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Nonfiction in Review — Tying the Knot

Tying the Knot: A Gender-Neutral Guide to Handfastings or Weddings for Pagans and Goddess Worshippers
Jade River
Creatrix Resource Library LLC, 2004

I have long observed that the wedding day is the only chance most women in this culture have to be recognized as Goddess incarnate. My daughter has recently gotten engaged, and I have reluctantly become immersed in the world of wedding plans. I laugh to myself as my dear child calls me and asks my advice on various subjects that are truly foreign to me. I recently found myself reaching far back into the recesses of some arcane knowledge as I advised her to consider an off-white wedding gown, as that "would go better with your olive skin tone." I said that?

As I relayed this story to my coven, one of them said, "You're channeling Mother of the Bride! [Witchcraft/magic] comes in handy." For those of us unable to channel the whole experience, we need help. Planning a large, relatively formal wedding is a major undertaking and feeds a huge industry. My daughter is carting around a 300-page wedding planner!

Tying the Knot takes a different approach and considers handfastings and weddings from a magical point of view, pointing out that "… standard marriages in religious settings are supposed to include magic." (39) The book's ideas about intentionality could apply to people of any religion, and wouldn't it be great if everybody approached unions in this way? Although these concepts may seem obvious, the book provides good thoughts about the couple agreeing on the meaning of the commitment. Jade suggests some basic steps in preparing for a magical work and points out that "…some people will not participate in a spell to heal the earth without a specific discussion of the intent but will be handfasted with little shared awareness of the purpose and direction of the ceremony." (3) I wonder if we are simply so steeped in the pageantry and party of this one socially sanctioned ritual that we can't see the need to consider it magically and energetically.

Each May, ancient Romans held the Lemuralia, an annual feast and exorcism of malevolent and fearful ghosts (lemures) who lingered at their earthly homes. "Because of this ... the whole month of May was rendered unlucky for marriages, whence the proverb Mense Maio malae nubent ('They wed ill who wed in May')...." (Feast of the Lemures)

Tying the Knot contains interesting bits of lore. For example, the traditional wedding party, with numerous people dressed similarly to the bride and groom, is an attempt to fool maleficent spirits. I would find this book more satisfying if some of these tidbits could be expanded upon or referenced. For instance, the book says the month of May is considered an unlucky time for weddings: "Although most people do not know why, even now this prohibition affects wedding plans." (13) Perhaps the readers would like to know the reason for the prohibition.

A quick scan of the Internet shows that Tying the Knot fills a unique need. Not only is it one of the few books on pagan handfastings or weddings, it is written to include same-sex unions. Writing such a book — gender-neutral, pagan, and politically correct - can't be easy. I think that in its attempt to be inclusive, Tying the Knot loses some intimacy with the reader. I would like better graphics and fewer generalities. For instance, the section on second unions urges us to think about why our previous unions went bad and tells us that "Psychologists list the most common problems in failed commitments as.…" This is followed by a bulleted list of such things as not listening, not talking, and abusing your partner. (81-82)

Nonetheless, Tying the Knot is simple, concise, and practical. One of my favorite parts of the book is the list of money-saving alternatives in each section. The book also has a very helpful timeline, samples of wedding rituals, a breakdown of who traditionally pays for what, and a comprehensive checklist. This book would be one good tool for anyone planning a pagan union.

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