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What's a handfasting?
Handfasting can be part of a legal marriage ceremony (called "modern"), or a complete ceremony by itself which sounds very much like a common wedding service (called "traditional").
Did you know? Handfasting is where the phrase "tie the knot" comes from :-)
What is the spiritual meaning of handfasting?
A handfasting is another symbol of unity, much like joining two candle flames or mingling different colored waters/sands, or exchanging wedding rings. Being bound with a cord as a symbol of unity and strength is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, written over 2100 years ago.
n a handfasting, the cord represents your relationship that binds you together in a new family. It happens near the end of the ceremony, and your hands remain bound for the remainder! The knot in the cord is meant to remain knotted "as long as your love for one another." (Heaven forefend, if you become divorced, there is a Handparting ceremony to untie it.)
Handfasting and commitment ceremonies without a marriage license are NOT legal unions in North Carolina or any part of the United States of America. They are emotionally meaningful to the couple and to their circle of family and friends, but they do not provide child custody rights, hospital visitation rights, property inheritance rights, or any other legal right afforded by "marriage." These rights CAN be granted by legal contract through organizations such as Family, LLC (please visit their site for more information.)
Handfasting and commitment ceremonies are alternatives for couples who choose not to become legally united, or for whom a legal union is not a option at this time.
Having a handfasting as part of or instead of a common wedding ceremony is popular among New Age couples. A traditional handfasting is for a year and a day, although the term can be set to any length. It is a spiritual marriage, or a trial marriage, or a betrothal period, and either ends at the end of the term (with a Handparting) or there is a legal marriage ceremony (which can include another or show off the first cord.) DURING THE TRADITIONAL HANDFASTING PERIOD, STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN TO INSURE THAT NO CHILDREN WILL BE CONCEIVED.
Traditionally it is a braided cord or rope, but in modern times it can take nearly any form that is flexible, meaningful, and 5-6 feet long. Many people will also make or embroider a handfasting scarf, cord or cloth so that it has special meaning for the lovers.
If you you want to make it REALLY special, you can make your own personalized handfasting cord. It can be as easy or complicated as you can afford in time, money and talent.
The easiest way to make your own hadfasting cord or handfasting ribbon is to braid three different colors of ribbons together. Remember, you'll need three times the final braid's length in each ribbon...that's 9-15 feet of each color! You can braid jewelry wire with one of the ribbons to make it stiffer. More complicated ideas include making a gigantic friendship bracelet with three colors, embroidering a length of cloth (like in the movie, Braveheart), or weaving a bit of yarn (it will end up like a thin scarf.)
Here's the ideal dimensions of the finished product: 3-5 feet long, bendy enough to be wound around four wrists and tied in a regular knot.
Here are some ideas on how to make it special:
- Use your the favorite colors of Bride and Groom plus white for the union itself
- Include things that were actually used by you during your relationship (ribbon from gifts, string from packages, etc.)
- Say a prayer over the finished cord, or while you are making it (See the Grimoire for an example of a handfasting cord prayer.)
- Use your favorite colors or colors that mean something to you (like purity, fidelity, love, etc.)
- Use the same color in different textures or ribbon, material or rope/cordage
That's great...but how does one make a braid?
"Braid" as a word has been around since before 950 CE, although not always in its current spelling. It means to move quickly back and forth, or in a jerky fashion. And, that's pretty much what you do to make a basic three-strand braid. It's a bit like juggling in that you have three pieces, but you're only dealing with two of them at any given instant. Another word that means the same thing is "plait." Once upon a time, it meant deceitful, and was even used this way by Shakespeare! But that's only survived in Icelandic.
So, on to the procedure.
Take the left or right (left is shown) section of hair over the middle section and hold them tight both with your thumb.
I usually accomplish this by holding the outside section with my thumb and forefinger, and grabbing the middle section underneath the outside section with my middle and ring fingers, then just turning over my hand.
Now take the other outside section over the middle one.
Now tie all three sections in another knot to keep it in place.
Trim ends to an even length if desired.
Photo Source: Autry National Center
How to Make a Six-Strand Braid
Secure the six strands so that the strand that will remain in a fixed position is in the number 3 slot as show (bottom, center).
Take the strand at the right edge (in the No.6 position): over 1, under 1, over 1 and hold it in the new position.
Take the strand at the left edge (in the No. 1 position): under 1, over 1, under 1 and hold it in the new position.
Repeat, working the right and left strands alternately.
Source: Diana Blake Gray
What do the different colors mean for a handfasting cord or handfasting ribbon?
Sources: Color Meanings
In ancient times, the broom was a symbol of fertility as well as a household object.
Gathered from the broom plant, which was considered sacred, it was the first thing brought into the home of a newlywed couple after bread and salt, which represent comfort and wealth.
Both ancient European traditions and African-American traditions had newly wedded couples jump over the broom for luck, fortune, fertility of family and lands.
In some modern Pagan traditions, it has also come to symbolize the union of male and female, with the long handle, which symbolizes the masculine, fitting into the brush, which symbolizes the feminine.
Since the broom is also an ordinary household tool, it symbolizes the couple’s willingness to take on the ordinary tasks of a shared household together.
There are special wedding brooms that are white beribboned manufactured accessories. You can always use the broom from your kitchen! But some people would like to handmake their wedding broom in order to weave in blessings and such.
What happens if you don't make it over the broom?
Well, hopefully you won't hurt yourself! And, hopefully your friends will not laugh...too loudly. I mean, it is funny, after all. But it's not a bad sign by any means. Unless friends were holding it too high, in which case it's a sign of thoughtless friends.
Making Your Broom
1. Gather your materials: clean, flexible broomstraw (or another grain straw) for the brush, a straight, relatively smooth piece of wood for the handle, a ball of twine, and heavy duty shears or a small hatchet.
Feel free to choose a wood that is meaningful to you or your purpose. I think people sometimes go perfectionist with correspondences, but at times a specific type of wood may be needed. As in all things magical, follow your gut.
2. Using the twine, tightly tie several small bundles of straw about 5" from one end. Make the bundles about 1" to 1.5" in diameter. Make as many as you will need to create the brush fullness and shape desired.
3. Tie the bundles together the same distance from the end as the bundle ties. Weave the tie over, under and through the bundles to keep the brush tight.
You have a choice to make either a flat brush, or a round brush.
4. Tie the tops of all the bundles to the handle. Use weaving, looping and knotting, just tie it tight as you can so the brush doesn't fall off the handle!
5. Trim the ends with heavy duty shears or small hatchet.