Thursday, December 30, 2010


Like the name Alison, Jeffrey (or rather, its older spelling, Geoffrey) was more popular in the Middle Ages, and was borne by such popular luminaries as Geoffrey Plantagenet (Count of Anjou and ancestor of English royalty), Geoffrey (or Godefroy) de Bouillon (leader of the First Crusade), Geoffrey (Gaufridus) of Monmouth (Welsh chronicler), and of course Geoffrey Chaucer. But unlike Alison, its origins are rather obscure. It first appears as a name among the French around 1000 AD, and there are at least four reasonable sources or meanings:

  • Gaiwa-frey, "the peaceful country"

  • Walah-frey, "the peaceful stranger"

  • Gisil-frey, "the pledge of peace"

  • God-frey, "the peace of God"

Any resemblance of these ancient names to "Gallifrey", the ancestral home of the Time Lords, is coincidental. Surely.

It may be that all these names existed independently, and were sort of merged together in people's minds. The only certain thing is the suffix -frey, which meant "peace," "joy," and "beloved," and is related to free, friend, and Frederick.

Spiritually, Jeffrey begins with an edge, a judgement, which gives rise to connection, relationship, and travel. This is then released into freedom, motion, and joy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pagan-Friendly Principle

"Where shall we get religion? Beneath the open sky, the sphere of crystal silence surcharged with deity... The midnight earth sends incense up, sweet with the breath of prayer — Go out beneath the naked night and get religion there."

- Sam Walter Foss

Did I happen to mention Jeff and I are Pagan? I have? Oh, good, that will save us the awkward transition. Because what I wanted to talk about today is what we mean when we say we want a "Pagan-friendly" or "fringe faith" wedding.

It's a subject I've been putting off for a little while now, easing into it with discussions everyone can relate to (like fiscal responsibility) and topics that many people can at least agree on, even if Jeff and I take them a bit more seriously than most (like ecocentrism and our responsibility to the earth). But when it comes to our religion, we know that we're a bit further "out there" than most of our family and friends are used to. We're cool with that. In fact, we think diversity is absolutely fascinating and a sure sign of a healthy cultural ecosystem. We like to be light-hearted and joyful about our spiritual lives, to hold them loosely and let them thrive — but that doesn't mean we don't also take our religion seriously. So when it comes to our wedding, we want a ceremony (and reception) that will reflect our spiritual values, beliefs and practices and that will welcome our guests to share those things with us as we celebrate the sacredness and happiness of the day.

This is why I really like the term "fringe faith." Sure, there are plenty of folks these days who treat religion as a kind of "moralistic therapeutic deism," and still others who clamp down on orthodox certainties and stick to the "fundamentals" until they're blue in the face. But for many of us on the more liberal side of the spiritual life, our religions are ways of bringing us both closer to soul and self, and closer to Spirit (or God or the Universe or the Great Mystery, whatever you want to call it). For people like us, religion is all about the liminal and the sublime: those relationships with the Divine that push us beyond our mundane lives, that challenge us to grow and become better human beings, to open to love, compassion, justice, trust, beauty and grace. For us — whether Christian or Pagan, Buddhist or Jewish, agnostic or New Age — faith is all about the fringe. The fringe is where our edges rub up against Spirit, and we discover that we might just be a bit more porous and a bit more blessed than we realized. So when Jeff and I say we want a "fringe faith" wedding, what we mean is that we want to invite the Sacred to the party, too. We want a wedding day that welcomes the mystery of Spirit to work its way through our promise to share our lives together.

In some ways, then, we're lucky to be Pagan. Just like in romance novels and bad poetry, even the most beautiful sentiment can get bogged down by cliché, and when it comes to weddings, "traditional" can sometimes be a killing blow. It can be hard to sense the mystery of the Divine under all that tacky decor and rote ritual. (Okay, am I the only one who shudders at the idea of bridesmaids, or garter tossing? Or that lame moment when you're supposed to waste a perfectly good piece of cake by shoving it into your new spouse's nose, just because somebody somewhere did that once and everybody thought it was hilarious?) So while we're out to have a fun time, and one that family and friends will enjoy and remember for years to come, we're also not feeling all that encumbered by expectations of tradition and decorum. We're Pagan — people are going to expect us to be a little cooky. And that opens us up to the possibility of surprise, creativity, the slightest hint of the exotic, and more than a little bit of poetry.

The funny thing is, sometimes the things that are the closest to you and that you care the most about turn out to be the hardest things to write. I've done barely more than hint in this post about what exactly a "Pagan-friendly" wedding might look like. But rather than bog down this introduction with a lot of theology and spiritual philosophizing, I'll leave that for later. For now, enjoy the suspense! And be sure to stop by again soon!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Among the Germanic tribes living along the Rhine around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, the name Adalheidis was a popular one, especially for the daughter or wife of a chief. The name meant "of a noble family", and contained the elements adal "noble, nobility" and heid "kind, sort, type, kin, family, rank" (related to the English suffix -hood, as in knighthood). Adalheidis descended eventually into French and then English as Adelaide (Heidi is a shortened form of that name). It was the name of St. Adelaide, the Queen of Otto the Great of the Holy Roman Empire, and gained a lot of popularity from her. But when it encountered Old French in the 600 or 700's AD, it was shortened to Alice; and from there it became popular in English (and in Irish as Ailís.)

In medieval times, the French, who were particularly fond of this name, gave it a diminutive suffix -on, creating Alison, meaning literally "little Alice". Alison then became a popular name in its own right, and was found throughout England, France and Scotland until the 15th century. At that point — for whatever reason — it fell from favor in England and France. But it remained strong in Scotland, perhaps because the Scots already had a family name Allison or Ellison (of unknown origin, but probably from Yorkshire, and thus Germanic). Then, in the 19th century, Alison's popularity began to spread out from Scotland again, and was picked up across the French and English-speaking world.

Spiritually, the name Alison begins with the same balanced, expansive energy as Alp, alpha, altitude, and alto. The expansion gives way to a brief period of stasis, and then is released in light, increase, and finally grounding.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"For What Binds Us" (Jane Hirshfield)

Ali & Jeff

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

Jane Hirshfield, Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft by Bill Moyers

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Ocean" (Pablo Neruda)

Sand Heart


Body purer than a wave,
salt that washes the line,
and the luminous bird
flying without roots.

Pablo Neruda (trans. Stephen Mitchell), Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems

Friday, December 03, 2010

Save the Date!

It's official! Our Save the Date postcards went out in the mail this past Wednesday, and they're already beginning to arrive in happy households across the country!

OFFICIAL Save the Date

Two Outta Three Rating:

Our StD cards get a solid two outta three, being both budget-friendly and Pagan-friendly. A self-designed card, we used one of my own photographs from our trip to the Outer Banks in September during our Fall Wedding Tour 2010. A picture of beach dune sea oats silhouetted against the evening sky, the image reflects two of the on-going themes of the wedding: the balance between complimentary opposites (light and dark, yin and yang, male and female), and the liminality of the threshold. Already fairly inexpensive, we were able to get them half-price during a pre-Christmas sale, courtesy of So... score! Unfortunately, they're not exceptionally earth-friendly or anything, but only sending one to each household, and having a relatively small guest list to begin with, at least we're doing our best to reduce. (Guests — those of you who are truly committed, please feel free to recycle the postcard, or frame it to reuse as lovely wall art to accentuate a fridge, study or powder room!)

But guess what! Since we have this awesome blog here, we don't have to stop at just one Save the Date design. So, thanks to the wonders of the internet, please enjoy a few of the runners-up that we considered before settling on our final design. These are all based on photographs from our trip in September.

Save the Date runner up Save the Date runner up

Sand Heart