The Royal Wedding: Do You Care?

The Royal Wedding: Do You Care? April 29, 2011

I confess, I don’t. Maybe it’s reverse-snobbery: the less I hear about my socioeconomic betters, the better — that’s why I never got into Desperate Housewives or Mad Men. Or maybe it’s sheer perversity: whatever the world loves, Lindenman must despise — that’s why I have never, to this day, seen any of the Rings movies.

Or it may be something even more basic: the envy I feel toward people of whatever station who are happily married. One time last year, a friend literally thrust her engagement ring under my nose, demanding, “Notice anything different? Hmmmm?” Now, I happened to know that this woman’s road to the hymenal altar had been a rocky one. She’d met her future husband in high school; they dated, then broke up. He married a woman who turned out to be Jerry Springer material and separated from her, but not before siring two daughters. He and my friend then reconnected, which left my friend having to stand in loco parentis not only for his wife, but because he worked long hours, for him. She bore up nobly, grateful to have found true love.

Still, even knowing this, all I could think was, “My God! How nouveau-riche can you get?”

Anyway, for those reasons, I am deeply impressed that Star Foster, my Patheos colleague, was able to find transcendent meaning in the nuptials of these two obscenely wealthy, uninteresting people (at least one of them balding). She’s a pagan; for her, it ties into the festival of Beltane:

In England, this mythos of sacred marriage is a very old one (and still popular today). The legendary Arthur was a sacred king who ruled brightly in the May of his youth, accepting the gifts and protection of the land itself until he was cut down and stored away like winter wheat. In Prince Charles we see this pattern emerge again: he married a woman who became representative of the land itself, experienced a rather public sacrifice of sorts and now resembles nothing so much as a Winter King whose Gráinne has returned to him. As he fades back into the elder pillars of the family, William is the bright new prince taking on the role of the sacred king.

The timing of the Royal Wedding and the way the old mythos fits is important to how England herself is perceived. The growing Pagan movement in the UK, particularly the strides made by Druids to gain recognition, has resulted in a perspective of re-enchanting the land. Spirit of Albion has received a surprising amount of support in the debate over whether Britain should have a national anthem, and the traditional English May Day activities have been taken up with renewed vigor as Pagans enthusiastically use Maypoles, Morris Dancers, Hobby Horses, and traditional music to celebrate what is one of the “holiest” days of the year. “Merry Olde England” is actively reclaiming her heritage: religiously and musically.

Now, I confess, I’m almost completely ignorant on the subject of paganism, save for what I’ve read in two books. The first, Strange Days, is the memoir of a journalist named Patricia Kennelly who doubled as a pagan priestess. In the former capacity, she met Jim Morrison of the Doors; in the latter, she married him. I lost the book a long time ago, but I remember Kennelly being both crazier than a scathouse rat, and very clever. I came away thinking I’d like to have a conversation with her — through bulletproof glass.

When I mentioned this to Star in an e-mail, she warned me: “Patricia’s not the best exemplar of our religion.” I replied, “Yeah, no kidding. She’s your Mel Gibson.”

The other is Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Beyond the Mists of Avalon, a retelling of Arthurian legend through the eyes of Moran le Fay, whom Bradley presents as a pagan priestess. I read it at the insistence of a lady friend, and although I won’t say I regret it, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Yes, there was some interesting stuff about traditional Celtic religion — Cerdiwen, the earth goddess; the Green Man, and whatnot. But there was far, far more about menarche, menses and menopause. By the time I finished, I was no expert on paganism, but I might have been able to fill in for a gynecologist.

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