A Ritual Ordeal for Young Brides


Callicantzari are Greek faery folk, sometimes small and mischievous, sometimes large and dangerous.  During the twelve days
of Christmas they are free to roam the earth and make trouble.
One of these callicantzari, the drakos, stops wedding parties on the road and tries to carry off the bridegroom. The
bride can scare him off, if she stands her ground and declares that she is the daughter of the thunder and she has
already eaten nine dragons for breakfast that morning.
This is noteworthy when so much of our folklore is worried about the fidelity of the bridegroom, and takes the
woman’s commitment to marriage as a given.  The drakos would seem to demand something more of Greek
brides.  By standing up to the bridegroom thief and pronouncing herself worthy as a warrior, the girl enters into
marriage as a conscious choice.  A surprising number of young women marry out of an unconscious desire to
purchase Brides’ magazines and organize a catered affair; out of a desire to please; or because they can’t think of
what else to do with themselves at a certain stage in their lives.
There are plenty of marriage customs hidden beneath the icing that involve an ordeal; the best man is a reminder of the days when a bridegroom had to "steal" his bride (literally or symbolically) from her family. The best man was there to watch his back in case the family, or a rival, came to steal the bride back.
Some other culture (Levantine perhaps? I think it was mentioned in Robert Johnson's book "She") has young boys hopping painfully on one foot during the ceremony.
Rough stuff, wedding customs. Wendell Berry refers to it as "The Country of Marriage" and you'd better prove yourself ready to shoulder your canoe with Lewis and Clark before you embark.
Quoting myself from one of my incomplete/inadequate poems, "Toy Wilderness" (dibs on the title): "We hunt one another through a toy wilderness where we ourselves are the animals."

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