The ‘Adventure’ of Love

The Power of Myth and the Meaning of Ceremony

As I have noted many times, the variations of wedding ceremonies, regardless of time and place, share strong common threads.

Joseph Campbell, known for his study of mythology, comparative religion and just his great understanding of life, is best known for defining the ‘hero’s journey.’ This concept permeates many aspects of our lives, from Star Wars movies (George Lucas was inspired by Campbell) to weddings. The power of myth, the hero’s journey, and the role of symbols – all inform my understanding of ceremony.

Speaking of myth in this context does not mean an absence of reality, but refers to ancient tales that share the themes of setting out on a journey, overcoming challenges and returning home with greater clarity. This goes all the way back to ancient Greece. Think: Homer’s Odyssey.  In the context of weddings, the ‘call to adventure,’ the beginning of the journey, is the call of love.

Campbell actually also wrote about love and marriage along with his exploration of the meaning of ritual and its place in our consciousness. I agree that rituals give deeper meaning to ceremony. It doesn’t have to be a specific ‘unity’ rituals such as the use of candles, handfasting, jumping the broom, breaking the glass or any other cultural or religious customs. Do not underestimate the importance of the wedding ceremony. Marking this moment in time, in a way that connects you to the past while moving into the future, is one of life’s most momentous occasions.

photo: Big Stock

A wedding ceremony is certainly an age-old, time-tested ritual. We take comfort in this ritual; this event puts our intention out in the world for all to see. Even an elopement carries much of the same power. The entire ceremony, from processional to recessional is ritualist in itself. Think of how each partner enters the ceremony space separately but leaves together. That is a power thing.

Campbell famously said: ‘Follow your bliss.’ And love challenges us to do just that. He continues ‘If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.’

Many couples have expressed this idea to me, although not in those exact words, but shared that they feel they are meant to be together and look forward to their future, wherever it leads them.

But we all know that marriage is not a bed of roses. Challenges will come, so will sadness and struggle. Overcoming obstacles is part of the journey. Campbell is very clear that once a couple discovers that love is not perfect, they have a choice. And choosing to stay together is the whole point.  To stay together and make marriage work you need compassion, not perfection.

Nikki Giovanni wrote: ‘We love because it’s the only true adventure’ – just ask any couple that has been together for decades!  And each partner, regardless of gender, is a hero. To quote Campbell again: ‘by participating in a ritual occasion you are in a magical field, a field that is putting you in touch with your own great depth.’

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