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The Hypocrisy of Humanists performing Handfastings

As a specialist in handfasting ceremonies, I find it hypocritical (at best) and moneymaking (at worst) for humanist celebrants to officiate wedding ceremonies which include the ritual of handfasting.

Why? Firstly, humanists denounce a belief in anything connected to deities. They are, in short, self-identified atheists or agnostics.

A handfasting is a beautiful and ancient sacred tradition whereby the Priestess would preside over the couple’s vows. At this time, the couple would enter into the four sacred vows on their elemental quest.

Their consecrated union was sanctified by the deities who were invoked at this time by the celebrant (Priestess). A handfasting ritual is traditionally conducted in a circle (to represent the eternal), and is rich in symbolism, such as the use of the figure eight during “tying the knot” to symbolise Infinity (since when do humanists believe in life after death?).

The circle of the handfasting rite is based on universal energies (humanists don’t believe in anything outside of the rational, scientific mind), and the magic circle in which it is performed is designated as a ‘Between the Worlds’ space to represent this world and that of the Gods and spirits.

The circle is essentially the ‘Centre of the Universe’ for the purpose of the ceremony, and is the storytelling of the cosmic theme of the love between the Goddess and God: their eternal romance renewed in human lovers. First and foremost, the three cords were made from natural materials and used in the binding of hands to represent (cord one) God/Goddess, (cord two) the bride and (cord three) the groom.

The use of knots and cords is the domain of the world of witches who use them in spellbinding and magic. This is a spiritual belief system rich in symbolism drawn from a deep and profound connection to worlds outside of this one. In Scotland, humanist celebrants can offer handfastings and jumping the broom rituals (another tradition with spiritual origins) in their legal ceremonies. This makes a mockery both of what humanism allegedly stands for, and more importantly: that a sacred tradition is treated as nothing more than some sort of parlour game.

JUMPING THE BROOM

The broom is a symbol of fertility. The handle, made from male wood, is a phallic symbol, while the brush is female. It is used to sweep the ceremonial circle. This is clearly an act of ritualistic purification.

Traditionally, women would ride these brooms around the fields leaping as high as they could! Clearly, the higher they could leap, the higher their crops would grow. The broom was made from different types of wood to do things such as expelling evil spirits (do humanists believe in evil spirits?), and to honour the Moon Goddess (again, where does this fit with humanism?).

At every level of these two rituals do we find an abundance of symbolism that is so far removed from humanism, that it can only beg the question: why are these allowed in Humanist Wedding Ceremonies? I’ve worked in this industry long enough to know that the average person on the street doesn’t know the difference between a humanist celebrant and an independent celebrant any more than the average wedding planner or funeral director has any idea. There is a WORLD of difference.

An independent celebrant caters to her clients’ beliefs whether they are religious, spiritual, agnostic, atheist, or other. A humanist celebrant is someone who doesn’t believe in anything outside of this life. They are NOT, by their own admission, celebrants who conduct ceremonies with religion or spirituality. It seems to me that their desire to make money is interfering with their supposed core values. This is evident in the number of humanist celebrants across the UK who are not only conducting weddings (legal or otherwise) with spiritual rituals, readings and songs, but it’s prevalent in the funeral industry too. I simply can’t understand how a humanist celebrant can agree to conduct a funeral which features the Lord’s Prayer or How Great Thou Art. Or am I missing something?

Tying the Knot: Handfastings in Cumbria

Have you ever wondered where the expression “to tie the knot” comes from? It has its origins in the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting.

“Marian and Dave’s handfasting in Cumbria”

 

 

As an independent celebrant, more and more of my clients wish to include handfasting as part of their ceremony rituals. It’s a beautiful yet simple symbolism and is as old as the first couple who ever ‘tied the knot’, and as recent as the one I’m officiating. It symbolises marriage vows, and can be done instead of, or as well as, the exchange of wedding rings.

 

 

“My celebrant basket with handfasting cord, candles, bells, Celtic love knot, feathers, moss, water, ceremony script”

 

 

Handfasting represents the commitment of an intimate partnership.
From Old Norse: hand-festa, which means to strike a bargain by joining hands. The notion of a handshake comes from the old tradition of hand fasting; and even today, let’s shake on it, can represent a vow of sorts.

When I bind a couple’s hands together, I remind them their lives and spirits are held by the symbol of a knot.

 

 

They may choose to make the cord themselves, or with the help of family and friends, or if they prefer, I can make it for them from their favourite colours or in colours to match the theme of the wedding. Because the cord is as unique as the couple it can be made from pretty much anything. It can be from the most luxurious of ribbons or from farmer’s baling twine. Whatever it’s made from, it is the intent that’s important. Regardless of what it’s made from, it contains all the hopes and wishes of the friends and family who have gathered to witness the marriage.

 

“Sara and Michael tying the knot”

 

Some couples choose to have the knot in place just for the ceremony, while others like to keep the knot in the cord permanently and simply slip their hands out of it near the end of the ceremony.

 

“Officiating Dave and Marian’s beautiful wedding ceremony in a meadow by a babbling brook” #Cumbrianweddings

 

Either way, I finish with the words: “May this knot remain tied for as long as love shall last.”
Some couples like to have this traditional handfasting prayer included in their ceremony. It’s called The Hands of the Couple.

“Above you are stars, and below you is earth. Like stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

May these hands be blessed this day.
May this cord draw your hands together in love, never to be used in anger.

May the vows you have spoken never grow bitter in your mouths.

May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other”.

Veronika Robinson is an independent celebrant who is available to officiate wedding ceremonies throughout Cumbria. She adores watching couples come together before friends and family to declare their love, and has been officiating ceremonies since 1995. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant 

 

“Michael and Sara flew from Australia to Cumbria for their destination wedding which I had the honour of officiating.”

Cumbria Celebrant

Are you looking for a celebrant in Cumbria? I trained as a celebrant in 1995 (Auckland, New Zealand), and am available to officiate ceremonies throughout Cumbria: weddings, handfastings, same-sex unions, vow renewals, namings, housewarmings, graduations, coming of age, crone ceremonies, funerals, memorials and any other rite of passage.

If you need to organise a funeral or memorial service, I am happy to work with your chosen funeral director or can work directly with families who wish to be autonomous from a funeral home and plan a DIY ceremony.

I’m a member of the Association of Independent Celebrants, and featured as a preferred supplier on Easy Weddings.

I offer a reduced rate for Wednesday Weddings for those couples planning to marry midweek.

Please do get in touch if you’d like an obligation-free chat in person or by Skype about your ceremony plans. ~ Veronika x

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