Handfasting
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Handfastings

Handfasting was the old pagan ritual of marriage in the BritishIsles; it remained legal in Scotland all the way up to 1939, even after Lord Harwicke's Act of 1753 declared marriages in England valid only when performed by a clergyman. Previous to that act, common-law marriages had been quite acceptably validated by the couple themselves simply joining their hands in the presence of witnesses. After Lord Harwicke's Act, the Scottish border town of Gretna Green became a mecca for eloping couples who fled there to handfast themselves in legal wedlock. The handfasting gesture seems to have been derived from one of the ancient Indo-European images of male-female conjunction, the infinity sign, whose twin circles represent sun (male) and moon (female) cycles, one right-handed and the other left-handed as when the figure 8 is drawn with one clockwise and one counterclockwise circle. The right side of either sex was always considered the solar or male side, while the left side was lunar or female.
Marriage, then, consisted of uniting the two right hands like an ordinary handshake, then the two left hands, so that the partners' arms formed the graphic cycles of "infinity" or completeness.
It is interesting to note that patriarchal society retained only the right-hand handshake in token of agreement, friendliness, or greeting. The use of "female" left hands was dropped, except for one purpose: to formalize the Morganatic marriage, which was known as "marriage of the left hand," by joining left hands only. This type of marriage was invented by the German nobility to allow men of rank to live openly with their lower-class concubines, having legally secured the "marriage" against any rights or claims on the part of the wife or children to inheritance, property, or family name. Its only real purpose was to place "the shield of protection around man in illicit relations."
Two-handed handfasting still constituted a fully legal marriage in Europe, however, whether the blessing of the church was sought or not. Clergymen, of course, recommended that newlyweds attend church as soon as possible after the signing of the contract and the handfasting; but marriage had been for so many centuries ignored by the church, left under the jurisdiction of common law rather than canon law, that ecclesiastical rules on marriage were difficult to enforce. In Switzerland from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, a couple could marry each other legally just by publicly drinking together. The now-popular secular gesture of drinking through one another's linked elbows was once another way of forming the infinity sign of sexual union. Like many other relics of paganism, the handfasting gesture was retained in children's games and traditional folk dances. Continental versions of the swing-your-partner movement call for a couple to join their hands in this same manner and whirl around each other. The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects by Barbara G. Walker
 
 

Handfasting Ritual

PREPARATION

Long ribbon or soft rope (~ 3 feet)
Vows to exchange (written by the couple)
Small gifts (or rings) to be exchanged by the couple.
5 rose candles (Quarter and god candle (god candle can be red)
1 white candle (Goddess candle)
Gifts from the coveners/guests for the couple.

Ritual

Cast the circle normally.
Invoke the Goddess and God normally, or as below.

HPriest: We call upon you in the guise of Eros, Kindler of desire, Bringer of love, to join us here and witness the bonding of and.

HPriestess: We call upon you in the guise of Aphrodite, Always desirous one, Sensual lover, to join us here and witness the joining of and.

GROUNDING MEDITATION: The HPriest and HPriestess motion the two people to be handfasted to join them
before the altar. Couple faces the altar.

HPriest: (to one of the couple, the female if the couple are of opposite gender) Do you join us here of your own free will, to acknowledge before the Lord and Lady the bond that is shared between yourself and.

Person 1: (responds (hopefully this will be a yes) if not, go to closing).

HPriestess asks the other the same thing and gets response. Couple turn to face each other and join their left hands. Each now recites the vows they have prepared.

HPriest: (taking the joined left hands, and the rope) Here before witnesses, and have sworn vows to each other. With this cord, I bind them to the vows that they each have made. (wrap the cord loosely around both arms) However this binding is not tied, so that neither is restricted by the other, and the binding is only enforced by both their wills.

Couple: (turning to face each other, in unison) Heart to thee, Soul to thee, Body to thee, Forever and always, So mote it be.

Coven: So mote it be.

Couple unbind their left arms. Couple exchange the gifts they have brought for each other. Coven members and guests give couple good wishes and/or gifts.

Great rite and Cakes and Ale.
Bid farewell to God and Goddess as usual, or as below.

HPriestess: We thank you Aphrodite, for your presence among us, And as you take your leave, we ask that you leave among us, in each of us, the ability to each be Sensual lover, and desirous one. Hail and farewell.

HPriest: We thank you Eros, for your presence here this day, And ask, as you take your leave, that you leave in each of us, the ability to be a Bringer of desire, and kindler of love.
Hail and farewell. Dismiss the Quarters, and open the circle. Relax, talk, and party)
 
 

Handfasting

FULL CEREMONIAL FORM

PLEASE NOTE: This ritual is based roughly upon the beautiful one that can be found
in Ed Fitch's book "Magical Rites from the Crystal Well". The following is a
standardized form for the full ceremonial handfasting. When in actual use, this ritual
may be further embellished to suit the taste of couple to be joined.

PARTICIPANTS

High Priest
High Priestess
Bride
Groom
Caller of North
Caller of West
Caller of South
Caller of East

Before the ceremony can begin, the area chosen is traditionally swept free of debris and negativity by the Maiden of the Broom, once done the ceremony commences.

High Priestess: With sword, starting at North, circling deosil, the parameter of the circle three times.
"Three times round, Once for the Daughter, Twice for the Crone, Thrice for the Mother, who sits on the throne."

High Priest: Announced in strong Voice. "I humbly ask the attendance of the Elementals of life!"

Caller of East: Said in strong voice, whilst pouring water into a bowl.
"Welcome, O'powers of Water! Bless this couple with a love as deep as any ocean! May richness of body, of soul and of spirit be theirs ever more!"
Places bowl at eastern point of the circle, bows & retires.

Caller of South: Said in Strong Voice, whilst lighting a red candle. "Welcome, O'powers of Fire! Ignite the Passion and the Love for this blessed pair. Ever burning, yet never consuming one or the other!"
Places candle at southern point of circle, bows & retires.

Caller of West: Said in Strong Voice, whilst igniting incense in censer. "Welcome, O'powers of Air! With clever fingers weave tightly the bonds of Heart, Spirit and Love between these two! Let none undo the fabric of their love!"
Places censer at western point of circle, bows & retires.

Caller of North: Said in Strong Voice, whilst filling bowl with soil. "Welcome, O'powers of Earth! Bless this man, this woman with thy strength and wisdom. To be theirs as long as love lasts!"
Places bowl at northern point of circle, bows & retires.

Callers, East, South, West & North: Said in Strong Voice, in Unison. "Gracious Goddess, Gentle God, Grant this blessed pair thy love and protection." "Blessed Be!"

High Priest: In strong voice. "Who comes forth at this time to petition the Lord and Lady's Attention?"

Caller of East: Said as caller draws bride into the circle. "This Lady,"

Caller of West: Said as caller draws groom into circle. "and this Man."

High Priestess: Said in Strong Voice. "And their reason?"

Couple to be joined: In unison. "For the beauty of love!"

High Priest: In strong voice, standing before altar, taking man's right hand and woman's left hand.
"We gather here this night/day in a ritual of love. You, ___Bride's_Name___ and Thee,___ (Groom's_Name___ stand here before your friends, the elements, the Lord and Lady to join together as the beginning of a family. For before there can be three, there must be two."

High Priestess: Joining couple's hands, with them facing each other.
"___Groom's_Name___, what do you have to offer this woman for her love?"

Groom: Groom gets down on one knee. "I present to her my love and my pledge. May I never knowingly or willingly do such a thing to harm, nor grieve, her in any form or fashion. Accept this my athame, as a token of my trust. Like its blade, may my love be as strong. Like its metal may our love be enduring. Accept it my love, for that which is mine is yours."

Bride: Said in Strong Voice. "My Love, I accept your pledge, and your love, as I accept thy blade. Know what
is in my heart, as I know what is in thine. The magic of my will, of my love, shall ever be thine."

High Priest: Said in Strong Voice. "___Bride's_Name___, and what do offer in return for the love of this man?"

Bride: Said in Strong Voice. "I present to him my love and this pledge. May I never knowingly or willingly do
such a thing to harm, nor grieve, him in any form or fashion. Accept this, my jewel, my treasure, as a token of my trust. Just as its bright gleam, may our love glow. Like the stone that it is its essence, may our love be as enduring. Accept it my love, for that which is mine is yours."

Groom: Said in Strong Voice. "My Love, I accept your pledge and your love, as I accept thy jewel. Know what
is in my heart, as I know what is in thine. The magic of my will, of my love, shall ever be thine."

High Priest: Binds couple's right hands in the traditional manner, In strong voice. "May the Lord and Lady smile upon this union, and bless this couple with health and prosperity!"

High Priestess: In strong voice. "May neither take advantage of the other. For remember what one may not
provide, the other may!"

High Priest: Placing wedding bands on the fingers of the couple. In Strong Voice. "Your Vows have now been heard by all. These rings, like your vows, are without beginning or end. Now placed, they represent a seal of your love and respect for each other." Offering Chalice to couple to drink from. In Strong Voice. "This is your first drink together as man and wife. May you never thirst."

High Priestess: Offering Bread to couple to eat from. In Strong Voice. "This is your first food together as man and wife. May you never hunger."

High Priest: High Priest positions the besom. "This will be your first act of working together as Husband and Wife." High Priest & Priestess lead the couple to jump the broom.

High Priest: Removes binding and holds it overhead. In strong voice. "I present to you Mrs. ___Bride's_Name___ and her Husband, ___Groom's_Name___."

High Priestess: In strong voice. "We thank the elementals of life for their attendance this day/night and ask they go forth and herald this union."

Caller of East: In strong voice, raising bowl overhead. "Hail o'powers of water! Thank thee for thy attention! Sally forth and announce to all this union!"

Caller of South: In strong voice, raising candle overhead. "Hail o'powers of fire! Thank thee for thy attention! Sally forth and announce to all this union!"

Caller of West: In strong voice, raising censer overhead. "Hail o'powers of air! Thank thee for thy attention! Sally forth and announce to all this union!"

Caller of North: In strong voice, raising bowl of earth. "Hail o'powers of earth! Thank thee for the attention! Sally forth and announce to all this union!"

High Priestess: With sword, starting at north, circling widdershin the parameter of the circle three times.
"Three Times Round, Once for the daughter, Twice for the crone, Thrice for the mother who sits upon the throne!"
 

Handfasting Prayer

"Marry me under a garland of stars,
Conifers silent witness
To night wind's echoed vows.
Bearing our promises upward
Through universal whiteness
To the sepulchre of God.
Touch me once for all time,
All lives that are to be...
Our love enshrined.
Marry me under the gaze of stars.
Celestial concourse, bless our joy
Now and forevermore..."