What is Handfasting?

Handfasting is an ancient commitment ceremony. It is the predecessor to the modern wedding ceremony. The ritual itself usually includes a binding together of the hands of the couple with a ritual cord of some kind, hence the name, which means “hand fastening.” It is also the origin of the slang phrase “to tie the knot.” Handfasting is a symbolic ceremony to honor a couple’s desire for commitment to each other; to acknowledge that their lives and their fates are now bound together.

Handfasting ceremonies are typically performed in front of friends and family, but there are no taboos about a couple performing the ceremony with no other witnesses besides the priest or priestess and the Gods and Goddesses of their belief system. It is the symbolism that is most significant. With the ritual goes the commitment made to one another, but unlike wedding vows, you do not make promises to one another. You simply acknowledge that your paths are bound together and are the same from this point forward. You realize this is the truth and you accept it with great elation.

Usually, but not always, the handfasting involves a cleansing ritual to create a sacred space, and an invocation of the four elements/directions. The directions are invited to witness and protect the couple as they make their way into the world as one. There is a priest or priestess who performs the ceremony by lightly binding the hands of the couple together and speaking to them and the witnesses of the meaning of the ceremony. The couple then speak words of love and commitment to each other.

What is Beltane?

Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. May is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.

Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire” – the “bale-fire”. (English – bale; Anglo-Saxon bael; Lithuanian baltas (white)) Bel (Bel, Bile, Beli, Belinus, Belenos) is the known as the bright and shinning one, a Celtic Sun God. Beli is the father, protector, and the husband of the Mother Goddess.

The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.

As Beltane marks this handfasting (wedding) of the Goddess and God, it too marks the reawakening of the earth’s fertility in its fullest. This is the union between the Great Mother and her Young Consort, this coupling brings new life on earth. It is on a Spiritual level, the unifying of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine to bring forth the third, consciousness. On the physical, it is the union of the Earth and Sun to bring about the fruitfulness of the growing season.

Water is another important association of Beltane, water is refreshing and rejuvenating, it is also imperative to life. It is said that if you bathe in the dew gathered before dawn on Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Those who are sprinkled with May dew are insured of health and happiness. There are other folk customs such as drinking from the well before sunrise on Beltane Morn to insure good health and fortune.

The central color of Beltane is green. Green is the color of growth, abundance, plentiful harvest, abundant crops, fertility, and luck. White is another color that is customary, white brings the energies of cleansing, peace, spirituality, and the power to dispel negativity. Another color is red who brings along the qualities of energy, strength, sex, vibrancy, quickening, health, consummation and retention. Sun energy, life force and happiness are brought to Beltane by the color yellow. Blues and purples (Sagittarius energies: expansion, Good Fortune, magic, spiritual power, Success), and pinks (Venus energies). Beltane is rich in vibrant color, lighting the eyes and cheering the Spirit as we leave the dreariness of winter behind.

Blessed Beltane to you and yours!