Bringing Shamanic Elements Into A Wedding Ceremony

This is from a great post on SantaCruzShaman that makes many suggestions on how to integrate some shamanic elements into a wedding ceremony.

A few examples from the post:

  • Smudging – Smudging is the burning of sage or sweet grass to create a cleansing smoke which is used to purify people, the ceremonial space, and ritual tools used in the ceremony.
  • Calling in the six directions – Lighting candles to represent the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west), plus the earth, and father sky
  • Gathering is a circle and possibly holding hands.  This is the easiest way to unite those present in invoking sacred space.
  • Wedding Despacho – this is a sacred and powerful prayer bundle from the tradition of the Andean Q’ero Medicine People with whom I have had the good fortune to study. A medicine bundle is a physical manifestation of the prayers in our hearts and a way to offer our gratitude to the Earth and Spirits, welcome them to the ceremony, and ask their blessings on the wedding couple.

A few years ago I went to a wedding where we had a despacho and it was a fantastic experience for everyone that was there. At first, I was worried that folks who were not familiar with shamanism in general, and despachos in particular, would not appreciate the ceremony. Instead I found people were really interested and had many questions afterwards about despachos and how they work.

A Navajo wedding basket

TwinRocks outlines the Navajo tradition of a wedding basket:

The basket is viewed as a map, through which the Navajo people chart their lives. The central spot in the basket represents the sipapu, where the Navajo people emerged from the prior world through a reed. As the people emerged, all was white. The inner coils of the basket are white to represent this lightness, or birth. As you travel outward on the coils you begin to encounter more and more black. The black represents darkness, struggle and pain; the darker side of life. As you make your way through the darkness you eventually reach the red bands, which represent marriage; the mixing of your blood with your spouse and the creation of family. The red is pure. During this time there is no darkness. Traveling out of the familial bands you encounter more darkness, however, the darkness is interspersed with white light. The light represents increasing enlightenment, which expands until you enter the all white banding of the outer rim. This banding represents the spirit world, where there is no darkness. The line from the center of the basket to the outer rim is there to remind you that no matter how much darkness you encounter in your world, there is always a pathway to the light.

Suite101 has a little more on the symbolism of the baskets and how they are used in the ceremony:

The Navajo Indian Wedding basket represents the following symbols:

triangular designs – represent mountains and thunderclouds, with deep valleys in between

open form of the coiled, flat tray – represents the Earth

inverted form of the tray – represents the sky dome

opening in the circle design- represents the East (sunrise, power, beginnings); the power of the East is invited into the bridal couple's life.

The Navajo Indian wedding basket is held by the bridal couple during the wedding ceremony to confirm the bonds of marriage; corn is sprinkled round the basket to bless it. Corn batter is placed in the center and the bridal couple feed each other; this act signifies the rituals of life, strength, healing, spiritual rebirth, fertility and physical nourishment.

DiPics has a list of traditions from around the world which includes this ritual:

In a Native American wedding ceremony, water is used as a symbol of purification and cleansing. The bride and groom have a ceremonial washing of hands to wash away past evils and memories of past loves.

Couple mage from Carnival King 08 on Flickr 

Navajo wedding basket image from Neeta Lind on Flickr