from homes, but also hatred, jealousy, ego and enmity should be removed from our minds and hearts. On Divali, we should light the lamps of universal love, unity and companionship and strive to make the world happy, healthy and prosperous.

from the Koran of Muhammad

God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of his light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is enclosed in glass, the glass shining like a radiant star: a lamp lit from a blessed tree - an olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west - the oil whereof is so bright that it would well-nigh give light of itself even though fire had not touched it: light upon light.

BAHA'I PRAYER FOR PEACE Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.

Some of the celebration of the season is as old as all of human civilization. And some is as modern as our time. The people of African, tracing the longest lineage of the earth, have celebrated in their living a set of values that mark the very essence of what we now call civilized. But, interruptions of their culture have often separated them from those values. The power of fear, the greed of others, the oppression by others, the defilement by others, have robbed many of those values. To help people of African descent remember, and all people celebrate those values, the celebration of Kwanzaa was born in our own time. From the day after Christmas, for a week, families gather to light one more candle each night And think about central values: unity, cooperation, faith, collective responsibility, creativity, self-determination, and purpose.

According to tradition, Buddha became enlightened while sitting under a Bodhi tree meditating. One morning he saw the light of the morning star, and its light filled him and all at once he knew the truth and became Buddha. Buddhists mark the date on Bodhi Day or Rohatsu, which means December 8 in Japanese. In Tibetan Buddhism, light resides in each of us as pure energy and spirit. The Tibetans call this light Rigpa, which means ground luminosity. Our circle of quiet light represents this fundamental ground of our being.

The curious thing about fire... is you need it and you fear it at once. In winter we cry out for the sun, but half the time it's too hot, the butter melts, the cream sours, the earth crumbles and rises in dust. Sheila Watson, /The Double Hook/

Out of Tiamat, of he first generation of stars, came the spark of mind.

Mind was lurking in the first inkling of life.
Mind was what led to longing and strife.
Mind drove a fish to seek out the land.
That same mind later enticed Ant to dig into sand.
Then one day Mind made a very big turn.
It began talking, mind to mind, and it started to learn.
It wondered how the Universe had come into being.
So it invented science to explain all it was seeing.
It invented art and story and music galore.
Mind invented poetry and candles and very much more.

You and you and you and you and you
are children of the spark of mind and heart.
- from The Gift of Tiamat

In the beginning was the Great Radiance.
All light, all sound, all matter came into being
in a blinding flash that was the Great Radiance.
This was the birth of Space.
This was the birth of Time.
This was the Creation of the Universe.
- The Gift of Tiamat

The Mummers' Light Play in the service was adapted by Jo-Anne Elder-Gomes, and was based on several sources, especially /A Modern Mummer / by Rev. Maureen Killoran and distributed through a U*U religious education list, and the Thakeham Mummers' Play, which can be found at: I also borrowed a line or two from Great Big Sea.

The readings from The Gift of Tiamat, and several verses of Silent Night, Holy Night we sang during the Service, were adapted from the script /Gift of Tiamat: A Ritual for the Winter Holiday Season/, created by Connie Barlow in 1996. Available on: Read about The Great Story Project in /UU World/, online at