Saturday, 26 May 2018

Marriage Customs and some old Superstitions

Marriage Customs and some old Superstitions


The big event this month was Meghan Markle’s and Prince Harry's Royal Wedding on May 15, 2018. The nuptial excitement will carry on to June and further as many would be brides will have their turn at their big day. 

Lubomirski-Kensington Palace- via AP

The month of June is usually associated with weddings and though many may not know this, the key determination in selecting this month comes all the way back from Roman times and their mythology. Briefly told, June was the month dedicated to Juno, the wife of Jupiter, the ancient Romans’ ultimate deity. Because of this association, she was regarded as the patroness of marriage, and also, the protector of women. On the other hand, the month of May is considered an unlucky marriage month. Oops!!!! Hope that won’t be the case for our new favorite Royal couple; we all certainly wish them nothing but ultimate bliss in their future married life. 


But I digress; here are some light hearted references to many of the old customs and superstitions of, chiefly English, marriage ceremonies which some of you may or may not know.

For starters, the word “wed” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon and means “Pledge,” appropriately so, since the ceremony consists of two parties (bride and groom’s) pledging or promising to love and abide by certain rules, to ensure a happy outcome. 


This solemn occasion over the years has also given rise to some symbolic acts to ensure good fortune and to avert any ill omens; these undertakings had their origins from conventional superstitions.

One can marry any day of the week, though Sunday and Monday are not popular. The preference is often given to Wednesday or Saturday. Friday has evil associations for Christians (because Jesus was crucified on that day and also that was the day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit). On the other hand, to the Norsemen Friday was the luckiest day of the week, being named after Odin’s wife Frea. It is interesting to note that the Ancient Romans had dedicated Friday to Venus, the goddess of beauty and worldly love.

To ensure wedded bliss, in English Victorian times the bridal trousseau (excluding the gown), was sewn by the bride herself. The bridal gown was usually made by her close friends. As they completed this requisite, they would sew a strand or few hairs from their head into the hem or some of the folds to hasten the time of their own matrimony. 

Meghan Markle's stunning Bivenchy wedding dress


The colour most preferred for the dress is white (in Canada, Europe, America etc.) as it is the emblem of purity, candour and simplicity. The veil (made to cover the bride’s face completely during the ceremony). 


The veil when worn by the ancient Roman and Greek brides, was instead, yellow. Red was the preferred choice in Old China, as the symbol of life, the blood is red. Blue is considered a fortunate colour for lovers as the rhythm goes: “Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue.”

Green unfortunately is associated with ill luck, so it should be avoided. The wearing of “Orange-blossom” was introduced from France in 1820, as the white blossoms stood for innocence, while the Cherry tree represents fruitfulness. Similarly “the Chaplet of flowers” worn on head and the bouquet the brides hold, symbolize abundance and prosperity.

On the wedding day if the bride awakens to the sounds of singing birds, this bodes that she and her husband will never quarrel and furthermore, remain forever constant to one another. To spot a spider on the bridal gown or veil denotes wealth and plenty.

Before leaving the house the bride must be careful to add something to her apparel, such as gloves, for good luck. 

The Bride must avoid shedding tears before the wedding as it not an auspicious thing to do. On the way to be married, it is fortunate if the bride sees a toad, dove or spider. Bride must enter the church with a right foot first and try not to stumble, for it is considered an omen of evil. 


The Pageboys helped her with her train - PHOTO BEN STANSALL,AFP- GETTY IMAGES


Surprise, surprise! The bridegroom is not constrained with as many superstitions. The important thing for him to remember is that, he must not see his bride in her bridal clothes on the day of the wedding before that is, she meets him at the alter or before the ceremony is about to take place. Therefore, he must keep his back turned while she is coming up the aisle. 

 Groom arrives at the church in military attire--PHOTO-JANE BARLOW-AFP-GETTY IMAGES5



Also, once he has set out for the church, the bridegroom must not turn back; if he has forgotten something, another person, such as the best man must be sent to fetch it.

His groomsmen are from the times when marriage was made by capture, and he needed this sturdy bunch to assist him in seizing the maiden from the midst of her people.

Take care not to drop the ring, and place it as far down as possible when putting it on bride’s finger. A failure of this would portend of an early parting. If the bride has to assist him in putting on the ring, it will mean that it will be she who rules the home.

A promise is made by the ring, the plain gold or platinum circlet, which symbolizes their never-ending love and devotion. The third finger of the left hand on which the ring is placed, is believed to have a delicate nerve in it that directly links it to the heart. 

Prince Harry and bride Meghan Markle May 19, 2018

After the ceremony is completed the bride and bridegroom are showered by the confetti or rice. The throwing of rice was derived from an Indian custom connected with throwing of wheat ears which was once also practiced in good Old England. It’s another symbolic act meant to ensure fruitfulness and plenty for the wedded couple. 



Confetti is preferred over rice because it’s less dangerous to the face and eyes, and also does not harm the pigeons who often dine on it. 

Typical of Wedding Cake

The wedding cake has its origins in the days of Old Roman Empire. Back then the cake however was made of flour, water and salt, a far cry from the elaborately ornamented, several layered icing confection of today. The couple partakes of it, for the act ensures that they would never know want. You must eat a slice of wedding-cake; to refuse it means you do not wish the bride and groom well. 

Celebratory Drink

There is another superstition that the health of the bride must be drunk in sprits such as champagne, wine, beer etc. To drink instead, a soft- drink or water will bring the newlyweds an ill fortune and troubles.

After the ceremony, the bridesmaids compete to catch the bouquet thrown by the bride, for it means that they will be next. Bride usually throws the bouquet over her head as she stands with her back to the gathered bachelorettes.

At the end of the celebrations sometimes when the bride is leaving to prepare for the honeymoon, she’ll throw one of her shoes over her left shoulder, the one that catches it will be the next to marry. 

Dress from designer Stella McCartney- Photo by Steve Parsons- Ap

Prince Harry and bride Meghan Markle- Photo by SteveParsons- Ap

The term “honeymoon” comes from the time when for thirty days they celebrated the wedding, with bridegroom and bride taking part in the revelry, by drinking mead- a beverage made from honey.

Nearing the end of the festivities, and the bride withdraws to have a change of clothes. She must take care to remove all the pins which were used in her marriage gown or veil and give it to a friend to be thrown away. Should any of it is re-used on her going- away attire, it would bring ill luck and the honeymoon will not be so happy.

The throwing of the old shoes at the newlyweds, or attaching one to the car in which they drive away, had its origins from Anglo-Saxon times, when the father of the bride gave her shoe to the bridegroom, who touched her with it on the head as the symbol of his authority. Some claim the throwing of a shoe is from the times when marriage was done by force and the bride was abducted.

The newlyweds should take care not to break anything during their honeymoon. She may now wear green, for at this point it will bring her good fortune and abundant love.

Upon returning home, there’s an ancient custom where boiling water is poured over the threshold before the bride enters the house. A Scottish custom dictates that the bride should be carried across the threshold of her new home while her new mother-in-law breaks shortbread over her head. In some countries it is considered lucky of the new bride placed dough on the door of her house, symbolizing that in future she’s to be the housekeeper. In Ireland a cake made of oats is broken over the wife’s head in order to ensure that the married couple will never know want.

Modern times have embraced many other colorful customs and traditions. Creativity plays big part with many weddings. The centre theme however never varied: and that is the union of two loving hearts. After a big hurrah the newlyweds embark on a wonderful journey together. This has stayed the same throughout the ages so long as civilizations last. 

Royal wedding portrait features Pr. Harry and Duches Meghan --PHOTO-ALEXI LUBOMIRSKI,KENSINGTON

Royal wedding portrait features Pr. Harry and Duches Meghan and their parents --PHOTO-ALEXI LUBOMIRSKI,KENSINGTON


Saturday, 12 May 2018

Time for Mother

Time for Mother

Mother's are precious and much loved by us all. Words can't convey enough of our appreciation. Throughout the ages, artists have rendered their interpretation of Mothers on Canvas. These are my favorite selections this year. And just in time for Mother's Day.

I wish to all the mothers out there: 

“A Happy Mother's Day”

Below is selection of Art depicting mothers:

The Sleeping Child - 1911- Mary Curtis Richardson -American, 1848-1921

The Clothes Line - Helen Allingham -English, 1848-1926

Camille Monet e criança!

Vladimir Volegov

Peek-a-Bo - circa 1900- Bernard Blommers -Dutch, 1845-1914

Charles Baugniet

Trent Gudmundsen

Reginald Bottomley   (1856-1933) A Mother and Child Looking at the Virgin and Child.

Returning from Market,1886- Charles Sillem Lidderdale-British 1830 - 1895

Edelfelt, Albert (Finnish, 1854-1905) - The Park of Luxembourg - 1887

-Isabel Guerra (1947)

Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Sorolla y Bastida , Joaquin (Spanish, 1863-1923) - The First Child - 1890

Mother and son- Pablo Picasso

Gaetano Chierici

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, (Spagna, 1863-1923) Dopo il bagno - After the Bath (1902)

Jean-eugène buland- The happiness of the parents.1903

Steve Hanks

-Richard MacNeil .

-Vicente Romero

And finally, here’s a lovely poem: 

To My Mother

O thou whose care sustained my infant years,

And taught my prattling lip each note of love;

Whose soothing voice breathed comfort to my fears,

And round my brow hope’s brightest garland wove;

To thee my lay is due, the simple song,

Which Nature gave me at life’s opening day;

To thee these rude, these untaught strains belong,

Whose heart indulgent will not spurn my lay.

O say, amid this wilderness of life,

What bosom would have throbbed like thine for me?

Who would have smiled responsive?—who in grief,

Would e’er have felt, and, feeling, grieved like thee?

Who would have guarded, with a falcon-eye,

Each trembling footstep or each sport of fear?

Who would have marked my bosom bounding high,

And clasped me to her heart, with love’s bright tear?

Who would have hung around my sleepless couch,

And fanned, with anxious hand, my burning brow?

Who would have fondly pressed my fevered lip,

In all the agony of love and wo?

None but a mother—none but one like thee,

Whose bloom has faded in the midnight watch;

Whose eye, for me, has lost its witchery,

Whose form has felt disease’s mildew touch.

Yes, thou hast lighted me to health and life,

By the bright lustre of thy youthful bloom—

Yes, thou hast wept so oft o’er every grief,

That wo hath traced thy brow with marks of gloom.

O then, to thee, this rude and simple song,

Which breathes of thankfulness and love for thee,

To thee, my mother, shall this lay belong,

Whose life is spent in toil and care for me.

(Credits: This poem is in the public domain.

About this Poem:

“To My Mother” was first published in Poetical Remains of the Late Lucretia Maria Davidson (Lea and Blanchard, 1841). Author: Lucretia Maria Davidson)



Friday, 20 April 2018

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open

Many cultures throughout history have held similar beliefs that eyes, particularly the pupils, are “windows to the soul”. Here’s an original, fictional story that incorporates this particular insight. 

Orphaned at the age of three Tuan Yong was brought up by his paternal uncle Tuan Gang who had begrudgingly taken him in. 

His uncle Gang had an only son Tuan Min who happened to be six months older than Yong. Min had two elder half-sisters but, being the only male offspring, was terribly fawned upon and spoiled from birth. 

A special tutor was engaged to educate both children but with a particular onus to give the most attention and care to Min. Yong was pretty much left to his own devices to learn whatever he can. However Yong had the propensity to develop into a fine, intelligent, young man with high moral fiber. Gifted with many exceptional abilities, generous to a fault in nature, as well as, possessing a rather statuesque, handsome physique, Yong had, in every imaginable way, far surpassed Min. To the further consternation of his uncle Gang, Yong also possessed added brilliance and aptitude with the literary and the fine arts. By simply tapping into his vast reserves of imagination on top of his natural keen insight into nature, Yong would produce with the least effort dazzling masterpieces in a flash. He was therefore popular and held increasingly so in high regard by all his peers. 

In contrast, Min, despite his efforts and many inherited advantages, could never measure up, always falling short in any social or academic endeavor. What’s more, as upstanding as Yong was in character and ability, Min was the opposite. But instead of acknowledging his inferiority, Min remained falsely confident, vain and cruel. 

Wishing to advance his only his son Min, Gang chose to be perpetually blinded to all his shortcomings. He refused to acknowledge the blatant facts when Min took full credit for Yong’s exemplary deeds and academic accolades. Most often Yong was also unfairly blamed and punished for many of Min’s loathsome acts. Moreover poor Yong would be severely reprimanded at each instance for his supposed failing to protect and deter Min from his nasty endeavors and his increasingly coarse, scandalous ways. 

As they grew up, to the added consternation of Gang, his son Min had become progressively wicked and licentious, warranting more additional funds and force to suppress the resulting damage. To make matters worse Min had become a compulsive gambler and a womanizer. His idle ways led him to spend most of his time in unsavory places doing many abhorrent things. All of which of course was covered up with a certain pressure and occasional bribery; even though this greatly sapped Gang’s coffers.

Then came a day when Min committed an unpardonable crime; one that could not be so easily swept under the rug for any amount of finagling, threat or money. The situation was dire and something extreme needed to resolve it. 

In a private conference Uncle Tuan Gang spoke his mind after laying the blame squarely on Yong’s shoulders. “You should have been more insistent in your reasoning with Min and strove harder, been more persistent in order to prevent this catastrophic event. As it is, the authorities will be wizened to it by morning and will be coming to make an arrest!” 

Finally, after all that ranting and raving, with his fury spent, Gang sat down and in a hissing voice added, “There might be, however, one last recourse left. That is, if you, Tuan Yong are willing to face this probable peril. “Looking down he mumbled, “And considering all that I’ve done for you, you owe me, at least this one favor!” 

Yong ‘s life by any means had not been an easy one, still he felt he owed his Uncle a debt of gratitude for his upbringing, education and shelter for all these years. He therefore had little choice but to accede to this unfair demand and shoulder the full blame for Min’s crime.

“I’m not an entirely unreasonable man however, “His uncle hemmed and hawed. “That is why I’ve facilitated your escape. The authorities will look the other way till morning. This letter will give you the proper introductions to my friend Fan Wei who owes me a favor. He lives in the Sekor district in Dara province. The journey will be hard on you I dare say, as it crosses much hostile territory and is close to the border, a far, far place from here. He will take you in all right; he owes me and he can use you in his employ till such a time that this thing blows over. Is that agreeable to you?”

“Of course Uncle,” Yong fell on his knees, “I’m forever indebted to you for your mercy.” What other response could Yong give? 

Shortly after leaving all that he had known behind, armed with a letter, Yong made good his escape under cover of night.

His arduous trek eventually took him to the foothills of a great mountain range. Looking up, he observed the snow cowered peaks and just below that the expansive span of dense forest stretching as far as the eye could see. Subsequently, his desperate gaze searched for accessible paths. He knew that crossing these mountains will be the last leg of his journey. From then on a far easier topography but harsher climate still awaited him. His provisions for sustenance were nearly exhausted, save for a small portion of dried bread and moldy cheese. Meanwhile though his foot-gear was threadbare he would still persevere, he was sure of it. He was only armed with a staff and a short knife for protection; fortunately though he had been spared from encounters with bandits or carnivorous beasts. 


The snaking, narrow, rocky mountain paths with a sheer precipice on one side, led him ever upward for many a day, then one fine afternoon he found himself at the maw of a huge cave. As the weather looked rather ominous, he entered the cave to seek shelter for the night. 


With intermixed trepidation and eagerness in his heart, his feet carried him further and further in. As it was still daylight, he took advantage of the scant light streaming in. Eventually he arrived at a large opening, a huge chamber bathed in plenty of light. Up ahead, his eyes beheld the source; an unexpected huge opening that looked out onto a distant forested mountain. Incredibly a person clad in strange priestly garments was seated at a bench table, brush in hand, quite engaged in painting on a silk cloth. Unable to believe his eyes, he tentatively advanced until he was right behind the seated stranger. Leaning over he observed a most remarkable painting. It depicted the scene outside of the opening so perfectly, so lifelike. An exclamation escaped Yong’s lips as he marveled at the artistry. 


He took hold of his senses however and pulled back; then quickly apologized, “Please excuse me for this intrusion, but what an amazing ....” He’d suddenly found himself lost for words.

The stranger had at first remained perfectly still and quite unperturbed. Presently he half turned to glance at Yong. 

At once Yong bowed to the stranger who had by then risen to his feet and squarely faced him. After his repeated apology for his infringement of the painter’s privacy, Yong formally introduced himself, and then exclaimed his deep admiration of the painting in progress. He rambled on without intending to for several minutes. A profusion of words and concepts mainly extrapolating on the points of the painting he admired streamed from his mouth; followed by other historical references and artists relating to the style and subject of the painting.

“You seem quite knowledgeable of the arts” the stranger, who’d listened with unusual patience, finally smiled. He then introduced himself as Liong Xiá and further inquired, “But what is this person Zhang Shen Yao you’ve made mention of? I am not familiar with that person.”

Yong could hardly believe his ears, “Surely you jest, sir?” He politely smiled. “He is a legendary artist, known far and wide in the realm.” 


But the stranger simply shook his head. In the ensuing silence, Yong was obliged to offer more explanations; and so, he succinctly told the account of the story of Zhang Seng Yao’s painting of Dragons:

He was a famous painter, during Wei-Jin the South and North Dynasties who excelled in painting animals, birds and particularly dragons.

According to legend, the Emperor had ordered him to paint dragons on the wall of AnLe temple. After he drew four dragons, Zhang invited the emperor to take a look.

“But the work is incomplete! “The emperor was displeased, having at once noted that the dragons were drawn without the pupils. 

“The absence of the pupils is purposeful, “Zhang quickly explained, “as they are the essence of the dragons. To do otherwise would bring the creatures to life and usher in unwarranted consequences.”

The emperor, thinking this to be a high exaggeration of an egotistical artist, demanded Zhang complete his work. Zhang Shen Yao was therefore forced to do as he was bid. No sooner did he complete the eyes of two of the dragons, lightening flashed and thunders roared. There was a strange mist that filled the air and in that chaos the two mighty dragons emerged through the mist. In a flash they dashed through the cave’s ceiling to instantly disappear without a trace into the sky. When the smoke and mist cleared, the emperor saw that only two dragons remained on the wall.

“Quite an interesting account” Xiá nodded at the conclusion of Yong’s retelling of the story. You have a flare with words, sir that enlivens the scene. Thank you for that. 

“Nevertheless, “Yong added thoughtfully. “ As enduring as this legend is, and there are even supposed to be documented historical accounts of its validity in the Royal Library. Now that I’ve said it out loud.... “Yong shrugged, doubting his original firm belief. “Perhaps it’s nothing more than a high exaggeration to beguile or entertain the masses.”

“Who’s to say” Xia shrugged. “Then again...” He picked up and unrolled one of the scrolls then spread it across the table. 

Yong was amazed at the lifelike painting of a bird... But what’s this? There were no pupils.

He looked up at Xie questioningly. 

Xiá smiled, “Would you like to know?”

“Yes,” Yong eagerly nodded.

At which point Xie took a brush, dipped the tip in ink and simply painted in the pupils. 


No sooner had he done that then, to the amazement of Yong, the bird blinked, his feathers ruffled, and then instantaneously came to life and simply flew away, escaping through the wide opening of the cave. 

Yong knew at once that this was no ordinary mortal. But his thoughts suddenly, for some reason, turned instead to the letter in his inner pocket.

“What’s this? “But then, when he reached for it, he discovered that it was missing. Had he dropped it along the way? 

Yong, looking up and saw the very letter with its seal intact in the hands of Xiá.

“Are you looking for this? “ Xia looked grim as he glanced at the letter. Then suddenly he fixed his eyes on Jiang and asked, “You’ve never once had the temptation to open it to see what’s inside?”

“Of course not! It was not addressed to me.” Yong gave his frank response.

”Then again, this once, perhaps you should have.” Xia pursed his lips.

Yong understood at once the peril that awaited him at the end of his journey. After all his survival would have been a bane to Gang with so much at stake. It saddened Yong however that his Uncle had so little regard for him. Then again, perhaps his Uncle’s love for his son was far greater.

Having decided quickly he knelt before Liong Xiá . He then pleaded to be his pupil. 

Xiá smiled and nodded. Then he held out the letter which disappeared in a puff of smoke.

The End.