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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Episode 30 ~ Maiden, Mother, Crone (updated)

podcast graphic episode 30

Every Maiden isn't young. Every Mother doesn't have a child. Every Crone isn't old. what distinguishes them is not age, but energy.

Beginning in 1996 and nearly every summer for the next 20 years, I spent a week with hundreds of women writers from all over the world. The gathering is the annual conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild.  They ranged in age from teens to 90s! It wasn’t uncommon for mothers to bring their daughters. One year, we had four generations from one family, though one generation was still in utero.  

For at least seven years, I designed the closing ritual for the conference. In 2008, I wanted the ritual to honor the many Maidens, Mothers, and Crones who had come to share the stories they had written and the stories they had lived. In fact, for some of the women, reading their work out loud at that conference was the first time they had shared their voices in public.

The ceremony was held in a college auditorium. Picture a raked floor with two aisles, running from the top level down to the stage. Unlike many of the DIY rituals I’ve shared on my podcast, Ritual Recipes, this conference ritual was more of a production. For one thing, I needed music. I chose the song Diety by Wendy Rule. Both the lyrics and the melody are fiercely powerful. The song includes these three lines:  I am the Maiden. I am the Mother. I am the Crone.  

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The Blessing Box Ritual for a New Home / Interfaith Weddings, Chuppahs, Archangels, Astrology, and the Four Royal Stars of Persia – Episode 29

 

A Jewish bride and a Catholic groom.  As their officiant, what could I say in their wedding ceremony that would honor both spiritual paths — not only for the couple, but for their families?  In episode #29 of Ritual Recipes, I talk about interfaith wedding ceremonies, the four Royal Stars of Persia, archangels, and the elements of earth, air, fire and water. I also offer The Blessing Box ritual for a new “home.” 

 The need for ritual is as old as time. They reflect a person’s beliefs which, in turn, helps us find our tribe. So, it’s no surprise that rituals are performed in most, if not all, religions. 

A sudden downpour threatened this chuppa

Over the years, I’ve created wedding ceremonies for couples who come from two different religions or spiritual paths, or have forged their own path, or follow no path. Still, the couple might want spiritual elements to make the ceremony both meaningful and comfortable for their parents. That was the case in a wedding of a Jewish bride and a Catholic groom.

The bride’s family wanted her to be married under a chuppah. The groom had no issue with the chuppah. Neither did his family. But the bride’s mother was a thoughtful woman, sensitive to their feelings of the groom’s family. She asked if I could somehow honor both religions.  

Here’s a modified version of what I wrote for their ceremony:

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Game of Thrones and the Wedding Ritual of Circling – Episode 27

Full Moon / Photo by Andy Watkins of Unsplash

He calls her  “Moon of my Life.” She calls him her “Sun and Stars.”

He is Khal Drogo, the testosterone heavy, alpha male leader of the Dothraki warrior tribe. Very Mars. He’s proud, fearless, and ruthless, at least in the beginning. 

She is Daenerys Targaryen, his estrogen aplenty wife given to him in exchange for an army.  She’s beautiful. Very Venus. She’s also innocent, compassionate, and submissive, at least in the beginning.  

These characters are from Game of Thrones, a television series on HBO based on the medieval fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. I watched Season 1 and  was struck by the symbolism in the names Drogo and Daenerys had for each other… and in what I saw as a connection to the wedding ritual of “circling.”

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Messages from the Trees – a ritual for the Winter Solstice – Episode 28

Don't make a New Year's resolution. Listen to what the trees have to tell you. And follow their advice!

It’s January. Like the two-headed Roman God Janus, for whom the month is named, this is the time when we look back to the year just passed and forward to the year just begun.  

Two weeks ago, I led a Winter Solstice ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a gift shop and spiritual boutique in Manchester, CT, where I live. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year. Festivities celebrate the promise that the Sun is on his way back to us. Though the ground here is frozen, and the season of snow, sleet and ice is picking up speed, this is a time of hope. The sun, whether you spell is Sun or Son, has been “reborn.” 

Let me set the scene for the ritual. There were 14 women, seated in a semi-circle in front of two, long banquet tables placed end to end. The tables were draped in red and white cloth. Thanks to Meg and her husband, Ed, we had at least 30 Yule logs, some cut to lay horizontally, some cut as pillars, some with white tea lights, some with red, green, or white tapers. The logs stretched across both tables, along with garlands of artificial winter greens and an abundant, aromatic layer of pine, cedar, and holly that Meg had cut just that morning. Along with the Yule logs, I had an assortment of tabletop trees, and hundreds of white fairy lights and crystal snow. …We dimmed the overhead lights and imagined we had entered a magical forest. 

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Episode 26 – Be Generous with Your Jellybeans

Small gestures can convey abundance.

Sometimes, the smallest gesture can convey a feeling of abundance. That’s a lesson I learned from my daughter when she was a teenager working at a candy counter. … Abundance. That’s what this episode, #26, is all about.

When my daughter, Laurie Neronha, was in high school, she worked part-time at the candy counter in a fancy department store in Hartford. She didn’t drive yet so I had provided transportation. I arrived early one day. So I watched as she helped several customers, thinking maybe I could give her a few customer service pointers later.  

Each customer one ordered a pound of gourmet jelly beans. Laurie was not the only employee on the candy counter.  An older woman worked there as well. She seemed pleasant enough and, from what I overheard, had been with the store quite a few years.  I watched her scoop jelly beans, too.

It didn’t take long to see that Laurie and the other woman had each developed a different technique.  The difference explained why some customers would politely decline the other woman’s offer of help and wait in line for Laurie.

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Episode 25 – Why Carry a Bouquet?

The bouquet is not just about the flowers.

A pregnant bride in her early thirties didn’t want to carry a bouquet and asked me if she had to. I assured her there was no requirement that she carry flowers. I also explained why she might want to reconsider her decision.  I wrote about that wedding several years ago and drew on the story for part of Episode 25 of the Ritual Recipes podcast. 

To carry a wedding bouquet isn’t just about the fashion or the flowers or the photo op.  

In this wedding, both the bride and the groom had big jobs in the financial world and would be traveling overseas on business the following week. Any kind of travel can be hazardous to a woman who’s pregnant. International travel while pregnant can be even more of a challenge. Just in case a problem arose while they were out of the country, they wanted to be married. 

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