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 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
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.
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.)
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.
Purchase or Paint Your Own
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
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.
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.
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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.