Celtic/Neopagan handfasting

Overview:

There are two conflicting beliefs about the history of Handfasting:

bullet Handfasting” was the word used by the ancient Celts to describe their traditional trial-marriage ceremony, during which couples were literally bound together. The handfasting was  a temporary agreement, that expired after a year and a day. However, it could be made permanent after the year was up, if both spouses agreed.
bullet Handfasting” was the word used throughout the once-Celtic lands of Scotland and Northern England to refer to a commitment of betrothal or engagement. It was a ceremony in which the couple publicly declared their intention to marry one year and a day in the future. In 1820,  Sir Walter Scott used the term to refer to a fictional sacred ritual that bound the couple in a form of temporary marriage for a year and a day. He wrote of it in his book “The Monastery:

“When we are handfasted, as we term it, we are man and wife for a year and a day; that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their pleasure, may call the priest to marry them for life; and this we call handfasting.” 1,2

Handfasting was suppressed following the Synod of Whitby in 664 [CE}…when Celtic Christianity was abandoned and Catholicism followed.

Even though the historical legitimacy of handfasting as a form of trial marriage is in doubt, some Wiccans and other Neopaganstoday create handfasting rituals for their own use or adopt ceremonies written by other Neopagans.

During the 1995 movie, Braveheart, Mel Gibson, in the role of William Wallace, was handfasted with his girlfriend Murron. Handfasting has since grown in popularity among Cowans (non-Pagans) — particularly those whose ancestors lived in ancient Celtic lands. 3

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What is the legal status of a handfasting ritual?…

To read the rest of this article please click on this link: http://www.religioustolerance.org/mar_hand.htm

Handfasting Wedding Ceremony

Traditionally, a Handfasting was performed by a priest or priestess, who would invoke the energies of the four elements to create a sacred circle in which the couple could be joined as embodiments of god and goddess. The cloth that bound their hands was usually the tartan plaid, representing the groom’s clan or family group. One of lovely symbols about Handfasting is that it is also a declaration of intent, where the bride and groom clearly state that they are marrying of their own free will, as well as stating their vows. In this particular ceremony, six cords are draped over the couples’ hands, one for each vow made.

(you can make up your own vows of course… you don’t have to use the ones written here, and you don’t have to use six)

(Bride) and (Groom), know now before you go further,
that since your lives have crossed in this life,
you have formed eternal and sacred bonds.
As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive
to make real the ideals that to you, give meaning this ceremony
and to the institution of marriage.

With full awareness, know that within this circle
you are not only declaring your intent to be hand fasted before your friends and family,
but you speak that intent also to your creative higher powers.
The promises made today and the ties that are bound here
greatly strengthen your union
and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth.

Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?

Yes.

FOr the rest of this informative article please click on this link: http://www.vowsoftheheart.com/ceramonies/handfasting-wedding-ceremony/

Handfasting History: An Old Tradition Made New

Many Pagan couples choose to have a handfasting ritual instead of a traditional wedding ceremony. In some cases, it may be simply ceremonial — a couple declaring their love for one another without the benefit of a state license. For other couples, it can be tied in with a state marriage certification issued by a legally authorized party such as a clergyperson or justice of the peace. Either way, it’s becoming more and more popular, as Pagan and Wiccan couples are seeing that there is indeed an alternative for non-Christians who want more than just a courthouse wedding.

Marriages, Irregular and Regular

In centuries gone by, handfasting was a popular custom in the British Isles. In rural areas, it could be weeks or even months before a clergyman happened to stop by your village, so couples learned to make allowances. A handfasting was the equivalent of today’s common-law marriage — a man and woman simply clasped hands and declared themselves married.

Generally this was done in the presence of a witness or witnesses. In Scotland, marriages were considered the office of the church until 1560, when marriage became a civil matter rather than a church sacrament. After that time, marriages were divided into “regular” and “irregular” marriages.

A regular marriage took place when banns were read, followed by a clergyman performing the duties of the ceremony. An irregular marriage could take place in one of three ways: a public declaration by the couple that they were husband and wife, followed by consummation of the relationship; by mutual agreement; or simply by living together and being recognized as husband and wife. As long as everyone was above the age of consent (12 for brides, 14 for grooms) and not too closely related, irregular marriages were generally considered as valid as a regular marriage.

Typically the gentry and landowners were married in the “regular” way, so there could be no question later on if the marriage was legally recognized or not — in cases of inheritance, this could be a big issue. Handfastings or irregular marriages were considered the domain of the lower class and peasants. Around the middle of the 1700s, irregular marriages were made illegal in England — but since Scotland kept the tradition, it wasn’t uncommon for an amorous British couple to elope over the border. Gretna Green became famous because it was the first town in Scotland that eloping lovers would encounter once they left England — and the Old Blacksmith’s shop there became the site of many ‘anvil weddings’, performed by the village smith.

An Old Concept, New Ideas

The word “handfasting” fell by the wayside for many years. In the 1950s, when the witchcraft lawswere repealed in England, various occultists and witches — including Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente — searched for a non-Christian term for their wedding ceremonies. They settled on “handfasting”, and the concept was resurrected within the Neopagan movement. Typically, a Pagan handfasting was meant to be a secret ceremony, held only in front of your coven or study group. As Wicca and Paganism become more mainstream, however, more and more couples are finding ways to work their Pagan and Wiccan spirituality into their marriage ceremony.

The actual term “handfasting” comes from the tradition of the bride and groom crossing arms and joining hands — basically, creating the infinity symbol (a figure-eight) with the hands. In Neopagan ceremonies, the clergyperson performing the ceremony will join the couple’s hands with a cord or ribbon during the ritual. In some traditions, the cord remains in place until the couple consummates the marriage. While some people may choose to have their handfasting be a permanent bond, others might declare it to be valid for “a year and a day“, at which point they will re-evaluate the relationship and determine whether to continue or not.

Who Can Be Handfast? Anyone!

One benefit of having a handfasting ceremony is that it because it’s not the same as a legal wedding, there are more options available to people in non-traditional relationships. Anyone can have a handfasting — same-sex couples, polyamorus families, transgender couples, etc. In Dianic Wicca, Z Budapest used the word “tryst” to refer to a ceremony for a lesbian couple.

Dormant for so long, the idea of the handfasting ceremony has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity. If you’re fortunate enough to find someone you love enough to spend your life with, you may wish to consider having a handfasting rather than a traditional wedding ceremony.

Handfasting Season is Here!

Looking for information on how to hold a Pagan handfasting ceremony? Here’s where we’ve got it all covered, from the origins of handfastings to jumping the broom to selecting your cake! Also, be sure to learn about magical handfasting favors to give your guests, how to make sure you’ll have a magical ceremony, and who can actually perform your handfasting!

Handfasting History: An Old Tradition Made New  
Handfasting was common centuries ago in the British Isles, and then vanished for a while. Now, however, it’s seeing a rising popularity among Pagan couples who are interested in tying the knot. Many Pagan couples choose to have a handfasting ritual instead of a traditional wedding ceremony.
Handfasting Tips: How to Have a Magical Ceremony  
Spring is here, and love is in the air! For many people of Pagan faiths, this is the time of year for a handfasting ceremony. If you’re lucky enough to have someone you love this much, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind while planning your handfasting ceremony.
Handfasting Favors: Magical Gifts for Your Guests  
t’s become traditional to give each of your guests a small wedding favor. Typically, these are small trinkets with either the date of the event or the couples’ names on them. However, if you’re having a Pagan or Wiccan handfasting, rather than a traditional wedding ceremony, why not come up with an idea that celebrates your spiritual path, as well as announcing your commitment to the community?
Who Can Perform a Handfasting?  
Handfastings are becoming more and more popular, as Pagan and Wiccan couples are seeing that there is indeed an alternative for non-Christians who want more than just a courthouse wedding. A common question among Pagans is that of who can actually perform the handfasting ceremony itself?
More About Handfasting  
Wondering about jumping the broom, handfasting bonfire safety, deities of marriage, and how to choose the perfect cake? We’ve got it all here, including a sample ceremony template that you can use!

How to Choose Your Handfasting Cake
Jumping the Broom: A Besom Wedding
Handfasting Bonfires: What You Need to Know
Deities of Marriage and Love

Sample Handfasting Ceremony Template
Handfasting Basket (Thirteen Blessings)

To read all the wonderful information Patti Wigington has up on About.com for Handfasting click on any of the links in this article.

Flashback – Beltane 2003

“In ancient times, people extinguished all their fires on BEltane and then lit a single new fire. They relit all the extinguished fries from this “need fire.”

To create your own need fire ritual, you’ll need to gather the nine sacred woods: birch, rowan, ash, adler, willow, hawthron, oak, holly, and hazel. If you are unable to find all the different types, try to make sure you have at least three: oak, ash and hawthron.

If you don’t have any open fires to put out, use candles to symbolize your fires. Take either three or nine tapers and set them in a row. Light the candles and all them to burn for a little while, then put them out, thinking of those things you wish to put out of your life. Now prepare the need fire of nine woods in a fireplace, an outdoor fire ring or even in a grill on a balcony or patio. Make a wood bow (as described in the Boy Scout Handbook, for example) or get a magnifying glass to set fire to the tinder. THe fire should be allowed to spread to the oak wood first, then to the others. While you light the fire, and as you watch it burn, think of those things you wish to “catch fire” in your life.

Copyright 2003 Magenta Griffith Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2003 Page 67

Beltane – Day 19

Beltane Magic [Part 8]

8.  The Magic of Butterflies

The butterfly is one of nature’s most perfect examples of change, transformation, and growth. Because of this, it has long been the subject of magical folklore and legend in a variety of societies and cultures. Let’s look at some of the magical meanings behind butterflies. [Click on “The Magic of Butterflies” in blue on this post]

By Patti Wigington

Flashback – Beltane 2002

“Prepare for Beltane by leaving tokens for the fairy folk in the woods or in your herb garden. Tie glitzy ribbons for the undines near a natural spring or river. Gather spring flowers at dawn to adorn your door, and prepare a traditional May bowl for your ritual.

First, harvest several stems of flowering sweet woodruff to steep in white wine or champagne, Then stir in a cup of brandy or strawberry wine, adding whole stawberries, rose petals, and floating red candles. EMpowerthe whole bowl for your ritual. Make a mini-Maypole for your altar. FInd small smooth egg-shaped stones and half bury in pots of herbs or directly in the soil to update the ancient tradition of Hermes seeding the soil for fertility. For this ritual, use red as the main color theme in circle as a nod to the red moonflow of ancient ceremonies.”

Copyright202 K. D. Spitzer Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2002

Beltane – Day 17

Beltane Magic [Part 6]

6.  Dandelion Magic

Although many suburban homeowners see dandelions as the bane of their existence, and spend significant amounts of money trying to eradicate them from sight, the fact is that dandelions have a long and rich folkloric history, both from a magical and medicinal perspective. Let’s look at some of the ways people have utilized dandelions throughout the ages.More »

By Patti Wigington

Flashback – Beltane 2001

“Beltane honors the sacred marriage of the God and Goddess, whos union will produce the harvets to come. It also celebrates the start of summer in full bloom. For this ritual, gather or purchase wildflowers. With raffia, twine, or string, tie flowers together in long garlands; ten feet in length or longer is perfect. These don’t have to look professionally crafted. They only need to hold together for the purpose of your ritual. When you have completed the garlands, go out to a park or wooded area. Touch the land and its plants and trees with your hands, allowing yourself to connectwith the pulsing lifeforce of the area. Look around for items that are either feminine or masculine in their energy and begin linking them together with the flowery garlands to honor the union of the divine male and female energies. For example, you can link stones to oak trees, riverbanks to abandoned fire pits, or flowering plants to spikey ones.”

Copyright 2001 Edian McCoy LLewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2001e

Beltane – Flashback 2000

“When the Sun travels through Taurus, Spring has reached its fertile peak. Trees are lush and green, flowers bloom, and birds wrestle meals for their youngsters from the moist ground. The air smells fresh, clean and “green.” This is the time of year for all of us to take a moment to appreciate the gifts of the Earth-Mother, both for this richness of her bounty and the home she provides. As the most pleasure-loving sign of all, Taurus is expert at enjoying all those wonderful experiences that make life inside the human body so delightful. This sign loves to indulge in good food, listen to sweet strains of music, and sit in awed silence as yet anothe sunset slowly fills the sky with color. The ancients danced their fertility rites on this day, taking pleasure in the sensual, fruitful touch of each other’s bodies, another delight the union of the Goddess and God provides. Whether you dance around a Maypole or  simply partake of a divine feast with friends at this magical time, be sure to revel in your body, the divine instrument that allows you to sample the wonders of our planet.”

Copyright 2000 Kim Rogers-Gallagher Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 200 Page 69