"We Are Made of Stardust"
Exuberant, Playful Processes and Rituals
(for adults and children)
including the "Cosmic Communion"

by Connie Barlow
revised November 2003



For a short children's program, you can easily tell the Stardust Story by holding up a glass of water. Do you like to drink water? What's another name for water? (H2O) What does the H mean? What does the O mean? Do these atoms live and die like plants and animals do? Where did they come from? [EXPLAIN] Because these atoms are immortal, this means that there are atoms in this glass of water, right now, that were once inside your favorite dinosaur!


For children or adults, you can have participants draw from a hat a slip of paper that designates them as one or another of the various elements. So you can call the hydrogen(s) forward to begin with, soon after the Great Radiance. Then the helium, and helium fusing inside sun-size stars. Then carbon in a newly formed Red Giant. Then oxygen and nitrogen in the biggest and oldest Red Giants. Then sodium through manganese. Technically, some of the intermediate elements within this sequence are created after heavier elements, but this is a complicating detail; it is easiest to just call them forth in sequence by atomic number (11 for sodium, 25 for manganese). Iron deserves special attention because it is the reason that a supernova explosion will then ensue, bringing forth all the heavier elements (including copper and gold). Choose a refrain to use after each element. Perhaps invite the child to come forward, glitter their hand or forehead and recite, "You are number [x]. You are [element name]. You were born inside a giant star who lived and died before our Sun was born." Then you can strike a chime, or have the newly anointed element strike the chime and return to their place in the circle. NOTE: Connie has performed this little ritual many times with children in Unitarian Universalist religious education settings.

An alternative way to run this ritual, especially for younger children who are learning numbers but can't yet read well, would be to pass out slips of paper with just the atomic numbers on them. That way they can anticipate their sequence. "Who is number 1? Well, that means you are hydrogen!" "Who is number 6? So! You are carbon, with 6 protons in your nucleus." Again, use the refrain, glitter, and chime sequence.

A tangible way for young kids to begin to envision how nuclear fusion transforms elements in stars by heat (and pressure) is to bring in some cookies to celebrate by eating, and to also bring in the ingredients to show what goes into making cookies (flour, sugar, eggs, butter, etc.) Celebration is eating the cookies!


There are various ways to culminate all these rituals.

A. "COSMIC COMMUNION" with glitter. You may wish to anoint participants with "stardust" GLITTER (give them the option to indicate they prefer to be glittered on the back of a hand rather than forehead). For large groups of adults, have them each come to the center and anoint themselves. For small groups, it is wonderful to pass around a small bowl of glitter and have each anoint the next in turn. We like to call this the COSMIC COMMUNION. A nice chant song is,

We are made of stardust
every single atom
of carbon and of oxygen, calcium and iron.


Note: carbon is signified by burnt toast, oxygen by a cloud, calcium by bone, iron by blood

Click to listen to an AUDIO CLIP of this song, in actual performance.

B. Multi-verse Stardust Song. Click to access a song with many 3-line verses that can be sung by having the audience repeat each line after the leader sings it.

C. Claiming Our True Cosmic Age. Another way to end is to have participants stand by age group, and thus signify (with bell or drum) that they are actually "13 billion and 8 years old", "13 billion and 9 years old" and so on. Make sure they grasp that because we are our bodies as well as our minds, we are truly as old as the oldest atoms (hydrogen) within us. If a longer time is available, have each child come forward one at a time and announce, "I'm Lisa, and I'm 13 billion and 7 years old," and then let them ring a bell or strike a drum. Possibly glitter them at that moment, too.

  • Click to go to "STARDUST BACKGROUND" for a helpful guide for teachers and ritual leaders to learn the exciting details as well as the broad outline of how the chemical elements were created in stars.

  • Click for instructions on locating BIRTHDAY & ANNIVERSARY STARS in the night sky.

  • Click to visit a more MEDITATIVE form of a stardust ritual for adults.

  • Click to return to Stardust MAIN PAGE.

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