(The names have been changed to protect the guilty.)
I recently attended an unusual event: a Druid wedding, actually a combination party and Druid wedding. The location was in woods in front of the home of Mr. S___ and Miss T___ . They are cool people and live in an old homestead-style unpainted wood frame house with a rusty tin roof, all on 40 acres of land out in the middle of nowhere. |
The event united in holy matrimony--or un-holy matrimony, according to how you look at it--Mr. "Weird" Roger ___--as I call him when he ain't listening--and Miss Darla ___. Weird Roger was at least, oh, I'd say 52, and Darla was maybe 24. She was a lithe girl with waist-length straight brown hair, and with silver braces on her teeth--which her father probably paid for and which makes me wonder about his future financial support of his daughter after the recent event.
Weird Roger made a dandy son-in-law, and not just because he was probably older than his father-in-law. His wavy, blondish hair waved down his back to his waist. His brown-and-gray and curly beard curled down almost to his belly button. He seldom wore a shirt so he could show off his numerous and strangely designed tattoos. Weird Roger was a Druid priest.
Until he resigned from college a couple of months before the wedding, Weird Roger was a student. He was highly intelligent because he maintained about a 3.5 GPA in spite of the fact that he stayed up all night most nights and slept all day most days and seldom attended classes. He also lived in Married Student Housing in spite of his former-single status, and, after the wedding, he lived there in spite of his non-student status. Maybe he cast a spell on the Student Housing Department.
When he lived in a dorm, I dropped by his room a couple of times, always on class business because, truthfully, Weird Roger was too weird even for me. The wall of his dorm room sported a black-ink-on-white-poster paper drawing of himself. He was naked in the drawing. In a position somewhat like a crucifixion, his feet were together, his arms were outstretched, and his naked body seemed to float toward heaven in rays of light. His naked body sported a huge erection, pointed toward heaven. All the above on the wall for all to see.
Weird Roger was also a photographer, an alumnus of Photography 1010. What an interesting class that must have been! On my first visit--and every subsequent visit--to his room, he broke out his portfolio of photographs. All were "nature" photographs of naked young ladies out in the woods somewhere. Through some trick of photography, lots of the pictures somehow combined naked female bodies with the trunks of trees. I guess that's a Druid thing. I know it's amazing what a broke co-ed will do for art and $10.
Now that you've got a good image of the groom, let's go straight to the wedding. The story starts a week before the wedding. I was driving around late one afternoon and I was bored. I made a loop through campus. There in their tiny yards outside married student housing stood two students I knew, older female students. Hey, I thought, somebody to talk to. So I stopped.
After a while, I remembered that Weird Roger lived there somewhere. What tha hell, I thought, I'll pay him a visit. "He lives in #_, right down there," the ladies said.
I knocked on the door, and Weird Roger, shirtless, of course, was glad to see me and ushered me inside. We talked for a couple of minutes and out stepped Darla. She wore cut-off blue-jean shorts and a white tank-top I liked very much, especially the frontal view. A couple of minutes later, the front door opened and in stepped a young man aged about 25. He had short brown hair, and a tiny mustache traced a fuzzy brown line across his upper lip. "This is Brad, Darla's husband," Weird Roger said.
Brad broke out a neat little ceramic bongo drum with a wide leather carrying strap, and he sat on the couch and bonged us a tune for a minute or two. Then he left. Weird Roger said, "Let me show you my computer. It's in here in my bedroom."
We stepped into Weird Roger's bedroom, Darla following us, and there taking up most of the space on shelves against a wall was Weird Roger's computer. Down on the floor and taking up most of the space on the floor and covered with all kinds of stuff was Weird Roger's mattress. Darla said, "Excuse me," and reached down on Weird Roger's mattress and picked up a slinky turquoise nightgown. She then walked out of the room, nightgown in hand.
Me, I thought, Hummm, her nightgown in Weird Roger's room and on his mattress. Hummm, she would have been naked when she took it off. Hummm, her and Brad live with Weird Roger or he lives with them. Hummm.
A week later, the call came from T___, inviting me to the wedding of Weird Roger and Darla. "Hey," I told T___, "I thought she was married to a guy named Brad."
"So did I," T___ told me. "Maybe they got a quick divorce. Who knows? They're Druids."
"Who cares?" I told T___. "I've never been to a Druid wedding; I'll be there."
So I went. Got there about 3 p.m. Didn't want to miss anything.
With the exception of about 5 or 6 people, I knew everybody there and even the ones that got there late. Two of the exceptions were a short, chubby, nerdy little guy and a tall and anorexic redhead, both of them in their early twenties. The redhead had difficulty walking and talking which, I discovered later, was due to lack of sleep.
It started out the typical party at S___ and T___'s place: Tents set up everywhere; beer drinking; whiskey drinking; home-made wine, brandy and liqueur drinking; a bonfire blazing and smoking; about five talented guitar players playing the blues; and Junior singing the blues. Shortly before dark, the bride and groom and ex-husband arrived--together.
The groom wore shorts, sandals, and was shirtless, of course. The bride wore a fire-engine red, skin-tight evening gown. The ex-husband wore jeans, a dark green T-shirt, and had his bongo drum around his neck.
The groom and the bride, due to wedding preparations, missed their normal good day's sleep and were exhausted, more so the bride. She stumbled when she walked. She had also partaken of some "ale." The ex-husband had partaken lots of "ale" because he was drunk.
During the afternoon, an ex-student and friend of mine--and--I think!--a Druid-for-a-day--had cut and trimmed a small tree for a maypole and dug a hole. Alas, the bride and groom forgot the ribbons. So the pole and the hole lay on and in the ground and we had no maypole dance, much to the delight of T___, the hostess, because there were several small children present and she had worried about the clothing or, rather, lack of clothing, the dancers would wear.
And so, as twilight fell, on the back porch of the old house, looking out over the bonfire, the ducks, chickens, geese, and guineas scratching in the backyard, across the pasture and over the grazing horses, we played the blues. Ex-husband and his bongo sat in a chair about 5 feet from me, the blues singer, and joined our back-porch white-boy blues band. We then had a drum to accentuate our third-rate version of Howlin' Wolf's "Lil' Red Rooster"--"I had a lil' red rooster too lazy to close the day. / Been no peace in the barnyard since my lil' red rooster went away."
Out in the peaceful barnyard, a rooster closed the day. Darkness soon fell on the back yard, the barnyard, the pasture and the scattered tents, and we played the blues in the light of a roaring fire and in the blue and red glow of strings of Christmas tree lights nailed to the walls and ceiling of the ramshakle old porch. So, for about an hour, the music, the beer, the drinks, and the smoke rolled. Near the end of that hour, the bride, having now partaken of even more "ale," stepped over to bongo-playing ex-husband, hiked up the tail of her red evening gown, raised a long and naked leg, and sat on his lap. On, not in. Then she leaned over and planted a passionate kiss on his lips--a longggg passionate kiss.
The bongo drum stopped. So did the guitars, and I quit singing the blues and averted my eyes so everybody wouldn't think I was a voyeur. And in the sudden silence, everybody heard the bride whisper, "Be subtle; people are watching."
I soon left the porch, the band, the kissing, the fondling hands of ex-husband sliding up the tail of the red evening gown, and I walked to the bonfire and some smoked sausage on a grill and an intelligent conversation with a beautiful young girl about ethnography and anthropological theory. And so, in the darkness, while we watched the wind swirl glowing embers from the fire and cast them toward heaven where they disappeared in blackness, we talked about Marx, Hegel, Spradley, Steward and Boas. During that lenghty discussion, we wondered if this damned Druid wedding was gonna take place at all.
About 10 p.m., after we decided someone had changed their mind, over in the darkness near the unused maypole pole and hole, a lantern ignited. In that circle of light stood Weird Roger and Darla, decked out in their Druid finest.
We all immediately left the porch and the bonfire and walked to the circle of light. Weird Roger wore a robe which could have been a bathrobe except it looked made of canvas. It had long, billowy sleeves, and it was white with all the edges trimmed in black. He had carefully combed his wavy hair down over the back of the robe and spread his beard across the front of the robe. He looked sorta like Jesus but with more hair. But, unlike Jesus, Weird Roger was short and squat. And, also, unlike Jesus, tied to a belt around Weird Roger's waist was a two-foot long knife in a jet-black sheath.
Darla looked like Agrippina, Cladius's wife and Nero's mother. Her shiny white robe looked made of silk, and all the edges were trimmed with gold. The beautiful robe had a hood, which was up, exposing only her face and the braces on her teeth, which cast silver flashes of the flickering lantern light. At the edges of the hood, on both sides of her face, brown strands of her hair flowed down her cheeks and disappeared beneath the folds of the robe. Her elbows were thrust out at her sides--her hands clutching something white and shiny between her breasts. The focus of my eyes moved to the shiny white object.
It was a foot-tall, pearly-white statue of a naked woman sitting as if on the ground on her knees and reclined back, her butt on her feet. The statue-woman's hands were entwined in the hair behind her head, her elbows back, her chest thrust out, emphasizing the over-fullness of her breasts. The over-full breasts were tipped with erect and over-sized nipples.
At Darla's left side--and a head taller than Darla and several inches taller than Weird Roger--stood the anorexic redhead, dressed like Darla--white silk robe trimmed with gold. Her outstretched hands held a platter wrapped with aluminum foil and shining in the lantern light.
Standing near the white-robed trio, the man holding the lantern wore a dark green robe with a hood which hid his face. He looked naked beneath the robe. Thrust through a belt at his side was a four-foot-long rapier-like and sheathless sword. He raised the lantern, and I saw his face and his thin mustache and recognized him as the ex-husband.
"Start the procession to the fire," Weird Roger said and raised his white-clad arm and pointed toward a light I then saw in the woods about a hundred yards away. "Follow the lantern bearer."
Out of the crowd stepped a robed and hooded figure. The figure turned on a battery-powered lantern, and I recognized the figure as the chubby little nerd. He looked naked beneath his robe, and a foot-long dagger protruded from a jet-black sheath at his side. He started slowly walking toward the distant fire and the crowd followed. He started chanting something in something I assumed to be Celtic, and the walking and tipsy crowd, now in the mood for weird ceremony and not blues and booze, chanted along in something I can only describe as unknown tongues.
Amazed, I stood back and watched and listened. Weird Roger looked at me and pointed toward the last person in the column, so I started walking through the pitch-black night. Ahead of me chanting and murky forms marched toward the circle of white light a few yards inside the forest. I walked faster, caught up with the rear of the column, and chanted, "Do ma, do ma, do ma."
The column and I soon reached the edge of the woods, entered the woods, and gathered in an opening around the "fire," which turned out to be a Coleman lantern. Oh, but it was eerie, let me tell you.
A hush fell over the crowd who, up until that moment, had laughed and giggled as they walked and chanted. Now, it was like I could see Emile Durkheim's collective-consciousness sweep over their minds, saying, Oh, man, damn, this ain't no joke.
The opening in the woods was about the size of a large living room, and in the middle of the opening, the Coleman lantern hissed and cast an extremely bright white light over grass and weeds and half-way up the trunks of pines and oaks. The tops of the pines and oaks disappeared in blackness. Beyond the circle of white light was blackness. Above the circle of white light was blackness. At the far edge of the circle of white light, at the edge of blackness, stood two silent, unmoving, and dark-robed and hooded figures. The bright white light illuminated their faces and I recognized two men who, only a few minutes earlier, had worn normal clothing and had partied with the rest of us.
If an owl had hooted, I shudder to think of the panic and the consequencies. I looked into the face of T___ , the hostess. Her mouth was open, and her eyes were wide and looking into mine. The expression on her face clearly said, Ohhh, ssshit.
Suddenly, into the center of the circle of white light staggered hooded, robed, drunken, and now four-foot-long-sword-waving ex-husband. And he said, "Where's Roger and Darla?"
"Hell, we don't know," we all murmured, and we all turned and looked toward where the maypole would have been standing if it had been standing, and, in the glow of the bonfire behind the house, we all saw the ghostly white figures of Weird Roger, Darla, and the skinny redhead dressed like Darla, all standing beside the pile of dirt beside the maypole pole hole and not moving at all, just standing there. The thought stuck me that somebody had changed their mind.
"Go get 'em," the sword waving ex-husband said to the battery-operated lantern packing nerd, and he did. As the nerd walked away, toward the ghostly trio, ex-husband thrust his sword into the ground beside the Coleman lantern. I could hear the lantern hiss, and I thought I could hear the sword go "swish swish swish" as it swayed back and forth, back and forth.
Now, toward the house, I could see the dim light of the nerd's lantern coming slowly toward us. The crowd parted, and the nerd walked up to the Coleman lantern and put his battery-operated lantern on the ground beside it. The skinny redhead dressed like Darla followed him very very slowly, and then, like placing an offering before the throne of a god, carefully placed the aluminum foil wrapped platter on the ground beside the Coleman lantern and stepped aside. Then, in their white canvas and silk glory, up stepped Weird Roger and Darla into the center of the white-lit and eerie wooded circle. They stopped a few feet from the two lanterns and the platter. Darla still clutched the naked statue between her breasts.
Ex-husband, the priest performing the ceremony, I then realized, drunkenly pulled his sword from the ground, pointed it at the gathered crowd, and ordered, "Form a circle."
We eased around the opening and formed a ragged circle. Using his sword as a pointer and as a very effective crowd control device, ex-husband-priest tightened the circle to his satisfaction. Then, slowly pivoting on his heels and with the sword held out, he turned and, one by one, looked us all in the eyes. Most of us, me for sure, looked not in his eyes but at the shiny point of the sword.
He finally said, "In front of these witnesses we have gathered here to unite in holy matrimony Roger ____ and Darla ____. They have performed the ceremony required by the State of Louisiana, but they do not recognize the legality of that ceremony. Therefore, we have this ceremony, which they recognize." After a pause, during which he almost fell, he added, "This is a solemn occasion."
At that comment, a drunken redneck two witnesses to my left, and drinking Jim Beam straight from the bottle, loudly laughed. His laugh irritated me because the occasion seemed damned solemn to me. But the drunken interruption broke the hold the eerie setting had on my mind and gave me a moment to think: Was this ceremony really so unusual? Well, maybe all the knives and the swordplay was unusual, but, heck, the priests at Catholic weddings dressed in funny robes, and somebody once told me about a Catholic wedding with a drunken priest. And don't Catholics have a statue of a woman somewhere around the altar? Okay, I know, she's wearing clothes. And she doesn't have large breasts and erect nipples, but, what the heck--a statue of a woman is a statue of a woman.
The ex-husband-priest with the funny robe and the sword ignored the sacrilegious laughter. When it ended and silence reigned again, he said, "Bring forth the goddess."
Silence reigned again, and the eerie setting took over my mind again. I more than half-way expected two robe-clad and hooded figures to lead a naked girl out of the blackness at the edge of the clearing. I imagined her with huge breasts, like the statue, ready to receive the worship of her loyal and hooded subjects. I even imagined her semi-drugged and with her hands tied behind her back, ready to offer herself as a human sacrifice. I saw her kneel on the ground. I saw her lower her head. I saw a hooded figure reach down and pull aside her hair, exposing her neck. I saw another hooded figure step to her side and raise his sword. But I read too much about ancient ceremonies, because none of that happened.
As I stood frozen in fear, Darla leaned over, pulled the white porcelain statue from between her breasts, and placed it on the ground on the other side of the Coleman lantern from the platter. Then she resumed her position beside Weird Roger. Well, at least the goddess was naked.
The redhead leaned over and pulled aside the foil covering the platter and satisfied my curiosity about its contents. It contained bread, dinner rolls. She picked up one of the rolls and placed it in the lap of the tiny, pearly-white, buxom, and hard-nippled goddess. Now, I wondered about that--bread on female crotch. Was it a Druid thing? Staff of life on stuff of life?
At that very moment, a large brown dog with no interest in unusual ceremonies darted out of the crowd, noisily sniffed at and slobbered on the rolls on the platter, and gulped one down. Someone ran out, grabbed the dog, and pulled it away. At that very moment, a small white dog with an interest in bread on ceramic human female crotches, ran out from between someone's legs and clamped its teeth around the roll on the statue's crotch. Someone grabbed the little dog and placed another roll on the ceramic stuff of life.
A long moment of expectant silence then passed, the silence broken only by the quiet shuffle of witnesses corralling the remaining dogs in attendance. Then, ex-husband-priest looked up into the blackness above us, pointed his sword toward that blackness, and said, "Who will call the great spirit above us to come down and join us?"
"I will," a woman said. She raised her face and her hands toward the blackness. "Oh, great spirit," she called out, "come down and join us."
At that very moment, I swear, wind howled through the tops of trees in the blackness above us, and, around us, it lifted Weird Roger's long and wavy hair and blew aside the gold-trimmed hems of silken robes. But the wind blew earlier; perhaps I only noticed the gust because of the moment. But I do know the gust ended and ex-husband-priest called out, "Who will call the north to come join us?"
"I will; I will," echoed around the circle of witnesses.
Ex-husband-priest started to point his sword at someone but suddenly stopped. "Hey, S___ ," he said, "which way's north?"
S___ , the host, looked over his shoulder, behind himself, and said, "That-a-way."
"Call forth the north!" ex-husband-priest demanded with a thrust of his sword toward a Druid man on his knees at the north side of the circle.
The man was very fat, and the hood of his black robe framed a round face with protruding, quivering cheeks. He looked like Friar Tuck, drunk and on his knees. He raised his arms toward the south and bellowed, "Come join us north!"
"No, dummy!" ex-husband-priest complained with a thrust of his sword toward the proper direction. "That way!"
The good Friar turned, raised his arms more westward than northward, and repeated, "Come join us north!"
"Who will call the east?!"
"I will!" a friend on the east side of the circle and standing beside me said. One of his hands held a brandy-snifter half-full of home-made brandy. His other hand held a tall, skinny shot-glass and a fifth of Bailey's Irish Creame Whiskey. He raised the Bailey's--pointed it directly south--and said, "Come forth east! Join us!"
As drunk as the caller and failing to notice the mis-called direction, ex-husband-priest staggered next to the south and then to the west side of the circle. Both directions were properly called to come join us at the wedding of Weird Roger and Darla. And then, his direction-calling-forth route around the witnesses completed and his position now at the north side of the circled witnesses, he yelled out, "Who will call the underworld?!"
Again, he yelled, "Who will call the underworld?!"
Again, dead silence.
Sword in hand, he staggered around the circle. He stopped in front of the Jim Beam-swilling redneck, suddenly raised the sword in the unfortunate man's face, and ordered, "Call forth the underworld!"
The man probably sobered somewhat. He certainly could find nothing to laugh about. He obviously could not find or could not force his lips to utter any words of reply. His eyes rolled, following the shiny point of the sword as it moved across his face, only inches from his nose. He suddenly found words: "I . . . I'll do it."
The sword lowered. The man took a deep breath. He took a swig of Jim Beam. He thrust out the bottle, making the brown liquid inside it slosh against the sides of the square bottle, the pure-white lantern light making the liquid look almost golden. "Underworld!" he yelled as golden liquid splashed from the thrust-out bottle's un-corked neck and fell at his feet. "Come forth!"
The bottle lowered, and we waited in the utter silence that then descended. But if the spirits of the underworld came forth, they remained invisible or blended themselves into the blackness beyond the circle of light.
And perhaps they did just that. Because at that moment, the ex-husband-priest started swordfighting something or someone invisible. At first, I thought he was thrusting the sword at the circled witnesses, but as he made the circle and came to me and I tensed my body and prepared to jump aside--human sacrifice, you know?--I saw that his sword thrust toward and his eyes looked toward something or someone in the blackness behind me.
But at last, the spirits and the directions called and whatever was out in the blackness safely there, he pointed his sword toward the tiny statue and said, "In the presence of the goddess"--the sword swished through the air and pointed toward heaven--"and in the presence of the great spirit above us"--the sword swished again and pointed north, then east, then south, then west, then back to north--"and in the presence of the sacred directions"--down swished the sword--"and in the presence of the underworld, we perform this ceremony!"
He thrust his sword into the ground. Then he stepped to Weird Roger and Darla, standing there beside each other in their white-and-black and white-and-gold robes and with the brilliant white lantern light illuminating them and making them look like statues lit from within, against the backdrop of the blackness beyond them.
Then ex-husband-priest, his robe-clad back toward me, started speaking the words of the Druid marriage ceremony, words in English, I think, but words spoken so softly I could not hear them. The words ended, and he took one step backwards. Weird Roger and Darla reached down and started untying knots at the waists of their robes. Yuck, I thought. I don't want to think about Weird Roger naked.
The knots opened, but what came loose was not the belts holding the robes closed but two nylon cords that I had not noticed tied around their waists. They handed the two cords to ex-husband-priest, and he put two ends together and made a two-stranded rope. Then Weird Roger and Darla turned, facing each other, and clasped their right hands together. Ex-husband-priest looped the two-stranded rope again and again around their clasped-together hands. Then he stepped back. When he did that, Darla said, "Bring forth cake and ale."
Out of the crowd stepped my Druid-for-a-day friend, the one that dug the maypole pole hole and trimmed the pole. He picked up a roll from either the platter or the ceramic crotch--I did not notice, dang it!--and gave it to Weird Roger and Darla. Then he walked over to my friend with the now-empty brandy snifter and the fifth of Bailey's and the skinny shot-glass. They poured the shot-glass full of Bailey's, and my Druid-for-a-day friend handed it to Weird Roger and Darla. They then proceeded to feed each other "cake" and "ale."
Ex-husband-priest picked up the platter and walked around the circle of witnesses and offered everyone a piece of "cake." They all took one. When he came to me, I dug down into the bottom of the pile, hoping I could find a piece of "cake" without a coating of dog-slobber icing.
And, then, the ceremony over, I guessed, ex-husband-priest got his cake and got to eat it too; he was the only one that kissed the bride. It was a longggg passionate kiss. Weird Roger finally said, "Hey, this is my damned wedding."
So off the column soon started again, back toward the house and the bonfire and the beer, nobody chanting, now, and Weird Roger and Darla walking with their right hands still tied together. The lantern bearer reached a tent off to the side of the house, toward the barn. Someone unzipped the fly at the entrance to the tent, and Weird Roger and Darla, hands still tied together, crawled inside. Up zipped the fly. My Druid-for-a-day friend for some reason now had ex-husband-priest's four-foot-long sword, and he thrust it into the ground in front of the entrance to the tent. Then he turned to the gathered crowd and said, "Well, y'all, we've done part of our duty, so, now, let's do the rest of it--let's party!"
And so we did. As for me, I can only say that I think Weird Roger and Darla soon closed their eyes in exhaustion and got their first good night's sleep in months.
But I suppose I should add that, as far as I'm concerned, having witnessed several Anglo-Saxon weddings and participated in two, and also having read about and witnessed other ceremonies of various other cultures, that a Druid wedding is not so unusual at all.
But, hey, I wonder about Druid divorces. Just exactly what kind of privileges do ex-husbands have?
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