As the New Age/Pagan community of Tampa Bay has evolved over the past two decades, so too have the choices for rite-of-passage observances. While many still prefer traditional ceremonies, a growing number are opting for nature-based, or “spiritual” rituals. And one ritual quickly gaining popularity is Handfasting, the ancient Pagan wedding ceremony.
A profoundly spiritual event, Handfasting joins not just man and woman, but man, woman, and the life-force of the universe. While numerous variations of the Handfasting ceremony have been created through the centuries, the essential elements have always centered on the bride and groom’s spiritual commitment to one another, and their eternal commune with the earth and heavens.
Officiated by a Pagan High Priest and Priestess, most Handfasting variations allow for the attendance of family members and friends. Often performed “sky clad” (nude) within a sanctified circle, the couple is surrounded by flowers, candles, incense, and gentle spirits summoned from the cardinal points of the circle. The setting and atmosphere are especially awe-inspiring when experienced in the open air under a blue June sky, the month believed luckiest for weddings.
Adorned in garlands, the bride and groom stand facing an altar decorated with fruit, nuts, flower petals, and other representations of Mother Nature. A chalice of wine and one of purified water stand between the two, white candles represent the purity of their union. A cup filled with rose petals is placed at the westernmost point in the circle; west representing the element of love.
The bride and groom are each greeted by the Priestess with a kiss, symbolizing the breath of life. In ancient times, drums and chanting could be heard softly serenading, a tradition also gaining popularity today.
The couple is purified with sea salt and anointed with oil. They are then charged with energy summoned from the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Closing their eyes, the couple reflects upon the majesty of creation and the role they each play in the balance of the universe.
The High Priest then asks each to profess their innermost desires to be part of the other’s life. They recite specially chosen words, often a love sonnet, expressing their most intimate thoughts. They then repeat this age-old vow:
“By seed and root, bud and stem, leaf and flower and fruit; by life and love, in the name of the Goddess, I take thee to my hand, my heart and my spirit, at the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon. Nor shall death part us, for in the fullness of time we shall be born again at the same time and in the same place as each other; and we shall meet again and know and remember and love again.”
The High Priestess then places a ceremonial broom on the ground before the couple, symbolizing their transcendence from the earthly realm to the spiritual. The two cross over. The High Priest then delivers the sacred blessing:
“Let the sun and moon and the stars bear witness that this couple has been joined together in the sight of the Goddess and God. And may they be blessed eternally as we do here now. Be it So.”
They are now husband and wife.
The couple is then presented with the ceremonial broom with which to cleanse their home of any negative influences that may arrive in days to come. The newly-wedded kiss or otherwise demonstrate their love.