Rite of Handfasting

Union By Water

A private handfasting ceremony can be as simple as two people, sitting on opposite sides of a stream joining their hands together under the water.

Sacred water is the medium whereby the ancestors are contacted. It is also symbolic of being “twice born” and entering a new existence. A more elaborate ceremony might involve the couple actually immersing themselves in “wild water” that is, a natural pool or a lake, a river, a large holy well, or the ocean. Entering the sacred water shall be understood as re-entering the womb of Danu, Anu or Aine to emerge again as newly reborn beings.

The couple shall approach the waters as if they were the sexual opening of the Mother. They shall walk three times sunwise together before entering the waters. Then shall they remove their clothing for it is naked we come into this world and it is naked that we return to the Mother. Then shall the couple make gifts to the water such as silver coins, flower wreaths and other suitable offerings. Then shall they approach the waters saying;

“The shelter of Danu, Mother of the Gods be nigh our hands and feet as we enter the waters. May we come safely home. May Lugh the Bright Warrior aid us, may Brighid the Healer preserve us, may Anu, Earth Mother, bless us”.

Then shall the Groom take a silver chalice of pure water and offering it to the Bride say;

“With this water may we enter a new life, a life of greater love and wisdom. May the five streams of knowledge be increased in us, may we together achieve the perfection of our five senses”.

After she has taken a sip the bride shall offer the chalice to the groom saying;

“May the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits and the Gods direct our purpose and twine our lives together like the heather and the bee”.

Then shall they walk hand in hand into the waters until they are fully immersed, to the tops of their heads. After emerging twice-born shall they repair to a private spot to consummate the marriage on a red blanket, for red is the color of passion and of life.

Union by Earth and Sky

The Union by Earth and Sky can follow the Union by Water or stand by itself as a Handfasting Rite.

The couple shall approach a sacred space, whether a ring of stones, a glade in a forest, a beach, etc. First they shall consecrate the perimeters of the space with Vervain and Honey (for purity and sweetness), pouring the honey and offering the herb in a circle, sunwise. Then shall a red blanket be spread in the center of the circle near which shall be placed a chalice and a beaker of wine or mead. The Groom shall wait in the center of the circle while the Bride invokes the quarters thusly (or in any sacred way she chooses);

“Powers of East, of prosperity, of abundance. Powers of the Salmon, the Wise One who knows how to return to the Source of All Things. We welcome you into this circle. Be with us now”.

“Powers of South, of the dark mysteries of the waters, of music, of the Great Boar and Sow. Of those who uproot the old that the new may come forth. Show us how to root into ourselves to find new Truth and Inspiration. Be with us now”.

“Powers of the West, history keepers and poets who give us clear vision in song and in story. Great Stag who shows us the changes of he seasons. Be with us now”.

“Powers of the North, bright spear of Lugh and Sword of Nuada. Fire of passion from the place where the Sun never sets. Mighty Eagle who teaches us courage and vision, be with us now”.

Finally shall she turn to the center and face the Groom saying;

“Powers of the Center, of Sovereignty and firm rulership. Teach us self mastery and true judgement. Bring us balance. And may the sweet harp music of Angus Og pour over us in this circle”.

Then shall the Groom take the Bride by her hands and gently pull her to the blanket. They shall remove each others clothing or if it be cold weather they shall each wear only a cloak. Then shall the Groom bind a red ribbon around two of their joined hands and they shall make love.

When the Groom has entered the Bride’s body he shall visualize her as a Goddess and as the Land, inseparable and as one, his most sacred altar of worship. Then shall he look into her eyes and say the following;

“Your flesh is the Earth. I worship you as one.
Your bones are Her stones. I worship you as one.
Your blood is Her water, I worship you as one.
Your thoughts are Her clouds. I worship you as one”.

Looking into the Grooms eyes and visualizing him as a God and as her most sacred altar of worship, the Bride shall say;

“Your face is the Sun. I worship you as one.
Your eyes are the Stars. I worship you as one.
Your breath is the Wind. I worship you as one.
Your soul is the Sky. The Sky is myself. We are one”.

And then shall they make love until they both cry out to the watching Earth and Skies. Then shall they unbind the ribbon. The Groom shall then present the Bride with a pouch in which are
four smaller pouches or bundles. One pouch shall contain salt to purify their home. One shall contain bread that they never go hungry. One shall contain wood or coal that they always be warm. One shall contain a silver coin that they never know want.

Then shall the Bride pour wine or mead into the chalice and offer it to the Groom. Then he shall pour into the chalice for her until the pitcher is empty. Then the Groom shall rise and thank the quarters and the directions. Then shall they dress and depart the sacred space.

Copyright 1999, Ellen Evert Hopman

These rites are VERY PAGAN and not suitable for a public gathering involving extended non-Pagan families. I suggest one ritual for the benefit of the extended biological family and a separate ritual for the couple and their Pagan friends and family.