Anything that brings people to express to one another something other than normal day-to-day life touches on the spiritual world, on the ancestral world, and therefore is a ritual event.
“The Spirit of Intimacy”
Today, my husband and I celebrate our third year of marriage. Like many of us, I’ve been aware of the traditional wedding anniversary gifts for some time but I recently felt I needed to know the meaning behind each one because as much as I love tradition, I try to be cognizant of not following it blindly.
I did a little online research and I’m not surprised to learn that it goes back to Europe and Germania from the middles ages. Reading the significance of each gift though, I actually really like it.
1st year Paper
The first year of marriage is like a clean sheet of paper, a new beginning upon which to write your passage through the years together. Also like paper, it is fragile and can easily rip, not having yet been tried by the fires of adversity and the storms of life.
2nd Year Cotton
Like the interwoven fibers of cotton, the second year of marriage brings a couple closer together as their lives become increasingly intertwined. And as cotton is at the same time both strong and soft, the couple is learning how to be flexible and adapt to each other’s needs.
3rd year Leather
Leather has traditionally symbolized protection and covering; our ancestors covered and protected themselves from the elements with the leather hides of animals. The bonds of marriage offer security and shelter as each partner takes care of the other. Now in its third year, the growing relationship is becoming a source of stability for the married couple.
I will stop here because my husband and I are in the leather year and I don’t want to skip ahead. I have to say that the meaning for leather makes total sense to me and that I have been experiencing these aspects of our bond this past year. At the Soul Sistah Series discussion of The Spirit of Intimacy that we had last weekend, I felt blessed to be in a space with Black women who felt comfortable enough to share the different feelings, findings and thoughts on the various phases of their relationships with a significant other, past and present. I found that I was not alone in the challenges I faced with my honey bunches (don’t judge me. We’ve had cutesy names for each other for years) in the past year or so. I’ve always known I wasn’t alone and have benefited from the counsel of friends, and therapy which I attend faithfully. But there’s nothing like being in a collective space with Black woman with the goal of deconstructing and dismantling our colonized relationship myths to make space for application of traditional African approaches that honor our ancestors and the meaning behind the spirit that draws us to one another, to build community, nurture purpose, love, liberate and create. Wow, that was a long sentence. I agree. LOL!
Before we embarked on our discussion of “The Spirit of Intimacy” Khalilah, gathered us in a circle in the back yard of the dining establishment (Black owned y’all) to set intention by honoring and pouring libation for our ancestors. We started in a circle and closed out in a circle.
In this same way, I look to the symbolism of the traditional wedding anniversary gifts as a way to recognize how far we’ve come and what level we’re at in this particular relationship with one another and I also wonder about indigenous ways we can begin to do this or what’s a more African version of this gift giving ritual? Because honestly, I don’t always care about gift giving for gift giving sake. We really only cherish things we receive from others when we can attribute a special meaning to them and that meaning usually has to do with the spirit in which is it was given. If I have learned noting from this book, it’s that the spirit is always at the core of any relationship and must never be forgotten. Without it, relationships become empty, without true purpose or meaning. And really, without relationship, we have nothing.
What I honor about my marriage to Francis today, is the way in which our ability to really dig into and confront our issues by facing up to some uncomfortable realities has allowed us to come out on the other side still dedicated to loving and supporting one another and being stronger and better for it. But I could not have done that without the help of others, my besties, my family, my counsel not to mention, our cat. LOL!
We hope to see you at our next gathering to dig deep into “The Spirit of Intimacy” in July! More details on that to follow. Until then, please find ways and rituals to honor the spirit of relationships that are sacred to you. They won’t evolve on their own. You bring the water, and the earth will meet you.