We are grown and gathered and bound
And the binding is well;
We are fixed at the hip and the hand
And the head and the heel;
We are planted beneath the land,
Forever to wheel
As the earth and the sun are wound
On a golden reel,
As the ripening grasses stand,
And pale and fall.
Handfasting was a traditional form of marriage or religious rite of passage for people and until the 19th century couples in Scotland were still getting married by handfasting. Handfasting has been adopted by spiritual and nature based religions to allow a couple to make a commitment to each other, regardless of their sex, background or culture, within their own spiritual path. There is no set rule to perform a handfasting ritual, there are only guidelines. It is up to the couple to perform details and specifics so the handfasting is personal, meaningful and unique.
Traditionally, handfasting is for a year and a day and after the year and a day from the handfasting the couple may choose to renew their vows or to go their own ways without any guilt. This commitment is not a lifetime commitment unless the couple chooses it to be. This does not mean that a handfasting should not be taken seriously, quite the contrary, the vows taken during a handfasting should be taken just as seriously as any other form of marriage vow or even more seriously since the couple will be 'bound' to each by way of blood and word of honor which used to be taken more seriously then it is today. The spiritual bond of this commitment is taken very seriously. A spiritual bond is more serious than a physical bond.
THE LAWS about alternative marriages and their legal standings are different in every country, so it is best to check with your country`s legal marriage laws first before conducting a handfasting.
PLANNING AND PREPARING for a handfasting is the same as planning for a traditional wedding: Food, guests, invitations, music, etc..
THE RITUAL varies, but there are common elements. A sacred space is chosen by the couple, usually alongside a lake, in a meadow of wild flowers or on a hill. Someone ordained of the faith must be chosen in advance to perform the ceremony. The ceremony then begins by welcoming the guests for coming and welcoming the goddess and god and all the elements for being present. The couples hands are tied at the wrists with a red ribbon to symbolize their unity. Traditionally the palms or wrists were slightly cut to shed some blood so that their blood may be exchanged and therefore signifying how seriously this commitment is taken by both parties. I used to have a Scottish handfasting 'chant' that went something as follows, " blood of my blood and bone of my bone...". Today, couples favor just the handfasting with a ribbon without the blood ritual. Vows written by each person are then exchanged, signifying the oral contract between the couple. Rings are also exchanged to symbolize a token of love and affection and the circle of eternal love. Sometimes, a couple will take ribbon and 'tie a knot', this is where we get the expression of 'tying the knot'. After the vows and rings are exchanged the couple`s wrists are then unbound and they can walk together along the same path of life voluntarily 'bound' to each other by personal oral vows as well as by ' blood and bone'. The ceremony then proceeds with a party of music, cake, food, wine and ale. It is also customary for a couple to jump a broom after the ceremony. Jumping the broom derives from a time when some couples could not afford a wedding or handfasting and therefore a broom was laid out for them and witnesses would be present to see the couple jump a broom and be publicly accepted as a 'married' couple.
HANDFASTING HERBS, FLOWERS AND PLANTS: Anise, apple blossom, caraway, coriander, damiana, elderflower, ginger, holly, ivy, jasmine, lavender, lemon verbena, licorice, lotus, maple, marjoram, meadowsweet, mistletoe, orchid root, quince, rose, rosemary and yarrow
Colors of the Cord and their significance:
Dark Blue- for a safe journey and longevity
Light Blue - for understanding and patience
Pink - for romance, honor, partnership and happiness
Green - for health, prosperity, luck, fertility and beauty
Red - for courage, strength and passion
Yellow - for wisdom and harmony
Brown - for healing animals and the home
Silver - for creativity and protection
Gold - for unity, prosperity, and longevity
White - for peace, sincerity and devotion