Rite of Marriage Hand Fasting

The word hand-fasting means to betroth or marry by joining of hands, and is a common word used to by most pagans to identify the sacred wedding rite.  Traditionally, the hands of the bride and groom are tied with a red cord by the Godi during the ceremony as a symbol of their union and commitment.  Today we still use the term for marriage as “tying the knot”, a phrase derived from this ancient custom.  A red cord is used, as this color is associated with passion and emotion.  When used as a ritual color, red represents a commitment in this plane of life.  It is customary that a couple know one another for at least a year and a day prior to hand-fasting – uniting two families or clans.

A promise to love forever, when consecrated astrally before our Gods, Goddesses and ancestors, must be carefully considered before taking final vows.  The hand-fasting ceremony creates a bond extending far beyond this life.  Vows taken under sacred oath are set into the very foundations of one’s hamingja (luck). As in all vows, swear no words which you are unwilling or unable to keep.  A lawful betrothal, traditionally sealed with a handsal (handshaking) is not broken with impunity.

 

Hand fasting attire for both bride and groom are not rigid.  The color white will always remain customary.  In lieu of a veil, white flowers arranged in the hair of the bride is an option used by many in hand fastings.

 

In olden ages, sometimes the herb rosemary was placed on the bride’s bed for luck.  Mandrake root was laid under the marriage bed to aid virility.

 

The giptingar-men, either parents, kinsmen or guardians, give the bride away at the festar – the ceremony – when the parties become festarmadr or betrothed man (groom), and festarkona or betrothed woman (bride)

Sacred Circle

               

The wedding ceremony is performed within the sacred circle.  This is to include a bonfire in the center.  Around the edge of the circle are placed torches; candles are appropriate if held indoors.  All family attending the celebration stand around the outside perimeter of the circle.  If there is a large attendance, a corridor of those present can be formed as an entry to the circle, through which the betrothed may walk to enter the circle.

Horg or Staller

               

The preparation of the horg (outdoor) or staller (indoor) for the Festar (hand-fasting) contain the basic ritual tools with a few added tools and embellishments.  The horg, customarily in the northern cardinal direction, and surrounding area should have lighted candles and be fittingly adorned.  Various flowers, leaves and branches from myrtle, rowan, oak and willow may be put around the edge of the horg.  Myrtle is known as the love tree that keeps love alive and exciting, and preserves it.  Rowan brings success and luck; oak resonates to fertility and potency; willow is the tree of moon magic and protection.

The Ceremony

The celebration begins with the playing of music.  The Godi leads the procession carrying the sacred hammer of Thor, followed by the betrothed and their best man and bridesmaid, who serve as torch bearers.

                As the procession approaches the circle, the torches are placed at the portal entry of the circle.  The procession stops at the portal; the Godi enters the circle alone. Both of the betrothed carry with them garlands and a horn of mead which are to be set on the horg.

Bride and family are on the left; groom and family are on the right facing the horg.

Godi holds the ceremonial hammer and opens the circle with the traditional blessing:

 

In the Elhaz position standing facing North the Godi speaks:

Hammer to the North, hold and hallow this holy stead.

Godi faces East and speaks:

Hammer to the East, hold and hallow this holy stead.

Godi faces South and speaks:

Hammer to the South, hold and hallow this holy stead.

Godi faces West and speaks:

Hammer to the West, hold and hallow this holy stead.

 

Godi return to the North position and speaks:

Sanctify this enclosure and prevent all evil from entry.

Godi returns the hammer to the altar, turns toward the gathered celebrants in Elhaz position and proceeds with invocation:

 

Divine Gods of Asgard, noble ancestors and those who have assembled here today, we welcome you to our sacred circle.  We ask that you bear witness to this Holy union of matrimony – and that this marriage be a lasting bond of commitment and perfect love.

Godi takes up a lit candle and prepares to light two white candles positioned to the right and left forefront of the altar saying:

We are all children of light.  Thus do I bring to flame these candles; one to represent the Sun and our Spiritual Father, and one to represent the Moon and our Spiritual Mother.  May the light bring this union of ___(festarmadr)___ and ___(festarkona)___ to grow in health and joy.

Godi lights candles.

 

Taking up a ceremonial horn of water in his left hand, and a vile of salt in his right hand, he holds them both aloft and pours the salt into the horn saying:

Thus are the salt and water blessed,

Purified and mingled,

That these lovers shall enter a circle

Made clean and pure,

Able to join themselves together in this rite,

Cleansed of all impurities.

 

Moving sunwise, Godi sprinkles the circle with salt and water.

Godi turns to the censer at the altar and lights the incense, saying:

 

Thus is the incense made holy

And it’s sacred sent taken round the circle

The lovers shall enter this Temple of Odin

Filled with blessings:

May their life be happy

And filled with the riches of love

Godi walks sunwise around the circle with censer and returns to the altar.

Godi takes up runestaff and approaches the betrothed, who are still standing at the portal.  Godi raps the ground soundly three times with the runestaff and in a strong voice say:

I call upon ___(festarkona)___.

If you desire a sacred and binding union,

And vows made before us all,

Come now through the portal

Of this sacred Wedding Circle.

 

The bride walks to the West position before the altar.  Her bridesmaids stand to the left.

 

Again, Godi raps the ground soundly three times with the runestaff and in a strong voice say:

I call upon ___(festarmadr)___.

If you desire a sacred and binding union,

And vows made before us all,

Come now through the portal

Of this sacred Wedding Circle.

 

The groom walks to the East position before the altar, his best man stands to his right.

Godi returns to the altar and takes up the horn of salted water.  Dipping the evergreen sprig into the horn, he anoints both bride and groom saying:

 

I give you the blessings of Frigga.

 

Godi holds out a chalice of clear water to the best man and bridesmaid.  Each places the wedding jewelry into the chalice.

 

Godi uses a red cord and binds the left wrist of the groom and right wrist of the bride.

 

Godi fills ceremonial horn with mead.  Picking up the mead horn he guides the betrothed to the East point of the circle, pours mead on the spot and lights a blue candle saying:

You begin your journey of life shared

Bound together by the vows of this rite;

Many are the years you will share

And countless moons may you watch together.

If you keep your vows,

Your sacred trust,

Happy will be the number of your days.

 

May the keepers of the Sacred Winds

Whisper joy in your life;

May you delight in each other’s love

For all your years unto passing.

Share the great mysteries of life

And let your spirit be as free as the falcon’s flight.

 

Godi guides the bound couple to the South point of the circle, pours mead in the spot and lights a red candle saying:

 

You begin your journey of life shared,

Bound together by the vows of this rite;

Many are the paths you will share

And countless summers may you pass together.

If you keep your vows,

Your sacred trust,

Happy will be many of your days.

 

The past is in flames.

You are forever changed from this day on.

May the fires of love kindle your passions for each other

Throughout all your years.

May your love rise anew an eternal flame to light each day.

Godi guides the bound couple to the West point of the circle, pours mead on the spot, and lights a green candle saying:

You begin your journey of life shared,

Bound together by the vows of this rite;

Many are the dreams you will share

And countless tides of life to ride.

If you keep your vows,

Your sacred trust,

Happy will be many of your days.

 

Share the waters of life,

And share the reflection of love in one another’s soul.

Together explore the laughter of rain

And the mysteries of love.

And in love, share the tears of life.

Godi guides the bound couple back to the altar at the North point of the circle, pours mead on the spot and lights a yellow candle, saying:

You begin your journey of life shared,

Bound together by the vows of this rite;

Many are the roads you will take

And endless the nights of your love.

If you keep your vows,

Your sacred trust,

Happy will be many of your days.

 

Plants your roots together in the Earth,

Yet play in the gardens of life as children and as friends,

Grow old and wise together

And share a happy home.

Bride and groom face each other, staring into each other’s eyes, holding hands together.  Godi stands in front of them, in front of the altar, and reads the invocation with measured care.  The bride and groom repeat the invocation to each other:

Beloved, I seek to know of you,

And ask of the Gods and Goddesses that I be given the wisdom

To see you as you are,

And love you as a Mystery.

 

I will take joy in you,

I delight in the love of you.

You are to me the whispering of the tides,

The seduction of summer’s heat.

You are my friend,

My lover,

Grow old and wise with me,

As I will do with you!

A life before us of rainbows and sunsets,

And a willingness to share in happiness and in sadness.

 

I love you.

 

I adore you.

Godi takes up the chalice containing the hand fasting jewelry and holds it between the bride and groom.  The groom takes the bride’s ring from the chalice and places it on the bride’s finger.

The bride takes the groom’s ring from the chalice and places it on the groom’s finger.

 

Godi now states:

Be-ringed and bound, are you now ready to avow?

 

The betrothed answer:

 

I do.

 

Godi turns to the festarmadr (groom) and continues:

 

___(festarmadr)___,

Do you take your chosen and beloved mate, ___(festarkona)___,

To be your lawfully wedded completion,

To have and to hold,

From this day forward,

For better or worse,

For richer or poorer,

In sickness and in health,

Until death do you part?

Will you keep your love and trust,

Caring for and cherishing your beloved:

Will you keep the promise of this rite?

 

Groom responds affirmatively.

Godi turns to the festarkona (bride) and continues:

 

___(festarkona)___,

Do you take your chosen and beloved mate, ___(festarmadr)___,

To be your lawfully wedded completion,

To have and to hold,

From this day forward,

For better or worse,

For richer or poorer,

In sickness and in health,

Until death do you part?

Will you keep your love and trust,

Caring for and cherishing your beloved:

Will you keep the promise of this rite?

 

Bride responds affirmatively.

Godi turns toward the gathered celebrants saying:

 

You have declared your consent before your Gods and Goddesses within this holy circle.  May our Mother Goddess Frigga strengthen your consent and fill you both with her blessings.

 

May we all now pause and reflect upon the beauty of this sacred rite, and of the life and joy that it has bestowed.  Know that all here in attendance wish the two of you as many days of perfect love and perfect trust as life can bring you.

 

{By the legal powers of the State of __________________, and}

By the witness of our Gods, Goddesses, and ancestors

Are these sacred vows made manifest.

I hereby pronounce you man and wife.

You may now kiss the bride.

 

After the kiss the Godi hands the horns of mead to the newlyweds saying:

 

May this mead you now share

Bless this union and sanctify it to our Gods and Goddesses.

After the kiss the Godi hands the horns of mead to the newlyweds saying:

 

May this mead you now share

Bless this union and sanctify it to our Gods and Goddesses.

 

The bride and groom interlock arms and drink the mead together.

 

Godi takes up the bell from the altar and rings it loudly, while gathered celebrants who have bells do likewise.

As the newlyweds turn and leave the circle, with bridesmaids and best man following them, rice is thrown symbolizing best wishes for the married couple to never want food.

 

The newlyweds keep their arms bound by the red cord until they leave the circle.  The red cord is kept by the newlyweds as a lasting reminder of their sacred commitment.

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