The season for the green Earth to flower has come again. That crazy season when siren that song that leads us into love – or, love again – or remember who we love and who we want to dance with once again in the soft starry nights of spring-into-summer.
For those who have danced this dance several times and are ready for it: it’s wedding & Handfasting season. As an artist and Priestess, I have assisted several couples in “tying the knot” – a literal knot for Wiccan couples! As everyone who has planned a Handfasting knows, the process is crazy-making, fun, annoying, occasionally infuriating, and sublimely joyous all in turn – sometimes in the same hour. There are one thousand decisions to make: from the invitation list, the place, to the particulars of the ritual itself. Lest we forget, (of course!) there is also the dress, the appetizer menu, parking, and, of great importance to many, the subject of this post: music.
I will use this space to make some suggestions to the couple and their friends and family, and the officiating priest/ess/es/ on tying the knots while reserving a modicum of sanity.
Music, as no other medium can, will bring together the disparate collection of friends and relatives at a Handfasting. It will set the tone of the event and move things along in a natural, organic way. The selection of music can bring your parents to tears (of joy, one hopes), bring smiles to lips of the gathered, cause the lovers in attendance to gaze at another and share in your joy, uplift the spirits of one and all, and, finally, make the feet of even your Ancient Aunt Trudy to tap her toes at the after-ritual reception. It might even get her up for a turn around the dance floor.
Choose songs for the ritual itself that have meaning to you, the Handfasing couple. Songs that you would sing to one another. Temper these selections with your clergy’s suggestions of songs and/or chants that will move the ritual forward and keep that sense of participation by all gathered that mark a Pagan event from all others. Sing and dance your way up the “aisle”? Go for it! A folk-style circle dance or spiral dance to begin or end the ritual? A processional to or from the Circle into the reception hall while singing? Hire the local Morris or Sword team to take you to the circle? Great fun! All of these are good. Once upon a time, a wedding had special songs for the groom, the groomsmen, the bride, the bride’s women, the family, the clergy, generally speaking, for everyone present. A Handfasting is a serious ritual of commitment, but it is also an occasion for celebration and merriment. Keep it serious, but remember to laugh. (and… breathe … remember to savor the day… it’s yours forever.)
Today, I am going to address music with a sampling of songs, with a little commentary, that I have heard over the years which lend themselves well to the celebration of love and commitment that a Handfasting is meant to be. … and … to the heart of the matter! These are songs drawn from the popular “cannon” that have some familiarity across generations. The next blog (https://lezlie1.wordpress.com/spirituality-the-path-i-walk/) entry will focus on Pagan artists’ music. I will add more as I think of them, and, please, use the comments section below to add your favorites.
For the gathering period as the hall, garden, or park (or your living room) fills with your friends and relations, a little instrumental music will “set the tone” for the event. Unless you know the gathered crowd very well, save the dancing for the reception. Choose music that will allow for the moments of confusion invariably happen as your guests gather, but keep the attention of those already seated. Many couple choose a recording of classical or folk music. Some hire a string quartet, others a single instrumentalist, or a folk ensemble for this period. Plan for about 30 to 40 minutes and signal the start of the ritual itself with a song – either sung by a performer or by the guests – or, some combination of both. I recommend that, even if the music provided during the reception is all recorded or a DJ is enjoined to provide music, (especially for a large Handfasting) for this part of the day, that live musicians provide the music.
Suggestion: There is a lot of class in a harp ensemble. This is a video by Diana Rowan whose harping is exceptional, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odPBt7_crxg&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLE0356A5B26643B94 (Diana’s website: http://www.sirenharp.com/)
Songs for the ritual itself:
Rubylove: Cat Stevens (Cat Stevens – Rubylove, live at Vorst Nationaal, Brussels – June 2nd 2011. Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam live at Forest National) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IbuATTKfcU&feature=related
A good around, easy to sing and choice. A great song for processionals, recessionals, circle and spiral dancing. Or for just general celebrating and merriment. If your relations “came of age” in the 60s & 70s, they will probably know this song, and – if asked – will sing along. The translation of the lyrics sung in Greek are (insert your names):
Ruby glykeia (Ruby my sweet)
Ela xana (come again)
Ela xana konta mou (come again close to me)
Ela proi (come in the morning)
Me tin avgi (by dawn)
Hrisi san iliahtida (gold as a sunbeam)
Ruby mou mikri (You small Ruby)
Hired a band? Why not a little rock & roll to start things off with? a couple could Make an Entrance to remember with this one! (David Bowie – Modern Love – Live 2004 ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORzirnAoda4&feature=related
While we are discussing Bowie – (so…when isn’t it OK to discuss Bowie?) – every Handfasting needs a passionate love song as an integral part of the ritual: (David Bowie- Wild is the Wind [live] ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cSAKlu0OlU
There is a place in most Handfastings when the couple shares food and drink (champagne & cake?) this song lends itself to the action in a beautiful way…(Sally Oldfield – Fire and Honey – “Water Bearer” (1978) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wle1u4VZ5RU)
This lovely song by folksinger Loreena McKennitt will also lend itself well to this ritual sharing of food and drink. Many couples will share the chalice and the place with the guests as well as in any ritual. This action always takes a little time to complete – a live musician will be able to judge and improvise accordingly to create that time far better than relying on a recording. (Loreena McKennitt– Dark Night of The Soul) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEBYOS0wKJo
May you always find joy and laughter! BB!