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American Weddings: An Afrocentric Libation Ceremony

Many African-American couples incorporate a libation ceremony into their weddings as a way to honor their African ancestors. Holy water, or alcohol, is poured onto the ground in each of the cardinal directions as prayers are recited to the ancestral spirits, and names of those that have recently passed are called out. The libation ceremony can also be used as an opportunity to honor the elders in a family, asking them to pass on their wisdom and guidance.

Libation Toast

The libation toast giver holds up a cup filled with water and says the following:

An African proverb tells us that people who lack the knowledge of their past are like a tree without roots. So, in the spirit of remembrance, we pour this libation. We pour to honor the past, so that we may learn from it. We pour to honor the importance of family. We raise our cup to God to show our reverence for the original source of our lives. We use cool water to freshen the road our ancestors travel to be here with us today. We use cool water as a symbol of the continuity of life, to purify and to nourish our souls. We pour to celebrate the coming together of the families of these two people.

It is said that through others, we are somebody. Through this marriage, we
broaden our family circle, remember our heritage and recall those who gave us life. We call upon our ancestors -- our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers, our fathers, grandfathers and our great grandfathers, uncles, aunts and cousins -- the foundations of our families, immortalized in our thoughts.

We call upon our elders, whose wisdom we seek in all endeavors. Our friends whom we are blessed to have in our lives, our parents who guided us along the road to adulthood. We call upon family who have passed over and could not be here today. We ask that they be with us in our thoughts. We call upon the bride and groom, that they may always find prosperity in love and devotion. We ask that this couple be blessed by children, because children give glory to a home.

Therefore we cast our libations to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West. [Libation toast giver turns in the indicated directions while reading.] We wish everyone to leave more blessed than when they came. Amen.

(This libation was based in part on those found in the The Nubian Wedding Book: Words and Rituals to Celebrate and Plan an African-American Wedding by Ingrid Sturgis.)

-- Robin Beth Schaer

See More: African-American Weddings , Wedding Customs