The Scarlet Letter
A season of many marriages has arrived at Scarlet Woman Lodge. Let us consider briefly the history of marriage as an institution in the Christian West, and how it feeds into Thelema.
Marriage had existed in pagan Europe since time immemorial as the means by which families were united in support of a couple who aspired to having children. Such a social mechanism was unavoidable, and naturally invested with a great deal of attention and importance. Parents, local leaders, gods and goddesses might be called as witnesses to the nuptial decision.
In the eleventh century of the Christian era, the Roman Church began to assert the desirability of marriage on parish premises, and the requirement for a priest to preside over the ritual. What had been a ceremonial elaboration of a civil contract began a shift into becoming a proprietary sacrament of the Church. Opposition to this trend characterized many medieval heretics, including the Cathars.
E.G.C. has its traditional origins in part from the Cathar revivalism of Jules Doinel, elaborated by Jean Bricaud. In Bricaud’s Catechism, the following point appears:
When we have a wedding in E.G.C., it includes a nuptial benediction for the couple. But the marriage is not contingent on that benediction. Nor is it simply a civil contract. In the view of Thelemic Gnosis, marriage is the fundamental sacred act in manifest existence. Marriage is any union resulting from love under will, and especially sexual union, whether procreative in its intention or not. In the Gnostic Mass, marriage is defined as the act of “all that...unite with love under will.” In an E.G.C. wedding ceremony, the couple graciously permits the congregation to appreciate their marriage, while the clergy offer a nuptial benediction, and the church members offer communal approbation.
In the USA, separation of the civil and religious authorities has led to the development of the civil “marriage license.” Since no single church holds authority over the wedding process, and since the contractual elements of patrimony and common property are of concern to the civil system of justice, there is an argument in favor of this piece of bureaucracy. The civil authorities cannot issue a “wedding license” without infringing on the prerogatives of the religious bodies that provide weddings. But Thelemites should understand that marriage is always a matter of liberty, not of license.
There’s no dishonor in playing the game of bureaucratic marraige licensure. There are certain advantages to the legal recognition provided in that system. But there can be a hesitation involved, a basic philosophical dilemma: “If I accept this license, am I betraying my own liberty?” Marriage is a right, not a privilege. EGC invites its members to formally proclaim that right within our ceremonial confines. But it is not, and never will be, for the church or the state to determine who is really married.
Love is the law, love under will.
In service to Our Lady and her work of wickedness,