What is Handfasting?
Handfasting is an alternate form of marriage ceremony. It dates back hundreds of years, and spans several cultures. In some cultures (as in the Scottish Highlands), it was a marriage of a "year and a day". If at the end of the year, the couple found that they were incompatible, and there were no children, they could part. Otherwise, they could agree to remain together, and the marriage then became a legal and lifelong bond.
In other cultures, it was a complete, fully binding ceremony from the start. In some remote areas, it was a simply a means of marriage between two people where no "clergy" or other official party could be found to perform a ceremony. In this case, the couple needed only to express their desire to be joined as one, and that was considered a legally binding contract.
Oft-times the couple would have their hands bound together for part of the ceremony. The binding of hands, which gives us the expression "Tying the Knot," has been done using ribbon, cord, rope, specially embroidered cloths or handkerchiefs, and many other things. For our Handfasting, we used a string of Cherokee Wedding beads, specially made for the occasion by Bob Laraway, cousin of the Bride. Rich in symbolism, Bob chose beads in colors representing the five elements of life: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. He found two special silver charms for the fringed ends of the beads, a horse to represent the Bride, and a motorcycle to represent the Groom. (Gee, can you guess what our interests are?)
Both Bride and Groom come from Scottish ancestry, but right from the day we met, we knew we'd be together for more than the Scottish tradition of just a year and a day! We also hold the belief that the higher powers of the universe manifest themselves in many ways to many people. We therefore wanted to compose a ceremony that would not only reflect this belief, but would not be offensive to people unfamiliar with the spiritual traditions which some refer to as the "Old Ways."
The elements of several spiritual paths wove their way into our Handfasting ritual, including Wiccan, Native American, Celtic Christian, Druidic and Unitarian traditions. We hope that all who shared our special day felt a sacred presence -- be it God, Goddess, and Elementals, or Great Spirit, Angels and Christ, -- however they might perceive it. We wanted our ceremony to be unique, yet open enough that each guest would be able to relate it to their own spiritual path.
A very wise Jewish woman once said to me:
"You know, religions are like cars. Some are old, some are new. They come in different makes, models and colors. But if you choose to go, they all take you down the same road to God -- whatever name you call him (or her) when you get there. They're just vehicles to Divinity."
We're not so different after all.
Deb & Jim
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