Posted in Today's File

A Sermon, A Spell

“She’s not really mine to give away anymore,” the bride’s father said to me this afternoon, as we waited in the back yard for her to complete her transformation from jeans-and-flannel to white lace. “But I’d like to.” Adding the note to my scribbled-in Baker’s Wedding Handbook, I assured him with a grin that he would have the opportunity. “May I say, ‘With pleasure‘?” he wondered. I assured him with a grin that he could.

wedding ring heart shadowTo borrow the bride’s phrasing, she has been married twice, but this is her first wedding.  Embarking on a new life in middle age, she wanted to do it “right” this time—with family and cake and a veil and a minister instead of a judge.

The groom (for whom this is the first wedding and first marriage) simply wants to be married to her.

I was there to supply the minister-instead-of-judge component of a “proper wedding,” though faced with the unusual challenge of having the ceremony left entirely in my own hands. The bride had opted not to meet ahead of time, focusing her fluttery energy instead on the planning-details which wouldn’t take care of themselves, and leaving me to make my best-guess selections for the ceremony.

This is where I love my Baker’s book–a veritable buffet of prayers, vows, traditional ceremonies from different denominations, and “contemporary” alternatives… So left to my own devices, I mix-and-matched what I consider the best bits of each. Still, my usual list of logistical questions (Do we have rings? Music? Specific readings? Are there children? Is anyone giving the bride away?) were still unanswered when I arrived, so I had hooked her father to help me to fill in the blanks. Five grown children between the groom and bride, and Dad will finally get to give her away.

wedding bookMy greater challenge this morning was the blank page on my lap as I sat on the front porch with my coffee, looking for my own words to offer this couple whom I hadn’t yet met. (Well, I had met the bride last year, when I made a deathbed-visit for her mother—but our coffee-and-conversation on that occasion weren’t exactly suited to wedding-preparation purposes…)

My pen stayed still for some moments, empty of information about this pair. But then… I have plenty to say about Marriage itself, and so my pen began to flow.  And though it was late in the morning, an owl began to call as I began to write. The owl—my ‘aumakua, or totem, or guardian—chose that moment to “make a joyful noise,” which (along with the “WoodOwl Drive” address of the wedding location) struck me as a positive omen indeed.

On an occasion like this, the pen doubles as a magic wand… The marriage itself now belongs to this husband and this wife, and it is their Calling now to nurture it—and each other–“for as long as they both shall live.” But I’m still awe-struck and honored by this ability to speak the words that create a marriage.  There’s magic here, as surely as there is in childbirth or any other act of creation.

It wasn’t a Sermon the owl helped me write. It was a spell. The magical making of a new marriage.

owl minister
Pastor Kana


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

15 thoughts on “A Sermon, A Spell

  1. Rites of passage, like births, weddings, graduations, home ownership, and funerals are so important. At a wedding, the kids think it’s all about them, and it sort of is, but it’s mostly for their community. It announces that something has changed and adjustments, both physical and emotional must be made. The father probably wanted to give the bride away not, as he said, “because she’s mine to give”, but to announce to friends and family that she was now in partnership with someone else and he was no longer responsible and had no claims on her except for, hopefully, her love.

    I’m so glad you did a spell instead of a sermon.


    1. I think, too, that a component at play was her age (heading toward fifty)–she’s been her own person for a long time, but he was tickled to engage (finally) in this traditional gesture… And, I think, to show both his love for her and his approval of the marriage. :) VERY charming fellow–I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation! (Including, notably, comparing notes on the challenges of raising a 16-year-old… Another of his daughters has passed away, and at age seventy he is now raising the NEXT generation.)


  2. As an “unorthodoxed,” ordained minister myself, I understand weaving this spell. But not having *any* information about the happy couple would be a head-scratcher. Spirit leads, we follow.


  3. This post made me cry. I am so intrigued by your owls. They always seem to be there. Always. Talk about the presence of God in one’s life!


  4. I love the difference you make between sermon and spell. Love that owl is your totem. I keep a copy of Animal Speak by Ted Andrews on my bookshelf. I pull it out anytime I see an animal or bird that shows up in a random place or at a random time and try to glean the message in that moment. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not. But it’s fun trying!


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