Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Is Big Ju-Ju Tabu for Unordained Celebrants?

Interesting discussion recently with some colleagues about"juju." No disrespect to people's beliefs intended - I first heard the word from an Anglican priest. He meant, of course, the power and authority wielded, for believers, by ordained ministers of faith.

Some of us unordained ones will happily lead a prayer and sing a hymn, but most of us without one of these:

will stop short of a full-blown blessing or prayer in the deity's name, i.e. "In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I..."etc. That's big ju-ju. That's for the Cloth. Isn't it?

And yet some of us, without getting too spooky, do report a feeling of authority, a special responsibility and resonance, which comes from speaking about the Big Things of Life and Death, whether or not we are in an area of discourse referring to religious belief (such as a hymn or a prayer). 

We have, perhaps, at some moments and if we are any good, a degree of hieratic function - that stops short, of course, of the power a priest has amongst those who believe in her faith. 

But if we can't summon up at least a degree of authority - which comes only from doing the job well - then are we any good? 

And how are we to work any ju-ju at all amongst people who have no religious belief, even if they will open their mouths just a little bit to sort of sing TLMS, if we can't find a semi- (?pseudo?) hieratic function?

This is nothing to do, BTW, with taking control away from the family and Doing Your Big-Shot Own Thing. (The sort of role assumption, happily less common than it was, that caused a lot of people to choose an Unordained Celebrant rather than a priest.)

Let me sum up: I think a funeral needs to be a transformative ceremony, even if it isn't, or is only in a small way, a religious ritual. To make it such, something special, apart, powerful, needs to happen, when possible. This may or may not involve words from a religious tradition, or indeed a new faith such as Paganism.

How far into religious form and usage should an unordained celebrant go? 
1) No ju-ju
2) Little ju-ju
3) Big ju-ju, provided the celebrant is authentic in her role at that moment

And: can any of us create juju without any religious form and usage?

Or is it futile to try - is Ju-ju Tabu, unless you are



Dammit, I can't work my pictorial way round all the world's faith systems, I'm sure you get my point, so this is the last one:


There may be no simple answer, but despite my flippant manner, ha ha, I think it's a pretty important area, because it raises yet again the question: what is a funeral for, and how does it do its work? If we haven't thought about juju, I submit the idea to you, in all arrogance, that we don't really know how "do" a funeral, or what it is for.


  1. Celebrants (or anyone creating and holding sanctified space) would, I hope, open themselves to mid to big juju - if by juju you mean a connection to the Divine, in a form in which the group in front of you understands. I take my guidance from the people I am serving on that unique occasion. If there is a religious request, I ask that someone in the family or group say that prayer or take that action, and I am open to doing it if appropriate. As the Celebrant, I invite the group (silently, by my intent, and also with words if appropriate) to allow their hearts to open to connect with each other and what is sacred in this time/space - and believe my greatest value is in creating a container and holding it throughout the ceremony for their connections to safely grow. That is juju, no matter what I am wearing. Love/God/Divinity is in us all, whatever name you give to Her.

  2. What an interesting comment, thanks Kateyanne. It seems to me to be based on your final belief statement - what interests me is, given the variety of non/belief in our audiences/congregations, the ways in which we do or don't, can or can't expect to work any juju. Some of the people in front of me may understand a need to connect with something Divine, others may not. How do we see our function in this context?

    I guess I'm not expecting any final answers here, it's something we all need to keep re-working, perhaps - but the views of different celebrants on this are interesting, valuable.