Episode 39: Funeral Rituals for the Death of a Marriage

Rocky Road ritual with rose quartz and black stones

Most couples don’t get married expecting to get divorced. But when a marriage is dissolved, can ritual help the couple move on? 

As a Life-Cycle Celebrant, I believe rituals can help the couple navigate one of the most stressful events in a person’s life: divorce. 

You won’t find any legal advice here. Nor will you find professional counseling. Instead, you’ll find two rituals: 

  1.  Rocky Road — This is a marriage maintenance ritual. I created it to help couples avoid the inevitable potholes that, unless repaired, can create a chasm,  destroy the bridge, and lead to divorce. I’ll also tell you how one woman used the ritual to help her through a painful divorce. 
  1.  Untying the Knot — When the rocky road goes off the cliff and the couple decides to go their separate ways, this ritual is designed to help them discover the gifts in their relationship, no matter how brief or long the marriage lasted.  
Close up of a breaking rope on white

As a Life-Cycle Celebrant, I’ve officiated more than 150 weddings. There’s a moment in every ceremony, even the smallest of elopements, when the couple stands in front of me, hold hands, and listen as I ask the question. You know the one. It includes the words:  “…to honor and to respect, to love and to cherish, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, as long as you both shall live?”   

 

As my couples listen to those words, I imagine how hopeful they feel about the future. Sometimes, they get choked up. Sometimes, they giggle. Sometimes, a lip quivers or a tear falls. Sometimes, they eagerly say, “I do!” before I’ve completed the question. So, it’s sad when the marriage is dissolved. It means the dream died. 

 

Or does it? 

 

As heretical as this might sound, I don’t believe that all marriages are meant to last. 

Continue reading

Posted in Ceremony Ideas, Friendship, Funerals, Handfasting, Life in General, Marriage Equality, Ritual Recipes Podcast, Rituals, Wedding Vows, Weddings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gifts from the Ancestors: A Ritual for Samhain

Samhain ritual

This ritual was initially designed to be performed with a group. At the end of the ritual, I suggest ways it can be adapted as a virtual ritual.  

Prepare in advance:

Each person who plans to attend is told in advance to bring a photo of a deceased loved one and a stone the person considers special. 

If no photo is available, write the name of the loved one on a piece of paper. 

If the name of the ancestor isn’t known, write the qualities the ancestor might have possessed. It is not necessary to know your family tree. This ritual is to connect you with the spirit of your ancestors. What you don’t know, you can imagine.  Continue reading

Posted in Celtic, Ceremony Ideas, Cultural Traditions, Harvest season, Nature Based, Rituals, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 38 – Funerals for Pets

Old man talking to his dog while cat resting in his lap

 

The love people have for their pets can be seen on the calendar, from National Love Your Pet Day in February, to National Pet Day in September, to World Animal Day in October. So, what do we do when a beloved pet dies? How do we celebrate the life that gave unconditional love? 

 

STATS ON PET OWNERS

Every other year, the National Pet Owners Survey provides valuable information for pet owners and supporting industries. 

The 2020-2021 survey gathered approximately 15,000 responses, and covered dogs, cats, birds, small animals, reptiles, freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and horses and, for the first time, chickens. 

Here are a few of their findings: 

  • About 67 percent of households in the U.S. have at least one pet.
  • More than 63 million American households own at least one dog. 
  • More than 42 million American households own at least one cat. 
  • There are 94 million cats and 89 million dogs in American households. I’m guessing that’s because more households are likely to have multiple cats than multiple dogs,
  • As for the most abundant household pet… Can you guess?  Fish. The National Pet Owners Survey says there are nearly 160 million of them in glass bowls and tanks across the country.
  • And here’s the last statistic I want to share, again, from The National Pet Owners 2019 survey:  Americans spent more than $75 billion on their pets in 2019. That number includes food, supplies, medicines, veterinary care, live animal purchases and grooming and boarding. 

It’s clear. The love owners have for their pets is real.  And that’s what makes the death of a pet so hard. 

Continue reading

Posted in Ceremony Ideas, Friendship, Funerals, Life in General, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 37: Croning – A Ritual for a Woman of a Certain Age

 

Proud Crone

She's a woman of “a certain age.”  Our culture thinks those words are better than saying “she’s old.” Well, I am a woman of a certain age. I am certain of who I am,  certain of what I want, and certain of what I have to offer. I’m 72 and I’m a crone. I claimed that title in a ritual called croning. 

Last month, I spoke to the Women’s Mystical Collective in Austin, Texas — via Zoom.  One of the organizers, K, had found my website and podcast through an Internet search. She asked if I would speak to the group about rituals. 

It wasn’t until the night of my presentation that I learned that K’s Internet search was born of personal frustration.  She was looking for a ritual that honored one of the most dramatic changes in a woman’s life. Because of posts I had written about the triple Goddess known as Maiden, Mother, Crone, Google directed her to me.  

In the course of a lifetime, humans undergo various rites of passage. Some are dictated by culture or religion. Among them, a bar or bat mitzvah, a quinceanera, a confirmation. Some rites of passage are universal, such as  a wedding or the birth of a child. Each of those events involves at least one other person. In most cases, all of the events involve giving gifts. The giving of gifts is one of the ways society recognizes the significance of these events.

A croning ritual is different. 

For one thing, a woman can perform her own croning ritual, all by herself. Still, as with any rite of passage, it’s good to have family and friends  witness the transformation.  Continue reading

Posted in Ceremony Ideas, Cultural Traditions, Goddess, Life in General, Rituals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 36: Colored – A Black Lives Matter Ritual

 

At 9 years old, I didn’t care that my mother wasn’t funny like Lucille Ball, or that she didn’t wear circle skirts and twirl around the house like Loretta Young, or that she was no longer pretty like Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. I wanted my mother to be brave, like Annie Oakley. Not long after Rosa Parks sat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in the whites-only section, I found out how brave my mother really was — and that Black Lives Matter. 

Let me set the scene…

On the afternoon of Dec 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress in a local department store, got on a public bus and took a seat in the section reserved for white people. Her actions, her arrest, and the bus boycott that followed became a landmark event in the Civil Rights Movement. 

I was the oldest of three girls, living in the suburbs of Portsmouth, Virginia, with my parents and sisters, Laurie, age 6, and Eileen, age 3. My dad was in the Navy and my mother didn’t drive. When we needed groceries and my dad was at sea, one of the other Navy wives drove my mother to the commissary on the base. When we needed something from the “civilian” world, we walked to the end of our street and waited for the city bus that would take us downtown. It came by several times a day.  

We didn’t go downtown often, maybe once every other month, if that. When we did, it was an event. Getting everyone dressed and fed in time for the morning bus brought its own challenges. My mother often sent me ahead to flag down the bus. Not because she dawdled.  She simply couldn’t walk fast any more.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Episode 35 / Fairies: How I See Them. How You Can, Too.

 

On April 29, I received an email from Singapore. The writer said that people in her country don’t believe in fairies. She does. But when she talks about fairies, people think she’s crazy. She wanted to know “how to find, see, meet the fairies during Beltane.” 

I answered her from my heart. I doubt it was what she wanted to hear. 

To me, fairies are thought forms of good energy — helpful spirits — invisible and accessible. My belief was shaped in childhood. As a girl, I had a vivid imagination.  I remember when my dad planted a tree in our front yard. He said it was a Chinese Elm. I was certain that the roots went all the way to China, and that if I wanted to go there, all I had to do was dig under the tree.  I remember when a traveling photographer took my little sister's photo dressed in a cowboy outfit, sitting on the photographer's pony. He gave my sister a horseshoe. Later, when my father told my sister she could absolutely not have a pony, she planted the horseshoe under the elm, believing she could grow a pony. At the wise age of seven, I knew horses came from farms, not trees. But what if there was a horse farm in China?  

My dad planted two gardenia bushes by the front steps. On summer nights, when the gardenias were in full bloom, I would sit on the steps, snip off a green, waxy leaf, and use my fingernails to carve out a face. I was certain that there were spirits trapped in the leaves and that if I could give them a face, they would have a voice and be free. The hardest part to make was the mouth. I had to break the backbone of the leaf. The kids who lived in the house behind ours had an abusive father. Often, after being beaten, the girl who was my age would come looking for me. I got used to seeing the swelling, the burns, the bruises and belt welts. I showed her how to make a face in a gardenia leaf. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 34: Love Knots – A Nautical Wedding Ritual

Actual knots used in a wedding ritual for a couple who loves to sail.

Long ago, when sailors navigated by the stars, when seabirds carried the spirits of sailors lost at sea, and when everyone knew that the bust of a naked woman on the bow of a ship could calm rough waters, a sailor would carry a cord with three knots. Bound in each was the wind itself. 

As a writer, I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” After three historical romance novels, a novella, a play, and several print and online magazine articles, I’ve learned to recognize the fertile soil where ideas grow. Several years ago, when one of my couples, Chelsea and Bill, told me they loved sailing and that their ceremony would be held on the waterfront of the historic seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, I got an idea. 

Thanks to another project I’m working on, I have a small library of books on maritime lore. With a little research, I selected the knots I wanted to use in the wedding. I watched videos on YouTube to learn how to tie them. The first two were easy. The knot in the shape of a heart proved more challenging. 

I practiced with ribbon, clothesline rope, and shoelaces. Finally, with a rustic heart in hand, I went to Home Depot. I explained my situation to one of the clerks. He enlisted help from another. Together, they found the perfect rope — flexible with a white pearl finish appropriate for a wedding. 

On the day of the wedding, I met with the three people Chelsea and Bill had selected to participate in the ritual. I gave each a pre-fashioned knot and a card with a corresponding blessing for the bride and groom. 

Here’s how I introduced the ritual during the ceremony: 

Here in Mystic Seaport, the history and lore of sailing surrounds us. Knots are a big part of that world. We associate knots with sailors, but they aren’t the only people known for tying knots. Knots are a part of our lives, too. We tie ribbons in hair, cord on packages, and laces on shoes. Some knots are for utility, some for beauty. 

It was the same in the Old World, too. Back then, when a sailor put out to sea, he carried a knot he had tied on a windy day. Should he veer from the Tradewinds and get stuck on the doldrums without wind to fill his sails, he would untie the knot and free the wind.  Continue reading

Posted in Celtic, Ceremony Ideas, Handfasting, Life in General, Ritual Recipes Podcast, Rituals, Weddings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 33 |A Gathering of Ancestors

Collage of vintage wedding and family photos

On the wind, you dreamed

On the water, you traveled

On the land, you settled

On my family tree, you grew

Famines, fires and floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, wars, genocide, persecutions and plagues and more.  

Centuries of these catastrophes have left their marks all over the world. “Death counts” are estimated, declared, and recorded for posterity

What about the “life counts”?  That’s how I describe those who avoided, escaped, endured, somehow survived the catastrophes of their lifetime. These are the healthy, the strong, the resourceful, the resilient, the skilled, and of course, the lucky. Somewhere among them are your ancestors. Whether or not you know who sits on the branches of your family tree, they existed. You are the living proof.

Cultures the world over believe in the power of the ancestors to influence the lives of the living. So, in times of trouble — like now — it’s good to call on your ancestors for help. How? Through ritual. 

 

SEEING THE ANCESTORS 

It helps to know how some cultures “see” their ancestors. In many of the seasonal rituals I lead, I invite the spirits of the ancestors. Cultures all over the world recognize their ancestors. Some see them in:

  • Butterflies, especially the ghostly white ones
  • Massive old trees
  • Sacred mountains
  • Stones
  • Stars, especially those in the Milky Way
  • Plants that reseed themselves, such as corn and grain

Many cultures see white butterflies as ancestors.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 32 | “Imagine: For All the People” |a ritual for the pandemic

Listen to the podcast or watch the original interview with Mary Ann Handley on YouTube.

It's mid-March, 2020. The corona virus known as COVID 19 has been declared a pandemic. This post is not to provide information about the virus. I'm not qualified.  This post is to share information about the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, as told to me nearly two years ago in an interview on my show, Page 1.  

It was May, 2018. My guest was Mary Ann Handley, a retired history professor and retired state senator from Connecticut. A few days earlier, I had heard her speak at the Manchester Historical Society on the subject of the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, the third pandemic in world history. 

I was, and still am,  working on a novel that takes place during that time period. As a writer, I know that research can unearth the kind of details needed to make characters believable, plot plausible, setting vivid, and conflict compelling.  Because Page 1 is a show for writers, I framed the interview with them in mind. My idea was to explore the details from an event in history and find viable story seeds. 

One of the challenges around the flu of 1918 was that information was not as readily available as it is today. Because the news couldn't be disseminated with a tweet, preventing the spread of the virus proved impossible. We know now that people should have been self-quarantined. Instead, they gathered for parades and other large, public events.

Continue reading

Posted in Rituals | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keys: A Ritual for Weddings, First Looks, and Personal Talismans (Episode 31)

Couples getting married often use a key as a motif for their wedding. It makes sense. The mere presence of a key indicates something of value, a treasure worth protecting. That understanding is what inspired me to create a wedding ceremony ritual I call “The Key to My Heart.”

Throughout time, keys have protected physical items such as gold, silver, currency, crops. Keys have also been associated with knowledge and success, freedom and liberation, authority and power. Such associations have been around for centuries. For example, keys on a coat of arms indicate a lineage known for trust and loyalty.

Keys and Cultural Traditions

Cultures all over the world have stories about keys. In Ireland, many folktales feature magical keys that can open any door, especially doors to the fairy realm. That’s where mortals are known to go in search of health, wealth, and love.  Continue reading

Posted in Ceremony Ideas, Cultural Traditions, Goddess, Life in General, Ritual Recipes Podcast, Unity Rituals, Wedding Vows, Weddings | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment