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Handfasting Ceremonies "A Celebration of Love"

The “tying the knot” ceremony is integral to both my Celtic and Scottish ceremonies.

My spiritual/spiritist ceremonies revolve around handfasting as the act of spiritual marriage.
Some 80% of my conventional wedding clients choose handfasting in their ceremony
Legal in Scotland
Handfasting was practiced in Scotlant for thousands of years and remained as a legal act of marriage until as recently as 1939.

It only ceased as an act of legal marriage due to the actions of the English Parliament to the south.

During 1996 Scotland was granted devolution and with the establishment of the Scottish Free Parliament the right to enact its own legislation within Scotland.

During 2010 handfasting was again legalised provided it is performed by an authorised marriage celebrant or minister.

This is the same as Australia where handfasting can be legally performed as part of your wedding ceremony provided, of course, your celebrant is authorised and your ceremony fulfills all legal requirements.
 

Frank & Tracy's hands being fasted at Linwood EState, Wickham. This image demonstrates one form of binding of the wrists.

What is Handfasting? What is the underlying belief today?

There are three conflicting beliefs about the history of Handfasting

Belief 1 that handfasting was more than trial marriage or betrothal is attested to by at least two kings ensuring their heirs were by their handfasted partner and not their church married wife.

The grandfather of William the Conqueror had both a handfasted AND a church wed wife who was the daughter of a neighbouring king. He never had a child by the church wife, she being consigned to a monastery as soon as married.

He ensured his heirs were by his chosen and handfasted wife.

Belief 2 "Handfasting" was the word used by the ancient Celts to describe their traditional trial-marriage ceremony, during which couples were literally bound together. The handfasting was a temporary agreement, that expired after a year and a day. However, it could be made permanent after at that time, if both spouses agreed.

Belief 3 "Handfasting" was the word used throughout the once-Celtic lands of Scotland and Northern England to refer to a commitment of betrothal or engagement. It was a ceremony in which the couple publicly declared their intention to marry one year and a day in the future. In 1820, Sir Walter Scott used the term to refer to a fictional sacred ritual that bound the couple in a form of temporary marriage for a year and a day. He wrote of it in his book "The Monastery:"

"When we are handfasted, as we term it, we are man and wife for a year and a day; that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their pleasure, may call the priest to marry them for life; and this we call handfasting."

Handfasting was partly suppressed following the Synod of Whitby in 664 CE, when the Celtic Christianity of Britain was abandoned for the Catholic Church. The Roman Church didn't gain control of Ireland until the 11th Century following invasion by the Norman kings at Rome's instigation.

Then, the Roman Church's Council of Trent declared in 1565 that marriage could take place only in structured form, meaning within a church with a priest presiding.

The Scottish Connection
Wonderfully so, the Roman Church NEVER succeeded in stamping out the Celtic traditions of Scotland. In Scotland, handfasting became an act of Legal marriage continuing as such until 1939, when the English bureaucracy and not the Church finally won. After all, bureaucrats like clean cut vows that can be recorded on paper!

So resistant to loss of their ways was Scotland that when King Robert the Bruce stood up to the Pope, not just he, but his entire nation was excommunicated. By the time of the Council of Trent, Scotland had joined the Protestant Reformation and the tradition of handfasting continued unabated..

As I understand it, there is, today, a move within the Scottish Free Parliament to reintroduce handfasting as a form of Legal marriage - fantastic!

Even though the historical legitimacy of handfasting as a form of trial marriage is in doubt, the reality is, it became an act of Legal marriage in Scotland.

During the 1995 movie, Brave Heart, Mel Gibson, in the role of William Wallace, was handfasted with his girlfriend Murron. Handfasting has since grown immensely in popularity in Australia. some brides regard it as a "twee" thing to do but, many more couples view it as THE act of spiritual marriage as distinct from the Vows which constitute the act of Legal marriage.


That handfasting was (and still is) a spiritual act is undeniable

Consider, too, that reincarnation was intrinsic to the deeply spiritual Celtic belief system. It is therefore easy to understand why the Celts believed the souls of the couple were merged during handfasting.



I have found the absolute majority of my couples today look upon handfasting as THE act of spiritual marriage, one bride telling me she regarded the spiritual commitment more deeply than the Legal vows.
Shown above is the handfasting format Celebrant Philip prefers in which the couple join right-hands, then over the top, they join their left-hands. Philip then binds their hands using cord or ribbon.
I am simply stunned by the number of couples - brides especially, who have rejected Christianity out of hand, they, instead, believing in the never ending life of the soul and the numerous physical lives the soul must undertake on its long journey towards spiritual evolvement.

When is handfasting performed?
There is simply only one place in the ceremony to perform handfasting as the act of Spiritual Marriage and that is before the act of Legal Marriage - the vows.
Another method of binding is simply to bind one opposite hand of each of the couple.

What is required for Handfasting?
Single Strand
If using a single strand, either 3m length of satin ribbon 5cm wide, or 3m length of sash cord, both preferably red or green. Ideally, you should have a small pouch to carry the ribbon in. That’s it, easy!

Six Strand
Of course, if you seek the deeply spiritual 6-ribbon handfasting, then purchase the correct colours: white, pink, light blue, red, gold and green.

Who can perform the actual Handfasting?
Normally, the celebrant would, but I once had a bride who insisted her father perform the handfasting.

How should the hands be bound?
A good question. There are 4 ways this can be done are as follows:


(1) Hands joined with a right-handed handshake with a left-handed handshake over the top, thus forming from the shoulders of the couple, a figure "8" representing infinity. This, I believe, was the ancient way.

(2) All 4 wrists laid one on top of the other alternating (from bottom up) groom, bride, groom, bride..

(3) A left handed handshake

(4) A right handed handshake.


(5)
Groom's left hand grasping bride's right hand.

Which way does Philip perform handfasting?

No 1

 

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