Light. Paper sparking into flame. Every year at this time many Unitarian Universalist congregations hold a Fire Communion service. Using the neo-pagan ritual of writing on paper, then burning the paper to release the words, UUs use the light of our chalice to help us move into the new year. It’s a beautiful ceremony – using flash paper (available at magic stores) which bursts into flame and leaves no ash – the room is filled with brief explosions of light as each person steps forward to cast their paper into the flame. This service is typically held close to the new year and often focuses on letting go of past regrets and sorrows; I prefer to look forward, to focus on hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. I see the fire service as marking the transition into the upcoming season of creativity and beginnings.
The following is an excerpt from a fire communion service I led a few years ago which focused on dreams.
Although the calendar says it is a new year, the earth says otherwise. Here in Kitchener-Waterloo winter is just getting started. The cold and the snow have arrived. Frost is etching itself on windows, ice is sliding over sidewalks. Snow is piling up by the roadside. Winter solstice may have come and gone, leaving us with lengthening light, but it seems like now is the time to hunker down by our gas fireplaces and electronic hearths. Now is the time to dream away the long winter nights.
Imagine the days of our northern ancestors before electricity. In winter. Nights were long and bitterly cold. Dark. A well-insulated room and a good fire were essential. Evenings were spent huddled by the stove, telling stories, singing songs, dreaming and planning for the spring. People remembered the past and imagined their future. The warmth and coziness of the inside was heightened by the knowledge of the chill north wind outside. Those evening gatherings might be seen just as entertainment to pass time, or a way to build up family and community ties, but those long winter nights also helped shape and create the world. Actions spring from desires – from dreams. Gardens imagined in January are created in April. Journeys planned by the fire are revealed by suitcases and tickets. Time for reflection turns into time for action.
Our lives begin in our dreams. According the Australian Aborigines, the Dreamtime is where the world began. It was the beginning of knowledge, existence, of place. Through dreaming, the Ancestors created beings and shaped the land. The Ancestors made the sun, the moon, the stars. They made Humans, Animals, Birds and Fish. The earth is enveloped in the dreamtime. Dreaming, creating meaning in place and beings, is a spiritual responsibility. Culture is – in part – created by what we dream. When you dream something, you begin to take it upon yourself, creating it and shaping it. But you have to dream it first.
What dreams can we dream that enrich our spiritual lives?
What dreams might open us up to the greater whole? What dreams might lead us to do that which is right or noble or good or kind? What would be meaningful to you to consider in the coming months of the new year. What might enrich your inner life? Exploring the beauty of the world? Meeting with those lonely and alone? More kindness? Practicing whole-heartedness? Practicing light-heartedness?
Take a few moments to dream. And let these be dreams, not commitments to rush out and uphold, but dreams that settle into us, change our perspective little by little. The dreams of today may help us see the world in more wholeness, help us connect a little more gracefully as the year continues.
As we move forward into the
new year let us remember the warmth of our connections to other people and other beings. Let us draw strength from the dark depth of winter’s nights. Whatever path you chose to enrich your spirit, take the time this winter to dream yourself the way.