Myth and Culture Connected to the Golden Reed
Golden reeds play an important role in our book, The Black Angel of the Lord. I suspect most people know very little about this plant in the grass family; it grows in several wide spread areas of the world near wet habitats such as swamps and marshes. Perhaps the oldest and best known sites where the reeds grow are in Northern Africa. The giant reeds have a thick stalk similar to the corn plant and may reach heights of 20 to 25 feet, sporting a loose plume at the top. The rare and highly sought after Golden Reed is the crown jewel of all reed plants. When the sunlight strikes it at a given angle in conjunction with a gentle breeze, the plumes display a brilliant golden sparkle, making it a beautiful sight to behold.
Thousands of years ago the reed plant became a vital part of African culture. Through a multitude of generations the elders told the creation story of their original ancestor in which the first human being emerged from a primordial reed that split lengthwise in a bed of golden reeds, and mated with the native virgin girls he found dancing in the wild, thus creating mankind as we know it today. All reeds symbolize the power that is vested in nature, but the golden reeds reflect a deeper spiritual connection with nature.
This story seems to have originated somewhere is North-East Africa and has traveled with the people hundreds of miles across Africa through the centuries. Today the Swazi Zulu nation holds an annual festival celebrating this ancient ritual. One of the unmarried daughters of the king, or a high ranking elder’s daughter, is chosen as queen of the ceremony. She selects many virgins and leads them to where the reed plant is known to grow. The young virgins harvest long reed stalks and carry them to the wedding site to be placed at the feet of the queen. Several tribesmen may pick the queen for their bride but she will have the final say of whom she will marry. Singing and dancing follows and the virgins who participated in the harvest will all be chosen in marriage before the ceremony ends.
It is considered a supreme achievement if the ceremony queen can locate the golden reeds. Golden reeds not only promise a happy marriage, they also foretell good luck, eternal happiness, excellent health, fertility, and they drive away evil spirits.
In The Black Angel of the Lord, Carnabrara’s intense desire to obtain the blessings only the golden reeds promise, serves to push our story toward its closing collision.