Starfire's Handfasting Page
Handfasting is a Pagan ritual in which the Gods bless the union of two or more people.
The ritual originates from medieval weddding practices that were common in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
Although it is often referred to as a "Pagan Wedding", historically this practice was not a wedding
at all -- it was a ritual of intent to marry or a committment ceremony of sorts to
celebrate the love between two people. If, after a year and a day had passed, the two people
wished to remain together, they would be legally wed in a formal ceremony.
Although a handfasting is not a permanent union, it is a sacred marriage. A couple may choose to renew their vows yearly, others may committ to the rest of their lives. In most cases, the option to go their separate ways remains open. Prior to the ritual, the couple should come to an agreement regarding the length of time to committ to one another. They may choose "a year and a day", "as long as the love shall last", or "for all lifetimes". If the couple wishes to go their separate ways after a committment for a certain length of time, there may be a ritual held called a handparting in which the couple "unbind" from each other.
Handfasting is not recognized as a legal marriage unless state guidelines are followed to make it so. Different states have different rules for obtaining marriage licences, and these rules need to be followed. Many High Priests and High Priestesses who perform handfastings are ordained through the Universal Life Church based in Modesto California. In most states in the US, to obtain legal registration you are required to file documents proving your religious certification with a state level office, and usually also with a county and/or city level authority in the vicinity of where the rite is to take place. As long as a couple follows state guidelines for obtaining a marriage license and a legally registered Priest/Priestess signs and processes the document, the handfasting marriage is as legal as any other religious marriage.
Parts of a Handfasting Ritual
Handfasting rituals usually include the following parts:
Circle Casting: The High Priest and Priestess designate and bless the area where the ritual will be performed, declaring it a sacred space for ritual. This is usually the first part of any ritual. The High Priest and Priestess bless the items that will be used during the ritual along with the space.
Ring Blessing: The High Priest and Priestess bless the rings which the couple will place on each others hands.
Vows: The couple exchanges their vows.
Handfasting: The High Priest and Priestess performs the ceremony, uniting the couple in marriage for the length of time they wish to committ to each other.
Unity Candle: The man and woman each light a candle which symbolizes themselves, and then together light a third candle which symbolizes their union.
Additional parts may be added to the ritual. It is important that the couple make the ritual personal and meaningful to them. The following are some ideas for creative/optional ceremony additions:
Jumping the Broom: Although this seems to be a common addition to handfastings, it does not have to be included. The significance of this is varied and depends upon the couple's belief and focus. Understanding the meaning of the broom, will help in understanding the rituals associated with it. For some, the broom (also called 'besom') represents a 'life symbol' because of it's phallic shape and use in early pagan 'earth fertility' rituals; for others it is a symbol of 'purification' or 'new beginnings', because of it's use in sweeping away that which we view unclean or have completed use for. Either way, both life and 'new beginnings' symbols seem appropriate for any 'union' ceremony. For some, the materials that make up the broom, have special meaning also. The three parts of the broom are the pole or handle, the brush or broom, and the cords or binding, which joins or ties the pole and brush together. The type of wood out of which each part is made may symbolize qualities the couple wishes to bring into their marriage. For example, birch possesses the qualities of new beginnings and fertility, while oak symbolizes youth and longevity.
The couple should consider color correspondences when choosing a color for their cord. The cord is what the High Priest and Priestess will tie or wrap around the couples' hands during ritual to symbolize their union. Some color correspondences are as follows:
|White-spiritual purity, truth, peace, serenity and devotion|
|Yellow-attraction, charm, confidence, balance, harmony|
|Pink-love, unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness|
|Red-will, love, strength, fertility, courage, health, vigor, passion|
|Green-fertility, luck, prosperity, nurturing, beauty, health, love|
|Purple-healing, health, strength, power, progress|
|Light Blue-tranquility, understanding, patience, health|
Blue - for a
safe journey, longevity
|Brown - for healing , skills &talent, nurturing, home & hearth.|
|Silver - for creativity, inspiration & vision, and protection.|
|Gold - for unity, longevity, prosperity, strength.|
|Black-strength, empowerment, wisdom/vision, success, pure love|
Feasting and dancing may be done following the wedding. This part of the wedding may have a certain theme or correspond to the pantheon which the couple follows.
Maypole dancing, wedding toast/blessing of the couple by friends and family, tossing bouquet
Example Handfasting Vows
WITH THIS HAND...
BRIDE: I give you my hand in marriage
GROOM: And I give you mine
BRIDE: Take my hand as a symbol of my love.
GROOM: Take my hand as a symbol of my love.
BRIDE: With this hand, I promise to hold you, cherish you, and respect you always.
GROOM: With this hand, I promise to care for you, provide for you, and to be your friend.
(BRIDE and GROOM join hands, right to right, left to left.)
BRIDE: As I hold your hands in mine, I feel your love.
GROOM: And I feel your love; our love is not only for this moment, but for a lifetime.
BRIDE: Yes, for a lifetime.
(The BRIDE's and GROOM's hands are then fastened by the PRIEST/ESS)
As the sea is
eternal, so is our love;
As the wind is all-encompassing, so is our love;
As the earth is solid beneath our feet, so is our love.
And yet, our love is so great
That it even soars beyond the sea and the wind and the earth.
It is so perfect to be standing beside you here,
Among these elements
Which reflect the love we have for each other,
As we commit ourselves to each other today.
A HANDFASTING PLEDGE
"(Insert name), you have embraced all aspects of my nature. You love me completely, for both my strengths and my weaknesses. You have given me the courage and faith to trust you, to let you love me as an entire person. You have allowed me to embrace all aspects of your nature. You have let me love you completely, for both your strengths and your weaknesses. You have shown courage and faith in me, to trust me to love you as an entire person. I, (name), take you, (another name), just as you are, and however you may change, above all others, to share my life."
Authored by Mothermay
Example Handfasting Ritual
CELTIC WICCAN HANDFASTING RITE
(Perform this rite out-of-doors. The circle is outlined around the edges with stones. A tree standing at either the North or East is decorated with ribbons and flowers, and electric holiday lights, to symbolize the bridal pair's new life.)
(All guests enter the ritual area, and stand, forming another circle inside the stone circle.)
Let the four directions be honored that power and radiance might enter our circle for the good of all beings.
CALLER OF THE NORTH:
With the blessing of the deep and fruitful earth, we call upon the powers of the North.
CALLER OF THE SOUTH:
With the blessing of the inner fire of the sun, we call upon the powers of the South.
CALLER OF THE WEST:
With the blessing of the sacred waters of the pool, we call upon the powers of the West.
CALLER OF THE EAST:
With the blessing of the the clear pure air, we call upon the powers of the East.
May the harmony of our circle be complete.
We stand upon this Holy Earth and in the Face of Heaven to witness the Sacred Rite of Marriage between (GROOM) and (BRIDE). Just as we come together as family and friends so we ask for the Greater Powers to be present here within our Circle. May this Sacred Union be filled with their Holy Presence.
I invoke the God of Love whose name is Aengus mac Og to be present in this Sacred Place. In his name is Love declared.
I invoke the Goddess of the Bright Flame whose name is Brigid to be present in this Sacred Place. In Her name is Peace declared.
PRIEST: In the name of the Ancestors whose Traditions we honour,
PRIESTESS: In the name of those who gave us Life,
BOTH: May we all unite in Love.
(The BRIDE and GROOM, shrouded in black (symbolizing the mystery of love), and walking hand-in-hand, enter accompanied by their ATTENDANTS, and if possible, the COUPLE's parents. Either the GROOM or his ATTENDANT brings a sword or other weapon. The BRIDE and GROOM walk three times around the fire. Upon completing the three revolutions, their attendants remove the shrounds. The BRIDE and GROOM kiss, and all the guests shout and wave branches and flowers in approval.)
PRIESTESS: Standing before us are (GROOM) and (BRIDE). May we all bid them hail and welcome.
(BRIDE stands before HP and GROOM stands before HPS.)
HP (to BRIDE): Are you (BRIDE)?
BRIDE: I am.
HP: What is your desire?
BRIDE: To be joined with (GROOM) in the prescence of the Gods and our friends.
(HP places a wreath of roses on the BRIDE's head.)
HP: I welcome you with joy.
HPS (to GROOM): Are you (GROOM)?
GROOM: I am.
HPS: What is your desire?
GROOM: To be joined with (BRIDE) in the presence of the Gods and our friends.
(HPS places a wreath of greenery on the GROOM's head.)
HPS: I welcome you with joy.
(The PRIEST and PRIESTESS bring the BRIDE and GROOM's parents into the circle. The GROOM's parents and attendant stand with him, the BRIDE's parents and attendant with her. The BRIDE's FATHER has carried with him a sword or other weapon.)
FATHER: I bring you (BRIDE's name), my child and my treasure. (FATHER passes his weapon over BRIDE's head to the GROOM) Take this sword (or other weapon) and mind that always must you be strong, whole, and ready in service to protect thy bride.
GROOM (as he accepts the weapon from BRIDE's FATHER): I, (GROOM's NAME), do vow this before the Gods of our people.
HPS: Then nothing may stand in your way!
HP (to BRIDE): Take the hand of your love in yours (The BRIDE takes GROOM's left hand in her left) and say after me -
By seed and root, by bud and stem, by leaf and flower and fruit, by life and by love, in the name of the God, I take thee to my hand, my heart and my spirit, at the setting of the sun and the rising of the stars. Nor shall death part us, for in the ripeness of time we shall meet, and know, and remember, and love again. Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone, I here, thou there, yet both as one.
BRIDE: By seed and root, by bud and stem, by leaf and flower and fruit, by life and by love, in the name of the God, I take thee to my hand, my heart and my spirit, at the setting of the sun and the rising of the stars. Nor shall death part us, for in the ripeness of time we shall meet, and know, and remember, and love again. Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone, I here, thou there, yet both as one.
HPS (to GROOM): Take the hand of your love in yours (The GROOM takes BRIDE's right hand in his right) and say after me -
By seed and root, by bud and stem, by leaf and flower and fruit, by life and by love, in the name of the Godess, I take thee to my hand, my heart and my spirit, at the setting of the sun and the rising of the stars. Nor shall death part us, for in the ripeness of time we shall meet, and know, and remember, and love again. Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone, I here, thou there, yet both as one.
GROOM: By seed and root, by bud and stem, by leaf and flower and fruit, by life and by love, in the name of Godess, I take thee to my hand, my heart and my spirit, at the setting of the sun and the rising of the stars. Nor shall death part us, for in the ripeness of time we shall meet, and know, and remember, and love again. Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone, I here, thou there, yet both as one.
stands in place, PRIEST brings GROOM's MOTHER to stand facing GROOM and BRIDE.
PRIESTESS hands her the chord.)
MOTHER: (Says a few words of her own, then as she is placing the cord around the hands of Bride And Groom, says the following):
May you be ever joined as one,
happy and together before all you come to meet and know,
and before the Divine.
HPS: As the Sun and Moon bring light to the Earth do you (GROOM) and (BRIDE) vow to bring the light of love and joy to the union?
BRIDE and GROOM: We do.
HP: And do you vow to honor each other as you honor which you hold most sacred?
BRIDE and GROOM: We do.
HPS: And do you vow to maintain these vows in freedom, for as long as love shall last?
BRIDE and GROOM: We do.
HP: Let our friends and our Gods bear witness that (BRIDE) and (GROOM) are joined in love, joy and freedom.
ALL: So let it be.
(HP unbinds BRIDE's and GROOM's wrists.)
HPS: All things in Nature are circular - night becomes day, day becomes night and night becomes day again. The moon waxes and wanes and waxes again. There is Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and then the Spring returns. These things are part of the Great Mysteries. (GROOM) and (BRIDE), do you bring your symbols of these Great Mysteries of Life?
BRIDE and GROOM, in turn: __________, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love for you. Let it remind you always, as it circles your finger, of my eternal love, surrounding you and enfolding you day and night. You are my beloved bride / bridegroom and I marry you today with this ring as I give you my heart, my body and the very breath of my soul.
HPS: Then seal your promise with a kiss.
(BRIDE and GROOM kiss)
HP: Let those assembled here bear witness that (BRIDE) and (GROOM) are joined in love. May their love partake of the beauty, majesty and power of the sacred land and may they grow together in wisdom, joy and harmony. My own blessings and the blessings of all those assembled be with you.
HPS: The blessings of the Goddess and the God be with you.
HP: The blessings of the ancestors be with you.
HPS: And with all that grows from your union.
HP: So let it be!
ALL: So let it be!