The Honeymoon, or Maybe We’re Both Druids Now?

For our honeymoon, husband and I did a two week trip to Europe. We went to London, Paris, and Wales. London was nice, I was surprised to find I hated Paris, and Wales was THE BEST.

Okay, in order, here goes:

London: We pretty much just did regular tourist things in London. We stayed in a really nice hotel while we were there. London was a lovely city, with a pace that seemed like it would be nice to live in.

My husband, being adorable with some snugglebears:

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Obligatory London phone booth photo:

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Did I mention my husband is adorable?
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One of the things I really liked about London, and Europe in general was walking around a corner and discovering some ancient relic. This was the rosary from a medieval Great Hall in a castle.

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One of the few pictures of both of us from the honeymoon, at Trafalgar Square. SAM_1104

Paris:

At the recommendation of one of my coworkers, we went to La Refuge des Fondues. They serve you wine in baby bottles. They say it’s to avoid a tax on wine by the glass, because then they sell it as wine by the bottle. Ba dum ching! I don’t think that’s really it. I think it’s just a gimmick. But it was fun, and there was a couple from Seattle next to us we had a great time talking to.
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Later that night, I was drunk from all the baby bottles of wine, and we decided to mix some juice and sprite so we could hydrate. What follows is my drunken midnight time of going around the apartment with the juice saying “Je suis dangereuse!”SAM_1145 SAM_1146 SAM_1151 SAM_1157

And the obligatory Eiffel Tower picture. 
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My favorite piece of art we saw. It was at the Musee de Quai Branly. It’s called “L’Aurore” by Dennis Pierre Puech. It was in an exhibit on hair and its cultural meanings.

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We had lunch with our high school French teacher, who was flabbergasted we had married each other. We were already dating when we were in her class together. 
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And I danced in front of the Paris Opera just because I’m still upset that I didn’t get to study abroad there in college due to my school’s policy of discouraging study abroad.
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Our last day in Paris, we went just outside the city to La Defense. We saw the Grande Arche. La Defense was actually my favorite thing in Paris. There was so much interesting and new architecture, and the people spoke slower than the Parisians. 
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Wales:

Wales was the BEST. We left London on a Virgin train then transferred to a Welsh local train and were surprised to see all of the signs on the train in both Welsh and English. And then the train ride over, we joked about all the silly ways that he conductor’s announcements of cities sounded absolutely nothing like how the stops names were spelled. When we got to Wales, our hosts were very nice, and told us a bit about the local history. Turned out we were staying near a lake of Lady of the Lake fame, and mountains were Merlin was said to have lived. We of course went to see those one day:

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And seriously, I cannot stress enough that Wales is the most beautiful:

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Also, there was slate everywhere. Here is a picket fence made out of slate:

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And here is a tree eating a piece of slate:

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We also spent a day going around the Isle of Anglesey, which was nearby seeing Neolithic Druid monuments. In one of them, Bryn Celli Ddu, a henge-turned burial mound, there was evidence of druid prayer. I found myself wondering whether these offerings were left by locals or visiting pagans.

A candle, a flower, and a heart-shaped stone:

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A dried bouquet of flowers:

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Some coins left in between the stones on the walls

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Some runes scratched into a stone near the ceiling:

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I prayed outside the entrance. It was nice. :

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We went to Barclodiad y Gawres, which is another monument right on the Irish Sea. The name translates to “The Giantess’ Apronful.” They have the only example of painted standing stones in a monument in Wales, except for a single stone at Bryn Celli Ddu, which you can see in the previous picture. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to see them because the mound is only open on weekends. But we did get to walk around.SAM_1392

It’s so windy there. The tree in this picture is not actually blowing in the wind. It grew that way.

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And we went to Llanfairpwllgyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is a town with an absurd name. Silly Welshmen. According to a book at our cabin, a Welshman named the town that to make fun of the English and their difficulty pronouncing Welsh words.

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According to this book about Wales that was at our cabin, the ancient Celts used to throw hazlenuts at the bride and groom while they were in the middle of getting married. We thought that was an interesting bit of information, considering the nut pelted at us during our marriage ceremony. The “maybe we’re both Druids now” part of the title of this post comes from the Welsh part of our trip. Wales was just so beautiful everywhere you went.  Even the path to town was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Welsh is a beautiful language, and it was so wonderful to be in a place with such history. Davin and I got a book on Welsh and tried to pick up as much as we could while we were there. So far I can pretty much say “Y cacen yn y caban.” Which means “The cake is in the cabin.” I told my husband what I know about druidry, and he liked it. He said that he could almost see himself exploring druidry. So we came home and kept talking about it, and then at Yule we went to the celebration of our local Druid grove. It was wonderful! My husband was happy because we showed up in the middle of a ritual that was pretty much sumbel–everyone was passing a mug of spiked hot chocolate and making toasts. Pretty much as soon as we got there, one of the grove members said that she’s just as happy in the church as she is in the grove, and that she likes the grove because noone there makes her feel weird about it, whereas when she’s at Church as says she feels comfortable in a Druid grove, people are always demanding explanations. That put my husband’s fears away that he would be rejected for his Christian faith quite quickly. We spent the weekend having an overnight vigil for the sun, and a joyous sunrise singing and toast. I loved that the ceremonies were so simple and moving. There was ritual to it, but nothing so complicated as to leave anyone confused or lost. I really liked it. There were a few people there for sure we are looking forward to seeing again this weekend at the Imbolc celebration.

So, yeah. My honeymoon might have turned us into druids. And that makes me happy!

On my wedding

I promised my readers a few months ago that I would post more thoroughly about my wedding and honeymoon eventually, and now here it is!

But, before I start going into everything, I have to tell you the most amazing thing that happened! During our marriage ceremony, right in the middle of my vows, a black walnut fell out of the sky, shattered the piece of slate our marriage license was sitting on, and left a stamp mark right on the witness line! My husband’s grandfather used to show him how to break open the black walnuts and make foods out of them, so we took that as a blessing from him, and from the forest. See, look:

All photos were taken by Meghan Hayes.

Husband and I had a first look, so we saw each other before the ceremony. I’m so glad we did–it made me so much less nervous just beforehand, and gave me the chance to get to see his reaction to what I looked like as his bride, and gave me a chance to sink in how good he looked as a groom before we got into the nitty gritty of it. There were tears all over the place.

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Then I did the same thing with my dad:

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My sister and I acted like twins:

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And then the ceremony, which was the so emotionally intense:

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My nephew was the “ringing bearer.” He started everything by running around the circle where everyone was sitting ringing a bell. Everyone else had a tiny pair of bells in their seats they were welcome to ring.
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During the procession, everyone in attendance sang “Down in the River to Pray.”
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And then a friend of mine played Native American flute for my entrance:
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And then things proceeded to be very emotional:
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And then, the most amazing thing happened! A black walnut fell out of the sky, shattered the piece of slate our marriage license was sitting on, and left a stamp mark right on the witness line! My husband’s grandfather used to show him how to break open the black walnuts and make foods out of them, so we took that as a blessing from him, and from the forest.

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And then we were married! And the first thing I did was turn around and run to my sister, who was crying her eyes out.
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During the receiving line, a hawk flew right overhead. That was amazing blessing/omen number two, courtesy of Lady Freyja, who often appears to me in the form of birds of prey.

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And then, everything else happens just like it does at weddings. And it was amazing.

My family:

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My sister made me this amazing shawl as a wedding gift. I am definitely going to keep it as an heirloom.:
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Our wedding cake was toadstools:
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There was a lot of cowboy hats and hat hair:

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And we danced the night away:

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Next time: The Honeymoon; Or Maybe We’re Both Druids Now?

On Death and the Clarification of Ancestors

My grandmother died last week. January 3, 2013.

She was born in 1919. She made it from the teens all the way back around to the teens, saw 11 decades, had 9 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. She was a child during the roaring twenties, a teenager during the Great Depression, married a WWII solder letter carrier and had her first two children in the 1940s, gave birth to my father during the fifties, saw her first grandchildren in the seventies, and had great-grandchildren beginning in the nineties. Her youngest great-grandchild is six. She was mobile and healthy (relatively speaking, for a 93-year-old.) She was still walking on her own, only used a walker for long distances, and still had her mental capabilities until her last few days.

She called us on Christmas Eve to tell us she was going soon. It’s amazing that she knew. She asked to speak to my husband. She was so impressed with what he had written in his wedding thank-you note to her. He told her that she is the strong religious backbone in the family, and the matriarch, and that he sees her strength in me. She told him that she appreciated it, then told me that I’m a good wife, and that she’s ready to go.

I got a phone call on the morning of the January 2nd from my father, telling me that the doctors thought she had three to eight hours left to live. My sister and I booked a flight as soon as we could, and arrived in the city where she lived later that afternoon. She was sleeping in her hospital bed. I spent time with my cousins (who are fifteen to twenty-five years older than me–their parents are 10 and 12 years older than my dad, and they both had kids young) and my aunt and uncle, and we watched her sleep. 

She was still breathing by that night, and everyone went home besides my parents, my sister, and I. We told her that it was alright for her to go, that we hoped she saw her husband in heaven. We sang to her.

My mother asked me if this made me believe in God. I told her I didn’t want to talk about it right then.

I didn’t want to talk about it over the dying body of my grandmother, who prayed the Rosary every day. 

But the experience has deepened my faith. I saw how right it is to honor the ancestors. Not some vapor ancestors as a group of people who donated their DNA to us, but as our true and honest ancestors who lived long and short lives leading to us. My grandmother lived twice as long as my grandfather, all that time leading a family alone. It is right to remember them and their journeys.It is right that they should be with their departed family in death. It is right to tell them to go be with their parents and grandparents and sibling and spouses who have gone before them. And it is right for us to tell their stories, so that we may remember.

I learned a lot about my ancestors this past weekend from my grandmother’s photo albums, and from asking my family about the people pictured in them.

I came into possession of two photos from 1916–one of which features my great-grandfather and my great-great grandfather. I learned that my great-great grandfather was a plumber who did work on the St. Louis Fountain in Forest Park. The other photo shows two of my grandmother’s sisters, their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Which means the photo shows my great-grandmother, great-great grandmother, and great-great-great grandmother. It tells their names on the back. And this is what I learned about them:

My great-great-great grandmother was called “Big Grandmother” by the children. She liked to snack on rye bread and beer.

My great-great grandmother was called “Little Grandmother.” She raised my grandmother and her five siblings during the Great Depression after their parents died. She was born in Dublin, Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day and died in America on the Fourth of July. 

My great grandmother was the mother of five girls and then, finally, one little boy who died young from a stroke. Her husband worked in manual labor across state lines, and died in an accident on the job. She died just a couple of years later.

My grandmother, who just passed away, did not know what to expect on her wedding night. She believed that if two people loved each other, sex was unnecessary. She wore a gold cross around her neck from when her husband gave it to her in the 1940s until she died in 2013. She never went on a date again after my grandfather passed away, but some years later told a widowed friend of hers that dating again is the better way to go. She loved yellow roses-my grandfather used to give them to her when they were dating. She was an extremely faithful Catholic, and kept things that were sentimental to her. I have inherited her rosary. While we were cleaning out her apartment in the retirement home, I found the tiny bells from my wedding and the jars from my favors, and she wasn’t even able to come to the wedding. We found all of the cards we had ever sent her. And she loved us–she had a whole photo album dedicated to our portion of the family. 

My ancestors are real people. This is a truth that has eluded me up until this point. I had never known anything about my departed ancestors. My grandfathers all died before I was born, and my grandmothers have always lived as the family matriarchs. But now a 93-year-old Eleanora has made the transition from Family Matriarch to Beloved Dead, and in doing so, she told me my ancestors stories. I will put their pictures on my altar, and I will say the rosary in her name. I will give them offerings of rye bread and beer, and I will remember where I came from, and that their work built the world I am now living in.