Friday 6 March 2015

Themed Ceremonies | Stories, Superstitions, Animals

I’m starting with TV, films and fiction again in this blog entry. Revisiting some of my favourites for my last piece got me thinking about how well loved stories might be used within a ceremony. Not just in terms of readings and music as previously noted but in terms of a ‘themed event’. For a wedding or commitment ceremony a couple might follow a costume drama type wedding and a naming ceremony could adopt a fairy tale theme with all those attending on each occasion appropriately dressed. Others go for a bit of a twist. Some of our favourite stories have been reworked in various ways. Little Vampire Women and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and, my personal favourite, Jane Slayre (for Jane Erye) are all re-writings of well-known classics. The fairy tale genre hasn’t escaped such written, or cinematic, interpretation. The Cinderella story is told in Ever After (with the central character played by Drew Barrymore), in Ella Enchanted (Anne Hathaway) and Into the Woods (Anna Kendrick). If these are not to your taste there are other retellings of this tale and of many other folk stories. The latter example is in fact an amalgamation of a number of different tales with a myriad of characters, many of which (and more) appear in the Shrek series. So then rather than a theme, perhaps a variation on a theme. 

Two of the main characters in the Shrek movies are animals - Donkey and Puss - and it’s not that unusual for animals to play a central role in a ceremony either. Hearses are sometimes drawn by horses rather than horsepower and beloved pets attend funerals; dogs accompany grooms, brides and others at weddings; and naming ceremonies and parties often have jungle or farmyard animals as a focus. 

Good luck? Cute anyways
Superstitions, based as they are on legend and stories with no basis in 'science', are thought to have a limiting effect on societal development (Fazaei 2005) and whilst this can be true there are times, including times of celebration, when we draw on superstition (even if we do not believe in it) to demonstrate our feelings. Roses, for example, are a symbol of love almost everywhere and thus a part of many ceremonies, as well as annual and individual special days. Many brides keep their wedding day attire a secret from their partner until the big day and still add something blue and something borrowed to their costume, that later will likely be covered in confetti. And representation of horseshoes, wishbones and four leaf clovers are given as gifts to babies, children and adults (including newly married ones). Animals are significant again here. For example doves (variously thought to be a sign of purity and/or peace) might be released at a ceremony and, although feared by some, symbols of the ‘lucky’ spider are likely at a Halloween, vampire or superhero themed ceremony. Cats play their part too, especially black ones. Black cats are considered lucky by many and are represented on cards, charms, brooches, key rings (and more) and complete with bow versions are sometimes presented to happy couples in velvet lined boxes. 

Fazaei, Y. (2005) Sociology Illusions and Superstitions Tehran: Chesta 6(7):482-483.

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