Handfasting

From Academic Kids

Handfasting is a Neopagan (especially Wiccan) term for a wedding. It can be performed for heterosexual or homosexual couples (see also Same-sex marriage).

Handfasting is related to an old Celtic ceremony, in which the couple's hands are ritualistically tied together, hence the phrase "tying the knot". The ceremony can either symbolize the beginning of a trial marriage typically lasting a year and a day, or, with proper legal measures, handfasting can be a legal marriage ceremony. Like many Neopagan rituals, the relationship of the current ceremony to historical practices is tenuous; see Historical Handfasting (http://www.medievalscotland.org/history/handfasting.shtml) for an introduction to the historical roots of handfasting.

There is no universal procedure for the ceremony, and the elements included are generally up to the couple being handfasted. A High Priest or High Priestess may officiate, or the couple will conduct the ceremony themselves. Handfasting usually takes places outside, and, like many Wiccan rituals, may be performed skyclad, or nude.

One unique tale of a handfasting tradition was the Telltown marriages. These took place once per year, on the Sabbat Lughnasadh, and all unmarried people would get together and be married, usually with no knowledge of to whom they were marrying until that day. The marriage would last until the next Lughnasadh. At that time, they were free to leave the union if they desired.

A corresponding divorce ceremony called a handparting is sometimes practiced.


Rings & Handfastings Couples often still exchange rings during handfastings - a ring symbolises the couple's desire to be faithful to each other and their desire to share the rest of their lives together. Many pagan couples choose rings with Celtic designs to resonate with the origins of handfastings, others choose traditional wedding rings.


Tying the Knot The term tying the knot, which is still used widely today, originates with the practise of handfasting. During the ceremony the couples hands are tied together with a red cord (red symbolises the desire, passion and vitality of the love the couple have for each other.). The cord which is used is often kept by the couple as a reminder of their vows. A red ribbon can be used instead of a cord, if this is preferred.


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