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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Handfasting

 Holding hands with your partner can help ease their pain | Daily Mail Online


Taking “articulate action” as a thumbnail definition of ritual, let us consider the wedding.

Two people enter separately and leave together.

That says something.


Say “wedding,” and I strongly suspect that most of us envision the standard “church” model: The bride is the star. Groom and assembly wait in place, bride enters in procession. Rites are enacted. Couple leaves together. I've seen the same trope in synagogue weddings, too.

This form marks a union of individuals.

But what if we consider weddings in the older sense: not just as the union of two individuals, but as the union of two families?

What if we rethink the wedding tribally?


Here's what I would envision, then: two—let's keep to two, for now, for simplicity's sake—groups of people converging from opposite directions, one clustered around the bride, the other clustered around the groom.

(For clarity's sake, I'll say “bride” and “groom” here, but the same would pertain for two grooms or two brides.)

They meet in the middle, the rites are enacted, and the party begins.

Let the two be one.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 How Throwing Rice Became a Wedding Tradition | Martha Stewart

Some Thoughts on an Old Wedding Custom


The Received Tradition knows three rites of grain-throwing, and each is implicated in the others.

Grain-Throw the First: the actual Sowing of Seed.

The symbolism of this gesture, both practical and ritual, needs little explication, beyond the observation that virtually every agricultural society sees sexual symbolism here.

Grain-Throw the Second: showering the newly-married with Barley.

Barley is the oldest cultivated grain known to humanity: we've been raising it for maybe 12,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age. Though it would be impossible to prove, it's my guess that we've been tossing it at newlyweds since the end of the last Ice Age, as well. The symbolism of this playful, immemorial act can hardly be lost on anyone. Speaking as a (naturalized) Midwesterner, you've really got to love the custom's implied micro-aggression as well.

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 Wedding Besom Jumping Broom  in your choice of Natural image 1


I have a sacred word to teach you.

At a Jewish wedding, when the groom (or whoever) stomps the glass, everyone shouts: Mazel tov!

At a pagan wedding, when the couple jumps the broom everyone shouts: Hurrahya!

Hoo-RYE-yuh, it's pronounced—rye like the grain—and better it be if you rrroll the R. It's an old Witch word, an exclamation of joy. It's one of that odd class of words called vocables, words that connote but do not denote. It doesn't really “mean” anything, but through such words we enter into that archaic, pre-verbal state of mind that characterizes animal calls, infant sounds, and cultic cries such as Euoi!

The rubrics of the Rites of Handfasting don't specify a call as people jump the broom—the broom that represents, inter alia, the threshold of the new life into which the couple are entering together—but Hurrahya! is what you shout as someones leaps a bonfire, so it makes a deal of sense for handfasting as well. Hey, what's good for the witch is good for the warlock.

As to where the word comes from: Reply hazy, try again later. This amateur linguist's guess would be that it's related to hurrah, another common vocable used by cowan and pagan alike. Hurrahya, though, is the Witches-only version.

In my role as wise old sage (i.e. bullshitter) I should probably be telling you that Hurrahya was originally some ancient god-name. (With that explosive hur- at the beginning, and the nice open -ya at the end, I'll leave it to you to guess Who.) Well, you can believe that if you want to. When, at the handfasting later today, I pass along just that story, I plan to be wearing a wry twist of the lips as I do so. Caveat credente: let the believer beware.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Wedding Traditions and Meanings: Jumping the broom


Modern witches have been jumping brooms at weddings pretty much since there were modern witches. One readily sees why: of the affinity between witches and brooms, you don't need me to tell you.

Jumping the broom in the sense of a de facto marriage, unsanctioned by either church or state, originates in Lalland Scots lore. It's from there that the custom spread to the southeastern US and became current among enslaved Africans, denied the right to legal marriage.

The first time that I presided at a public handfasting, the couple had made for the purpose, from the three traditional woods, a beautiful ritual broom. (Ash, birch, and willow, in case you're wondering.) Lo and behold, come the day of the wedding, the ritual broom languished forgotten at home. (It's not a real ritual unless something goes wrong.) So they ended up jumping a manky old broom from the janitor's closet instead. The broom-jump retained its magical transformative power, nonetheless. Hey, a broom's a broom.

As to meaning, I'll leave that to you to divine. Personally, I can't help but suspect that “jumping the broom” was originally some sort of sexual euphemism, but maybe that's just me. As a humble domestic tool, of course, the broom represents the home and home-life; I've also heard it said to stand-in for the threshold.

In lots of places, couples tend to do a simple run-and-jump—over and off—but around here we do things a little differently. First you sweep the bad luck away from the couple: three times around, widdershins, of course.

Then you lay down the broom. Three times, as people clap, the couple circles deosil, hand-in-hand. Each time around, they jump the broom. Third time over, we pelt them with barley, and done's done.

(Rice? Rice? Ha! What are you, some kind of cowan?)

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Ah yes, that lovely old institution of "indentured servitude": slavery lite. Yeesh!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Interesting, I thought the practice grew up in Virginia during colonial times when Anglican marriages were the only ones that were
Two Come Together as One: Marriage Rites

Nowadays, weddings are a big business and can be huge productions that take no less than a year of planning. Weddings are one of our most beloved rituals, and while they often cost a pretty penny, they are usually deeply meaningful for every person in attendance. My friend, the esteemed author Daphne Rose Kingma, wrote a lovely collection of ceremonies called Weddings from the Heart that run the gamut from traditional to highly alternative. This book is a great resource for engaged couples celebrating the journey of love.

I have had the good fortune to officiate at two weddings and have created a variation of the classic handfasting which I will share with you here. These are two very happy couples, so it seems that this particular variation of this ritual is effective.

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Geasa music, videos, stats, and photos |


Handfasting? Sure, I'd be happy to handfast you two; honored, actually.

Well, but there's something you should know first. You know what a geis is, don't you? (That's GESH, with a Sh on the end. Hey, it's Irish, don't blame me.) If I handfast you guys, I have to lay a geis on you, and you have to accept it.

It's this: that if, someday, you have a son, you will not circumcise him.

Cutting off part of a boy's penis is inherently wrong. It's sexual violence against boys.

You guys are pro-choice, right? Well, if your daughter should have a choice—which she should—so should your son. His body, his choice. Nobody else has the right to make that kind of decision for him: nobody. Not his parents, not his community, and certainly not "tradition." (Just because something's traditional, doesn't make it right.)

Why do I insist on this? Call it breaking the cycle of violence. It's part of my responsibility to ensure, insofar as I can, that a wrong done to me not be perpetrated on some other little boy.

That's my price. For your son, I want what was wrongfully taken from me.

If you can't commit to rejecting violence against your son, I can't bless your marriage.

So let me know.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Kile, you're an inspiration to us all. Gentlemen: many wrongs can't be righted. Fortunately, some can: http://www.restoringforeski
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    I broke the cycle by restoring my foreskin. Yes, it is possible to make yourself whole again with time, technique, and patience. T




When the Tribe of Witches foregathers in immemorial Grand Sabbat, it's only natural that they should enact the traditional rites of passage.


Grand Sabbat: Handfasting



(stands before altar)

Stand forth W. Stand forth M.


Couple approaches altar.



M, W: is it your will to be joined together, here before all the people?


Couple answers.



M, what do you give this woman in place of what she leaves behind for you?



My life, my love, my earthly worship.



So. (Or: It is enough.)

W, what do you give this man in place of what he leaves behind for you?



My life, my love, my earthly worship.



So. (Or: It is enough.)


Priest and priestess blood couple. Couple bloods the quaich of apple wine; together, they drink.



(Joins hands.)

Strength to strength.

Repeat after me:

By the setting of the Sun, by the rising of the Moon,

I...take my hand.

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