What is a Hand Fasting?
A hand fasting is an old Pagan custom, dating back to the time of the ancient Celts. A hand fasting was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. The original hand fasting was a trial marriage. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After a year goes by (a hand fasting was once believed to last a year and a day), the couple could either split as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.
Today, Wiccans and Pagans have embraced hand fasting as a part of their wedding ceremony. A hand fasting can either be a legal marriage (depending on state law), or a commitment for “as long as love shall last.” A hand fasting ceremony can be tailor made to suit the couple.
The Hand fasting Ceremony
There are many variations of the traditional hand fasting. After the bride and groom both declare their intent to enter into this union, the hands of the couple are clasped and fastened together with a cord or cords just before, just after, or during their vows are made to one another. The wrapping of the cord forms an infinity symbol. The hand fasting knot that is tied is a symbolic representation of oneness between the couple. In a show of unity, they become bound to each other.
Each Wiccan and Pagan path has different decrees concerning the color, length, type and of number of cords used to hand fast the couple. One custom may have the couple facing each other, binding both pairs of hands of the bride and groom. Another custom is to have only the right hands, and another one of each right and left. There are many variations of the hand fasting rite. It all depends on the bride, groom, and the High Priestess whom they chose to preside over their wedding ceremony.
The hand fasting ritual is a beautiful, magical rite of passage. Many non-Pagan and non-Wiccan couples are adopting this old custom, much like when couples borrow from other traditions to craft their own ceremony to match their distinctive personalities.