Customs, Rituals & Traditions: Celtic Handfasting Ceremony

Each week I will examine a wedding custom, ritual or tradition that has been passed from generation to generation.  We’ll look at its origin and how it has influenced the lives of our ancestors and how it impacts us today.  We’ll also look at how we create our own customs and how these new traditions are a reaction to and a reflection of our changing world.

Handfasting: An Ancient Wedding Tradition

We have all heard the expressions “tied the knot” or “giving one’s hand in marriage”. But have you ever wondered where those sayings came from? And no, it’s not in the same category as the “ball and chain”! It’s in reference to the ancient tradition of handfasting. This lens gives an overview of the ancient tradition of handfasting in Wedding ceremonies.

What is Handfasting?

The term Handfasting is taken from Old Norse “hand-festa” meaning “to strike a bargain by joining hands”. Handfasting is the tradition of lightly binding the hands of a couple together using a cord, rope, ribbons, a scarf, tartan or strips of fabric. It is meant to signify a couples coming together as “One”. (or perhaps to keep the Groom from running away!) Whatever it’s original intention, it has become a popular new tradition for today’s couples seeking new and Spiritual ways to honor their love.

Origins of Handfasting                                                                             

Origins Of Handfasting Handfasting was originally practiced by the Greeks and Romans. The Romans created a garland made of magnolia, elder and roses. It was then wrapped around the couple’s wrists to signify love and fidelity. In ancient legends, lovers were united together as they “tied the knot” in the tradition of Celtic handfasting. The ceremony was especially common in Ireland and Scotland. It was commonly the way that couples were “officially” married before the church became involved in Wedding ceremonies. Variations on the theme have since been used in other countries as well. Handfasting has seen a modern day resurgence owing in part to the movie Braveheart,in which William Wallace and his girlfriend Murron are joined together with a handfasting ceremony. This has especially been true in Scotland where the movie is based.

The Colors Of Handfasting

In the traditions of Celtic handfasting the couple’s wrists are bound together using ribbons of thirteen different colours. Each color has it’s own special meaning:

The Colors of Handfasting

Red: passion, strength, lust, fertility
Orange: encouragement, attraction, kindness, plenty
Yellow: charm, confidence, joy, balance
Green: finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health
Blue: tranquility, patience, devotion, sincerity
Purple: Power, piety, sanctity, sentimentality
Black: strength, wisdom, vision, success
White: purity, concentration, meditation, peace
Gray: neutrality, canceling, balance
Pink: unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness
Brown: earth, grounding, talent, telepathy, home
Silver: treasure, values, creativity, inspiration
Gold: energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity

 

 

[Handfasting~A Wedding Ritual]. November, 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.squidoo.com/Handfasting-Wedding-Ritual

 

 

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