It's St. Valentine's month, a time when romantic love is celebrated throughout the Western world. Few realize that the origins of Valentine's Day are found in the Roman celebration of Lupercalia which was a pagan fertility festival held annually on February 14th. Lupercalia, along with its equivalent Beltane or May Day festivals in the North, were celebrations honoring the sexuality of humans as a transcendental union between soul and flesh. As usual, the early Church grafted a Christian overlay onto the pagan celebration, in this case a mythical martyr named St. Valentine.
Try as they might, however, they could not eliminate the dynamics of human sexuality bubbling just under the surface of their newly converted peoples. But their dogmatic attempts to stamp out all signs of human sexuality led the western world into a condition known as â€śromantic love,â€ť a formalized way of expressing human love and sexuality within the restrictions imposed by the early church. We have been living with the consequences ever since.
The question is not whether we have strayed from the natural flow that human sexuality would have taken had no suppression occurred. We have ample evidence in the offices of modern psychologists visited by people who suffer from sexual suppression.
The question really is, now that the practice of romantic love is totally ingrained in our cultural expectations, can we ever obtain a clear ideation of the mystical Sacred Marriage, the true union of soul and body, male and female while living within cultural expectations?
Of course we can, but not without having to dismantle a few preconceived notions associated with romantic love that have little relevancy to the way the Love Force is defined and expressed in terms of spiritual evolution.
The French novelist Andrew Maurois (1883-1963) sums up the condition of modern romantic relationships this way . . .
"We owe to the Middle Ages
the two worst inventions of humanity . . .
gun powder and romantic love!"
Where did the idea of romantic love come from, meaning the type of love which in its broadest scope disdains the unity of soul and flesh, and which in its daily expression relies on sugar-high emotional stimulus, false persona, illusionary packaging, temporary fulfillments and the like? For the answer to that we must go back in history to the troubadours of Southern France and the establishment of the Code of Love.
During the late Middle Ages in southern France, from 1100 to 1300 CE, troubadour poetry took root. The central theme of the wandering troubadour involved addressing a noblewoman as both the object of graphic ardor and religious veneration.
However, in the code of the troubadour this overpowering desire for sexual union was not to be consummated by the woman of whom the poet sang. She was unattainable. On the personal level she was disdainful of the troubadour; on the political level, she was the wife of someone else, someone more powerful. Even if she could be won over, the bonds of class and convention forbade union. In the end, this intoxicating denial of human sexuality was celebrated by the troubadour in poetry and song and thus began the ritual of romantic love.
FROM LOVE SONGS TO LOVE COURTS
The first troubadour was Guillaume, Duke of Aquitaine (1071-1127). His daughter was Eleanor of Aquitaine, who married Henry Plantagenet and became Queen of England. Their stormy relationship was popularized in the film, The Lion in Winter starring Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor. Much as in that film, the real life Eleanor was the most formidable of women. Throughout her career, she surrounded herself with troubadours and eventually established an institution legacy known as "Love Courts." After leaving Henry, she turned her ancestral home into an academy of the courtly arts. Princes and princesses from all over Europe visited her for instruction on the 31 articles of the "Code of Love."
Like troubadour poetry, the love courts were an aristocratic development having an underlying subtext:
The Code of Love . . . is infused with the pulsating energy and passion which drove the women of Eleanor's entourage to create their own world and attempt the dethronement of masculine oppression and mastery. Courtly love was a practical way of rebelling against the prevailing social mores, and was consciously adopted to serve this end.
Marie de Champagne (Eleanor's daughter) ruled that love had no power between the parties to a (feudal) marriage, and justified her ruling on the grounds that in love everything depended on both parties giving themselves freely, whereas marriage (in feudal courts) implied obligation and coercion, which was the death of love . . . The poles of the older social order were Pope and Emperor, priest and people, the soul and God. The poles of courtly society were to be the lady and her "man," her lover, who owed fidelity to her alone.
These noble ladies knew well enough that feudal men regarded them as loot or merchandise. In feudal society marriage was an important political and commercial tool. It took no account of love as an emotion felt by individuals for each other.
(The Medieval World, F. Heer, NAL, NY 1961)
Now you see that romantic love, institutionalized as courtly love within Middle Age aristocracy and handed down to modern day in one romantic ritual or another, began as a rebellion from the churchly suppression of the natural flow of human sexuality that was previously celebrated in pagan societies.
In fact, it appears that the Elder cultures had the correct perceptions of this unity between male and female, soul and body, however expressed in open, forthright demonstrations. Better that than having to package the Love force in rigid ceremony as Eleanor did to compensate for the malady being created by patriarchal church fathers. Modern spiritual seekers like yourself now have to travel "back to the future," to gain spiritual wisdom regarding the real meaning and nature of the Love Force.
So what is the nature of true love under the traditions we are studying within Northern lore? What are the real rewards found in establishing a mature love between two Selves or souls. What does this type of relationship mean in the long run of a lifetime or more?
Those of you who have ever viewed or listened to the music from the popular Broadway play Fiddler on the Roof, will remember the song where the father sings to his wife and mother of his children, "Do You Love Me?" He sings this refrain, and she answers in song with tongue in cheek, "I've washed his clothes, cooked his meals, birthed his children, and cleaned his house for 30 years, and he asks, "Do you love me?"
In the peasant culture of Russia where the scene takes place, she is not without her freedoms as a woman. So, her answer contains all the beauty of a love between two truly mated human beings. How can she not love him if she has been willing to do these things for their common household for all those years? He is the romanticist, she is the practical principle of Love.
You can search the Northern sagas and you will find few instances of romantic love. But you will find love, like our Fiddler's wife sang, expressed as profound reverence . . .
• for trust,
• for loyalty,
• for a good name,
• for keeping an oath,
• for fertility of womb and land,
• for the sacredness of family,
• for interdependence of the clan.
To the ancient Northern mind, and even now to billions of human beings on this planet who live outside the bounds of the Western democracies, this continues to be the bottom line of a valued relationship and the rewards of an honest mating of male and female in love.
Only when the concept of love and relationship comes into this level of understanding can you begin to discern the patterns of a Sacred Marriage, which entails all the above human attributes plus a whole lot more on the Inner spiritual planes of existence.
THE MYSTICAL SACRED MARRIAGE
It is impossible to summarize one of the most sought after dynamics in all of mysticism in one brief page. We spend much time on the dynamics of the Sacred Marriage in our second quarter of instruction in the Denali Rune Master program and still leave much to later lessons. Briefly, the Sacred Marriage is the joining of two equally potent male and female "halves" into a whole. It has both a "horizontal" and a "vertical" dimension.
The horizontal integration occurs with your mate as you perfectly merge your physical body and your mental body with each other. If you are the male, this means you blend your male physical body and your male psyche with your partner's female body and female psyche. But that is not all . . . your female fylgja or fetch, that wonderfully special Northern psycho-spiritual construct (called the anima in Jungian psychology) also must blend in perfect harmony with the male fylgja of your partner. If you are female, the pattern is just the opposite. To some degree or another, this happens unconsciously each time male and a female bond in physical and/or mental love. But the real test of a horizontal integration is to do this consciously, a much more difficult accomplishment.
The vertical integration occurs when a male or female psyche blends with their own contrasexual fylgja, thence completing Self as an independent Being. To some degree or another, you do this every time you seek to feel "whole" in a meditative state. While you experience this joining momentarily, the full vertical Sacred Marriage is akin to achieving a rare state of Cosmic consciousness.
You can now see how difficult it would be for you to achieve a Sacred Marriage level of understanding while approaching Love with the expectations of emotional romanticism as shaped by the troubadours and Eleanor of Aquitaine's court. Every seeker of the spiritual mysteries must eventually come to dismantle cultural programming in order to achieve the stable mental platform needed for the Sacred Marriage.
The great contribution of the Elder Northern tradition's approach to human sexuality and the bonding of male and female is that it allows each person to maintain a stable platform from which to learn more about the true dynamics of a Sacred Marriage. This extremely valuable perspective was lost with the arrival of romantic love which came about only as an alternative to the extreme asceticism imposed by the early church.
THE PLACE OF ROMANTIC LOVE
Still, who of us would deny the head-over-heels thrill of the first real romance in life, or the fun involved in courtship, or the joy of a beautiful wedding ceremony? Would any of us turn away those memories, or deny them to our children?
As long as the Sacred Marriage can be seen between the glitter of the emotions surrounding romance, as long as a balance can be maintained, there is space for romantic love. In fact, its total suppression would be as equally disruptive as the opposite.
You will be able to keep your balances in a healthy state by allowing natural expression of your human sexuality and by meditating on the energies of the following runes:
. . . . .GEBO is the primary rune of Sacred Marriage; polarity exchange of balanced M-F energies.
. . . . .EHWAZ to find/maintain harmonious duality with partner; to activate Fylgja/Fetch.
. . . . .ELHAZ for divine link to higher realms (crossing Bifrost to Asgard); instruction on magical potential of the runes.
. . . . .KENAZ to stir the fires of controlled sexual passion; quicken natural force of sexual attraction.