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The Use of Chalices in Religious Circles

From Wiccan ceremonies to acknowledging higher-ranking religious figures, the chalice was a favored object in a variety of religious circles. In this article, you will learn the role that it played in the following belief systems: Christianity, Wiccan, Unitarian Universalism, and Neo-Paganism.

Wicca

The chalice serves as a magical tool for Wiccans, which are often used in conjunction to the anthame , the black-handled knife used during some ceremonies. The knife represents the male principle, while the chalice serves as the feminine principle. When the two are combined, together they serve as the act of procreation. The chalice plays an important role in the Great Rite (a ritual symbolically linked to sexual intercourse) associated with Wiccan rituals, and is also used in the Small Rite.

Unitarian Universalism

At the start of worship services for the Unitarian Universalist churches, many congregations follow the practice of lighting a flame inside of a chalice. The flaming chalice is actually one of the most recognizable symbols of Unitarianism and Unitarian Universalism. It is on the official logo for the Unitarian Universalist Association (also known as the UUA). The inspiration for using this symbol came from the oil burning chalices associated with ancient Greek and Romans who placed this object on their altars.

Neo-Pagans

Some Neo-Pagans used their chalices during rituals, which would be placed on an altar or positioned on the ground. Users would pour liquids, such as whiskey, wine or water, into the chalice.

Eastern and Western Christianity

During early and medieval church days, chalices were handed to deacons when they became ordained. This practice took place during the service to signify his ministry. There are also early written records that describe the ordination of deaconesses as following the same practice. In Western Christianity, the deacon carried the chalice to the altar at the offertory. In Eastern sects, the priest carried the chalice and the deacon was responsible for the diskos. The chalice only held wine, water or a portion of the Host.

In Christian liturgical worship, the chalice is thought to be one of the most sacred vessels. Before it was used, the vessel was blessed. Certain churches followed different approaches to preparing the chalice. The Roman Catholic Church and some Anglo-Catholic churches would consecrate the chalice by anointing with chrism. A bishop or abbot could only perform this practice. The chalice could only be used in their own monastery.

In the Eastern Church circles, only a bishop could bless the chalice, while others could use a priest. Only an ordained member of the higher clergy (such as the bishop, priest or deacon) was allowed to touch the chalice. However, in the Russian Orthodox Church, a subdeacon was permitted to touch the holy vessel, but only if it was wrapped in a cloth.