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Queering the Marriage of the Sea

Panisson, Benedetta



In 1000 the doge of Venice, Pietro II Orseolo, married the sea. The union took place at the port mouth of of S. Nicolò. He was clad in ermine and with a horn on his head; he slowly paraded aboard the Bucintoro, to such an extent barded with gold statues that it became an object unfit for navigation. Blessed water was poured into the water, a ring was thrown into the waves. Desposamus te, mare. In signum veri perpetuique dominii, the formula says. The ceremony was made sacred by Pope Alexander III in 1173 with the words, Doge of Venice, this is the wedding ring of your marriage to the sea. From now on, we want you and your successors to marry her every year. The doge is a male, therefore, the sea a female. The ceremony, for centuries, represented a spiritual gesture of mutual protection:
the male doge by taming her, the female sea by promising not to provoke unfavorable storms. The political and economic value of dominance over the seas, which the Serenissima particularly cared
about, was also stated. Both the gender issue and the fact that domination of one subject over another can be acted out through marriage in a patriarchal form, in this case between human and
waterscape, remain unrelevant details. In light of international and legal acknowledgements, such as the Tiwi Island case, analyzed by Veronica Strang, where native people declared that Santos
company drilling could spiritually and ecologically destabilize the entire island community, leaves us to ponder the question: if spirituality still values to protect an ecological system, and whether
this intersects some form of genderization of the aquatic environment, the concept of ownership, as Strang herself points out, it suggests that the material qualities water elude such conceptual fixity, and enable – indeed necessitate – more fluid forms of ownership. My paper focuses precisely on this proposal
of fluidity to be intertwined with the question of gender, when this is attributed to a sea, as in the case of the Venetian marriage of the sea.


Panisson, B. (in press). Queering the Marriage of the Sea.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Conference Name Materiality at the Intersection of Ecology and Religious Studies
Start Date May 21, 2024
End Date May 24, 2024
Acceptance Date Feb 20, 2024
Deposit Date May 6, 2024
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