Oathing Stones for the First Look, the Wedding Ceremony and More

Layered, piled, buried, jutting up from the ground, stones weave the tapestry of the earth. They symbolize the old, the everlasting…the ancestors. What does it mean to make a oath on a stone connected to the realm of the departed? A lot!

Hearken back now to a time long ago when the land was always viewed as the home of the ancestors. Everyone knew that the spirits of loved ones who had died now guided and protected those still walking the earth. Everyone understood that physical survival in this world depended on spiritual connections to the Other World.

A full moon caught in the bare branches of a tree

A stone that came from the land bridged the worlds of here and beyond. To swear an oath with your hand on a sacred stone forged an invisible link to your ancestors. Break your oath and you break your connection. You risk survival in this world and the next. If your clan knew you’d broken your vow, their support would also be in jeopardy. At best, you’d be shunned. At worst, you’d be driven from the village. If you didn’t honor a commitment to your ancestors, how could you be trusted?

For those of us who do believe in an Other World, our ability to connect with our ancestors the way previous generations did has changed. That might be due, in some part, to the fact that we’re a mobile society. Our ancestors are like colorful bits of beach glass from every continent, shifting in a grand kaleidoscope. Few of us have a stone from the plot of land where we were born. Still fewer of us have set foot on the land of our ancestors. Still, we can feel a connection to them even if we know little or nothing about them. Just look at the ancestry.com commercials! We can still feel an emotional attachment to a place even if it’s not where we were born, even if it has no connection to our ancestors.

Oathing Stones In Weddings 

An oathing stone painted with a pink lotus flower

Couples getting married might feel a connection to the university campus where they met, to the vineyard where they had their first date, to the hiking trail where they had their first serious argument that revealed the importance of the relationship, to the beach where they got engaged. Layer the memories and, in time, a connection that began as physical becomes emotional and, for some, spiritual.  Connection. Commitment. Continuity. These qualities inspire and strengthen a couple’s wedding vows.

As a wedding officiant, I look for ways to bring those qualities into the ceremony. How?  Through ritual. Ritual: a visible act performed with invisible intent. In my experience, today’s couples are more open than ever to including creative rituals in their ceremony. Making their vows can take on added symbolism when made on an oathing stone. Plus, having a couple make their vows on an oathing stone is a beautiful way to enrich a nondenominational ceremony or add the “spiritual, not religious” feeling many of today’s “unchurched” couples seek.

Officiant Zita Christian holds oathing stone for Scotsman groom to make his vows

The Irishman holds the oathing stone while the Colonel makes his vows, Harkness Memorial Park, Waterford CT

The logistics are simple.  As the officiant, I hold the oathing stone so the guests can see it and I say a few words about its meaning. I can continue to hold the stone while the couple place their hands on it when they make their vows. Or, I might invite grandparents or parents to come up and hold the stone. Or the couple can take turns holding the stone for each other, or hold the stone together. However it’s done, I believe the stone will absorb the vibration of the couple’s love for each other and the love of all who have gathered with them. Infused with that love, the oathing stone becomes a literal touchstone for the marriage. Imagine the couple celebrating each anniversary by holding the stone and repeating their wedding vows or making new vows for the coming year.

The stone has all the markings of a treasured heirloom for generations to come. Imagine the oathing stone being used at the wedding of the couple’s children and their children and on and on. Imagine a family member building a box for the stone, or making a quilt in which to wrap the stone, or weaving a nest of willows so the stone can be displayed in the home. Imagine the stone on the table at Thanksgiving the first time the couple hosts the holiday.

 The First Look

In today’s weddings, couples often have what’s called “the first look.” That’s the term for the moment when the couple see each other for the first time on their wedding day, before the ceremony. The first look is just for the couple and their photographer. It’s meant to give them a moment to quiet their nerves, to share a private reflection on the rite of passage they’re about to go through.

The choreography is usually for one person to stand in position. The other person comes up from behind. The two people don’t see each other’s faces until one taps the other on the shoulder and he or she turns around.

As a ritualist, I’ve always thought the emotions in the “first look” could be deepened with a ritual. Imagine the groom holding an oathing stone. When the bride taps him on the shoulder, he turns to her holding the symbol of eternity, endurance, abundance, faithfulness, and trust. Imagine he has infused the stone with love. The bride places her hand on the stone, too. Later, when they make their vows during the ceremony, they do so holding the stone, or simply having it on a little table or altar in the ceremony space. Imagine it sitting on the table in front of them at the reception. (Please note, I used the words “bride” and “groom” only for ease of explanation. Love is love. That needs no explanation.)

Oathing stone inscribed with Celtic symbol “gra” meaning “love.”

What’s on the oathing stone?  That depends.  A few years ago, I officiated at the wedding of Ben and Joanna in the garden of the historic Webb Dean Barn in Old Wethersfield, Connecticut. Ben is a Scotsman, surname Douglas. To honor his Celtic heritage, I made a handfasting cord that combined the plum color Joanna wanted for the wedding and ribbon in Ben’s Douglas clan tartan. I also painted an oathing stone with the Celtic symbol, the ogham, for the word “gra” meaning love. The couple had family and friends who had flown over from England for the wedding. They appreciated seeing echoes of their heritage.

Tarot Cards and Outdoor Weddings

In Tarot cards, the suit of pentacles or coins represents the element of earth, the material world – mountains, trees, stones, the physical riches and abundance of the earth, all that stands the test of time, and the realm of the ancestors.

Of course, no one decorates like Mother Nature. Couples often say they want their ceremony outside to take advantage of the flowers, trees, soft sand, vivid sunsets, spectacular vistas of all kinds. I have a feeling there’s another reason, perhaps unknown to the couple. On the day a couple gets married, I think they want to connect with the vibration of the natural world. They want their marriage to enjoy prosperity, abundance and, above all, to stand the test of time.

Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t cooperate and the ceremony has to be moved indoors. When that’s the case, the couple can bring in the oathing stone used in their “first look,” or hold an oathing stone while they make their wedding vows. The vibration of abundance, prosperity, and all that stands the test of time can be right there in their hands.

Oathing stone painted with purple grapes for a vineyard wedding

Purchase or Paint Your Own

An oathing stone painted for Thomas and Raffaele who fell in love in Rome’s ancient garden of oranges

Working with my friend Carol Chaput, a fine artist by profession, I can offer oathing stones with a variety of symbols. Some stones depict grapes for a vineyard wedding, waves for a beach wedding, trees to acknowledge the blending of families, turtles to remind the couple that marriage is for the long haul, owls to call upon the wisdom within. There’s a stone painted with an orange blossom to commemorate the ancient garden in Rome where the couple fell in love. There’s a stone showing a lotus, the flower that develops its beauty only by growing through the mud. You can, of course, paint your own stone. But if you’d like to have, or give, a work of art, please stop by the MoonRiverRituals shop on Etsy.

 Ritual Recipes – a podcast full of practical magic to nourish your inner life

Logo for Ritual Recipes, a podcast full of practical magic to nourish your inner life

In Episode 4 of the podcast, I talk about oathing stones and ritual rocks. You’ll find a few examples from history of how stones were used to elect kings, rock babies, protect travelers, and more. You’ll also find how I use what I call my “ritual rocks” in daily rituals.

A little “ritual rock” for daily meditation

Rituals that connect us with the Earth can strengthen our connection to our communities, our families, ourselves. If you’re looking for a way to bring meaning to your life and to the lives of your family, I invite you to listen to Ritual Recipes. You’ll find it on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher, and in other podcast directories.

To be notified of new blog posts, new ritual items, new podcast episodes, community rituals and more, just sign up here on the website.

Thank you for being part of my community.

May you be open to receive the abundance of the Earth.

May the gifts you share with others be returned ten-fold.

May your days be filled with love everlasting.

Ashe!

 

 

 

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Drink Your Words ~ a simple ritual to quench your spirit

 

Water bottles labeled with words for the Drink Your Words ritual

“Words are but pictures of our thoughts.” So said England’s first poet laureate, John Dryden, back in the 1600s. His words inspired a simple ritual I created called “Drink Your Words.”  I’ve done this ritual in various forms for several years. It’s a good way to begin each day. It’s especially powerful at the beginning of an important activity, and at the beginning of a new year. In beginning a relationship, this simple ritual can prove both playful and revealing.

A little background first. Every December at the Winter Solstice, I choose three words for the coming year. Every single day in the new year, I give energy to those words. My goal is to absorb their essence, to draw their power into my marrow, so deeply that every bone feels the strength of the words. I don’t choose my words lightly. It takes weeks for me to decide. Continue reading

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A Holiday Dinner Ritual – Give These 4 Gifts from Your Heart

A dinner ritual – 4 Bowls of Abundance

The holiday season is known for both generosity and commercialism. As you gather around a dinner table with friends and family, here’s a simple ritual you can use to share gifts from the heart with those you love. Continue reading

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Want a meaningful way to celebrate the holiday season?

A wintry scene taken by my brother-in-love Len Lipp

It’s early-December. Here in the northern hemisphere, the days shrink as darkness, unstoppable since the Summer Solstice last June, relentlessly nibbles the light. This battle between night and day is as old as time. And things are about to change. Continue reading

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An Officiant’s View of Ceremony Music

Centuries ago, the word dream meant “to dream” as we know it. Spelled d-r-e-m-e-n, it also meant “to make music.” The music a couple chooses for their wedding ceremony doesn’t simply entertain or provide atmosphere. The music calls everyone present to dream.

Statue of a beloved pet

Having officiated at more than a hundred weddings and written more than a hundred love stories, I’ve been trusted with more than a hundred dreams. Sometimes a couple’s choice of music might never be considered by another couple and yet be perfect for the couple who chose it. I’m reminded of the bride who had lived through more than her share of hardship. She walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over.  Even without the lyrics, those who knew the music knew the bright future it symbolized for that bride. Continue reading

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FACING MY WORST WEDDING FEAR

This past weekend, I faced my worst wedding nightmare and it couldn’t have turned out better.

 

Entrance of the Mystic Arts Center in Mystic CT

On Friday, I ran the rehearsal for Sarah and Mike at the Mystic Arts Center. It went fine. On Saturday, I woke up sick. As the day passed and I got worse. Continue reading

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Imbolc, Brigid, and the Groundhog

Earlier this week, I celebrated the solar festival of Imbolc, the feast of the Goddess Brigid, at Meg’s Inspirations, a local spiritual boutique in Manchester, CT.

The altar for Imbolc and the Goddess Brigid

Imbolc is an old, old Celtic solar festival that celebrates the fulfillment of the promise made at the Winter Solstice. Light has returned. My Irish ancestors would have celebrated Imbolc with the Goddess Brigid, also known as Bride, or Breed, and eventually as St. Bridget. In Greek mythology, this is when the Goddess Persephone lights her lamp in the Underworld and begins her journey upward. She’ll arrive in the spring. In Scandinavian countries, the festival of lights features a girl who wears a crown of candles. The girl is known today as St. Lucy. In New England, the most recognized symbol of the season is the groundhog. Continue reading

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A Colorful Way to Tie the Knot

 In the December 19 issue of Brides magazine, Whitney C. Harris writes about  wedding trends for 2017.  Industry experts from around the country affirm the growing use of bright colors in wedding palettes. I concur!

 

As a wedding officiant, my focus is on the ceremony. In addition to the bridesmaids’ dresses, bouquets, tuxes and boutonnieres, and aisle décor, consider bringing color into the ceremony itself with a handfasting cord. Continue reading

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Laura, Colin, and the Popsicles: A Real Wedding in Connecticut

Recessional of Gatsby-themed wedding

Newlyweds Laura and Colin at Gatsby-themed wedding at Farmington Gardens in CT

A couple’s love story beats at the heart of their ceremony. Here’s a brief excerpt from the story I wrote for Laura and Colin… because every couple’s story is worth telling.

~ ~ ~

The very wise Dr. Seuss once wrote about being weird and how two people who are mutually weird can fall in love. So it was with Laura and Colin. Continue reading

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A Love Worth Waiting For

The Moon was in Capricorn when Leslie and Chuck got married. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, a planet that represents age, responsibilities, delayed satisfaction, the hard lessons of life and the satisfaction that comes from learning those lessons, the restricting season of winter and the faith that spring will come again.

 

Chuck and Leslie make their vows on both an oathing stone and the Bible that belonged to Chuck's father

Chuck and Leslie make their vows on both an oathing stone and the Bible that belonged to Chuck’s father

Leslie had been widowed for 19 years. Chuck had never married. Scarred by a business betrayal and devastating loss, he focused on rebuilding his business and spent years caring for his mother until she died. They wanted their ceremony to reflect their faith and the spiritual connection that brought them together. For Chuck, that meant taking his vows on the Bible that once belonged to his father.

 

The Winter Tree oathing stone symbolized the bride's enduring faith that after 19 years of widowhood, love would come again.

The Winter Tree oathing stone symbolized the bride’s enduring faith that after 19 years of widowhood, love would come again.

 

 

Leslie wanted to take her vows on an oathing stone inscribed with a winter tree, a symbolic echo of the Garden Goddess, the business she created many years earlier to help her survive her husband’s death. Continue reading

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