Handfastings are traditionally part of Wiccan and Pagan Weddings. Handfasting was also has a rich Scottish heritage as it was the legal rite of marriage there until 1939.
Here is an example of a Handfasting:
Handfasting is an agreement between two people to unite into a oneness of heart for a year and a day – or for what ever length of time the couple agree to with their Officiant.
A good time to have a Handfasting is during the time of the waxing moon, to represent continued growth of the relationship into fullness.
Decorate the circle with red or pink candles at each of the 4 quarters – already lit – to represent love – one at each quarter (direction: North, South, East and West). You can also outline the entire circle with candles. (Harder if the Handfasting is to be outside – candles will get blown out by the wind!) Another option is using large stones at the 4 quarters and have the circle outlined by smaller stones or shells. A circle can be cast before the arrival of the guests if they are not all Wiccan or Pagan.
On the altar –
- Have a candle, to represent the Ancients, in the middle of the altar – also have it lit from the start of the ceremony.
- The candle ceremony is often used in a Handfasting
- Another option is incense – one stick for each – the incense can be lit by the parents of the couple, at the same time as their respective candles are lit from the candle ceremony.
- Two crowns of flowers on the altar.
- Have sea salt mingled with lots of flower petals in a bowl to the right of the altar and the rose water to the left. The bell and goblet (need peach juice or red wine) near the centre of the altar and besom (broom) leaning on one side of the altar. The handle of the broom can be decorated with bright ribbons, bells, beads and flowers. Use the broom to sweep the circle (clockwise) before casting. You can also sweep the auras of the couple before the ritual begins. Like smudging.
- Also have elemental tokens on the altar – a stone (earth), a shell (water), a feather (air) and another candle (fire).
Ask the couple, friends and family to form a circle – around the outside of which the ritual circle will be cast.
Scatter the sea salt and flower petals to form the circle’s perimeter – while invoking the quarters – encourage the couple to write their own invocations!
Draw the circle*:
Guardians of the East, Hail and Welcome, Isis, bringer of new life, we invite you into the circle where the lovers await your blessing.
Guardians of the South, Hail and Welcome, Pele, bring your firey energy to fuel the bond formed here today.
Guardians of the West, Hail and Welcome, Aphrodite, join us to bless the lovers with love.
Guardians of the North, Hail and Welcome, Demeter grant groundedness to these two who are married today.
The Centre, place of Spirit and Mystery, Hail and Welcome, shower blessings on this couple.
Amanda returns to the altar
Candle and Incense Lighting
Once the circle is cast the parents come up to the altar and light the candles and incense.
Candle Lighting – Part I
If you are interested in the Candle Lighting Ceremony we advise you to purchase your own candles. Then you will be able to use them again to light on your anniversary. You will need two, 8 inch candles and one, 9 inch pillar candle – these are the maximum heights the candles can be to fit in the wind guards for an outdoor wedding. If your wedding is indoor there is no restriction on the shape or height of the candles.
The candle lighting ceremony represents the families that you have come from and the new family that you begin today. ……… and …….., you have arrived here today with the help of your respective families’ love and support, their courage and their commitment to you. And through your marriage this day you will face tomorrow as a new family, ready and eager to embark on this new journey. In recognition of their love for you and their hopes for you in your marriage, two representatives of your families will come forward to each light a candle to symbolize your present families and the ancestors from which you have come. I now ask …….. and …….. (Choice of relative) to come forward to light the family candles.
Then the couple comes up to the altar. If the couple do not wish to process they can be standing at the altar from the start, while the circle is being cast.
When the couple leave the circle to process up to the altar they are followed by a Sword bearer – who protects the couple from any danger – spiritual or otherwise. The Sword bearer then places the sword on the ground behind the couple and rejoins the circle.
The couple stand before the altar to be greeted by Amanda. “It is said that the ancient groves were the first temples scared to the Gods. It is fitting to celebrate in Nature’s garden to witness and support _________ and ___________. Thank you for coming to share in the first day of what will be a lifetime adventure of growing, learning and loving.”
Rose Petal Blessing
Amanda picks up bowl of rose petals, while walking around the couple and scattering the petals she says: “May your love be as sweet and light as these petals to the four winds. Let them carry your wishes of joy and harmony to the farthest corners of creation and encircle you both with peace.”
Amanda raises the crown of flowers over one of the partner’s heads saying: “Earth Mother, Father Sun, Sister of the Silver Star attest to the Handfasting of these hearts. May the binding of this union be felt as strongly as their bonds with the Goddess. It is a bond of love equally shared.” Then the crown is placed on their head.
Amanda then raises the second crown over the other partner’s head and says: “Earth Mother, Father Sky, Sister of the Sea, attest to the Handfasting of these hearts. May thy light and fertile water flow into their hearts to nourish the love that abides there.” Then the crown is placed on their head.
Acknowledgement of Wiccan Rede and Threefold law
Amanda then says: “I tell thee now, this is the law: That you love all things in Nature as gifts of the Ancients. That you harm none by word or deed. That you go modestly though life, not straying from the path. That you honour the Threefold law. Content shall you find in the small things of life and at last you shall met again in the next, your destinies are linked.”
Wine Cup Ceremony
Amanda takes the cup of wine and says: “This cup of wine represents life’s blood. By drinking this you freely join your lives together.” The couple then each take a drink.
“Hear thee well. The spirits of all creation witness your choice, from the smallest grain of sand to the cloak of stars above. With this blood bond made, none can separate thee other than the Goddess herself.
Exchange of Tokens
“Goddess, whose breath formed all things, powers of creation, spirits of nature, guardians, we ask for your presence and blessing in this sacred space. Bend down your ears and hear the vows that _____ and ________ exchange. Bear witness to the truth of their intentions. Celebrate with us this declaration of their union, which already exists in their hearts, and help them ever to walk the path of beauty in confidence together. So mote it be.”
“Your Handfasting is a continuation of a great journey, the path of which leads to you hearts. Your old life is about to be transformed and a new life begun. What words indicate your desire?”
The Couple respond together “To be joined as one with the blessing of the Goddess.”
Amanda “And what words do you bring with you to this sacred altar to represent your intentions?”
The Couple respond together “Perfect love and perfect trust.”
Amanda “No better words could be chosen for the beginning of your life together. What tokens have you brought to the altar to symbolize your hopes for this relationship and all that you give to it?
The Couple have previously written scrolls explaining about the item they have each chosen. Then scrolls are read and then set on fire. (Make sure to have a cauldron to receive the burning scrolls.) Amanda says “Sacred powers, pray heed and accept these words, prayers and promises as they travel through time and space. What fire consumes, none may undo.” Tokens are exchanged and then put on the altar.
“We are gathered here to celebrate love, the love that unites these two people and through them the larger principle of love that unites any two people. It is this universality of love that makes a wedding a joyous occasion. In token of this we use the ancient sign of the Goddess of love to dedicate this couple to themselves and each other.” With her wand the Priestess makes a pentacle on one of the partners – lightly touching his forehead, left side of the body, right shoulder, left shoulder, right side of the body and forehead again. Then Amanda does the same for the other partner.
The Charge Of The Goddess
Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.
There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.
For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.
For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
© Copyright the Doreen Valiente Foundation
“In the Beginning of our world, the Goddess gave humankind five elements to nurture us physically, enrich us mentally and teach us spiritual truths. The air, represented here by incense (or a feather), fills (reminds) us with (of) vital breath and gives flight to our hopes and dreams. It teaches the lessons of creativity and flexibility so you may grow together despite the four winds of change.” (Amanda places a pinch of incense or a feather into a sachet.)
“Water, represented by a seashell, reminds you to flow with life’s ever moving current, to let our feelings fall like gentle summer rain on one another, so as to nourish and refresh.” (Amanda places seashells into the sachet.)
“Earth, represented by this stone, is your foundation, a place upon which to begin building your relationship.” (Amanda places a stone into the sachet.)
“Fire symbolized by this match, purifies and energies your efforts, bringing passion and the brilliant light of truth.” (Amanda places the match in the sachet.)
“Finally Spirit, symbolized by this white string, rejoices the soul and binds all things together through love.” (Amanda ties up the sachet and gives it to the couple.)
“I give this sachet into your keeping, place it near to the sacred hearth in your home, so that your lives together may be bountifully blessed by all of the lessons of the Ancient Ones.”
Peach Juice Ceremony
“In Ancient times, cups adorned altars around the world to honour the sacred powers of creation. This nectar is made from peaches, the fruit of longevity, wisdom and joy, so that your relationship may eternally be filled with discernment and happiness.”
Amanda holds the cup up high towards the sky and says “Goddess bless this cup and the nectar therein, representing wisdom and everlasting love. Once taken to the lips may it unite these two into a oneness of hand, heart, spirit and destiny.” (The couple each drink and then pour the remains onto the land so that their love will grow.)
(Amanda anoints the couple together, using the rose water or other blessed water.)
Anoints the forehead “I purify you from all anxiety, I purify your mind from fears.”
Anoints the eyelids “I bless your eyes to see the ways of the Goddess.”
Anoints the lips “I bless your lips to speak the names of the Goddess.”
Anoints the sternum (middle of breast bone – heart chakra) “I purify your body, formed in strength, beauty and pleasure.”
Anoints the feet “I purify your feet to walk the path of the Goddess”
Anoints the hands “I Bless your hands to do the work of the Goddess”
“What we know now as the infinity sign in mathematics, a horizontal figure ‘8’, came to represent infinity as it was once the Goddess’s sign of perfect union. This dual circle grew from the world’s oldest wedding custom, the ceremonial joining of hands so the couple’s arms formed the double circle. In the Celtic tradition this ceremony became known as handfasting.” (Directed by Amanda the partners join their right hands and then left hands over top of the right hands. Amanda (or the couple’s parents) binds their joined hands loosely, with the blood symbolic red scarf or ribbon. Then vows are said while the couple are bound.)
Exchange of Vows
“I ask you for once and for always, ________, before the Goddess, the Ancient Ones, friends, family and the sacred altar, if it is still your heartfelt wish to freely give love and passion to ________. If so then say ‘By my honour, let it be so’”.
Then repeat for the other partner.
Amanda the cuts the bonds and puts the pieces on the altar.
“May these rings be blessed as the symbol of affectionate unity, joining the lives of _______ and __________ in an unbroken circle. Wherever these two go, may they always return to one another in togetherness, finding the love for which all people yearn. May ____ and ______ grow in understanding and compassion, may their home be a sanctuary for love and friendship. May these rings, now placed upon their fingers, symbolize the touch of spirit and the love in their hearts.”
“________ place the ring of fulfillment on ________’s finger saying ‘With this ring I pledge my love.’”.
Then repeat for the other partner.
Candle Lighting part II
“Before you are three candles, two of which represent the two of you. From each human being there is a light that reaches every toward enlightenment. When two loving souls find one another, this light flows together in brilliance and beauty from their oneness. Light now the Unity candle, ignite it with love.” (The couple light the Unity candle using their own previously lit candles as a fire source.)
“This light symbolizes the presence of Spirit that has brought __________ and ________ together and the unconditional love and trust that they have pledged. The other two candles remain lit as a marriage is not the loss of individuality but a new horizon for each person. From today forward these two shall grow into the sacred We, where, without the other there would be less than one.”
May the blessings of life, the joys of love, the peace of truth, the wisdom of the soul and the strength of the Spirit be thy constant companions now and always. So mote it be.
“I present you now the gift of bread, as our ancestors did, that you might never want for physical or spiritual sustenance and so that your life together will be fruitful.” (The couple each eat a piece of bread.) “Share this now with your guests so that they might savor the sweetness of your joy, share in the Earth’s providence and the blessings of the Divine.” The Couple hand out rolls or ask children present to do so.
After everyone has eaten Amanda says: “Let us stand and pray. Goddess, spirits of sky and stone, water and sun, we thank you for your presence and blessing this day. Like the stars above, let love be constant. Like the stone, let it be firm and unwavering. Like the water, let it flow between these two, and like the sun, let it ever be warm and welcoming. We ask as we go forth from this place that you keep watch and vigil over this couple and the sanctity of their union. So mote it be.”
“With the exchange of rings, the support of friends and family, under the gaze of the Ancestors and with the blessing of the Goddess, you have declared and accepted each other’s offerings of eternal love. Your lives are now bound together in body, heart, mind and soul. As you go now from this place, enter into a new life of beauty, joy and abundance together, marked by your passage across this sword that has protected you. Blessed be.”
A talking stick can be passed around the circle of friends so all participants can share their hopes and wishes for the couple.
Closing the circle.
Amanda begins in the North – introducing the couple to the elements and ringing the bell, after which the couple blow out that quarter’s candle.
Guardians of the North, Spirits of the rich earth, witness this couple’s promise and bless them with abundance.
Guardians of the East, Spirits of the refreshing winds, witness this couple’s promise and bless them with sensitivity.
Guardians of the South, Spirits of the empowering fires, witness this couple’s promise and bless them with passion.
Guardians of the West, Spirits of the flowing waters, witness this couple’s promise and bless them with love.
Guardians of the Centre, where the Goddess resides, witness this couple’s promise and bless them with unity of heart and soul. So mote it be.
“Having pledged their troth before all the sacred powers, it is now our duty as friends and family to support this couple on their path in life. Please all welcome _______ and _______ newly married.”
Jumping the Broom or Sword
The Besom is placed on the floor for the couple to jump over. Holding hands they jump over and are pronounced married once their feet touch the ground. Then the cakes and wine are blessed.
Amanda turns the couple toward the sword and they jump over. Traditionally this marks the start of their new life together and their figurative or literal fertility.
By the earth that is Her body,
By the air that is her breath,
By the fire that is Her bright spirit,
By the living waters of Her womb,
The circle is open but not unbroken.
The peace of the Goddess go in our hearts.
Merry meet, and merry part and merry meet again.
*Many other Goddesses of love can be invoked some of them are: Aphrodite (Phoenicia), Ishtar (Mesopotamia), Oshun (West Africa), Freya (Scandinavia), Erzulie (Haiti), Chalchiuhtlique (South America), Isis (Egypt), Inanna (Sumer), Astarte or Asherah (Semitic), Shekinah (Hebrew), Kwan Yin (China), Shakti (India), Sappho (Greece), Venus (Rome), Bloddeuwedd (Wales), Flora (Rome), Hina (Polynesia), Cybele (Anatolia), Anahita Armenia), Ruth (Hebrew), The Snake Maiden (North American First Nations), Vesta (Rome), White Buffalo Calf Woman (North American First Nations), Chih-Nu (Japan).
Other Wordings for calling the quarters:
East – Air – Sappho – Goddess of poetry and love’s inspiration. We invite your blessings to this ritual and into this couple’s life.
South – Fire – Amaterasu, Goddess of passion and power, we invite your blessings to this ritual and into this couple’s life.
West – Water – Yemaya, Goddess of peace and healing, we invite your blessings to this ritual and into this couple’s life.
North – Earth – Flora, Goddess of beauty, we invite your blessings to this ritual and into this couple’s life.
Centre – Spirit – Spider Woman, Goddess of immortality, we invite your blessings to this ritual and into this couple’s life.
Patricia Telesco, The Wiccan Book of Ceremonies and Rituals
Zsuzsanna Budapest, The Holy Woman’s Book of Mysteries
Lorna St Aubyn, Everyday Rituals and Ceremonies
Barbara G Walker, Women’s Rituals
Diane Stein, A Women’s Book of Ritual
Sally Griffyn, Wiccan Wisdomkeepers