The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPs) is a national Pagan group that is expanding across the country. Originally founded in 1985, there are currently over 70 chapters including the Sacred Bridges branch of central Iowa. Sacred Bridges has been an official group of CUUPS since 2013, but the unofficial roots of the branch go further back in time.
The Pagan religion is extremely fluid and diverse with respect to its interpretations of its practices, its lack of set rules or a book of worship, and the diversity of its honoring practice and other rituals. Still, several common themes are present in the Sacred Bridges branch, which identifies as an earth-centered spiritual group, where most of their practices revolve around nature and nature-related deities. Other common themes include the polytheism, in this case the worship of gods from Celtic, Egyptian, Greek, Norse, and Pagan roots, along with what is called The Devinei, which is a spirit that is in everyone and connects everyone. Along with many deities and The Devine, Pagans celebrate and practice the use of earthly energy and magic. The way one practices magic is completely up to the individual; many members of the Sacred Bridges group experience energy and magic through dreams, transformations, spells, symbols, food, candles, human contact, chanting, singing, and dancing. Lastly, one of the most important and universal principles of the Pagan community as a whole and within the Sacred Bridges group is to “do things that harm none.” This is encapsulated in their motto: “it shall harm none.” The Sacred Bridges group is centered around creating a safe, positive, and uplifting environment for its members to practice and for all those who interact with its members.
The Sacred Bridges CUUPs group typically meets every third Sunday of the month, for the monthly full moon, and for the Pagan Sabbats. Sabbats within the Pagan community can be explained using the Wheel of the Year, which is an eight-point star inside of a circle, with each point representing one of the eight Sabbat Holidays. The Sabbats consist of Changing-of-the-season celebrations (Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lammas), the Equinoxes (Ostara and Mabon), and the Solstices (Yule and Litha). Sacred Birdges also holds an annual Pagan Pride Earth Day celebration and a Pagan Education event.
Pagan groups do not typically have a designated leader that runs all of their gatherings. Rather, a different group of individuals volunteers to run each ritual. Pagans believe, and their practices reflect, that all of their members are equal.
When visiting any Pagan community and specifically the Sacred Bridges group, there is no set of rules to be followed. There is no dress code, book of worship, previous knowledge to be learned, or anything to come prepared with. All they ask is that you come with an open mind and heart. Many of the members in this community also consider themselves to be “closeted,” meaning they have not told everyone, perhaps anyone, about their practice. With this in mind, visitors are asked to respect the privacy of individual members by not taking photos without permission and not telling outsiders who was there.
By Natalie Wieker
- First Unitarian Church
- 1800 Bell Ave, Des Moines
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