Penelope Hamilton: Being a Humanist Celebrant Part 5

This piece originally appeared in Humanitie, Winter 2014

PENELOPE HAMILTON: This is my final piece in the “Being a Celebrant’ series.

I’m writing it at the turn of the year, though we’ll be well into 2014 by the time the printed version hits your doormats. It’s a time of transition, but in truth I’m always in transition.

It’s my norm. I’ve moved house 31 times in 63 years, and that’s not counting the 18 months when my home was my campervan. Every time. I’ve thought: “This move will be my last.” I’ve organised alterations, transformed the garden, and made the house a home.

But then I’ve found myself planning another move.

It’s been the same with work. With every job, I’ve intended to stay, and I’ve always worked with commitment until the day I’ve left. It took a while, but in the end I recognised the fact that I’m a restless person. Born under a wandering star, or something like that.

It hasn’t happened with celebrancy though, and after almost six years I’m still loving my ceremony work. I love writing about it too.

I’m sure it’s nothing to do with having a January birthday, but I’ve got a soft spot for the Roman god Janus: he of the two faces that look in opposite directions. He’s a god of transitions and change – you could call him a lord of time. The sky, sun and moon are sacred to him,as are doorways, and the Romans invoked his aid at times of planting and harvest, and of death and marriage too.

Looking back as far as I can, I see a young child with a notebook, a child whose most passionate desire was to write stories. What happened to her? I must have got distracted for about 55 years. Looking forward, well. I don’t know how many more years I’ve got in which to write, but there are fewer than 55 that’s certain.

And that’s why I’m saying to myself: ‘Do it now. Make the space. Use the time.’ This means giving up other things, including these articles. I’ve very grateful to have had the chance to share some thoughts about being a celebrant. It’s such fulfilling work, even when it’s difficult or challenging for one reason or another.

I’m grateful to my colleagues in Humanist Society Scotland, particularly my fellow celebrants, every one of whom has amazing and wonderful stories to tell, some of them funny, some sad, and most very touching, as well as humbling.

Watch out for something new and sparkling in the next edition of Humanitie! And watch out for my books. I’ll have to write them, now that I’ve told you.


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