What is handfasting?


Quick Answer

Handfasting is a ceremony, originally practiced by ancient Celts, in which a couple declares their engagement publicly. During the ceremony, the couple faces each other while joining hands, and the officiant loosely ties a strip of cloth around the couple's hands.

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Full Answer

Handfasting was abandoned by the Celts with the adoption of Catholicism, but modern pagans have adopted handfasting ceremonies. Historically and today, the handfasting ceremony marks the beginning of a one-year commitment to a partner. At the end of one year, the participants can elect to dissolve their relationship or make it permanent.

Handfasting ceremonies have several components that can be customized to meet the couples' wishes. In general, the date of the handfasting should occur near the time of the full moon but outside of the month of May. The ceremony typically takes place outdoors inside a circle formed from rocks. Candles are placed on the rocks to mark the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west. Near the center of the circle, a knife, chalice, handfasting cloth, small silver box, and trowel rest on an altar. A broomstick is placed to the side of the altar. The officiant directs the activities of the ceremony for the couple and the guests.

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