There are some traditions or rituals practised throughout the world which are not unique to any one culture. These rituals, while often similar in nature, may have different relevance or significance depending on the situation. This is certainly true for ‘libation’ rituals.
The term libation; ‘the pouring of a liquid offering as a religious ritual’, is a traditional part of ceremonies practised by the ancient Greeks and Romans, some African tribes and Burmese Buddhists, to name only a few. The liquid offered may be any number of substances (wine, water, oil), depending on the cultural origins of the ceremony.
Requirements: Liquid of your choice, pouring vessel.
In some African cultures, an essential part of any ceremony is the pouring of a libation. Sometimes water, but more often a traditional wine, is used for the ritual. A prayer calling all to attend and participate is given by an elder, who through this tradition, invokes both ancestors and Gods to be present.
Example: A Libation Prayer
We give praise to the Almighty power
Praise to our ancestors and the roots from which we came.
To truly know his Creator, a man must know his roots.
Let our ancestors and the spirit of the Creator bring us closer in unity.
This ceremony demonstrates the people’s recognition and obligation to their ancestors and to their Gods. The Ancient Romans were also great believers in the use of libation rituals in ceremony. The pouring of wine and perfumed oil was considered an eminent act of veneration.
Libation rituals are still found today in formal ceremonies, (eg. baptism, formal toasts and even in the launching of a ship), and in popular culture, (winning the Grand Prix or ‘drowning your sorrows’ at losing a football match). In the United States, the term ‘tipping a forty to their memory’, involves tipping a small amount of liquid (usually liquor) from a glass before drinking, paying respect to and in memory of those no longer with us.
A Libation Ritual is a simple and practical ritual to use in a wedding ceremony. It doesn’t cost anything extra and allows the ‘head’ of either family, a grandmother or grandfather, the Celebrant, Best Man or anyone of the couple’s choosing to conduct the ritual and say a few words as to the sentiment behind it. A libation is a simple, yet powerful way to acknowledge and pay respect to those unable to participate; a family member separated by distance or a loved one who has passed away.
‘The two eldest members of these families have been seated in a very special place today - one on the bride’s side and one on the groom’s. They have been given pride of place at this ceremony for good reason - in the aisle, nearest the couple, to remind them that the wisdom of their elders is always within reach and close at hand.
‘I have been charged with the responsibility of offering a libation in the hope that the living and the dead, the young and the old, may come together. I pour a libation of ‘Uisge, Baugh’ (Irish Gaelic ‘The Water of Life’ - Irish Whiskey) itself a ‘spirit’, which represents stimulation, invigoration and energy. It is poured in the four directions -- North, South, East and West -- to open the way for the spirits of our ancestors and loved ones to be here with us’.
‘I call on our forebears, who stood for unity and togetherness, to stand beside us on this day, and I invite everyone present to call out the names of those who are dear to them, both ancestors and those more recently passed, in the hope that they too, will cast their love, wisdom and courage on these two people who are coming together to be married. They have, by their very presence promised to do their best to maintain this relationship and the unity of family.
May the love that has been bestowed upon you today remain with you through whatever may come and may this libation always remind you that your connections to past and present are ever near.’
The Wedding Gurus x