Winter’s Wedding Words: veil
Veil comes via French from the Latin velum, meaning a sail, covering or curtain. In the bridal sense, it originates from an Old French term for the head-covering worn by nuns.
I wonder if there was an association there with (assumed) virginity but I can’t find any evidence to confirm or quash that.
The reason brides started wearing veils was to protect them from the evil spirits lurking around churchyards on the hunt for a virgin (and it is a truth universally acknowledged that all brides are virgins). The veil would supposedly conceal her from such paranormal perverts.
Incidentally, that’s also why her bridesmaids dressed the same – and traditionally, the bride would wear the same as them too; the evil spirits would be too confused about which was the real bride to take a victim.
If evil spirits are really that easily bamboozled, it’s a wonder that they were ever considered a threat at all. And weren’t bridesmaids usually also unmarried? And therefore also (obviously) virgins?
Imagine the spooks having to explain that one to the boss.
Satan: I sent you up there to abduct a virgin bride. Where is she?
Evil spirit: Er, well, I was confused. There were seven of them.
Evil spirit: Yeah, they must have cloned her! They had the same colour dress and the same flimsy white tulle over their faces. How was I supposed to know which one was the bride?
Satan: If they cloned her, they were all virgins! Just take any one of them!
Evil spirit: Well maybe they weren’t clones exactly. Maybe they were just her unmarried sisters and friends. Cousins even.
Ah well, there goes religion. I’m grateful that the aesthetic need for veils has endured to keep me in work.