July 20, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 11: The Honey Month

Enjoy the last of the 11-part series of WHY ROYAL WEDDINGS MATTER celebrating the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. "The Honey Month"....posted on Confluence Daily and reprinted below! (Most articles in the series are excerpts from my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.)

The Honey Month

In our world of extreme media scrutiny, I love that the most famous newlywed couple on the planet took what appears to be a private honeymoon! “With the world watching,” wrote Elise Taylor of Vogue, “Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, seemingly did the impossible: They snuck away on a two-week honeymoon.” (And, as of this writing, the media can only speculate on the location!)

The word “honeymoon,” in use since the sixteenth century as British historian Ann Monsarrat explains, is a derivation of a much older term, “honey-month,” describing the first weeks of the newlyweds’ life together at home, or at the home of friends or family, with the not so subtle intent of ensuring offspring. But these were considered rather “low-class words.” So, beginning in the eighteenth century, when it became fashionable for well-to-do couples to take some sort of trip following their wedding festivities, the occasion was called “going away,” thought a more genteel expression.

“Going away” became “the bridal tour” for the wealthy in the nineteenth century. For the British upper-crust, the fashionable thing was to do a tour of the Continent; for affluent Americans of the gilded age, it was to go abroad on a luxury ocean liner then visit the most exotic sites of the day recommended by Baedeker.

There’s a bit of intrigue associating the honey in “honeymoon” and the ancient legend of the honeybee’s luscious nectar with love and sex. In her book, The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us, Bee Wilson muses how human civilization would have barely survived without the honeybee: its wax was used to create light in a dark world and its honey gave nourishment and medicine. But the honeybee also provided poetic mystery and “food for love”—from the devilish to the divine:

It is “sweet, like true love, and delicious, like carnal love, honey can be treacherous and sticky, like false love,” the author asserts. And there’s more. Its thick, syrupy-ness brings up a “dark side of human desire”—like this from Proverbs in the Bible: ‘the lips of an adulteress drip honey and her tongue is smoother than oil’. Yet “pure honey is precious and good, like married love”—as this line from the Highlander poem, Rob Roy, by Andrew Lang suggests: ‘Or will ye be my honey? / Or will ye be my wedded wife?’

Some believe the term “honeymoon” relates to the ancient Viking ritual when, for their aphrodisiac effects, “the bride and groom would eat honeyed cakes and drink mead for the first month of their betrothal”—quite the honey-month! However, the connection to honey and the name honeymoon or its true meaning “cannot be agreed upon,” Wilson continued. Like most early wedding rituals there are hazy origin myths, but what we know for sure is that “the use of honey in marriage rites has been a constant throughout the Indo-European world, and beyond.” For instance, in an age-old Egyptian marriage contract, the husband promised his wife a yearly gift of twelve jars of honey; in archaic Hindu wedding ceremonies, the author added, “the bride’s forehead, mouth, eyelids, ears and genitals were anointed with honey.”

Do we really ‘fall in love’ or do we just ‘fall into a honeypot’? Do we meet our beloved by chance or are we stung by Cupid’s honey-soaked arrow? In stories of mythology, honey plays its delicious part in romance. Becoming known as the young god of love, Cupid—the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war—is not only famous for stealing honeycombs, but he also “fires arrows at his victims, sometimes dipped in honey” and they instantly fall in love with the next person they meet. Honeypot, indeed!

Here’s wishing Harry and Meghan many “honeyed” years of marriage! ~

[Excerpts from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding. Available on Amazon.]

July 2, 2018

{Why Royal Weddings Matter} No. 10: Tokens of Abundance & Love

Here's the latest installment of my "Why Royal Weddings Matter" series for Confluence Daily...excerpts from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride with updates from the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Enjoy!

Tokens of Abundance & Love

Most wedding rituals today are “rooted in the potent mix of tradition and superstition,” wrote Barbara Tober, former editor-in-chief of Bride’s magazine.  

Take the rhyme, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence for your shoe—the familiar little verse that became a beloved personal ritual for generations of brides. The rhyme itself may not be that old (first appearing in print in the nineteenth century according to my research), but the customs it describes have been around for centuries. In cultures worldwide and for as long as we know, there was some sort of ritual conjured up out of superstitious notions encouraging brides to tuck “tokens of abundance” (pieces of bread, a lump of sugar, bits of ribbon, a silver charm or coin) into their purse, glove, or shoe; or sew the item into their bodice or dress hem. This was all done in the desire to call forth good luck, great fortune—including the birth of a male heir—or some magical promise of love forever!

Shoe historian Cameron Kippen declares that throughout ancient times “it was widely accounted wearing something borrowed was lucky. The something borrowed varied to something golden or something stolen. A common belief was the bride would enjoy the same luck as the previous owner if the shoes of another happy bride were worn.” (And the good-luck superstitions extended to the groom by wearing old boots loaned to him for his wedding.)

The historian also reminds us that “a long standing bridal superstition stated no harm could befall a bride wearing blue.” Through the ages, wide-ranging references to the color blue surround it with compelling, even divine properties. The color is often associated with Mary, mother of Jesus, and Brigit, the Celtic goddess of healing and the arts; and in Ayurvedic wisdom, the color blue is linked with the throat chakra, or energy center, and inspires balance in our true self-expression. It is cited in Geoffrey Chaucer’s fourteenth-century The Canterbury Tales as a symbol of truth and faithfulness and Shakespeare fondly considered the “blue of heaven’s own tinct....”

With such rich folkloric history, it stands to reason that somewhere along the way a sentimental poet neatly put it all together in a romantic rhyme—some think derived from an old Italian saying, others believe it’s British in origin. Proving, once again, that wedding traditions have “complicated roots”—to borrow a phrase from Carol McD. Wallace’s book, All Dressed in White. Whatever the origin of the rhyming verse, nineteenth-century Victorians popularized it and even royal brides followed its feminine directives for their wedding day.

Princess Diana’s wedding gown designers, Elizabeth and David Emanuel, shared how they custom-fit the rhyme’s legacy for their royal bride:

The old was represented by the piece of Queen Mary lace that we used on the bodice and flounces while the new was obviously the silk dress itself. The tiara that Diana wore was a Spencer family heirloom—so something borrowed—and to complete the tradition, we hand-sewed a little blue bow into the back of the dress.

Following the rhyme continues to be a treasured ritual for many modern brides; not because of any “superstition,” but because it has a way of bringing together generations of women in conversations and remembrances over things we hold dear. A grandmother unpacks a precious family heirloom; a great-aunt shares something from her own trousseau and recalls stories from her mother’s wedding; a sisterly friend offers love, support and deep listening.

Meghan Markle, bride of Prince Harry, extended the rhyme’s sentiment to their post-wedding-ceremony evening party. After changing into a sleek and sexy white halter-neck dress, Meghan wore designer high heels with soles painted pale blue and a fabulous ring with a large aquamarine stone once belonging to her late mother-in-law. (Was the ring a surprise from Prince Harry? Was he in on the “something blue” conversation? Or do you think he simply opened his mother’s jewelry box one day for his beloved to select something of her fancy?)

The “something old, something new” rhyme seems to be infused with a kind of fairy-tale quality and delights of feminine mystique—is the mystery part of its appeal? I call the old-fashioned rhyme the most feminine of all wedding rituals. Whether a bride borrows her grandmother’s handkerchief; wears a gift of birthstone earrings or an antique lace veil; pins a blue silk ribbon to her corset or slips a sixpence coin into her shoe or his pocket, they have put something magically mysterious into motion. And what woman doesn’t become more attractive wearing a bit of mystery? ~

[Excerpts from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, available on Amazon, with updates from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent “something wonderful” wedding celebration! www.CorneliaPowell.com]