I am a Wiccan High Priest registered with the Office of the General Register as a legal Solemniser of Marriage.
I offer legal Handfastings to all couples seeking a wedding ceremony with a spiritual element that is more aligned to an Earth based belief system.
Handfasting is the term for the traditional religious wedding rite. This is a continuation of Ireland’s indigenous practice which was recognised in Brehon law.
You do not need to identify specifically as Pagan to avail of a Handfasting. Such a ceremony may suit if you feel at peace in nature, notice the cycle of the year and feel a sense of wonder and awe in the majesty of the Earth. If you desire a ritual to mark your special day with reference to these moments a Handfasting may resonate with you. Ceremonies may be tailored to suit the needs of couples.
Handfasting ceremonies may be availed of by:
i) couples who wish for their union to be recognised by the State; a spiritual ceremony including the required legal element. Standard legal preliminaries apply.
ii) couples who do not wish for their union to be recognised by the State; a spiritual ceremony only, without the legal element.
iii) couples seeking to renew previous vows; a spiritual ceremony only.
Please see below for further information and contact form.
Handfastings were the first legally recognised unions in Ireland. A Handfasting is a spiritual wedding ceremony during which the hands of the couple are bound by cord or ribbon as a symbol of their union. This element of our indigenous wedding customs survives today in the popular phrase “tying the knot.”
During the ceremony a couple will also jump over a broom to mark the transition from their old life into their new life as a married couple. Some say this also survives in the more recent custom of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their home or honeymoon suite. Any couple wishing to renew their vows may also avail of this ceremony. There is no prerequisite for a couple to identify as Pagan in order to avail of a Handfasting although the ceremony will be of a general Pagan flavour. There is a degree of flexibility which allows for the rite to be tailored to meet the individual needs of a couple.
Any opposite-sex or same-sex couple of adult age wishing to be Handfasted will be facilitated by the wide network of Priestesses and Priests across Ireland. Pagans tend to have a very healthy psychological attitude towards sex and sexuality which is in stark contrast to the dysfunctional attitudes of the Abrahamic traditions. As far as marriage equality and LGBT people are concerned there is no objection from Pagan clergy, some of whom also freely identify as LGBT. Couples are free to avail of Handfasting ceremonies solely, use these to supplement a civil marriage with a spiritual dimension, or use these to renew previously made vows.
Under the auspices of Pagan Life Rites, I am registered by the Office of the General Register (GRO) as a legal solemniser of marriage in Ireland. I offer State recognised Handfasting ceremonies to all couples regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The customary fee for the ceremony provided varies slightly from clergy member to clergy member. It is generally low-cost yet covers the time and skill required of a Priestess or Priest from initial contact until the ceremony itself. Aside from the service fee, any potential travel or accommodation expenses for ceremonies outside Dublin must be covered by clients.
Before any service is undertaken much contact, ideally including a personal meeting, must be had so that the needs of a couple are clearly conveyed and the celebrant may be assured of a couple’s sincerity in choosing this ceremony. Those with a preference for a Priestess to facilitate a ceremony will be referred on request to other members of the Priesthood. I also offer Home Blessings as well as tailored Coming Out, Baby Naming, and Funerary rites. Please use the contact form at the bottom of this site if you wish to enquire of these services.
Tradition of Handfasting…
Handfasting is a continuation of Irish indigenous wedding customs reflected in Telltown marriages. According to the Book of Invasions this county Meath town (formerly named as Tailtin in Gaelic) was named after an Irish Goddess, Tailtiu, by Eochaid Mac Eirc, the last Fir Bolg High King of Ireland. Tailtiu is said to have died of exhaustion having cleared the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Her foster son, an Irish God named Lugh, established a harvest festival and funeral games in Her honour. The games were named the Áenach Tailteann and are said by some sources to have been established by our ancestors between 1829 – 1600 BCE. These continued to be observed at Telltown up until as late as 1770 CE when they were later expressed as the Taillten Fair. The Áenach Tailteann was a time of peace when religious celebrations were also held, aspects of which continue in present day celebrations of Lugh’s harvest festival called Lughnasadh. The name of Lugh, a deity referred to as skilled in many arts, was assigned to the neighbouring county known today as Louth (anglicised from Lú, derived from Lughbhaidh). The official motto of this county is “Lugh sáimh-ioldánach” which translates as “Lugh, equally skilled in many arts.”
Historically, the Áenach Tailteann was an occasion of contests to showcase strength and skill and was an auspicious time for marriages. During the ceremony young couples joined hands through a hole in a wooden door. This symbolism survives in Handfasting today in the joining of hands and the use of wood (i.e. broom) and the threshold custom. The trial marriages were pragmatic since they lasted a year and a day, after which time the marriage could either be made permanent or broken without consequences on the Hills of Separation. Among the other remains of antiquity still to be seen at Telltown are traces of three artificial lakes; just north-west of the area noted as the Vale of Marriage, are two earthen mounds, popularly known as “the knockans,” which tradition says constitutes the Hills of Separation. Those who had contracted a marriage might, after a year and a day, cancel their contract, if so disposed, by simply marching up these mounds and turning their backs upon one another. Couples today may avail of Handparting ceremonies to help facilitate that process constructively if they so wish, however, these ceremonies have no legal recognition.
Looking further afield to the Scottish Hebrides one will find details of a “Handfast” or “left-handed” marriage taking place on the Isle of Skye during the late 1600s. From the 12th – 17th centuries, Handfasting in England became a term for “engagement to be married,” or a ceremony held on the occasion of such a contract, usually about a month prior to a church wedding, at which the marrying couple formally declared that each accepted the other as their spouse. Handfasting was legally binding: as soon as the couple made their vows to each other they were validly married. It was not a temporary arrangement. Just as with church weddings of the period, the union which Handfasting created could only be dissolved by death.
During Handfasting the man and woman in turn would take the other by the right hand and declare aloud that they accepted each other as man and wife. The words might vary but traditionally consisted of a simple formula such as “I (Name) take thee (Name) to be my wedded husband / wife, till death us depart, and thereto I plight thee my troth.” Because of this, Handfasting was also known in England as “troth-plight,” or to be betrothed. Gifts were often exchanged, especially rings, and a gold coin broken in half between the couple was also common. Other tokens recorded include gloves, a crimson ribbon tied in a knot, and even a silver toothpick. Handfasting could take place indoors or outdoors just as they can today.
Handfasting / Taillten marriages were the first legally recognised unions in Ireland and that recognition continued up until the 13th century. This practice of marriage is documented in the fourth and fifth volumes of the Brehon law texts which contain a great amount of detail pertaining to the Celts in Ireland. This indigenous system of law survived until the 17th century when it was finally supplanted by the English common law. Brehon law developed from customs which had been passed on orally from one generation to the next. In the 7th century the laws were written down for the first time. Brehon law was administered by Brehons (brithem) who were the successors to Celtic Druids. While similar to judges their role was closer to that of an arbitrator; their task was to preserve and interpret the law rather than to expand it. In many respects Brehon law was quite progressive; it recognised divorce, equal rights between the sexes and showed concern for the environment.
Sate involvement in the recognition of Christian marriages is a fairly recent affair but when this occurred the marriages of non-Christian traditions were excluded from the same privilege. The legal registration of Christian marriages other than Roman Catholic ones began in Ireland in 1845. However, it was not until 1864 when a full registration system came into operation that all births, Christian marriages (including Roman Catholic) and deaths began to be registered. It was only on foot of the 2007 amendments to the Civil Registration Act, 2004 that it became possible again for the marriage customs of those of Pagan faith to be legally recognised.
draoi draiochta sidhe sídhe dryad druid druidess celt pre-celt indigenous Irish gael gaelic eire Éire Éireann eireann paganism callighe cailleach Cailleach Bhéara cailleach bheara