‘Ahé’éské, Diné Marriage Ceremony: First Altar, Chapter 3
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
“In Beauty may she walk. All day long may she walk. Through the returning seasons may she walk. Beautifully will she possess again. Beautifully birds… Beautifully joyful birds... On the trail marked with pollen may she walk. With grasshoppers about her feet may she walk. With dew about her feet may she walk.”
— Navajo Wedding Prayer
Katie led the bride’s procession carrying a ceremonial wedding basket filled with blue corn mush. Crowbear was on her left carrying the traditional water jug, cup, and corn pollen. Katie wore a red and black dress Rose wove especially for her. She was also wearing Rose’s beautiful turquoise and silver squash blossom necklace, with matching earrings, and the set of Rory's engagement pearls. Rose and Gus walked behind Katie and Crowbear.
The Navajo Wedding Basket is viewed as a map through which the Navajo chart their lives. The central spot in the basket represents the sip apu, where the Navajo people emerged from the prior world through a reed. The inner coils of the basket are white to represent birth. As you travel outward on the coils you begin to encounter more and more black. The black represents darkness, struggle and pain. 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 creation of family. The red is pure. During this time there is no darkness. Traveling out a 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. This pathway during ceremonies is always pointed east. The last coil on the basket rim is finished off at this pathway to allow the medicine man to easily locate it in darkness.
Rory stood while the others stayed seated cross-legged on the rugs. This was not customary, but Rory decided it was too impolite to sit when his betrothed walked inside. Katie looked up from her corn mush plate, saw Rory was the only one standing, and chuckled at him, motioning for him to sit down. Entering the ceremony area, she set the basket in front of her husband-to-be, arranging it in a particular way following divine dictates, then settled down next to him.
Gus followed behind Katie, sitting on her right while Crowbear took his place between Rory and Katie and the central fire.
The other members of the bridal party took seats, filling the south half of the hut.
Standing while everyone else sat cross-legged, Crowbear proclaimed the wedding announcement: "Friends, we have been invited here today to share with Katie and Rory a significant moment in their lives. In the years they have been together, their love and understanding for each other has grown and matured, and today they start their lives together as husband and wife."
With a handful of accouterments near, Crowbear settled on his knees in front of the wedding couple. Rory and Katie rose to their knees facing him. With the plate of corn mush in his hands, Crowbear continued with a prayer blessing. Working his fingers into the meal, he drew a line from east to west and back to east. He made another line from south to north then back to the south.
Selecting a cloth bag of corn pollen, the hatałii pulled out a big pinch of the tassel powder, dribbling it on the mush, starting from the east direction and making a full circle following the clockwise pattern.
Turning towards Rory and Katie, Crowbear offered the basket.
Dipping two fingers in the gruel, Rory took a glob from the east direction and ate it. Katie followed. They continued to the south, west, and north, and then took a sample from the middle of the dish. Traditionally, the remaining mush is passed onto the groom’s family to finish. However, Rory and Katie offered it to anyone interested.
When everyone desiring a taste had their turn, Crowbear gave the basket to Janie, standing in as Rory’ mother.
Rory and Katie began a purification ceremony, washing each other’s hands. Crowbear gave Katie a dried gourd, cut in half, and filled with water. She poured the water over Rory’s hands as he washed them. Next, the procedure reversed; Rory poured water onto Katie’s hands. This symbolized purity and cleansing.
Now the public proclamation began with Crowbear. He asked all to rise. “You have lit the Fire for Life,” he said as people shuffled to their feet.
“Now you have lit a fire, and that fire should not go out. The two of you now have a fire that represents love, understanding, and a philosophy of life. It will give you heat, food, warmth, and happiness. The new fire represents a new beginning—a new life and a new family. The fire should keep burning; you should stay together. You have lit the fire for life until old age separates you.”
Finally, it was time to place the rings, but first Crowbear needed to bless them. Turning the newlyweds to face each other he began.
“Rory, offer your cupped hands to Katie please.”
“Good. Katie, bring your cupped hands and settle them into Rory’s.”
She did. Next, he dropped both rings in Katie’s hands and proceeded to bless the hands and rings. Repeating the movements, he used on the mush, he chanted as he sprinkled pollen on Katie’s palms first in an east to west, then a north to south cross, followed by a circle of powder around the rings.
Crowbear retrieved the rings. While Katie was dusting her hands, he gave her ring to Rory and asked him to place it as he said his vows.
“I, Rory affirm my love to you, Katie Reynolds as I invite you to share my life. Katie, from the moment I first saw you, I knew you were the one with whom I wanted to share my life. You are the most beautiful, smart, and generous person I have ever known, and I promise always to respect you and love you. Your beauty, heart, and mind inspire me to be the best person I can be. I promise to love you for eternity, respecting you, honoring you, being faithful to you, and sharing my life with you. With kindness, unselfishness, and trust, I will work by your side to create a beautiful life together.
I take you Katie to be my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and health for as long as we both shall live.”
Then Crowbear turned to Katie, giving her Rory’s ring, reciting her promises as she slipped it on him.
“Rory Evans, today I take you for my husband. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind, and spirit, always be open and honest with you, and cherish you for as long as we both shall live. Together we will create a home, becoming part of one another. I vow to help create a life that we can cherish, inspiring your love for me and mine for you. I vow to be honest, caring and truthful, to love you as you are and not as I want you to be, and to grow old by your side as your lover and best friend.”
“It is time to offer comments to the newlyweds,” Crowbear said. “Does anyone have something to say?”
Overwhelmed by emotion, heightened immensely by booze, Janie gushed her sentiment, crying as she thanked her husband, David, and Byron for taking the father’s place during the ceremony. There was a polite smattering of applause.
Gus told the newlyweds to remember this day.
“Always keep this day in your memory, when the family came together,” he said.
“Go forth and be strong, Shundeen, but always remember who you are,” Rose said, calling Katie by her Navajo name, Sunshine.
“Follow your love and your hearts, Rory and Katie,” Ellen said.
“Love each other forever,” pleaded Dr. Colgrave.
Crowbear turned to the couple. "By the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
Opening his arms to include the entire hut, he continued. "I present to you, Dr. and Dr. Rory and Katie Evans. You may now kiss the bride.”
Everyone clapped as Rory and Katie leaned into each other, smiled, and shared their first kiss as husband and wife.