Cynical soul that I am, I admit I didn’t think it would happen; once the gay marriage bill was condemned to the circle of Hell that is the NYS Assembly, I was sure it would languish for ages, especially with the Gay Pride parade tomorrow. I was sure that Fox news and every other republican outlet would be all over the parade, shooting video of drag queens, guys in feather, and any similar excesses and plastering it all over the news, howling about threats to the family and the end of the world. Perhaps that was what drove the supporters to ramp up the pressure, (and the thanks and blessings of all my Sisters on all of you, pagan and non-pagan alike, who demanded their reps uphold a basic right for the citizens of our state) but whatever it was, it worked, and now (gasp!) our gay kin can get married and regret it later, just like the rest of us! So, are gay witches going to be rushing to get married? Not as many as you’d think, emailed Drea; a quick survey of our kin and mates seemed to bear that out, especially among the younger pagans, where having the right is, logically, more important than actually exercising it. What matters, though, is that we are a step closer to seeing our kin as just that, no better and no worse than the rest of us,
As expected, NY’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan said he was “deeply troubled”; of course he is, he’s worried his Church is losing its choke hold on the populace. Showing no sense of history or knowledge of the ritual he claims to be defending, he blathered on about the traditional marriage, and how God designed it to be sacred, and all the usual cliches. And, also as expected, he couldn’t be more wrong. Marriage, like most things in the Church, is an amalgam of many ancient customs and traditions, and most have very little to do with God.
First off, it was not necessary in the early Catholic Church, for a priest to officiate at a wedding, not until about 180 AD; before that, any couple could choose to live together, and be regarded as husband and wife, something their own families usually oversaw, but since the Christian Church was an offshoot of the Jewish faith, many of the adherents had left the home and protection of their families, so marriage was often arranged solely between the couple. The Church only stepped in when it realized there was money to be made in deciding who could and could not marry. There is also some indication that these early priests (of whom an unknown number, possibly as many as two thirds, were women!) were willing to marry anyone, Christian or not. As for the ceremony itself, it is full of ancient practices; the bridemaids? Demon bait! Since a bride about to wed was considered at high risk for attack by evil entities, a few of her best friends would gather at her home, dress identically, and then they would all head out, each taking a different route, so that if an evil spirit attacked, it might be misled by one of the maids. A pity that such a display of bravery for a friend has turned into having to wear a dress that would look better on fire… The best man? In the old days, a marriage could be contested by the girls family, and let’s be honest, she wasn’t always a willing participant, so the groom would get the clan’s best warrior, the “best man” to stand by in case he was needed to fight off any objectors. Boy, wouldn’t that have livened up that last dull wedding you were at! The wedding cake, that staple of reality shows everywhere? An offering to the gods, not the guests, one that would be burned at the ceremony’s end.
Let’s jump ahead a few centuries and consider the many social changes that marriage has mirrored; hells, there was a time where a marriage could be called off if it turned out the bride wasn’t a virgin. Not that long ago, Christian churches were happy to marry girls as young as ten or eleven to grown men, and some still support polygamy, often with teenage brides. Marriage between members of different faiths was forbidden, and a scandalous suicide or abortion of any member of one participant’s family would be enough to scuttle the wedding. It wasn’t that long ago that priests and ministers were screaming that letting the races intermarry was “unnatural” and “against God’s plan”, just like they’re doing now, and funny how that didn’t end the world, did it? A married woman was the virtual slave of her husband, without legal or social protection from any sort of abuse, cruelty, or neglect, and it wasn’t until recent decades that protection was established, so a woman who fled or cast out of marriage wasn’t reduced to beggary. Up until the early twentieth century in the UK, a woman who attacked or injured her husband was sentenced to death under “sovereign laws”, equating the husband with the king, and her action as an attack on the monarchy itself, no matter that she might be defending herself from assault. The marriage made her little more than property.
So let the Archbishop and all the like minded Chicken Littles run around screaming that the sky is falling, that we’ve done irreparable damage to a sacred institution that has been the same since time began; the more they yell, the more they advertise their own ignorance and fear, and show how irrelevant they truly are.