There are many variations of the traditional handfasting. After the bride and groom both declare their intent to enter into this union, the hands of the couple are clasped and fastened together with a cord or cords just before, just after, or during their vows are made to one another. The wrapping of the cord forms an infinity symbol. The handfasting knot that is tied is a symbolic representation of oneness between the couple. In a show of unity, they become bound to each other.
Each Wiccan and Pagan path has different decrees concerning the color, length, type and of number of cords used to handfast the couple. One custom may have the couple facing each other, binding both pairs of hands of the bride and groom. Another custom is to have only the right hands, and another one of each right and left. There are many variations of the handfasting rite. It all depends on the bride, groom, and the High Priest/ess whom they chose to preside over their wedding ceremony.
The handfasting ritual is a beautiful, magickal rite of passage. Many non-Pagan and non-Wiccan couples are adopting this old custom, much like when couples borrow from other traditions to craft their own ceremony to match their distinctive personalities.
A handfasting is an old Pagan custom, dating back to the time of the ancient Celts. A handfasting was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. The original handfasting was a trial marriage. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After a year goes by (a handfasting was once believed to last a year and a day), the couple could either split as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.
Today, Wiccans and Pagans have embraced handfasting as a part of their wedding ceremony. A handfasting can either be a legal marriage (depending on state law), or a commitment for "as long as love shall last." A handfasting ceremony can be tailor made to suit the couple.
However, the long answer entails a bit of back-story. Today’s modern day handfasting ceremony is a revival – of sorts – of the handfastings of yester yore. The act of handfasting was originally an element to a formal betrothal ceremony (the precursor to today’s engagement) perhaps going as far back as ancient Celtic Scotland, up to the 16th century reformation-era. During the formal betrothal ceremony, in which a couple promises to one another their agreement in future marriage, there was a formal handshake to seal the deal. This was called the handfæstung, meaning, a pledge by the giving of the hand, according to A.E. Anton. The betrothals eventually became so formal that it was an event in and of itself, which eventually lead up to the wedding ceremony. Oh, the drama!
And now for the magical part: take into consideration the strength of intent. Fast forward to modern neo-Paganism and their adaptations of sacred ancient (and not-so-ancient) rituals. Modern day Wiccans and Pagans recognize the power of magic which is essentially focused intent. One of the main reasons for this handfasting renaissance, if you will, is because today’s magical community can identify with the symbolism of an elaborate handshake agreement. To illustrate the imagery and importance of the handshake, the knotting of cords around the hands was eventually incorporated, possibly by today’s neo-Pagans. Magical cord knotting presents an outstanding visual in illustrating intent. The handfasting ritual has been, almost effortlessly, adapted and incorporated into our modern Pagan wedding rituals as the main ceremonial element in addition to – or instead of – the ring exchange. Modern Pagans revived the literal tying of the knot.
Cast a nine-foot-diameter circle with flowers, and ribbons around the circumference. The immediate family and other Witches and close friends stand just inside the circle to form an inner ring. Love incense is kept burning during the ritual. On the altar two chalices filled with spring-water stand between one white candle and one black candle. Next to the chalices are two wedding rings.
The bride and groom are led into the circle from the north. Once inside, the high priestess cast the circle with her wand, and the bride and groom greet the powers of the four directions as they walk around the circle. Next the high priestess sweeps the circle with the Witch's broom, brushing away all harmful events in the couple's past lives. The lovers kneel facing each other, the priestess charges the rings. The couple casts their verbal spell to seal their commitment to each other while looking into each other's eyes. The spell states in their own words their love for each other and the goals the two share for this union.
Each lover picks up the other's wedding ring and drops in into the opposite chalice. Then each picks up the chalice, and they cross forearms so the priestess can bind them loosely with silk cord draped in a figure eight. The couple take a sip from the other's chalice. The rings removed and placed on the hands of the bride and groom. The high priestess removes the cord, holds it over the heads of the couple, ad pulls the loosely bound knot as she says, "I tie the knot." Next she gives one end of the cord to each lover for them to hold between them as a symbol of their handfasting. The high priestess places a hand on each one's head and announces to them and witnessws, "You are bound in the sight of the Goddess and God as husband and wife. So mote it be." The circle is opened. The merriment begins.
Courtesy of -
Love Magic The Way To Love Through Rituals, Spells, And The Magical Life. Laurie Cabot with Tim Cownan
"Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired." - Robert Frost