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Tie the knot

Posted by ESC on April 29, 2003

In Reply to: Tie the knot posted by ESC on April 29, 2003

: : : While we understand the meaning of to "tie the knot," as in a marriage ceremony, can anyone help with its origin?

: : I don't have anything on its origin but I can tell you that it is old.

: : TIE THE KNOT - "Marry or get married. It would be interesting to know whether it was a man or woman who first envisioned marriage as a knot. Matthew Prior had heard the expression by 1717, when he wrote (in 'Alma'): 'So to the priest their case they tell: He ties the knot." From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

: Maybe this is a clue.

: "In the seventeenth century, one or two of the bride-favours were always blue. These were knots of coloured ribbons loosely stitched on to the wedding gown, which were plucked off by the guests at the wedding feast, and worn as luck-bringers in the young men's hats." From "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions" by E. and M.A. Radford, edited and revised by Christina Hole (Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1961).

A book on symbols has a long section on knots. Tying and loosening knots has a wide variety of meanings in different cultures. "Knots carry different meanings, but the chief notion which they convey is that of attachment in a predetermined position or state and of concentration. To untie a knot corresponds to crisis or death, or else solution or liberation. This is an immediate example of the ambivalence of the symbol." Knots may symbolize "the marriage of two individuals, a social bond, or even a cosmic bond with primal life." On the other hand, "Ethnologists have recorded that in different parts of the world men and women are forbidden to wear 'any knot in their attire at certain critical times - childbirth, marriage or at a death." From "The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols" by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, translated by John Buchanan-Brown (Penguin Books, London, 1996).