A handfasting is an old Pagan custom that dates back to the time of the ancient Celtics. It was a Celtic marriage ritual where two people declare a binding union to each other for exactly a year and a day. It is similar to the engagement period that we know now. The purpose of the original handfasting was to serve as a trial marriage to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After exactly a year and a day, the couple can decide to either split as if they had never been handfasted or decide to be permanently married. The handfasting ritual is a beautiful and magickal rite of passage that even many non-Wiccan couples can adapt.
Many Wiccans and Pagans today have made handfasting as part of their wedding ceremony, and it is usually tailor-made to suit a couple’s tastes and needs. It is considered a legal marriage or a commitment made to one another for as long as your love lasts.
A handfasting is performed by a priest or priestess. He or she would call upon the energies of the four elements. Then, he or she will create a sacred circle where the couple will be joined as embodiments of the god and goddess.
A cloth is used to bind their hands together and this cloth is usually made of tartan plaid and is wrapped to form the infinity symbol. The plaid cloth represents the groom’s family and is symbolic of the union you have as a married couple. This is probably where the expression “tying the knot” comes from!
The couple will then state that they are marrying of their own free will, declare their intent to commit to each other, and then state their marriage vows. There are many variations of the handfasting since it can be fixed to suit the couple’s desires. The binding of the hands can take place before the couple states their vows, during, or after.
Different Wiccan Traditions
Each Wiccan and Pagan tradition has its own practice and belief concerning the color, length, type, and of number of cords used to handfast a couple. In one tradition, the couple face each other and have both their hands bound. Another tradition binds only the right hands together while another binds both right hands and both left hands together. But mostly, it really depends on the couple and the High Priest or High Priestess who is presiding over their handfasting ceremony.
One thing that makes handfasting such a beautiful tradition is that because it’s not the same as a legal wedding, it is readily available to people in non-traditional relationships. Just about any non-traditional couple can be handfasted like same-sex couples and transgender couples. For example, in Dianic Wicca, they used the term "tryst" to refer to a handfasting ceremony between a lesbian couple.
If you're fortunate enough to find someone you love and who loves you in return, and if you wanna spend the rest of your lives together, you can have a handfasting ceremony rather than a traditional wedding ceremony. It is definitely less traditional, less expensive, and more spiritual in nature.
What do you think of hand fasting? Were you and your partner hand fasted? Please share your story with us. :)