Handfasting Cords

Handfasting cords are used during the handfasting ritual: a beautiful and magical rite of passage in which a couple's hands are bound together with a handfasting cord as they declare their intent to be together. The commonly used term "tie-the-knot" originates from this practice.

The History of Handfasting

The exact origins of handfasting are lost in time, however evidence suggests that early handfasting ceremonies coincided with types of Pagan worship, predominantly amongst Celts, around 1700.

A handfrasting cord by Brighid's Pagan JewelleryHowever, the world handfast came from the Norse word hand-festa, meaning: the act of sealing a bargain by taking hands. The earliest cited English usage in connection with marital status comes from a manuscript of c1200 in which Mary (mother of Jesus) is described as "handfast" to Joseph. (Ormulum: Birchfield Manuscript)

Handfasting was then as legally binding as marriage. As with church weddings of that period, the union created at handfasting, even if not consummated, could only be dissolved by death.

During a handfasting the man and woman would take each other by the right hand, and declare that they accepted each other as man and wife. Traditionally wording would be "I (NAME) take thee (NAME) to my wedded husband/wife, till death us depart, and thereto I plight thee my troth". The wording of these vows also gave handfasting the name "troth-plight". Rings and gifts of coins were also exchanged.

Handfasting continued to be the accepted form of marriage throughout the middle ages but at the beginning of the 18th century changes in English law, finalised in the 1753 Marriage Act, effectively ended the handfasting custom in England.

Handfasting Today

In the present day, Neopagans continue the practice of ritual handfasting. After the couple to declare their intent to enter into a union, their hands are clasped and fastened together with cord while they make their vows. The wrapping of the cord often forms an infinity symbol - a symbolic representation of oneness; a show of unity as they become bound together.

Brighid's Pagan Jewellery's Flower Handfasting Cord

As with other aspects of the ceremony, which vary and are often tailored to the couple's own requirements and personalities, the wording of the vows varies. Vows can be taken "for a year and a day", "for a lifetime", "for all eternity", or "for as long as love shall last".

This spiritual commitment is not a legal marriage in England however it is becoming more and more popular as Pagan and Wiccan couples explore the alternative to registry office ceremonies.

We are also aware of cords being increasingly used in the marriage ceremonies of other religions. Indeed we recently attended a Christian wedding where the vicar first demonstrated that it was easy to unravel two twisted strands (representing the bride and groom) whereas the addition of a third strand (representing the divine) allowed the stands to be plaited such that they were much more difficult to separate.

Handfasting Cords

There are no specific requirements for a handfasting cord; a simple cord of any type will do. But as the cord will usually become a treasured keepsake, most couples prefer to use a decorated cord incorporating elements that have a special significance to them.

Brigid's Pagan Jewellery's Green Man Handfasting Cord

At Brigid's Pagan Jewellery we have designed a number of handfasting cords by braiding thinner cords of different colours (the different colours have different spiritual meanings) and decorating the ends with various charms (again, with different meanings). For example: the cord shown in the image above, uses white, brown and green strands, the colours of the earth element and nature. The silver chain to the bottom of each cord is finished with silver edged Opalite, Natural Emerald and Smoky Quartz gemstone beading. Enhancing the cords are "Bride" and "Groom" charms (each in the shape of a heart with a little crystal above the engraving), a heart shaped "Handfasting" charm, a "Blessed Be" charm, a Goddess, a pentagram, and two lovely Chalice charms.

In addition to our own designs we can and have created bespoke cords to meet individual customer's specifications i.e. using their personal choice of colours and other design elements that have special significance to them. So please have a look at the handfasting cords in our online catalogue; you might find just what you're looking for, but if not, feel free to contact us with your own ideas and requirements and we'll see what we can do.


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