By: Cornelia Powell – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
In our world of extreme media scrutiny, I love that the most famous newlywed couple on the planet took what appears to be a private honeymoon! “With the world watching,” wrote Elise Taylor of Vogue, “Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, seemingly did the impossible: They snuck away on a two-week honeymoon.” (And, as of this writing, the media can only speculate on the location!)
The word “honeymoon,” in use since the sixteenth century as British historian Ann Monsarrat explains, is a derivation of a much older term, “honey-month,” describing the first weeks of the newlyweds’ life together at home, or at the home of friends or family, with the not so subtle intent of ensuring offspring. But these were considered rather “low-class words.” So, beginning in the eighteenth century, when it became fashionable for well-to-do couples to take some sort of trip following their wedding festivities, the occasion was called “going away,” thought a more genteel expression.
“Going away” became “the bridal tour” for the wealthy in the nineteenth century. For the British upper-crust, the fashionable thing was to do a tour of the Continent; for affluent Americans of the gilded age, it was to go abroad on a luxury ocean liner then visit the most exotic sites of the day recommended by Baedeker.
There’s a bit of intrigue associating the honey in “honeymoon” and the ancient legend of the honeybee’s luscious nectar with love and sex. In her book, The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us, Bee Wilson muses how human civilization would have barely survived without the honeybee: its wax was used to create light in a dark world and its honey gave nourishment and medicine. But the honeybee also provided poetic mystery and “food for love”—from the devilish to the divine:
It is “sweet, like true love, and delicious, like carnal love, honey can be treacherous and sticky, like false love,” the author asserts. And there’s more. Its thick, syrupy-ness brings up a “dark side of human desire”—like this from Proverbs in the Bible: ‘the lips of an adulteress drip honey and her tongue is smoother than oil’. Yet “pure honey is precious and good, like married love”—as this line from the Highlander poem, Rob Roy, by Andrew Lang suggests: ‘Or will ye be my honey? / Or will ye be my wedded wife?’
Some believe the term “honeymoon” relates to the ancient Viking ritual when, for their aphrodisiac effects, “the bride and groom would eat honeyed cakes and drink mead for the first month of their betrothal”—quite the honey-month! However, the connection to honey and the name honeymoon or its true meaning “cannot be agreed upon,” Wilson continued. Like most early wedding rituals there are hazy origin myths, but what we know for sure is that “the use of honey in marriage rites has been a constant throughout the Indo-European world, and beyond.” For instance, in an age-old Egyptian marriage contract, the husband promised his wife a yearly gift of twelve jars of honey; in archaic Hindu wedding ceremonies, the author added, “the bride’s forehead, mouth, eyelids, ears and genitals were anointed with honey.”
Do we really ‘fall in love’ or do we just ‘fall into a honeypot’? Do we meet our beloved by chance or are we stung by Cupid’s honey-soaked arrow? In stories of mythology, honey plays its delicious part in romance. Becoming known as the young god of love, Cupid—the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war—is not only famous for stealing honeycombs, but he also “fires arrows at his victims, sometimes dipped in honey” and they instantly fall in love with the next person they meet. Honeypot, indeed!
Here’s wishing Harry and Meghan many “honeyed” years of marriage! ~
[This completes the 11-part series, “Why Royal Weddings Matter”—but stay tuned for more royal “special editions” featuring the families of Princes William and Harry.]
Wedding Folklorist, Fashion Historian, Author & Guest Speaker
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