Handfasting in Neo-Pagan Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism

Handfasting is the rite of marriage in neo-Pagan Witchcraft and neo-Paganism which is usually performed in the magic circle, officiated by a high priestess and/or high priest. The ceremony is usually written by the couple. The rite of handfasting intentionally lasts as long as the couple are in love, not until death.

Gold or silver rings inscribed with their Craft names in runes maybe exchanged by the couple. During some ceremonies the couple may jump over a broomstick for good luck. Symbolically, the high priestess uses the broomstick to sweep away evil. The ceremony may include the great rite which is performed symbolically or in actuality. As with all marriage ceremonies, handfasting concludes with great feasting and merriment.

Unless the high priest or high priestess is an ordained minister (which most are not) handfasting is preceded or followed by a legal marriage ceremony. Also, there are divorce rites performed in some covens, which are called «going of the ways’ or «handpartings.» As with most handfasting rites, they are symbolic and not recognized as legal.

Solitary Witches and other neo-Pagans not belonging to a coven may perform the rite of handfasting among themselves. Such ceremonies are usually accompanied by a legal marriage ceremony. A.G.H.

 

Defining Handfasting

Handfasting is a distinctive marriage rite prevalent in neo-Pagan Witchcraft and neo-Paganism. Characterized by its unique rituals and personalized elements, it stands apart from traditional marriage ceremonies.

 

The Ceremony

 

Customization and Officiation

Typically, the couple crafts their own handfasting ceremony, ensuring it reflects their personal beliefs and preferences. The ritual is often conducted within a magic circle and is led by a high priestess and/or high priest.

 

Duration of the Union

Unlike conventional marriages, which are vowed to last ‘till death do us part,’ handfasting unions are based on the duration of love between the couple. This approach emphasizes the fluidity and evolving nature of relationships.

 

Exchanging of Rings and Rituals

Couples may exchange rings, often inscribed with their Craft names in runes, signifying their commitment. Some ceremonies incorporate jumping over a broomstick, symbolizing the sweeping away of negative influences and bringing good fortune

 

Inclusion of the Great Rite

The great rite, a significant element in many handfasting ceremonies, may be performed symbolically or physically. This rite represents the sacred union and is a pivotal part of the ceremony.

Legal Considerations

Ordination of Officiants

While the spiritual aspect of handfasting is paramount in neo-Pagan practices, legal recognition requires a civil ceremony. Unless the officiating high priest or priestess is legally ordained, the couple often undergoes a separate legal marriage ceremony.

 

Dissolution of Handfasting

Divorce Rites in Neo-Paganism

Neo-Pagan traditions also recognize the dissolution of a handfasting through ceremonies known as ‘going of the ways’ or ‘handpartings.’ These rites symbolize the respectful end of a handfasting union.

 

Handfasting for Solitary Practitioners

Self-Officiated Ceremonies

Solitary Witches and neo-Pagans not affiliated with a coven have the freedom to perform handfasting rites independently. These self-conducted ceremonies are usually complemented by a legal marriage to ensure civil recognition.

Source: 4.