What is a Celtic Handfasting Ceremony?
In this blog I will share some information around this topic as a lot of couples are unsure about what a Handfasting is. Handfasting is an Ancient Celtic Ritual where the hands/wrists are tied together with ribbons, cords or fabric to symbolise the binding of two lives together. A Handfasting is most often used in Wiccan or Pagan Wedding Ceremonies to publicly declare your intent to marry (Betrothal) and would usually last for a year and a day but has now become more popular as a ritual within its own right in mainstream religious and secular wedding handfasting ceremonies around the world.
It is from this Ritual that we have the phrases “Tying-the-knot”, “Giving-one's-hand-in-marriage” or “Bound- for-life”.
There are 3 main branches within Paganism - Celebrant Cornwall
Wiccan - this is the most popular nature-based path and most often their ceremonies are held outdoors in the evening as the cycles of the moon are important in Wiccan ceremonies . Wedding Celebrant Cornwall, Wedding Celebrant Cornwall
Druidry - this is a fairly recent and modern interpretation of an ancient Celtic practice focusing on nature, poetry, storytelling and is also practiced outdoors in woodland groves and follows the different festivals of the natural year.
Asatru - This is a new religion started in the ‘70’s but it’s roots are ancient as it incorporates Germanic Spirits and Gods. This a growing Spiritual path practiced in Scandinavian countries. This is a very brief overview of the main Pagan branches and they all have various versions of how they perform their Rites of Handfasting which traditionally is a Betrothal, Engagement or Trial Marriage ceremony as it lasts for a year and a day. If you survived the year you had the option of extending your commitment for the rest of your life or if using the modern version - as long as love lasts.
If you or your family held a position of high standing in your community a passing Druid or in later times a clergyman would have performed your ceremony. Most often your wedding ceremony was a public affair and was done in the community with everyone acting as a witness for you. The modern Pagan/Druid/Wiccan or Viking ceremonies are held in Sacred Stone circles, Sacred Groves or places that have been consecrated specifically for you.
Who can conduct my Ceremony and tie my cords?
As it is not a legally binding Ritual in modern times, anyone who has done some research and who understands the ritual can perform your Handfasting. There are many ways you can tie your own cords but usually the Celebrant does it. A friend or family member can do it too as there is no right or wrong way but it is important to create a knot. You may leave your cords wrapped around your wrists for as long as you like, some take them off carefully before the ring exchange, leave them on for the remaining parts of the ceremony or even until they go to the Honeymoon Suite. Traditionally the cords remained on until you were escorted to your bedchamber at midnight!!
What materials and colours can I use?
Any colours can be used. Most couples will choose colours that match the colour scheme of their day or use colours for their symbolic meaning. Ribbons and cords of various widths and thickness are often used and mixed in with fabric that may have a sentimental value for you. Charms and small items are usually incorporated into the cords. The most important thing is to ensure the cords are at least 2 metres in length. There are videos on YouTube showing you how to make your own cords so please take a look if you would like to make your own.
What happens during a Celtic Handfasting Ceremony?
Although the order of your service may be slightly different depending on who will be conducting it, there will still be similarities to Christian Marriages. There will still be vows but these may be said with each holding onto the end of your cord and a knot tied into the cord with each vow.
You will still exchange your rings if you wish or exchange a meaningful gift with each other. You may include any readings you resonate with and music of your choice. Couples can wear anything they feel comfortable in and Brides usually wear floral crowns and dresses of various colours and Grooms wear tunic style shirts with trousers and often wear tall boots too! Candles of yellow, red, blue, green or black, white, silver and gold are used to welcome in the Quarters or 4 Elements of North, South, East and West as well as the Lord and Lady/God and Goddess.
There will also be an altar with ritual items
on it like salt, water, daggers, goblets, statues and flowers to name a few. You may find that the couple stands in the middle or around the edge of a circle with guests completing it. Sometimes the seating is arranged in a spiral so that everyone can feel connected and included in the ceremony. Pagans love to burn incense, ring bells, make lots of noise by using drums, chanting or singing. This is to awaken and welcome in benevolent Spirits and to ward of negative energy. You may hear declarations of “Hail and Welcome”, Blessed Be and “So may it be”.
I hope this blog has been informative, helpful and inspiring for you. Having a Pagan or Celtic Handfasting is a wonderful, community-orientated, family-friendly way to Bless your Union. Cornwall is the perfect place for you to begin your Wild Wedding adventure and we would love to help you plan your journey. If you would like to find out more, please contact us HERE. Read also my latest Blogs on my Partner Page - Cornwall Elopements. Pictures in this Blog from: Enchanted Brides
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