Posted in [witchcraft & wonder]

Handfasting, the Pagan Wedding Ritual

The circle is in a big, beautiful grass yard. There are simple, beautiful flowers on the quarter tables and altar. There are flowers around the circle, here and there, marking the boundaries. The circle is cast in the way of the tradition, and each celebrant is allowed in similarly to line the circle with family and friends. Someone is sent to bring the couple to the circle. They are each asked if they come of their own free will. As everyone’s in the circle, the priestess blesses everyone and the circle.

“In the many names of the God of Love
Whose love began the universe,
Whose touch sparked all beginnings,
I bless this circle and all within it.
In the many names of the Goddess of Love,
Whose love holds all things together,
Whose body encircles eternity,
I bless this circle and all within it.
In the many names of all who have ever loved
Whose stories are stars in the night sky,
Whose paths light our lives,
I bless this circle and all within it.
May only love enter,
And only love depart.”

The priestess gives a speech on love and relationships. She takes up their rings and carries them around the guests, asking each person to add their own energies and blessings for the couple (aloud or silently). She returns to the altar and holds out the Groom’s ring to him, saying: “Groom, I have no right to bind you to Bride, only you may do so. If it is your wish, say so now and place your ring in her hand.”

The groom says “It is my wish.” He picks up his ring and hands it to the bride. She places it on his finger as she says:

“I claim you as my life mate.
I belong to you.
I offer my life for you.
I give to you my protection, my allegiance, my heart, my soul, and my body.
I take into my keeping the same that is yours.
Your life, happiness, and welfare will be cherished and placed above my own for all time.
You are my life mate, bound to me and always in my care.”

The priestess turns to the bride and says: “Bride, I have no right to bind you to Groom, only you may do so. If it is your wish, say so now and place your ring in his hand.”

She says “It is my wish” and places her ring in his hand. He slids it onto her finger as he says:

“I claim you as my life mate.
I belong to you.
I offer my life for you.
I give to you my protection, my allegiance, my heart, my soul, and my body.
I take into my keeping the same that is yours.
Your life, happiness, and welfare will be cherished and placed above my own for all time.
You are my life mate, bound to me and always in my care.”

The priestess says:

“All things turn in circles.
The Earth spins in a circle and turns around the sun, and the sun turns around the galaxy.
Time turns in circles of birth and death and rebirth yet again, and the planets do also spin in this way.
And, like all things, marriages move in cycles as well.
Sometimes the fires will burn brightly, and sometimes they will die down to coals and then spring up again in bright flames.
Sometimes love is warm as the spring, and sometimes it becomes winter cold with trouble and disruption.
By taking on the symbol of the circle, you make a promise to remember always that all things come around;
to keep faith in spring while enduring winter, to never lose hope that the ashes will flame again, and that your love will be renewed.”

The priestess turns to the circle of family and friends and presents the couple as handfast! YAY!

“Behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” – Charge of the Goddess (Doreen Valiente)
“Love is the law, love under will.” – Liber OZ (Aleister Crowley)
“Love is the law, Love is the bond.” – Seax Wica (Raymond Buckland)
“Love is the decision to give all that you can honestly give without begrudging it, whenever you are asked.” – When, Why…If (Robin Wood)
“Love is.” – the Universe

The above ritual is what I’ve put together for my own handfasting. It holds elements from various rituals in books and online, as well as vows based on the Carpathians on Christine Feehan’s series of books. Handfastings are an interesting thing. A handfasting can be permanent (forever and ever, and so on) or temporary (a year and a day is a popular timeline). They can be spiritual or legal, depending on whether or not a marriage certificate is issued by clergy. They are as varied in method as there are stars in the sky, because no two people’s relationship is the same as another.

I saw my first handfasting as a participant, actually in charge of calling the element of Water (well, it was raining a LOT that day, so I was more thanking Water and asking it to watch instead of joining in… LOL). The couple had a more traditional element, ribbons tying their hands together as the “fasting” of their “hands”… thus, “handfasting”. Each ribbon represented something, good or bad, that they would face. They each accepted both the positive and negative, promising not to use the bad as a burden or weapon against the other. It was sweet.

I’ve considered many ideas for my own handfasting. A costumed theme, where everyone dresses as something mythical, would be neat. (JD’s brother is having a Halloween wedding, so that idea’s taken.) I thought about a twist on the various ribbons in the above example; instead of just the priestess putting them on the couple, each participant in the circle could have a ribbon that represents something good and bad. As the couple goes around, each person adds a ribbon to the fasting.

The whole reason I thought to post this is threefold. [1] I just went through my inbox, and that’s where the ritual at the top was saved. [2] I’m not ready to share anything Greek-related, but I wanted to post something. [3] I’ve been thinking about handfastings and such, because JD and I will have been together three years as of October 10th (10/10/10). I thought that might be an interesting day for marriage, even if it were just a justice of the peace thing (with a handfasting later).

 

Update: In 2015, I got married to my wonderful wife in my high priestess’ backyard. She used this ritual, with some tweaks and an additional call to Hera (wife’s request) to bless the union. 

Author:

bookdragon, poet, witch

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