A Discussion of Handfasting History

by Raven

Raven (JSingle@Music.Lib.MATC.Edu) wrote: 
The recent movie THE DOORS with Val Kilmer had a (much-cut-down) scene of Jim Morrison (played by Kilmer) and his Wiccan lady Patricia Kennealy getting handfasted -- the real Kennealy plays the High Priestess.

For a "script", look in Raymond Buckland's COMPLETE BOOK OF WITCHCRAFT, Chapter ("Lesson") 8, starting page 97.

I find it somehat amusing that now there is such a religious ritual, High Priest(ess) and all, about handfasting, when originally it was a custom practiced in the absence, in part DUE TO the absence, of any clergy -- something between betrothal and common-law marriage.

"When we are handfasted, as we term it, we are man and wife for a year and a day; that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their pleasure, may call the priest to marry them for life; and this we call handfasting." -- Sir Walter Scott, _The Monastery_ (1820), ch. 25.

"This custom of handfasting actually prevailed in the upland days. It arose partly from the want of priests. While the convents subsisted, monks were detached on regular circuits through the wilder districts, to marry those who had lived infg this species of connexion." -- Andrew Lang, note in his edition of _The Monastery_

You'll find discussion of this general kind of "marriage sans ceremony" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, under each of the following headings:

* CONCUBINAGE
* MARRIAGE
History
Formality of Marriage
"common law" marriages
* MARRIAGE, LAW OF Britain and the Commonwealth
Common-Law Marriages
Presumption of Marriage
United States
Common-Law Marriages
Validity of Marriage [upholding also marriage by proxy]
North American Indians [upholding even polygamous marriages!]

Handfasting remained legal in Scotland until 1939. Common-law marriage in general is still legally recognized in several of the United States: AL, CO, GA, IA, ID, KS, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TX, UT, and even in DC. (This list as of 1987, from the current World Almanac & Book of Facts.)

Generally, this just takes both of you saying that you ARE man and wife, and conducting yourselves accordingly. No particular ceremony needed. (I am *NOT* a lawyer. Look up the rules for your *OWN* state.)

This allows a man and woman in a deserted place with no-one else around to marry -- and later have it be found legitimate, legal and binding.

The idea of needing a High Priest(ess) to tie a cord around your arms sort of works against the whole POINT and REASON of handfasting, dunnit?

Why not just make your promises to each other, then, hand in hand, jump together over a broom, thus making verbal and physical sign of pledge? That's an authentic traditional ritual, older than Gardner's Wicca.

Raven (JSingle@Music.Lib.MATC.Edu). 
[All standard disclaimers apply]