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.