The Handfasting Ritual

Handfasting ritual is a rural folkloric and neopagan custom which was initially founded in Western European countries. It is a couple commitment ceremony which may be seen as temporary or permanent depending on the context.

According to Celtics, the joining of hands ritual is a symbol of eternity. When two souls come together, their strengths and qualities are duplicated and with the support of each other, they are able to cover up their shortcomings.

The Handfasting ceremony can be quite interesting and emotional too. It has a lot of symbolism and today it has become popular in civil weddings. This ceremony is always done outdoors, in an environment with a lot of nature. It is best done at sunrise or sunset when the Moon and Sun are present to witness the joining of the lovers.

The wedding dress has to be similar to the ones worn by Celtic brides: a simple, light dress, of a very fine fabric, with simple designs, but beautiful looking. The groom can wear his classic wedding suit or choose a more casual style. The guests would dress in the same line, with more informal costumes than in the ecclesiastical ceremonies.

DETAILS OF THE CEREMONY

The ceremony will be performed by one or two Priests who are specialized in Celtic ceremonies. A circle decorated with flowers and four candles in the four cardinal points is set up. This would serve as the temple of union. The bride and groom are to walk in with their parents through the East.

The altar is often oriented towards the North, and on it, there will be a golden candle (the Sun), a silver one (the moon), a white one, a bowl with salt and another with water (earth and water). The Priest or Priestess will declare the reason why they met and ask for the blessing of the elementals of the East, South, West and North, and at that time the bride and groom would enter the circle that has previously been decorated with white flowers.

The Priest or Priestess will make a series of prayers while calling out to all the different gods and goddesses. After that, the couple would offer symbolic gifts to their respective parents. Offerings are to be placed on the altar to symbolize the earth and nature.

The Priest is expected to ask the couple if they are ready and willing to be joined. On approval, their hands are tied together with a cord. There are different methods for determining the kind of cord to use and how the hands would be tied.

Sometimes, the right hands are bound, sometimes the couple faces each other and binds both pairs of hands and other times, the right hand could be bound to the left. It is left for the couple and the High Priest to determine what cord and ceremony are perfect for them.

There are couples who braid ropes of different colors that represent what they aspire in their life together. The colors include:

  • Orange: attraction, goodness, and abundance.
  • Yellow: charm, confidence, balance, and harmony.
  • Green: fertility, fortune, health and food.
  • Light blue: tranquility, understanding and patience.
  • Dark blue: longevity and strength.
  • Purple: healing, power and progress.
  • Rose: love, unity, romance and happiness.

After interlacing the hands with the rope or bow, the couple has to remove their hands without undoing the knot and keep the ropes as a reminder of the vows they made to each other. Some couples keep the tape in a special chest or frame it in a cabinet.

After the removal of the ropes, the rings are blessed by the Priest before they are worn by the couple. The couple will be asked if they swear to bring light, love and happiness to their union, and when they respond, they will both light a second white candle known as the bridal candle. Also, the married couple will take the bridal stone, consecrate it and the husband would swear with his hands on the stone.

Another key moment of the ceremony is the jumping over the broom, which symbolizes the tool to clean the old and make way for the new life as a couple.  The Handfasting is a lovely tradition common amongst the Irish. So, if you wish to incorporate something traditionally Irish and super romantic, then this is the perfect wedding style for you.

References:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handfasting_(Neopaganism)
  • https://www.waterlilyweddings.com/2016/04/hand-fasting-a-celtic-tradition-for-your-irish-wedding-ceremony/
  • https://apracticalwedding.com/sample-handfasting-ceremony/
  • https://www.howtoofficiateawedding.ca/add-a-handfasting-ritual-to-the-wedding-ceremony/
  • https://www.estudiahosteleria.com/blog/esah-estudios-superiores-abiertos-de-hosteleria/la-boda-celta-o-handfasting