Tying the knot - what is a handfasting? #scottishweddingtraditions #handfasting #edinburghwedding #edinburghweddingphotographer #scottishtraditions #scottishwedding #celticwedding #pagan #wiccan #wedding #expats #canada #america #australia #newzealand
What is a Handfasting I hear you say????
As any good Seanachaidh or Tradition Bearer of the Highlands will tell you, a handfasting is an extremely old Pagan custom, dating back to the age of the ancient Celts. The handfasting was originally meant to be an engagement. Two people would declare an official union between themselves for a year and a day as a sort of trial period. So in essence the handfasting was an official part of the trial marriage. Back in the day people didn't necessarily live together before marriage so this was a great way to dip the proverbial toe in and test the waters. After one year and one day the couple would either officially start/celebrate their marriage or they would go their separate ways. This tradition has been somewhat revived on account of a massive surge in popularity of Scottish traditions. This is a lot to do with Scotland becoming one of the worlds most popular destination wedding locations. Lots of ex-pats, Canadians, Americans are looking to imbue their big day with a nice wee bit of Scottish tradition to get back to their roots.
Scottish Churches were in fact still practicing handfasting right up until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, Wiccans and Pagans and couples wanting to embrace Scottish traditional elements have taken handfasting as an integral part of their wedding ceremony. Handfasting can be included in a mixutre of legal celebrations in Scotland. But if you are a true Pagan or Wiccan the handfasting can actually be the ceremony itself. If your spirituality is not expressed by modern religions then this can be a great way to personalise your commitments.
The Handfasting Ceremony
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. In Scotland the above is more usually done with a pair of off-cuts of family tartan. Framed these make an excellent wedding momento to treasure for years to come.
The Cords/The Tartans
Each option be it Wiccan/Pagan/Humanist etc will have a slightly different approach. The couples traditionally stand side by side or face to face and hold hands as the celebrant ties the cords or tartans together around their clasped hands. As the couples come to the end of their verbal commitments each will take a tied end and pull away tying the knot and symbolically joining their families with their union but also symbolising the creation of their own which is a beautiful thing.
Handfasting is one of the more beautiful Scottish/Celtic/Pagan traditions. Many non-Pagan and non-Wiccan couples are adopting this old old tradition as I mentioned. It's a great way for couples to express their unique personalities and break away from the more stuffy formal elements of union ceremonies. And it's a great way to clothesline zombies in a pinch.